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Daily History

July 19 1799 Rosetta Stone found

On July 19th 1799, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovered a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria.

The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic.

The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honouring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C.

More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artefact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been “dead” for nearly 2,000 years.

When Napoleon, an emperor known for his enlightened view of education, art and culture, invaded Egypt in 1798, he took along a group of scholars and told them to seize all important cultural artefacts for France.

Pierre Bouchard, one of Napoleon’s soldiers, was aware of this order when he found the basalt stone, which was almost four feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide, at a fort near Rosetta. When the British defeated Napoleon in 1801, they took possession of the Rosetta Stone.

Several scholars, including Englishman Thomas Young made progress with the initial hieroglyphics analysis of the Rosetta Stone. French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832), who had taught himself ancient languages, ultimately cracked the code and deciphered the hieroglyphics using his knowledge of Greek as a guide.

Hieroglyphics used pictures to represent objects, sounds and groups of sounds. Once the Rosetta Stone inscriptions were translated, the language and culture of ancient Egypt was suddenly open to scientists as never before.

The Rosetta Stone has been housed at the British Museum in London since 1802, except for a brief period during World War I. At that time, museum officials moved it to a separate underground location, along with other irreplaceable items from the museum’s collection, to protect it from the threat of bombs.

This Day In History

About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner. Business and Education Consultant. Former Business/ESL Teacher. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications.


10 thoughts on “July 19 1799 Rosetta Stone found

  1. One of history most wonderful stories!

    Posted by Naomi Baltuck | July 19, 2012, 06:13
  2. Very interesting. One of the great finds that continues to be used for interpretive purposes. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by mtsweat | July 19, 2012, 06:29
  3. Great post, Graig! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Posted by Amy | July 19, 2012, 07:13
  4. Great post…brings me back to the time when I first fell in love with the wonders of HISTORY. Thanks!

    Posted by Revival Girl | July 19, 2012, 07:30
  5. Something I’ve wondered about for some time. Thanks for the info.

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | July 19, 2012, 08:17
  6. An important anniversary! There is a jigsaw puzzle of this stone, which someone left at our summer cottage. I wonder which is harder, doing the puzzle or interpreting the original.

    Posted by Ellen Young | July 19, 2012, 08:27
  7. Reblogged this on emmageraln.

    Posted by emmageraln | July 19, 2012, 09:29
  8. Just wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award.


    Posted by intendedforuse | July 19, 2012, 09:58
  9. Reblogged this on Gemmahistory and commented:
    Fantastic post on the Rosetta Stone. One of Egypt’s most amazing treasures, currently housed in the British Museum! Definitely worth a visit.

    Posted by gemmahistory | July 19, 2012, 21:39
  10. Reblogged this on Technically Speaking and commented:
    Thank you for the details of an historical milestone.

    Posted by Kenneth Robson | July 20, 2012, 12:09

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