last posts

The story of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the role of François Champollion in knowing the secrets of hieroglyphics

In 1806 the Académie de Grenoble in eastern France heard a paper that was remarkable for two reasons. First of all, the author was just 16 years old, and secondly, the incredibly intelligent adolescent made a pretty daring statement. He thought Coptic, an African language, was a descendant of the ancient Egyptian language. Despite the fact that the young scholar's claim was not entirely accurate (Coptic is not identical to ancient Egyptian, but is developed from it), his insights would eventually help solve one of the biggest scholastic puzzles of the 19th century.

How Jean-François Champollion's scientist knew

In September 1822, Jean-François Champollion's brilliant strategies cracked the Stone's encryption, providing access to a wealth of ancient Egyptian literature. 

In 1806 the Académie de Grenoble in eastern France heard a paper that was remarkable for two reasons. First of all, the author was just 16 years old, and secondly, the incredibly intelligent adolescent made a pretty daring statement. He thought Coptic, an African language, was a descendant of the ancient Egyptian language. Despite the fact that the young scholar's claim was not entirely accurate (Coptic is not identical to ancient Egyptian, but is developed from it), his insights would eventually help solve one of the biggest scholastic puzzles of the 19th century. .

Who is Jean-François Champollion

Jean-François Champollion, a young scholar, was born in Figeac, southern France, in 1790. His upbringing was influenced by the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, and the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. Champollion's father, a book seller, struggled with alcoholism. His older brother, Jacques-Joseph, was the one who inspired and helped him. Champollion learned Greek, Latin, Amharic (a Semitic language from Ethiopia), Chinese, and Coptic, among other ancient languages. .

Champollion came in Paris during a momentous occasion. Coptic manuscripts and Egyptian artifacts were everywhere throughout the city.

rosetta stone library

the Rosetta Stone's occult secrets

Champollion's passion with Coptic will one day be put to use because to a childhood item that was found far away. The fort at Al Rashid (also known as Rosette to the French and Italians) was being repaired in 1799, the year Napoleon conquered Egypt, when French soldiers found some of the stones to be inscribed with hieroglyphs. They were probably taken from older buildings to make the current ones. An officer with keen eyes saw that one of the shards had hieroglyphs, a second text block in Greek, and finally a third, unknown character (now known as demotic text).

what is the rosetta stone and why is it important ?

With the arrival of Christianity in Egypt, literacy in hieroglyphic writing began to dwindle, and around the end of the fourth century A.D., it completely vanished. Researchers in the late 18th century had a strong desire to decipher them. The stone was informed to the newly established, French-operated Institut d'Égypte. The Courier de l'Égypte reported on September 15, 1799, that this remarkable stone may "give the key" to decipher the hieroglyphic symbols if the Greek writing proved out to be a translation of the hieroglyphs. e.

However, before the find could be transferred to France, Napoleon's soldiers were routed by the British, and the Rosetta Stone was taken to England instead, where it would serve as the early foundation of the British Museum's Egyptian collection.

The Rosetta Stone's Greek inscription was translated to reveal that it was an edict from Ptolemy V Epiphanes, who passed away in 180 B.C. Greek was the language of the Ptolemaic kings, who were descended from the Greek-speaking invaders of Egypt in the fourth century B.C. Hieroglyphs were only used in temples and by priests. It was now a competition amongst academics from various nations to utilize the Greek text to start identifying components in the related hieroglyphic inscriptions. They might be translated to reveal Egyptian civilisation and its expertise.

The names of the king were identified in the hieroglyphs by English scholar Thomas Young. In France, meanwhile, scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy and Johan Åkerblad, a Swedish diplomat, correctly identified the phonetic signs in kings’ and queens’ names in cartouches (the oval form that contained royal names) on the Rosetta Stone and other texts .

Jean-François Champollion, a patriotic Frenchman, shared his countrymen's displeasure that the British had taken the Rosetta Stone away from them in Egypt in 1801 and carried it to London. Some versions claim that Champollion visited London in 1824 after making his breakthrough in decoding hieroglyphs to view the relic. A new biography of Champollion, Andrew Robinson, contends that the author never once mentioned such a visit in his writings and that it was highly improbable to have occurred. By 1824, the French researcher was fascinated with other Egyptian writings, and the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone were no longer the focus of his research. .

