AP®︎ World History
The Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone, 196 B.C.E., granite, 114.4 cm x 72.3 x 27.9 cm or 45 x 28.5 x 11 inches, Ptolemaic Period (British Museum, London). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
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- How did they translate it because it is all broken with pieces missing in the video?(240 votes)
- Three languages were written on it saying the same thing.(9 votes)
- Is there any evidence showing who created this? Whoever did had access to all 3 languages, unless it was a collection of works issued by the Hellenistic government in Egypt while Alexander the Great ruled there, as mentioned at1:46by Dr. Zucker, so that everyone could read the Decree of Memphis? (which is what is written on the Rosetta Stone.)(54 votes)
- This was written during the Ptolemaic dynasty. Decrees like this one were very common during the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, and it made sense to be written in each language. The government spoke Greek. Ptolemy I was a Greek general under Alexander the Great that declared himself King of Egypt about 20 years after Alexander died. The monuments and formal writings were written in hieroglyphs. "Hieros" means "sacred." This was the "language of the gods." The ordinary documents were written in the demotic script. "Demos" means common people.(92 votes)
- Is the Rosetta stone the only stone of it's kind or are there other examples of multi-language artifacts that were used to translate ancient languages?(19 votes)
- There are other stones/ancient writing tablets,but not in the same languages. This was the first that included Egyptian hieroglyphs compared with a known language(2 votes)
- At3:33it was mentioned that the stone is located in Britain. Does anyone know if there are plans to return the stone to the original country of origin?(15 votes)
- While Egypt has pressured the British Museum to return the Rosetta Stone, the British Museum has been very clear that it has no plans to return it. The British Museum, along with other top museums of the world, have asserted that returning items to their countries of origin would cause the great museums of the world to be emptied. It is unlikely that the British Museum will change their stance with respect to the Rosetta Stone as it is arguably the most prized piece in their collection.(21 votes)
- Who first descoverd it?(10 votes)
- It was first discovered by the people who made it thousands of years ago. It was rediscovered at fort Julian by Lieutenant Pierre-François Bouchard(7 votes)
- How are linguists able to decipher ancient languages, such as hieroglyphics or cuneiform writing? Is there a certain process that is used to reach their goal of full comprehension?(6 votes)
- While there isn't a set list of steps linguists can follow to completely decipher an unknown language, there are a lot of common "tools of the trade" they can use.
Typically they begin by analyzing the language statistically - which symbols appear most often? Do some symbols often follow other symbols? This can help them find languages that are statistically similar to the unknown language. Then they can look for other similarities, like similar words shared between known languages and the unknown language, because languages often "borrow" words. (For example, the english word "tornado" was originally adapted from the spanish word "tornada,") They can then use their knowledge of these borrowed words to make educated guesses about words that often appear near these words, and so on.
I'm sure it's more complicated in the real world, but this is a good illustration of the basic process.(6 votes)
- Who was the author of this stone?(6 votes)
- we dont know. Ptolemy was the monarch but its doubtful that he did the writing.(4 votes)
- so no one uses hieroglyphics any more?(3 votes)
- No, the ancient language survives as Coptic, which has its own writing system.(6 votes)
- Why is Rosetta Stone in London and not in Egypt?(4 votes)
- It was stolen by Napoleon's army when he invaded. He took it to Britain, and it has been there ever since.(3 votes)
- What language did the Egyptians speak?(4 votes)
- Ancient Egyptians had their own language. The closest, today-spoken language to their language is Coptic, it is the language of a minority in Egypt. However, we do not know fully how the language of Ancient Egyptians sounded or what is was exactly like.
The Egyptians in the antiquity did not speak Arabic. Arabic language only spread in the country after the Muslim conquest of the area around the 7th century AD.(10 votes)
[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: We're in the British Museum, and we're looking at one of the most important objects in the collection, the Rosetta Stone. SPEAKER 2: It's in a glass case, surrounded by people who are taking pictures of it. SPEAKER 1: People love it. SPEAKER 2: They do. And there's gifts in the gift shop about it. SPEAKER 1: You can get your own little Rosetta Stone. SPEAKER 2: Exactly! SPEAKER 1: You can get Rosetta Stone posters. SPEAKER 2: On a mug. SPEAKER 1: I think you can get a doormat Rosetta Stone. SPEAKER 2: Yeah. SPEAKER 1: But the stone itself is historically incredibly important. It allowed us for the first time to be able to understand, to be able to read, to be able to translate hieroglyphics. SPEAKER 2: Hieroglyphics was the written language of the ancient Egyptians. And until the mid 19th century, we really didn't know what it said. SPEAKER 1: The language itself is pictorial. And actually that led to one of the real confusions, because they think that early archaeologists believed and linguists believed that the pictures they could see-- you can make out birds and snakes in various different kinds of forms-- actually referred in some way to a specific thing in the world. SPEAKER 2: Right. So if you saw a bird, it somehow referred to a bird. SPEAKER 1: And in fact, that's not the case. SPEAKER 2: Right. SPEAKER 1: This is a far more sophisticated language. SPEAKER 2: And the Rosetta Stone was really what helped them to understand that Egyptian hieroglyphics are not pictorial. They're not pictographs. They're actually phonetic. So all those things that look like pictures actually represent sounds. And that's how they were able to finally figure out and translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. SPEAKER 1: And the reason we were able to do that is because this stone said the same statement three times in three different languages. So the three languages are ancient Greek, which is down at the bottom. Now, that was the language of the administration. That was the language of government. And the reason for that is because Alexander the Great had conquered Egypt and had set up this sort of Greek rule in this Hellenistic era, and that maintained itself in ancient Egypt. SPEAKER 2: Let's remember, we're talking about 200 BC here. SPEAKER 1: Which is actually getting close to the end of the life of hieroglyphics as well. It would last for another few hundred years before it died out completely. So this is really the tail end of this 3,000-year-long language. SPEAKER 2: So the middle section is Demotic, which actually means the language of the people. And it was this common language used by the Egyptians. SPEAKER 1: And the top, of course, was the sacred writing. This was hieroglyphs. SPEAKER 2: Right. SPEAKER 1: And that was the language that we really couldn't read. SPEAKER 2: Until we had the Rosetta Stone, and we could see within the writings of the Rosetta Stone cartouches, which held the names of the rulers. Cartouches are a kind of oblong shape that contains the name of the ruler. SPEAKER 1: In this case, that would be Ptolemy V. SPEAKER 2: And by recognizing that ruler's name in these three different languages, we found a way to begin to unlock hieroglyphics. SPEAKER 1: Now, that would take decades. It was an incredibly difficult task. SPEAKER 2: And we haven't even talked yet about how this was found. Napoleon has his army in Egypt, and Napoleon's brought with him some what I guess what we would call sort of archaeologist types. And one of those people who accompanied Napoleon found or came across the Rosetta Stone. SPEAKER 1: It was being used as a part of the foundation of a fort, in fact. SPEAKER 2: And of course, it would have originally been erected in a temple or near an ancient Egyptian temple. SPEAKER 1: And I suppose it's important to say that this is the bottom portion of a much larger stele, or sort of stone tablet, that would have been quite tall. SPEAKER 2: So Napoleon took it back-- SPEAKER 1: Except hold on a second, because we're not in the Louvre. We're in London in a British Museum. So how does that work? SPEAKER 2: Well, the British defeated Napoleon and brought back the stone. And a year or two later, I think 1801 or 1802, it was brought to the British Museum, and it's been here ever since. SPEAKER 1: Well, it's clearly still extremely popular. [MUSIC PLAYING]