The Unreadable Script
The young French soldier was hot, thirsty and tired. He had been involved in Napoleon's Egyptian expedition for months. He'd marched through the desert with no water, chasing after strange pools of liquid that miraculously appeared on the horizon, and then cruelly disappeared as he approached them. He'd also choked on storms of dust that raced across the landscape. Now he and his companions had been assigned to tear down an ancient wall so they could build an extension to
Backbreaking work. As he pried another stone out of the wall, its color struck
him as being odd. It was dark, almost black actually. On one side that was flat
there appeared to be writing of some sort. Not French, to be sure, but some
strange script. No, not just one type either, but three different types. Very
odd. He decided to call over the officer-in-charge over to take a look at it. Fort Julien
What that young, unnamed soldier had done was to discover the Rosetta Stone - an unremarkable chunk of black rock, covered with seemingly indecipherable markings - that would solve one of the greatest linguistic mysteries of the 19th century: how to read the ancient writing left by the Egyptians thousands of years ago.
Today on Far Future Horizons we present a BBC documentary titled “The Mystery of the Rosetta Stone” part of BBC's history series
|One possible reconstruction of the original stele that the Rosetta Stone was part|
This documentary tells the story about the men involved in the race to decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to give voice to an ancient civilization and unlock its secrets.
When Napoleon invaded
in 1798, the country had been virtually closed to Europeans for centuries and
its ancient culture lost and forgotten for over a thousand years. Napoleon took
with him scholars, including antiquarians and linguists, whose job it was to
unravel the mysteries of ancient Egypt . But they were able to
achieve little more than to paint its beautiful ruined monuments and wonder
what it all meant. For Egypt ’s
secrets were locked in the strange ancient writings, the hieroglyphs. Egypt
By a stroke of luck, Napoleon’s soldiers soon unearthed an extraordinary object that offered a crucial clue. The Rosetta Stone contained a written proclamation by pharaoh Ptolemy V in three different texts: the common writing of the time, Greek, and the sacred script of the hieroglyphs. Surely now, scholars would simply be able to translate the hieroglyphs from their knowledge of the Greek. But before they could get stuck in, the British attacked and defeated Napoleon’s army, taking The Rosetta Stone back to
as a spoil of war. It has
been in the Britain ever since. The
French were left only with their copies. British
The eventual decipherment of the Rosetta stone was left to two great men, Englishman Dr. Thomas Young, a man of many scientific talents, who provided certain valuable insights that eventually led French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion to the complete decipherment of hieroglyphs.