The Rosetta Stone remains one of the most important ancient artefacts we have ever discovered. Dating back to Ancient Egypt, it is one of few links we have to learn about the lay of the land back in ancient times. Therefore, it has been a protected artefact ever since – and there has been some controversy over where it should reside.
As one of the most fascinating and intriguing historic artefacts available to view, there are always going to be a few interesting facts about the Rosetta Stone worth remembering. Let’s break a few of them down and see what we can learn.
The Rosetta Stone was actually discovered by the French. It was specifically Pierre-Francois Bouchard who found it, during military occupation of Egypt at the turn of the 19th Century. This was during the Napoleonic Wars, meaning that soldiers were in the region on the orders of the Emperor Napoleon to dig deep into the local history.
It was discovered near an el-Rashid temple, which gives the stone its name – el-Rashid roughly translates into ‘Rosetta’.
It’s thought that the engravings and writings on the Rosetta Stone date all the way back to 196 BC, during a period that became known as the Ptolemaic Age due to the ruler and author – King Ptolemy V.
The British have held tight ownership over the Stone since 1801, when they defeated French forces at the Battle of Alexandria. The stone was only found a few miles from there, and the British laid claim to much of the historic artefacts the French had unearthed in the region. This, naturally, included the Rosetta Stone. It’s been held at the British Museum ever since.
However, it was temporarily moved into a railway station underground to help protect it during bombing raids in the First World War.
Egypt has attempted to retrieve the Stone through official and diplomatic channels. They made a formal request to the British Museum in 2003 for the artefact to be moved back to Alexandria. However, the museum refused, and instead offered a replica version.
The stone is thought to have been part of a much bigger monument, and as such, it’s incomplete. It’s thought that a bigger slab will have existed within a temple location in the original area.
However, despite the fact that there is only a small fragment of the stone left, it weighs a fair amount – it’s about a ton in bulk!
The Rosetta Stone is more than just a piece of ancient royal propaganda – it’s been useful as a fantastic translation resource. Historians have used the Stone to understand ancient hieroglyphics for decades. Without it, our understanding of some of the finer points of Ancient Egyptian society may not have been so clear!
The British Museum, London
The Stone is just a single piece of a wider puzzle which we may not ever have access to. However, its use in hieroglyphics translation is helped thanks to the fact that it preserves up to three different languages used in ancient times. These languages are thought to be related to royal usage at the time. One of them, in fact, is Greek – and it’s the presence of this language which has helped to act as a gateway towards understanding the symbols.
The Stone is actually relatively small for such an important artefact! It measures around three and a half feet in length and two and a half feet in width. It’s thought the original stone from which the current artefact is a fragment was around six feet tall.
The Rosetta Stone has never been fully translated into English. Therefore, much of the mystery the Stone could unlock is left untapped. That’s because the three different languages and sections vary. That’s why you’ll generally find that there are many different translations and interpretations out there as to what the Stone actually says.
Specifically, the fragmented Stone offers a few lines in the three aforementioned languages – some in Ancient Greek, some in true hieroglyphic, and some in Demotic. Who knows if we would be able to dive even further into the past with the full stone or slab?
Do you have any interesting facts about the Rosetta Stone that we’ve not mentioned? Share them here in the comments section below!