28 October, 2009

My curiosity about the Rosetta Stone

Photo compliments : wikimedia.org

My curiosity about the Rosetta Stone was sparked by reading about Ancient Literature. Although not among the most ancient, the Rosetta Stone has been key in deciphering more ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. But what really is the Rosetta Stone?

The Rosetta Stone is a stone 3 feet 9 inches long and 2 feet 41/2 inches wide. It was originally thought to be composed of basalt, but more recent research has suggested a composition of granite.

The Rosetta Stone is dated back to March 196 BC. It is the inscription of a decree passed by a general council of priests which assembled at Memphis on the first anniversary of the coronation of the King of Egypt, thirteen year old Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The inscription on the stone begins with Praise of the Pharoah Ptolemy V. It continues with an acknowledgment of all he had done for Egypt during his reign including all the good deeds which he had done in the temples. The final part of the inscription established a cult for the king which granted him priestly privileges and gave direction as to how and where his shrine(s) should be set up. This decree also declared special days, such as the king's birthday and the days when special festivals would be celebrated.

The decree was inscribed on the stone three times in two languages, using three scripts, Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphics, the two latter being of the Egyptian language. These were the three scripts used and known by the population at the time. Greek had become popular in Egypt after the Greeks had captured and started their rule in Egypt. Demotic was the common unofficial script used by the Egyptians. Hieroglyphics, which had already started dying out by that time, was the official script and was used by the priests in documenting important, legal, or religious text. The use of the three scripts on the stone was the key to deciphering the hieroglyphics. Since greek was well known at the time of the stone's discovery, it was used to translate the demotic script, which in turn was used to decipher the hieroglyphics. An English Translation of the inscription of the stone can be viewed - Here.

The Rosetta Stone has been exhibited in the British Museum since 1802 with only one break toward the end of the first World War when it was moved to a station on the Postal Tube Railway at Holborn for two years. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


  1. Thanks for the link to the content of the Rosetta stone. Very interesting

  2. I found this pretty interesting, thanks!