The Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone was probably more important for being a key to the mysterious door of Hieroglyphs, than for what was written on it.

What did it say?

The stone has been dated to 196 BC. It was written in two languages but three different scripts because of three different factors.


Imagine being the poor soul that had to work it out.

Let's break it down into its parts.

* Hieroglyphics - This picture style was reserved mostly for religious content in Egypt.

* Dieratic - This was a more common cursive style that did not include the illustrations that were in hieroglyphs.

* Greek - This was included because the country was under Greek rule at the time.

The fact that it was written in Greek, which was commonly known throughout the world, allowed the unknown hieroglyphics to eventually be deciphered.

Written during the Ptolemies rule over Egypt. It was recorded as a decree by priests, mainly to praise the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy V. It describes how the King had erected statues in the temples which was favourable to the native Egyptians. It states then how the King shall be honoured by the priests and reiterates the power of his position.

The decree was part of a series that followed a loss of power by the Greek government in parts of Egypt.


It was during Napoleons conquest of Egypt that the famous stone was unearthed. French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard, was responsible for the find. He was managing construction works in 1799 when it was unearthed. Can you imagine the excitement of digging up a stone tablet carved with mysterious ancient writing?

The French whisked it away to Cairo to be studied at the French built, Institut de l'Égypte.

In 1801 the British launched a successful invasion, defeating the French in Cairo and Alexandria. After taking control, the stone fell into British hands and was taken back to England. The French were left with plaster cast copies of it.


The Stone is 114.4 centimeters high, 72.3 centimeters wide, and has a thickness of 27.9 centimeters.

It is dark blue, pinkish grey in colour.

The stone is a granite, or closely related type of rock.

The Rosetta Stone Today.

It has been safely housed at the British Museum since 1802. It's cryptic contents were studied by Thomas Young who broke the back, so to speak, of its hidden message when he translated the basic alphabet of Hieroglyphs.

It was back in France, however, where Jean Francois Champollion ultimately solved the riddle of Egyptian writing.

Now, the Rosetta Stone has become a metaphor for finding a critical key in decryption or translation.

return from Rosetta Stone to Egyptian Writing page