The British Museum
- Ancient Egypt
- The tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- Paintings from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- A bottle and a toy: Objects from daily life
- Hunefer, Book of the Dead
- The Rosetta Stone
- History uncovered in conserving the Rosetta Stone
- Egyptian mummy portraits
- Ancient Egyptian coffin prepared for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian coffin mask conserved for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- An ancient Egyptian scribal palette in the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian baboon deity conserved for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian papyrus in the Book of the Dead Exhibition
- Ancient Egyptian coffin panel prepared for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Gebelein Man: virtual autopsy, exploring a natural mummy from early Egypt
When the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, the carved characters that covered its surface were quickly copied. Printer's ink was applied to the Stone and white paper laid over it. When the paper was removed, it revealed an exact copy of the text—but in reverse. Since then, many copies or "facsimiles" have been made using a variety of materials. Inevitably, the surface of the Stone accumulated many layers of material left over from these activities, despite attempts to remove any residue. Once on display, the grease from many thousands of human hands eager to touch the Stone added to the problem.
Analyzing the Rosetta Stone
An opportunity for investigation and cleaning the Rosetta Stone arose when this famous object was made the centerpiece of the Cracking Codes exhibition at The British Museum in 1999. When work commenced to remove all but the original, ancient material the stone was black with white lettering. As treatment progressed, the different substances uncovered were analyzed. Grease from human handling, a coating of carnauba wax from the early 1800s and printer's ink from 1799 were cleaned away using cotton wool swabs and liniment of soap, white spirit, acetone and purified water. Finally, white paint in the text, applied in 1981, which had been left in place until now as a protective coating, was removed with cotton swabs and purified water. A small square at the bottom left corner of the face of the Stone was left untouched to show the darkened wax and the white infill.
The Stone has a dark grey-pinkish tone with a pink streak running through it. Today you see traces of a reddish brown in the text. This material was analyzed and found to be a clear mineral known as hydroxyapatite; the color may be due to iron traces. The mineral may have been applied deliberately, but there is no proof of this. This substance is not known by experts to have been used as a pigment, nor to have been used as a base for painting (a ground) in ancient Egypt.
© Trustees of the British Museum
Want to join the conversation?
- Could the potentially "iron based" residue have been the residue left from the metal tools used to strike and carve the lettering of the Rosetta stone?(13 votes)
- Why isn't there glass casing around the Rosetta Stone?(8 votes)
- how was the Rosetta stone discovered(3 votes)
- the rosetta stone was discovered by two french soldiers who were helping to rebuild a fort in Egypt(6 votes)
- Wouldn't this information need a little more info on who founded it and what it was used for(3 votes)
- the first article on the rosetta stone talks more about how it was found. I would suggest reading that or visiting the british museums page(4 votes)
- why was the rosetta stone made for?(2 votes)
- It was made to record a new law. It was in many languages so that all of the subjects under that law could refer to it in a language more nearly their own.(4 votes)
- Where did the pink streak in the stone come from?(2 votes)
- The Rosetta stone is Granidiorite.
The pink streak is a bit of orthoclase in the granidiorite of the stone. Read about granidiorite here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granodiorite and look at the diagram.(2 votes)
- Do you have a picture of the fort where the Rosetta stone was found.(2 votes)
- To the best of my knowledge the only picture is on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Julien, and that is just an ancient drawing.(2 votes)
- Why was the stone so historically important. All I can find is that it waswritten in three languages taht all said the same thing, but that doesnt seem right...(2 votes)
- why was the rosetta stone made?(0 votes)
- The stele is a late example of a class of donation stelae, which depicts the reigning monarch granting a tax exemption to the resident priesthood. Pharaohs had erected these stelae over the previous 2,000 years, the earliest examples dating from the Egyptian Old Kingdom. In earlier periods, all such decrees were issued by the king himself, but the Memphis decree was issued by the priests, as the maintainers of traditional Egyptian culture. The decree records that Ptolemy V gave a gift of silver and grain to the temples. It also records that there was particularly high flooding of the Nile in the eighth year of his reign, and he had the excess waters dammed for the benefit of the farmers. In return for these concessions, the priesthood pledged that the king's birthday and coronation days would be celebrated annually, and that all the priests of Egypt would serve him alongside the other gods. The decree concludes with the instruction that a copy was to be placed in every temple, inscribed in the "language of the gods" (hieroglyphs), the "language of documents" (demotic), and the "language of the Greeks" as used by the Ptolemaic government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Stone#Memphis_decree_and_its_context(3 votes)
- didn't the British know they were stealing credit and Egyptian property and work(0 votes)