On July 19, 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered in Rashid (sometimes called Rosetta), Egypt. The Rosetta Stone is a large, black, granite-like slab (called a stele) meant to be erected in a public space. The Rosetta Stone, dated 196 BCE, outlines new rituals surrounding the worship of Pharaoh Ptolemy V.

The Rosetta Stone is inscribed in two languages: Egyptian and Greek, and three texts: hieroglyphic, Demotic, and Greek. Scholars were fluent in ancient Greek and Demotic, the writing system used by Egyptian scribes of the period. The translation of hieroglyphics, however, remained a mystery. The Rosetta Stone allowed linguists to decipher hieroglyphics by comparing hieroglyphic symbols with a known text. Understanding hieroglyphics opened up almost all ancient Egyptian language and literature to Egyptologists and historians.

The Rosetta Stone was deciphered largely by Thomas Young of England, and Jean-Francois Champollion of France.

decipher
Verb

to figure out or interpret.

demotic
Noun

(700 BCE - 400 CE) informal written language of ancient Egypt.

Egyptologist
Noun

person who studies the culture and history of ancient Egypt.

erect
Verb

to build or raise.

fluent
Adjective

able to speak, write, and understand a language.

granite
Noun

type of hard, igneous rock.

hieroglyphics
Plural Noun

written language using images to represent words.

inscribe
Verb

to mark or engrave a surface.

linguist
Noun

person who studies language.

Noun

ruler of ancient Egypt.

ritual
Noun

series of customs or procedures for a ceremony, often religious.

Rosetta Stone
Noun

(196 BCE) large black stone carved with a decree about the coronation of Pharaoh Ptolemy V. The decree is carved in three languages: Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic.

scribe
Noun

sharp tool used to make maps using the scribing method.

symbol
Noun

something used to represent something else.

worship
Noun

honor, adoration, or glorification, usually to a religious god.