The last well-known hieroglyphic engraving from ancient Egyptian time in the holy place of Philae in southerly Egypt. It was written approximately 1600 year ago. Quickly after, this composed language was lost to history forever and only live on together the spoken language Coptic. So just how did we regulate to decode the mysterious engravings hundreds and hundreds of year after the last of the ancient Egyptians died.

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The Rosetta Stone

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The prize lay in ~ a slab of black granite. In 1799 in the Nile Delta, in a town referred to as Rosetta, one of Napolean’s soldiers discovered a special rock as they demolished one old wall to extend their fort. Later on named the Rosetta Stone, the artefact they discovered had three different languages engraved on the side; hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek. Scholars were unable to understand the very first two languages, yet they can read Greek writing. They found the writing was around king Ptolemy V, who once ruled Egypt in 196 BC, and realised that the 3 languages must tell the very same story. This marked the minute It became a very tiny ‘dictionary’ come the researchers attempting to recognize hieroglyphics, and also though this was critical progress, there were many complicated years ahead prior to anyone truly interpreted hieroglyphs.


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


Thomas Young 

A young English polymath to be enthralled by the Rosetta rock and made a breakthrough after ~ focussing top top a collection of circled hieroglyphs referred to as a cartouche. He thought that because these sets to be made come stand out so much that they must be significant, perhaps the name of the Pharaoh Ptolemy which the knew was mentioned in the Greek translation. Young had the ability to decode the phonetics that the corresponding hieroglyphs because a pharoahs name would be pronounce very comparable regardless of i m sorry language you to be speaking. He invested time matching the letters of ‘Ptolemy’ permitting for the an initial correct understanding and also verbalisation that hieroglyphs in almost a millennium and a half. But study went again the commonly held belief that hieroglyphs were ‘picture writing’ and also not a phonetic language that might be spoken, and rather just symbols for items and people. Despite he was really onto something, Young shed interest in his work, potentially with reluctance to challenge this widely accepted view. He defined his findings as foreign names gift spelt out together there would have actually been no symbol for them, yet it wasn’t long before this theory was challenged and also proved wrong.


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Hieroglyphs in Memphis v a statue the Ramses II in the background.

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Jean-François Champollion

Champollion choose up whereby Young left off and also promised he would be the one to cracked the ancient code after seeing a arsenal of Egyptian antiquities in 1801 when he was just ten years old. In 1822 he received some cartouches that contained timeless Egyptian names yet found they to be still spelt out which directly disapproved the concept that assignment was just for international names. He provided Young’s technique on a few more cartouches, and eventually found himself focussed on one cartouche that included just 4 hieroglyphs. That didn’t know the first two symbols yet it had currently been developed that the two recurring at the end must be ‘s-s’. Champollion had actually learnt to be fluent in Coptic together a teenager, and also would write his newspaper in the archaic language, however had never thought that Coptic can be the language the the old hieroglyphs. He thought about the first hieroglyph, and assuming that sound come be that of the Coptic word because that sun, ‘ra’. This would make the cracked password ‘ra-?-s-s’, and only one pharaonic surname fit this – Rameses. And also with that, Champollion had actually cracked hieroglyphs and solved the centuries-old mystery. Egyptian hieroglyphs to be the official writing system used in old Egypt to create the Coptic language, and Champollion had actually opened the doors to understanding these old communities and culture.

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