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justin3651

Rosetta stone

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Hi guys, I hope all are well.

As you can guess from the title this thread involves the Rosetta stone. More specifically- recently I was reading a thread here or historum or above top secret (looked on all 3 buand in one post I remember seeing a comment to the effect that the Rosetta stone has actually been overestimated in importance to deciphering hieroglyphs. The post seemed to be reasonable but I can't find any info that supports it on google(nor can I find the original thread/post). Does anyone know where I could find more info about this or that know themselves about it?

Thanks guys!

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The Rosetta Stone is interesting in some respects and pretty prosaic in others. I recently read a great article in Archaeology magazine about the Rosetta Stone and excavations at the site of Thmuis, together which are bringing new understanding to the Great Revolt.

But that's neither here nor there. As you no doubt know, the man who deciphered hieroglyphs, in 1822, was Jean-Francois Champollion. He was a brilliant, natural-born linguist who could read Greek and Latin by early adolescence. He had an inked copy of the Rosetta Stone, but of course the actual stela was in Great Britain. There, Thomas Young and colleagues were endeavoring to translate it—and having only minimal success. It was a heated race between Young of the British and Champollion of the French to be the first to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In my museum work I often tell visitors the same thing you've heard: the importance of the Rosetta Stone is somewhat overplayed in the modern media. It was certainly important, of course. Young and his colleagues were able to prove that certain glyphs could be used to spell foreign names, such as Ptolemy; but they weren't really having any luck with more of the translation. In fact, a lot of Europeans were still stuck on the notion that hieroglyphs were purely idiographic and could never be read again.

Champollion, on the other hand, figured out that the script is phonetic, and he was one of the few who understood that Coptic, as spoken in Egyptian Christian masses, was a remnant of the pharaonic language. So why not? He learned Coptic and picked up another language (I've always wished I could do that). Champollion did work to some extent with his inked copy of the Rosetta Stone, but he worked a lot more carefully with epigraphy from friends who had visited Egypt and drawn inscriptions for him. To make a long story short, the first word he successfully translated was ra-mss (Ramesses), from an inscription drawn at Abu Simbel. That's certainly not on the Rosetta Stone.

It was another ten years before people began effectively to read whole inscriptions, but Champollion got the ball rolling, It's a pity this brilliant man died so young, because we'd be a lot farther than we are today. Most inscriptions can be translated today, and in fact I've been trained in the hieroglyphic script myself, but brilliant modern linguists like James Allen still quibble over the functions of fussy parts of speech.

Sorry for such a long-winded post. This is a fun subject for me, and I've spent considerable time studying it. But believe me, my post barely scratches the surface. I don't use the web for much research, but my favorite book on Champollion and his whole intriguing story is Lesley and Roy Adkin's The Keys of Egypt (Harper Collins 2000). There are quite a few books on this story, in fact.

Please let me know if I can be of further help.

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Well, huh.  I had been led to believe that the first word translated was "Ptolemy" from the Rosetta Stone.

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4 minutes ago, Kenemet said:

Well, huh.  I had been led to believe that the first word translated was "Ptolemy" from the Rosetta Stone.

No, you're right about that. What I should've explained more clearly was, Ramesses was the first true Egyptian word read. Champollion proved that the glyphs could spell Egyptian names and words as well as foreign names and words (not everyone believed that was possible).

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2 minutes ago, kmt_sesh said:

No, you're right about that. What I should've explained more clearly was, Ramesses was the first true Egyptian word read. Champollion proved that the glyphs could spell Egyptian names and words as well as foreign names and words (not everyone believed that was possible).

Okay.  I'm not imagining it.  You know, Ol' Ramesses would have been pleased as the dickens to find out his name was the first original readable word in Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Somewhere along the Winding Canal he's still smirking about this, much to the annoyance of everyone else.

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Good ol' Pierre should be honored higher ...
 

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The stone, carved in black granodiorite during the Hellenistic period, is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period, and was eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in July 1799 by a French soldier named Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, and it aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this previously untranslated hieroglyphic language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating among European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria and was transported to London. It has been on public display at the British Museum almost continuously since 1802, and is the most-visited object there.

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... anyways ...

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Ever since its rediscovery, the stone has been the focus of nationalist rivalries, including its transfer from French to British possession during the Napoleonic Wars, a long-running dispute over the relative value of Young and Champollion's contributions to the decipherment and, since 2003, demands for the stone's return to Egypt.

Two other fragmentary copies of the same decree were discovered later, and several similar Egyptian bilingual or trilingual inscriptions are now known, including two slightly earlier Ptolemaic decrees (the Decree of Canopus in 238 BC, and the Memphis decree of Ptolemy IV, c. 218 BC). The Rosetta Stone is, therefore, no longer unique, but it was the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilisation. The term Rosetta Stone is now used in other contexts as the name for the essential clue to a new field of knowledge.

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The story of Champollion's deciphering was dramatized a few years ago on television - either the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or NatGeo , or something similar - can't remember which.

It was very well done, I thought.

Harte

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Thanks guys! Those are great answers :)

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20 hours ago, Kenemet said:

Okay.  I'm not imagining it.  You know, Ol' Ramesses would have been pleased as the dickens to find out his name was the first original readable word in Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Somewhere along the Winding Canal he's still smirking about this, much to the annoyance of everyone else.

Can't you just picture all of the other souls hanging out in the Field of Reeds? "Ramesses again? Why does it always have to be Ramesses?"

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Many people don't know that "Rosetta Stone" is our modern appellation for this stela and that it has a formal name: the Memphis Decree. There were actually several of these, and the Rosetta Stone was the third. This one was cut for Ptolemy V. The first Memphis Decree was commissioned by Ptolemy III and the second one by Ptolemy IV. Ptolemy V came to the throne at the age of six (Tut was hardly the only boy-king) and the Rosetta Stone was probably carved when he was a teenager.

See? I am full of useless trivia.:D

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The Rosetta Stone turns up as the centrepiece of one of the oddly most moving scenes in a piece of Warhammer 40k fiction I’ve come across in the audio story “The Sigilite”.

in effect, humanity is, again, in the middle of a massive civil war with one side hell bent on destroying all traces of culture other than their own etc etc. Meanwhile, on earth one soldier and his team are sent to recover what appears to be nothing more than a rock. Turns out it’s terribly symbolic and an important symbol of what humanity has achieved, the puppet master of an openly fascist empire waxes lyrical about how it and other things like it represent all the best humanity can achieve. 

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