The last known hieroglyphic engraving from ancient Egyptian time in the temple of Philae in southerly Egypt. It was written roughly 1600 years ago. Quickly after, this written language was shed to background forever and only lived on together the spoken language Coptic. So how did we control to decode the mysterious inscriptions hundreds and hundreds of years after the last of the old Egyptians died.

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The Rosetta Stone


The price lay in ~ a slab of black granite. In 1799 in the Nile Delta, in a town dubbed Rosetta, one of Napolean’s soldiers found a special stone as lock demolished an old wall to expand their fort. Later named the Rosetta Stone, the artefact they found had three various languages engraved top top the side; hieroglyphics, demotic, and also Greek. Scholars were unable to recognize the very first two languages, but they might read Greek writing. They uncovered the writing was about king Ptolemy V, who once ruled Egypt in 196 BC, and realised the the three languages must tell the exact same story. This marked the minute It became a very tiny ‘dictionary’ to the researchers attempting to recognize hieroglyphics, and also though this was an important progress, there were many complicated years ahead prior to anyone truly construed hieroglyphs.

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

Thomas Young 

A young English polymath to be enthralled by the Rosetta rock and make a breakthrough after focussing top top a set of circled hieroglyphs referred to as a cartouche. He thought that since these sets were made come stand out so lot that they must be significant, maybe the name of the Pharaoh Ptolemy which he knew was pointed out in the Greek translation. Young was able to decode the phonetics the the equivalent hieroglyphs because a pharoahs name would certainly be express very comparable regardless of i beg your pardon language you to be speaking. He spent time equivalent the letter of ‘Ptolemy’ enabling for the first correct understanding and also verbalisation of hieroglyphs in practically a millennium and a half. But research went again the generally held id that hieroglyphs to be ‘picture writing’ and also not a voice language that might be spoken, and rather simply symbols because that items and people. Despite he was yes, really onto something, Young shed interest in his work, perhaps with reluctance to difficulty this widely accepted view. He described his result as foreign names being spelt out together there would have been no symbol because that them, but it wasn’t long prior to this concept was challenged and proved wrong.


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

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Jean-François Champollion

Champollion picked up wherein Young left off and also promised he would be the one to cracked the old code after seeing a arsenal of Egyptian antiquities in 1801 as soon as he was just ten years old. In 1822 he got some cartouches the contained traditional Egyptian names however found they to be still spelt out which straight disapproved the concept that assignment was just for international names. He supplied Young’s technique on a few more cartouches, and eventually uncovered himself focussed on one cartouche that contained just 4 hieroglyphs. That didn’t recognize the first two symbols but it had currently been developed that the two repeated at the finish must be ‘s-s’. Champollion had learnt to it is in fluent in Coptic as a teenager, and also would write his newspaper in the antiquated language, yet had never ever thought the Coptic could be the language of the old hieroglyphs. He considered the very first hieroglyph, and assuming that sound come be that of the Coptic word because that sun, ‘ra’. This would make the cracked code ‘ra-?-s-s’, and only one pharaonic surname fit this – Rameses. And with that, Champollion had cracked hieroglyphs and also solved the centuries-old mystery. Egyptian hieroglyphs to be the officially writing system used in old Egypt to create the Coptic language, and also Champollion had actually opened the doors to understanding these old communities and culture.

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