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Impact of the Rosetta Stone

Info: 2032 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

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   The Rosetta Stone is an old Egyptian artefact that was discovered by the invading army. The artefact stone has the writing on it that was made in three different languages which included hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. Notably, it signifies an important historical discovery in the British Museum (Solé and Valbelle 2001, p.55). Even though it is incomplete because it was found as a broken part of the bigger stone slab, it signifies great historical importance that includes ancient Egyptian languages, leadership, and traditions. Markedly, there were distinct functions of the three languages on the stone. The Greek language was used to communicate with the official or the administration, while the hieroglyphic was utilised in conveying messages to the priests. On the other hand, the demotic language was applied by ordinary people for daily purposes. Therefore, the Rosette Stone inscribed all three languages in order to pass the message to all people (Véronis, 2000, pp 1-24). This paper will focus on the significance of Rosetta Stone and its effects.

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The Stone is a black rock tablet known as granodiorite. It’s part of a major carved stone that was about 2 meters high. The stone’s top broke off at an angle in line with a pink granite’s band whose crystalline structure glitches a bit in the light. The Rosetta stone’s back is coarse, where it was shaped, however the front face is soft and full of text, inscribed in three various scripts. These make up three distinct writing bands (the British museum, 2019). It was discovered by Pierre François Xavier Bouchard at Port Saint Julien, el-Rashid (Rosetta) on the Egyptian Nile Delta in 1799 CE. Bouchard was Napoleon’s army engineering officer, extracting the stone from an old dike that was being ruined as part of Fort Julien’s construction job. The stone had been sent to Alexandria by the commanding officer of Bouchard, one General Menou, realizing its importance. Copies and casts were producing, but Tomkins Turner who is the British General took over the stone later and the artefact eventually found a steady home in British Museum in London (Cartwright, 2014). The stone was used to decode hieroglyphics by sundry renowned international scholars; however, it was Thomas Young, the Englishman who first specified some of the hieroglyphs which connected to Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205-180 BCE) and the trend in which the symbols are to be read. However, Frenchman Jean-François Champollion completely deciphered the text, finding out that the hieroglyphics were in reality a blend of syllabic, determinative, and alphabetic elements in the early 1820s CE. as a consequence, in the end the complete importance of Egyptian hieroglyphs that were wasted for 1600 years was rediscovered. Consequently, the full meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs was finally rediscovered, lost for 1600 years (Cartwright, 2014). 

The finding of the Rosetta Stone is a major breakthrough for scholars because it is a vital instrument that helps them to understand the historical past of the Egyptian people which includes the lost hieroglyphic language. Notably, the use and understanding of the hieroglyphic language had disappeared in the early centuries A.D. Although a few historians had attempted to revive the use of the hieroglyphics, they had not been successful. However, when the Rosetta Stone was found, scholars’ efforts to understand hieroglyphics were renewed (Lucas, 2002, pp.1491-1504).                                                                                       It has great significance, including religion concepts and language. This is because the message in the Rosetta Stone was inscribed by the religious council of priests. This affirms Ptolemy V’s royal cult on the first anniversary of his coronation. The decree is inscribed three times on the stone, in hieroglyphic (appropriate for a priestly decree), demotic (native script used for daily purposes) and Greek (administrative language). For Egyptology, the significance of this is immense. Scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on this stone as the key to deciphering the others in the early years of the nineteenth century (British museum, 2019). Additionally, it helps the scholars and current generation to understand their tradition and pharaoh’s leadership. Because it features a degree that was issued in the ancient time by the priests and the ruler who was called Ptolemy V., it was used to demonstrate his generosity as well as the commitment (Ray, 2007.pp. 25-30). It listed everything that was positive about the ruler. Additionally, the stone helps the historian to uncover the ideas that the Egyptians held in view of other religions such as Judaism and Christianity. This was performed by unlocking the meaning of the hieroglyphics on the stone. Thus, the stone provided an important platform to translate the hieroglyphics and establishment of the ideas of ancient Egypt. Another historical importance of the artefact includes a demonstration of the prehistoric wars and leadership. This can be observed by the fact that an artefact was found by the intruding forces (MacGregor, 2004, pp. 102-110).

