Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was discovered by French soldiers during the Napoleonic conquest and occupation of Egypt (1798–1801). With the same inscription in hieroglyphics, demotic (a later form of ancient Egyptian), and Greek, the text is a 196 b.c.e. commemoration to Ptolemy V Epiphanes.

The French savants (intellectuals) that Napoleon had brought with him to study all aspects of Egypt and its society, recognized the stone’s importance as possibly providing vital keys to decoding and translating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but they were forced to give it, along with a large number of other ancient Egyptian artifacts, to the British after the French were militarily defeated by British forces.

The British ultimately placed the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London, where it is still displayed along with a vast number of other ancient Egyptian artifacts. The French scholar Jean-François Champollion used the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone to decipher names and other hieroglyphic pictographs and letters.

Beating out a number of rivals to be the first to decipher hieroglyphic texts, Champollion’s work led to subsequent translations of hieroglyphic texts and to a fuller understanding of ancient Egyptian history and society and was a major contribution in the field of Egyptology.