The Rosetta Stone - Translating a Lost Language



Much of our most ancient history might have been lost were it not for the existence of the Rosetta Stone.

However, it was but one stone of its type in a series, all of which have proven crucial to deciphering the lost language of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

“All language is but a poor translation.”― Franz Kafka

Upon this stone is inscribed a decree, but in three different ways and two completely separate languages.


In both hieroglyphs and demotic script, the decree is written, but also, at the bottom of the Rosetta Stone is it written in ancient Greek. The stone is actually part of a "stele" or solid slab erected for commemorative purposes which has long since fragmented and worn away to what little of it is left. Inscribed to the young King Ptolemy, the stone outlines the establishment of his religious cult, among other things.

When this unique slab's remnant was found in the port city Rosetta, it shed light on the meaning of a number of Egyptian hieroglyphs in a manner nothing else ever had. Years later, however, other similar stele were discovered and its uniqueness was no more.

“It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.”― Salman Rushdie

It was during Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign that the stone was discovered and a lively dispute would follow its discovery as the British and the French feuded over its fate.


Ultimately, British troops would go on to seize the stone from the French and whisk it away to Britain, to be featured in the British Museum. As of yet, the stone has not been returned to its homeland in Egypt, despite public requests on the grounds of heritage preservation, but this is par for the course with stolen relics. Is it not?

Perhaps, some day, Egypt will take back its rightful treasures, the Rosetta Stone being but one of many.

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