Parisian pursuits

Silvestre de Sacy received a new student in 1807: Champollion, a 17-year-old who had relocated from Grenoble to Paris. For the young pupil, it would have been an exciting time: The Description de l'Égypte, which included several illustrations of the inscribed monuments and antiques, was being published at the time, and the French capital was overflowing with Egyptian treasures from Napoleon's wars. .

Champollion devoured several volumes that had been sent to Paris from the Vatican library in Rome in order to sate his fascination with Coptic. He created a Coptic dictionary in 1815 and presented it to Napoleon just before the Battle of Waterloo. Champollion was certain that his profound understanding of Coptic would be the key to deciphering hieroglyphs because, while being written in primarily Greek-derived characters, Coptic kept some of the grammatical structures and lexicon of the ancient language.

what does the rosetta stone exactly say ?

Champollion investigated the Rosetta inscriptions and those on an obelisk from Philae after already being well-versed in Young's studies. The Greek and hieroglyphic writings on this obelisk, which had been transported from Egypt to Kingston Lacy in England, were written in both languages.

Champollion and other researchers were still unable to decipher the meaning of hieroglyphs despite significant advancements. Prior researchers claimed that the images represented what they represented—owls, bees, food, gods, houses, and boats—but "translations" based on this theory resulted in nonsense. The fundamental single-sound phonetic signals had been established by Kerblad, Silvestre de Sacy, Young, and Champollion, but this method left many more signs unaccounted for, indicating that the language was not written using a straightforward alphabet. .

The discovery made by Champollion is hailed as one of the greatest "lightbulb" moments in history: On September 14, 1822, he completed the decipherment of the name Ramses in a hieroglyphic writing from the Abu Simbel temple complex, which Ramses II ("the Great") had constructed. Champollion discovered the term was "figurative, metaphorical, and phonetic all at once" combined to create it. He shouted, "Je tiens l'affaire—I've got it!" with glee. A list of 25 proven phonetic signals in demotic script and hieroglyph was included in his "Lettre à M. Dacier," which he sent to the secretary of the Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris, a few days later. s.

The term Ramses is an excellent illustration of the system's intricacy, the workings of which Champollion had revealed. The letters are ra-mes-su. In both hieroglyphic and Coptic, the term ra signifies "sun." Mes serves as a symbol for both sound and meaning (ideogram). Su means "him," and mes means "gave birth to, or made" (a pronoun). Therefore, distinct functions of signs were performed in hieroglyphics. Phonetic signs may stand for one, two, or three sounds, while other signs were homophones, or distinct signs for the same sounds. They were not all entirely symbolic or phonetic representations.

Exactly 200 years ago, in 1822, a significant discovery was made that marked the start of Champollion's outstanding contribution to the study of ancient Egyptian writing. Even though Champollion owed a much to the Rosetta Stone, he had the advantage over his English opponents thanks to his work with additional manuscripts, unmatched proficiency in Coptic and other Semitic languages, and lifetime commitment to his studies.

the founder of Egyptology

Champollion left the libraries where he had spent decades of meticulous investigation toward the end of his life to see the inscriptions in person. His 16-month journey across Egypt began in August 1828 and ended at the Second Cataract of the Nile, which is close to the Abu Simbel complex.

Jacques-Joseph received a steady stream of letters from Champollion detailing his exploits. He crammed the letters with illustrations as he wrote of his enjoyment of donning Egyptian attire, his sweltering tour of Abu Simbel, and the preparations he saw for a feast of crocodile meat. Champollion was a typical colonialist of his era in that he authorized the removal of a wall panel from the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings despite his admiration for Egyptian treasures.

Champollion's health deteriorated after he returned to his own country in late 1829. According to experts, the strain of his journeys across Egypt caused him to experience recurrent illnesses for the remainder of his life. Aged 41, he passed away in Paris in 1832. The largest contribution to hieroglyphic study made by any researcher at that time was his 1824 Précis du système hiéroglyphique des anciens Égyptiens, which has 400 pages of discussion and a separate volume of plates containing words, signs, and sign groups in hieroglyphs, demotic script, and Coptic. Egyptologists may now listen in on the ancient Egyptians' thoughts and gain a deeper understanding of the religious and social makeup of their world thanks to Dr. Champollion's deciphering of hieroglyphics. rld.


Font Size
lines height