The last known hieroglyphic engraving from ancient Egyptian times in the holy place of Philae in southern Egypt. It was written about 1600 year ago. Quickly after, this written language was lost to history forever and also only lived on together the spoken language Coptic. So just how did we control to decode the mysterious inscriptions hundreds and hundreds of years after the critical of the ancient Egyptians died.

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The Rosetta Stone

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The answer lay in ~ a slab of black color granite. In 1799 in the Nile Delta, in a town called Rosetta, one of Napolean’s soldiers found a special stone as castle demolished an old wall to expand their fort. Later named the Rosetta Stone, the artefact they uncovered had three various languages engraved ~ above the side; hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek. Scholars to be unable to know the an initial two languages, yet they could read Greek writing. They found the composing was around king Ptolemy V, who as soon as ruled Egypt in 196 BC, and also realised that the 3 languages must tell the exact same story. This significant the moment It came to be a very little ‘dictionary’ come the researcher attempting to recognize hieroglyphics, and also though this was an important progress, there were many difficult years ahead prior to anyone truly taken hieroglyphs.


Cartouche of Sekhemre-Heruhirmaat Intef or Intef VIII. 17th Dynasty. The Petrie Museum the Egyptian Archaeology, London.


Thomas Young 

A young English polymath to be enthralled through the Rosetta rock and make a breakthrough ~ focussing ~ above a collection of circled hieroglyphs referred to as a cartouche. He thought that because these sets to be made come stand out so lot that they have to be significant, perhaps the name of the Pharaoh Ptolemy which that knew was pointed out in the Greek translation. Young was able to decode the phonetics that the matching hieroglyphs because a pharoahs name would certainly be express very comparable regardless of i beg your pardon language you were speaking. He spent time equivalent the letters of ‘Ptolemy’ permitting for the very first correct understanding and also verbalisation of hieroglyphs in virtually a millennium and a half. But research went again the generally held belief that hieroglyphs to be ‘picture writing’ and not a voice language that could be spoken, and rather simply symbols because that items and also people. Despite he was really onto something, Young shed interest in his work, potentially with reluctance to challenge this widely embraced view. He described his result as foreign names being spelt out as there would have been no symbol for them, however it wasn’t long prior to this theory was challenged and proved wrong.


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Hieroglyphs in Memphis with a statue of Ramses II in the background.

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Jean-François Champollion

Champollion choose up wherein Young left off and promised he would be the one to cracked the ancient code after seeing a repertoire of Egyptian antiquities in 1801 when he was simply ten years old. In 1822 he got some cartouches the contained timeless Egyptian names but found they to be still spelt out which directly disapproved the theory that spelling was just for international names. He supplied Young’s method on a few more cartouches, and eventually discovered himself focussed on one cartouche that consisted of just 4 hieroglyphs. The didn’t know the an initial two symbols yet it had already been created that the two recurring at the finish must be ‘s-s’. Champollion had actually learnt to be fluent in Coptic as a teenager, and also would write his journal in the archaic language, but had never thought the Coptic might be the language of the ancient hieroglyphs. He thought about the an initial hieroglyph, and assuming its sound to be the of the Coptic word for sun, ‘ra’. This would certainly make the cracked code ‘ra-?-s-s’, and also only one pharaonic surname fit this – Rameses. And also with that, Champollion had cracked hieroglyphs and solved the centuries-old mystery. Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing device used in old Egypt to create the Coptic language, and Champollion had opened the doors to understanding these old communities and culture.

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