The last recognized hieroglyphic inscription from ancient Egyptian times in the temple of Philae in southern Egypt. It to be written roughly 1600 year ago. Shortly after, this created language was shed to background forever and also only lived on together the talked language Coptic. So how did we control to decode the mysterious engravings hundreds and hundreds of years after the last of the old Egyptians died.

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The Rosetta Stone

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The prize lay within a slab of black granite. In 1799 in the Nile Delta, in a town referred to as Rosetta, among Napolean’s soldiers uncovered a special stone as castle demolished an old wall to prolong their fort. Later on named the Rosetta Stone, the artefact they uncovered had three different languages engraved on the side; hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek. Scholars to be unable to understand the very first two languages, yet they can read Greek writing. They uncovered the writing was around king Ptolemy V, who once ruled Egypt in 196 BC, and realised the the three languages have to tell the same story. This marked the moment It came to be a very small ‘dictionary’ come the researcher attempting to know hieroglyphics, and also though this was critical 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 of Egyptian Archaeology, London.


Thomas Young 

A young English polymath was enthralled by the Rosetta rock and make a breakthrough after focussing on a set of circled hieroglyphs called a cartouche. He believed that due to the fact that these sets were made come stand the end so much that they should be significant, probably the name of the Pharaoh Ptolemy which that knew was stated in the Greek translation. Young had the ability to decode the phonetics of the matching hieroglyphs since a pharoahs name would certainly be pronounced very comparable regardless of which language you to be speaking. He invested time equivalent the letter of ‘Ptolemy’ allowing for the an initial correct understanding and verbalisation of hieroglyphs in virtually a millennium and a half. But research study went again the commonly held belief that hieroglyphs to be ‘picture writing’ and also not a voice language that can be spoken, and also rather just symbols for items and also people. Though he was really onto something, Young shed interest in his work, possibly with reluctance to challenge this widely accepted view. He defined his findings as international names being spelt out as there would have actually been no symbol because that them, yet it wasn’t long before this concept was challenged and proved wrong.


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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 promised he would certainly be the one to crack the old code after see a repertoire of Egyptian antiquities in 1801 once he was simply ten years old. In 1822 he received some cartouches the contained timeless Egyptian names yet found they to be still spelt out which straight disapproved the theory that spelling was only for international names. He supplied Young’s technique on a couple of more cartouches, and eventually uncovered himself focussed on one cartouche that had just four hieroglyphs. He didn’t recognize the first two symbols yet it had already been developed that the two repetitive at the finish must it is in ‘s-s’. Champollion had actually learnt to it is in fluent in Coptic together a teenager, and also would compose his newspaper in the archaic language, however had never ever thought the Coptic could be the language of the ancient hieroglyphs. He taken into consideration the an initial hieroglyph, and assuming that is sound to be that of the Coptic word because that sun, ‘ra’. This would certainly make the cracked password ‘ra-?-s-s’, and also only one pharaonic name fit this – Rameses. And also with that, Champollion had actually cracked hieroglyphs and solved the centuries-old mystery. Egyptian hieroglyphs to be the formal writing system used in old Egypt to create the Coptic language, and Champollion had opened the doors to expertise these ancient communities and culture.

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