Lecture: Rosetta Stone (Listen and Read)

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Lecture: Rosetta Stone
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Alright! Let's look at Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Egyptian Hieroglyphs are the ancient Egyptian writings
found in ancient Egypt on walls, monuments and on the inside and outside of temples.
Hieroglyphic writing ended abruptly about 1600 years ago,
and it mystified a lot of people in the study of Egyptian artifacts and archaeology for many many centuries.
In 1799, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab
inscribed with ancient Egyptian writing near the town of Rosetta.
The Rosetta Stone is arguably the most famous archaeological artifact ever discovered.
It is written in three scripts being used in Egypt.
The first was hieroglyphic which was the script used for important or religious documents.
The second was demotic which was the common script of Egypt
and was used for more mundane matters like administrative documents.
The third was Greek which was the language of the rulers of Egypt at that time.
Now here is an important part to remember:
Hieroglyphic and the demotic were replaced by Coptic scripts,
and eventually, the Arabic language replaced Coptic,
and this cut off the linguistic link between ancient and modern Egypt
and make it difficult for scholars to decipher.
Thomas Young, an English scholar,
was the first to seriously attempt to decipher the symbols on the Rosetta Stone.
He suspected that the hieroglyphs were phonetic symbols,
that they represented its sounds rather than pictures.
Until then, all scholars assumed that hieroglyphs were pictographs,
that they symbolize objects or concepts.
Thomas Young focused his attention on one set of hieroglyphs
that he thought would probably spell out a single word: the name of a King or Queen.
He guessed that the symbols represented the name of the early Egyptian ruler - Ptolemy,
since Ptolemy was also written in Greek on the stone and was indeed a Greek name.
And Young did actually prove that these hieroglyphs represented sounds rather than whole words.
However, he finally dismissed his own findings as an anomaly
because the Ptolemaic dynasty was Greek, not Egyptian.
In other words, he figured it was an exception to the rule.
It was phonetic because it was Greek, not Egyptian.
How else could an Egyptian depict a Greek name other than spell it out?
It wasn't until 1822
that another scholar called Champollion made a breakthrough in the decipherment of the Rosetta hieroglyphs,
showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.
You see, unlike any of the other scholars who had tried to crack the code,
Champollion could read both Greek and Coptic.
He was able to figure out what the seven demotic signs in Coptic were.
By looking at how these signs were used in Coptic,
he was able to work out what they stood for.
Then he began tracing these demotic signs back to hieroglyphic signs.
By working out what some hieroglyphs stood for,
he could make educated guesses about what the other hieroglyphs stood for.
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