Pictures of the Rosetta Stone

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Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone

Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone
Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek. NYPL Digital Gallery

The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a stela inscribed with a decree of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (13 years old at the time the decree was written) -- the fifth king of the Ptolemaic Dynasty that ended with the famous Cleopatra. The writing on the stone is in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphs, repeating the same message so a variety of viewers could read it.

Pierre Francois-Xavier Bouchards, a member of Napoleon's army discovered it. It was later brought to England (in 1802).

The back of the basalt stone is less finished than the other surfaces. It is thought that the stone was propped against a wall. The text says the stela was to be put in a temple near the statue of Ptolemy.

The Egyptian hieroglyphic portion is thought to have originally contained 29 lines, but more than half of it has been lost. None of the inscriptions have word breaks which added to the difficulties in breaking the code. By the 4th century A.D., people no longer knew how to read hieroglyphs.

Source: Cracking codes: the Rosetta stone and decipherment By R. B. Parkinson, Whitfield Diffie, Mary Fischer, R. S. Simpson

Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek
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Demotic Section of the Rosetta Stone

Demotic Script of the Rosetta Stone
Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek. NYPL DIgital Gallery

The demotic section of the Rosetta Stone is in 32 lines. The British Museum, which houses the basalt slab, provides a translation of the Demotic. The decree was written by the priests to affirm the cult of the young pharaoh, Ptolemy V. Hieroglyphs were known by the priests. The Ptolemy line was Macedonian, so its language was Greek. Demotic, as the name suggests -- with its root in the same root word as democracy -- was the language the people might read.

Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek
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Greek Section of the Rosetta Stone

Greek Script of the Rosetta Stone
Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek. NYPL DIgital Gallery

The Greek section of the Rosetta Stone is in 54 lines.

Greek was the language of the Egyptian administration, since the pharoahs were Macedonian Ptolemies -- from the time of Alexander the Great.

The Rosetta stone is named for the location el-Rashid (Rosetta) where Napoleon's soldiers found the stone. It became the property of the British in 1801, according to the Treaty of Alexandria, and then the British Museum in 1802. The Rosetta Stone has been displayed at the British Museum ever since, with one exception when during WW I it was moved underground for safe keeping.

Hieroglyphic Section of the Rosetta Stone | Demotic | Greek