The Rosetta Stone plays a major role in understanding the ancient Egyptian language of hieroglyphics. Before its discovery, knowledge of how to read hieroglyphics had disappeared completely. However, after finding the stone, scholars obtained an important insight into how to read and interpret the hieroglyphic script (Meyerson, 2005, pp.45-51).     It is important to note that the message recorded in the stone is not as important as the languages used. The stone portrays the impact and roles of the priests during the time of pharaohs. It provides the knowledge about the past that includes leadership and organisation. In the stone, the ruler was regarded as a person who cherished gods. The way in which priests endorsed a pharaoh by portraying him as the most adorable can be compared to modern politics and candidates’ endorsement. Additionally, the stone helps the modern generations to understand the past of ancient Egypt. Ptolemies, Macedonians, and the Romans were some of the dynasties that led Egypt (Fischer, 2011, pp.15-17). The pharaohs’ reign ended during the time of Cleopatra who was succeeded by the Coptic Christians, Muslim, and Otto. The new leader brought various changes, including religion in which new beliefs and gods were introduced, while the old ones were replaced, and the holy writing of hieroglyphic disappeared. Therefore, the Rosetta Stone helps to shape the understanding and perspective of the Egyptian leadership as well as different changes that it has undergone (Edwardes and Milner, 2003, pp.89-93).                                                                                                Moreover, the stone helps scholars to understand the ancient religious language. Egyptians chronicled their history by using hieroglyphics which were considered as holy fonts which were reserved mainly for religious purposes or government decree. This was apparent in some of the tombs as well as shrines (Díaz, et al., 2015.pp. 652-660).                        Furthermore, During the Napoleonic era, when the Rosetta stone was found, Ancient Egypt was held in the highest respect. According to Jeremy Nadler in Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: Ancient Egypt’s Mystical Tradition, Ancient Egypt was seen as harboring a tradition of deep wisdom which was the inspirational source of Greek religion, mythology and philosophy — especially hermeticism and platonism. This knowledge of Egypt depended on old commentators like Plutarch, Diodorus, Iamblichis and Aristotle in 1799. Egypt was “the cradle of mathematics,” according to Aristotle, and Egypt’s priests invented geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy. Other ancient sources testified that the Egyptians had learned their philosophy and science from prominent Greek thinkers such as Thales, Pythagoras and Plato (Mcneik, 2018).

To conclude, The Rosetta Stone is an important historical artefact of Egypt that helps to reflect on its past. It is a fractured part of a larger slab of stone. It has a message written in three types of writing (called scripts) carved into it. (British museum,2017).  It was a significant indication that helped experts learn how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs (a system of writing that used pictures as signs). From the writing on the stone, it can be noted that Egypt has passed through different waves of transition and leadership. During the reign of pharaohs, hieroglyphics were used. However, during the period of Ptolemaic ruler, demotic language was utilised because it was considered as simple (Parkinson, 2005, pp.87-92). During the same period, the priest commissioned that the stone should be written by using all three languages in order to make it simple for people to understand.

Reference List

  • Díaz, S., Demissew, S., Joly, C., Lonsdale, W.M. and Larigauderie, A., 2015. A Rosetta Stone for nature’s benefits to people. PLoS Biology, 13(1), p.e1002040.
  • Edwardes, C. and Milner, C., 2003. Egypt demands return of the Rosetta Stone. The Daily Telegraph, 20.
  • Fischer, F., 2011. The historian as translator: Historical thinking, the Rosetta Stone of history education. Historically Speaking, 12(3), pp.15-17.
  • MacGregor, N., 2004. The British Museum. ICOM News, 1(7).
  • Meyerson, D., 2005. The linguist and the emperor: Napoleon and Champollion’s quest to decipher the Rosetta Stone. Random House Incorporated.
  • Parkinson, R.B., 2005. The Rosetta Stone. British Museum Press.
  • Ray, J., 2007. The Rosetta Stone and the rebirth of ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press.
  • Rosetta stone of the genetic language. International journal of quantum chemistry, 90(4‐5), pp.1491-1504.
  • Solé, R. and Valbelle, D., 2001. The Rosetta Stone: the story of the decoding of hieroglyphics. Profile.
  • Véronis, J., 2000. From the Rosetta stone to the information society. In Parallel text processing (pp. 1-24). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • British museum (2014) The Rosetta Stone https://blog.britishmuseum.org/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-rosetta-stone/ [accessed at 13 April 2019].
  • The British Museum (2016) The Rosetta Stone https://smarthistory.org/the-rosetta-stone/ [accessed April 13, 2019].
  • Vanese Mcneik (2018) A NEW ROSETTA STONE OF CONSCIOUSNESS FROM ANCIENT EGYPT http://www.magicalegypt.com/blog/rosettastone [accessed April 13, 2019].


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