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Why was the Rosetta Stone so important? - Franziska Naether

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For centuries, scholars puzzled over the hieroglyphs they found carved onto ancient Egyptian ruins, tablets, and papyri. But in 1799, a unique discovery would finally help unlock their meaning. It was a stone inscribed with three different texts: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic Egyptian, and Ancient Greek. Franziska Naether shares how scholars decoded the ancient message of the Rosetta Stone.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Would you like to have a deeper look at the Rosetta Stone? You can visit the Rosetta Stone online in the British Museum London or rotate a 3D model of it.

For a handy overview of many online sources, check out this online exhibition of the Digital Rosetta Stone Project, “All Good Things come in Threes,” including an explanation of the creation of the Stone’s 3D model. This new visualization highlights the matching passages of the three versions of the text by hovering your mouse over the stone. By clicking on it, you can explore a new digital edition with English translations.

If you want to see Champollion’s groundbreaking decipherment in 1822 for yourself, check out his “Lettre à M. Dacier” – especially the last plates with his drawings of cartouches and a sign list. Can you recognize the names of Pharaoh Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra from the Rosetta Stone on plate 1?

One of the oldest complete translations of the three versions is this beautiful, handwritten book from the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania from 1858.

To hear more about the decipherment, watch this talk by Dr. Ilona Regulski from the British Museum. To engage further with Rosetta in the Colonial Period and recent debates, watch this talk of Dr. Heba Abd el Gawad from University College London. And if you’re looking to dive deeper into Egyptian history, explore these TED-Ed lessons on the Book of the Dead and ancient Egyptian medicine.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Franziska Naether
  • Director Tim Rauch
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Script Editor Molly Bryson

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