Thomas Young and Jean Champollion Process Deciphering Rosetta Stone



Deciphering the Rosetta stone and Bankes Obelisk was very important as it held information of the Egyptians and their language. It would also allow archaeologists to discover the true origins of the world. The stone was translated in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and Ancient Greek. Thomas Young’s approach was to use mathematics to decipher the hieroglyphs by counting the number of times the Greek words appear, he can then look for groups of symbols occurring the same number of times which would allow him to workout alphabet to words, then words to sentences.

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Young treated the hieroglyphs as a code to be broken using the power of logic and numeric analysis. Champollion, however, had a different approach; he believed he could break the hieroglyphs by studying the ancient language of Egypt so he began to study the last known language spoken at the time of the hieroglyphics, which was “Coptic”, the language of the Egyptian Christians. He would use to Coptic to work out common Egyptian, which was spoken around the time of Cleopatra and Alexander the Great.

Coptic was still spoken in some Churches in Paris. Champollion starting matching words from Coptic and common Egyptian languages to the hieroglyph symbols because if the hieroglyphs were connected to common Egyptian, then it would be the script of a language, not silent symbols. Young made a new discovery that the cartouche is a simple reflection and that all of them are turned meaning that the heads of the cartouche must face the start of the word, that’s how he would know which way to read them.

He suggested how the name Ptolemy was spelt out in hieroglyphs. Young had sent an appeal for Giovanni Belzoni, an Italian explorer to find the missing piece or another copy to the Rosetta stone to make it easier to decipher the stone. However Belzoni wasn’t able to find the missing piece but instead found an Egyptian artefact from Philae, which was almost as useful, a Bankes Obelisk. Both Young and Champollion were able to identify the Cleopatra cartouche, expect Champollion had created a copy of the cartouche using his hieroglyph lphabets, which was identical to the one on the Bankes obelisk. But Cleopatra was modern Greek name translated into hieroglyphs, Champollion could only prove this if he were able to read real ancient Egyptian names. Champollion worked out a hypothetical hieroglyphic alphabet, and by using it to write the cartouche for Cleopatra, he now had evidence that his alphabet was correct. This was achieved by logical deduction by using the languages of Coptic and common Egyptian to workout the precise sounds for each hieroglyph.

Belzoni working on behalf of Thomas young discovered the Abu Simbel inner temple. Champollion obtained painting of the inner temple, which had a hieroglyphic script of the ancient Pharaoh. He was able to read and translate the cartouche containing the hieroglyphs of the inner temple, which said “Ramesses” which meant he proved that he could read the code of the ancient Pharaohs. He was able to confirm that his hieroglyphic alphabet can extend to read scripts over a thousand years ago.


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