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Rosetta Stone

ROSETTA STONE. A damaged inscribed basalt slab, found accidentally at Fort St. Julien on the Rosetta branch of the Nile, near the city of Rosetta, by a French army work crew in a.d. 1799. Terms of the French surrender to the British gave the French finds to the victors, and the Rosetta Stone was placed in the British Museum. The monument was originally set up in 196 b.c. as a formal decree of the Egyptian priesthood in honor of Ptolemy V (Epiphanes) with an identical text in three parts: hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. The parallel texts furnished the key for the decipherment of the Egyptian, with the proper names providing the basic clues for the achievement. Decipherment of the hieroglyphs was accomplished by Jean François Champollion in A.D. 1822.

ROSETTA STONE. A bilingual stela of basalt inscribed in Egyp. (hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts, see Egypt) and Gr., with a decree promulgated by the Egyp. priesthoods in honor of Ptolemy V Epiphanes in his 9th year, 196 b.c. The monument was unearthed in 1799 by a Lieutenant Bouchard of Napoleon’s army, when consolidating a fort near Rosetta (hence the name); after the British defeat of Napoleon’s forces, the Stone reached the British Museum in 1802. Along with an obelisk and its plinth from Philae (inscribed in Egyp. and Gr. respectively), the Stone’s bilingual text played a vital role in the initial decipherment of the ancient Egyp. writing systems attempted by Thomas Young (Britain) and Jean François Champollion (France) and achieved by Champollion. The latter’s brilliant success was confirmed by the Ger. Lepsius, and the way was opened into the entire written patrimony of ancient Egypt, covering 3000 years of history and civilization of the utmost value for the humanities in general, and Biblical background in particular.

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