After his successful first Italian campaign and the peace of Campo Formio, Bonaparte was employed in a plan to make a direct invasion of England. Plans were drawn up to capture Malta and then Egypt in the hopes that the latter occupation would give France control of lucrative trade routes to east. The French army occupied Alessandria on 2nd July and Bonaparte entered the capital of Egypt on 24 July 1798. Many improvements were made. Two particular areas of study resulted in significant and long-lasting achievements. One of the most important discoveries in that field was the Rosetta Stone.
The Stone was discovered in mid-July, but the circumstances are unclear. Some say it was found just lying on the ground; others claim that it was part of an old wall which was ordered demolished by French soldiers in order to extend Fort Julien. This claim is supported by the Institute’s Egyptian map which indicates the fort being on the west bank of Pierre Francois Xavier Bouchard, who headed the demolition team. When the British defeated the French, the Treaty of Capitulation required that all artefacts should be turned over to the British. The Rosetta Stone was shipped to England where it arrived in 1802. It was first delivered to The Society of Antiquaries. Four plaster casts were made for the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Trinity College, Dublin. George III had the Rosetta Stone transferred to the British Museum in London, where it is still on display.
Deciphering languages The Rosetta Stone contains three separate bands of writing which are inscribed with text from three different languages :
Hieroglyphs (top band of the stone)
Demotic script (middle band)
Greek (bottom band)
When Pierre-Francois Bouchard found the Rosetta Stone, he realised that it might be important and contacted the French scholars who had accompanied the forces of Napoleon on his expedition to Egypt. Bouchard also recognised the Greek language and the hieroglyphics. When the French Scholars studied the stone, they realized that it was a decree written in the languages used in Egypt at the time. One of these French Scholars, Silvestre de Sacy, began to focus on deciphering the Demotic script by comparing the Greek and Egyptian words. He identified the symbols which comprised the word ‘Ptolemy’ and ‘Alexander’, thus establishing a relationship between symbols and sounds.
Then Johann Akerblad, a Swedish linguist, identified the words for love, temple and Greek confirming that the Demotic script was a phonetic script. But the earliest translation of the Greek text on the Rosetta stone into English was done by Reverend Stephen Weston in London in April 1802 before the Society of Antiquaries. Thomas Young finished the work started by Akerblad and Weston, in fact he translated the Demotic text and began to work on translating the hieroglyphic alphabet. Young was successful in determining that names could not be represented by symbols because they are based upon the words used in a given language. In hieroglyphics there are groups of encircled symbols that are known as a cartouche.
The father of egyptology Jean-Francois Champollion was a young French historian and linguist who had knowledge of old languages. In 1807 Champollion went to study with Silvestre de Sacy and started work on the translation of the text on the Rosetta stone. Hieroglyphic writing had long fascinated scholars, but it would be Champollion who would break the code. In fact he determined that fifteen signs of the demotic script corresponded with alphabetic letters in the Coptic language. He therefore concluded that this modern language held at least the last vestiges of that spoken by ancient Egyptians. He came to understand that some of the glyphs had a phonetic value and were thus part of an alphabet, even though other symbols were strictly symbolic ideograms. The Greek was artifact recorded identical text in hieroglyphs, demotic Egyptian http:// www.touregypt.net/featurestories/writing.htm and Greek. Others had first examined this stone, but he recognized the Ptolemy name in Greek and demotic, and was therefore able to identify the hieroglyphic rendering. In a document he made it known that his efforts had revealed an alphabet of twenty-six letters, including syllabic signs, of which ten were identified completely. However, two others were only partly correct, and fourteen others were later proved to be wrong, or missing. He had also figured out the use of determinatives.
Here is an example of deciphering from the Rosetta stone: Il nuovo re, avendo ricevuto la monarchia da suo padre... "Βασιλεύοντος τοΰ νεοΰ καί παραλαβόντος τήν βασίλειαν παρά τοΰ πατρός"
Why is France the rightful owner of the Rosetta Stone? In the name of the French Republic, we publicly state we are the only owners of the Rosetta stone; this is because we were the one and the first to take it under our protection as soon as it was found. We were in charge of it and we kept it safely until the breaking out of the war. It was thanks to us that it survives and so it should be on display in our greatest museum, the Louvre, in the Egyptian section.