The Rosetta Stone

In 1799, which item was discovered by a French soldier that helped historians translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics?

And the answer: Rosetta Stone.

In 1799, one of Napoleon’s soldiers found a peculiar stone near the Egyptian port city of Rosetta. Dated to the 2nd century BC, the stone contained the same inscription in three different languages, including Ancient Greek, which allowed historians to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The writing on the Stone is an official message, called a decree. The large stone slab was likely a copy like many others, placed in its own temple in Egypt. The hieroglyphs were intended for priestly decree, the Demotic (native Egyptian script) was common language for the people, while Ancient Greek was the language of the administration, as the rulers at this point were Greco-Macedonian following Alexander the Great's conquest.

Discovery of the Rosetta Stone laid the groundwork for cracking the code that is Ancient Egyptian language and culture. Soon after the end of the 4th century AD, when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the knowledge of how to read and write them disappeared. It wasn't until the three translations on the Stone appeared, specifically the Ancient Greek, that historians were able to begin to decipher this ancient language for the first time.

Want to see this historical stone for yourself? Take a 3D look here.

And, check out this Khan Academy video for more information:


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