Skip to main content

The Rosetta Stone: A History of the Sacred Characters

For over two thousand years, the secrets of the ancient Egyptians were lost to history. All the tombs, trinkets, statues and cenotaphs were pretty but indecipherable, covered as they were in a pictographic script that had no meaning. It wasn’t decades of research, the intricate technologies of archaeology or the explanation of some ancient king risen from the dead that unlocked the lost language of the ancient Egyptians. In fact, it was the accidental discovery of some half buried rock that came to be known as the Rosetta stone, by a French soldier that would change the face of Egyptology and provide a much needed window into the language and belief systems of the most celebrated ancient culture.
It was 1799 and Napoleon’s troops were preparing to defend against the encroaching Ottoman Army as they grew closer and closer to the city of Rosetta on Egypt’s West bank just miles from the sea.  As they cleared away rocks to improve their fortifications, a small group of soldier engineers led by 28 year old Lieutenant Bouchard discovered a large polished rock with a dark surface and what seemed to be some engraved text. 
On closer inspection, Bouchard noticed three separate texts on the rock: hieroglyphs at the top, an unknown text in the middle and Greek at the bottom.  It was not just the middle text that didn’t make sense; it was the stone’s location inside an Arab fort far from the ancient tombs in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. Speculation as to possible ancient structures below the fort were quickly dismissed and the stone sent to Cairo for further research by Napoleon’s famed Commission of Arts and Sciences. 
The stone was almost a meter high with missing pieces at the top and bottom right. After a thorough cleaning the group of French scholars was able to read the Greek inscription. It was nothing sensational, just an inscription of an anniversary. That was until they read the last sentence.  “This decree shall be inscribed on stelae of hard rock, in sacred characters, both native and Greek, and they shall be erected in each of the temples of the first, second and third category, next to the image of the king living eternally.”
The realization that what was written in Greek was also written in hieroglyphics was a revelation. Finally, here was the chance to understand what the ancients had been whispering for all these centuries.  A group of notable scholars and archeologists gathered in Cairo to work on the stone, including trying to figure out what the middle language on the Rosetta stone actually was.  
 Copyists went to work, reproducing the text on the stone and disseminating it to colleagues around the world. Although other texts had been discovered, the connecting language, the middle language on the stone, remained a mystery. It wasn’t Aramaic and it wasn’t Coptic. And in 1801, the British stole the stone making its middle text even more elusive for its French discoverers.   
Through the dedicated efforts of Jean Francois Champollion, a French scholar who was only nine years old when the stone was first discovered by Bouchard, the text and dictionary of ancient Egyptian

languages was first published. His work showed that the ancient text didn’t contain vowels and used pictures to represent both sounds and statements.
To this day, the Rosetta stone sits in the British Museum, a highlight of the Egyptian collection and a testament to perseverance and scholarship.  The ability to read hieroglyphics helped archaeologists and Egyptologists to understand the succession of dynasties, the religion and cults of the dead, the ancient gods and their followers and of course, the secret world of one history’s most fascinating cultures - Ancient Egypt.


Popular posts from this blog

How ancient Egyptians Were cutting the Obelisk from the Granite quarry?

Today, quarrymen cut and carve granite using saws with diamond-edged blades and steel chisels.

But ancient Egyptian quarrymen and stonemasons didn't have these modern tools. How, then, did they quarry and cut such clean lines in their obelisks and other monumental statuary?
To find out how ancient Egyptians quarried huge pieces of granite for their obelisks, i traveled to an ancient quarry in Aswan, located 500 miles south of Cairo. This is where the ancient Egyptians found many of the huge granite stones they used for their monuments and statues.

One of the most famous stones left behind is the Unfinished Obelisk, more than twice the size of any known obelisk ever raised. Quarrymen apparently abandoned the obelisk when fractures appeared in its sides. However, the stone, still attached to bedrock, gives important clues to how the ancients quarried granite.

Archeologist Mark Lehner, a key member of nova expedition, crouches in a granite trench that abuts one side of…

Hesi-re, the first Dentist, in ancient Egypt and in the world

Hesire was a high official who lived during the reign of Netjerikhet (Dosjer) 2686 BC to 2613 BC . His tutelary informs us of the many offices he had held during his life. Thus he was the 'overseer of the royal scribes', at the head of the royal administration of Djoser. His most spectacular title, however, was that of the 'greatest (or chief ?)of physicians and dentists'. It is not entirely clear whether this title infers that Hesire himself was honored as the greatest of physicians and dentists, or rather that he was merely responsible for the administration of physicians and dentists. But whatever the case, the distinction between 'physicians' and 'dentists' in his tutelary does show a high degree of medical specialization at this early stage of the history of Ancient Egypt..

Das Tal der Koenige

Die geographische Lage
Das Gebiet bei Theben lieferte ein vorzügliches Gebiet für das Anlegen einer königlichen Nekropole. Vom Westufer des Nils erstreckt sich eine flache Ebene zu einer Bergkette mit zahlreichen abgeschiedenen Tälern, die sich zwischen hohen Klippen und weichem Gestein durchschlängeln. Die Ebene eignete sich ideal für das Errichten der königlichen Totentempel. Die Täler hingegen boten genügend Platz, um viele kunstvoll in den Fels gehauene Gräber anzulegen. Auch aus symbolischen Gründen wählten die Alten Ägypter diesen Platz für das Errichten einer Nekropole. Blickt man von der Stadt Theben über den Nil auf das thebanische Bergmassiv, dann ähnelt es in der Gestalt einer riesigen Version der Hieroglyphe für "Horizont". Es ist das ägyptische Symbol für das Gebiet der auf- und untergehenden Sonne. Im Neuen…