History

The “Rosetta Stone," as it is known, has become a metaphor...

                                                                                               ...a metaphor for anything that is important to the process of decryption or the unraveling of a complex problem -- cracking a code of some sort. Perhaps even a universal metaphor for hope, creativity and perseverance for many who are trying to learn a new language, attempting to solve a relational puzzle, or seeking to decipher the cryptic issues of these tough economic times. Or, let's look at it from another perspective -- What if we have been able to "crack the code" to the development of what some might call the Rosetta Stone of replicas?


   The Rosetta Stone is much more than a roughly gouged, nicked rock that appears like it was shoved down the side of a mountain -- it is the key to an ancient civilization and a modern symbol of human discovery, conquest, and scholarship


   Even if you are quite knowledgeable about the Rosetta Stone, perhaps you will learn some new things by the time you have finished reading this page. Plus, you just might know of someone who may want to exhibit a stunning, museum-quality replica (45" tall x 30" wide x 11" thick, 95 lbs, 1:1) of the Rosetta Stone. Email or call (410.729.4011) for more information about hosting an exhibition for educational purposes. Airports. Shopping Malls. Museums. Public Libraries. Conventions. And other venues...


   You'll see the comparison between the real thing and the replica below, along with six distinctive & distinguishing features of this project. Review the eight innovations of the Rosetta Stone below, including a planned 3-D holographic image. You'll be pleasantly surprised. But first, let's take a step back in time...


   The Rosetta Stone was/is an irregularly shaped slab of granodiorite rock weighing about 1,700 pounds. The face has 14 lines of hieroglyphs (It is estimated that there were 29 lines prior to breakage), 32 lines of cursive Demotic, and, at the bottom, 54 lines of ancient Greek (language introduced after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great). All proclaim the same message (feel free to read it later).


   Historian, Richard Moore states, "The French attempt to exert influence over Egypt was due to economics, a political need to weaken Britain and the personal needs of General Napoleon Bonaparte, who saw the shadow of unemployment - and a loss of influence - looming as his armies in Italy were nearing the end of their successful struggles against Austria. Having seen the benefits of Britain's profitable colonies, France's Directory listened to Bonaparte's idea to invade Egypt, expel the ruling Marmalukes and establish a modern style of government friendly toward French ways."


   The Napoleonic Egyptian Campaign started in 1798. In 1799, as French soldiers were preparing to build the foundation for Fort Julian (later known as Fort Rashid) on the West Bank of the Nile, the soldiers found the Rosetta Stone (see photo above). That village, called Rashid, was translated as “Rosetta;” hence the name.


   The Greek text was quickly translated and the last line of the Greek text impacted everyone who read it: "This decree shall be inscribed on a stela of hard stone in sacred (hieroglyph) and native (demotic script) and Greek characters...." This meant that a parallel version of the same text was presented in all three languages! The Stone was deemed to be priceless! Everyone quickly recognized that the Rosetta Stone could very well unlock the secrets to ancient Egypt.


   The ability to read hieroglyphs had been lost for almost two centuries, but now they had hope of understanding this ancient language.


   The stone, a fragment of an ancient slab proclaiming the “Memphis Decree” in 196 BC, praised the Egyptian king Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation. (At the time, Ptolemy was no more than 13 or 14 years of age.) Even though the British defeated the French, a battle of intrigue followed.


   In September 1801 English Colonel Turner, who had fought and won at Aboukir Bay and Alexandria, went to visit General Menou to take the stone back to Britain under the terms of the Treaty of Capitulation. Turner cited the 16th article of the treaty, and Menou handed it over grudgingly. The French had the foresight to make several copies of the inscriptions, which served them well after the British acquired the stone.


   Both the French and the British knew they had something valuable on their hands, but it would take years to crack the code inscribed on the Rosetta Stone. Only then would its true worth be revealed.


   Scholar, Margie Parent writes, "...in the spasmodic voyage from Egypt to England, many of the Egyptian antiquities were damaged. Because of the importance of the Rosetta Stone, however Colonel Turner personally accompanied this precious cargo on its journey aboard a frigate. The Rosetta stone left Egypt from Alexandria and sailed into the English Channel in February 1802. At Deptford the stone was placed in a small boat and taken through customs. It was [initially] lodged at the quarters of the Society of Antiquaries so experts could examine it...."


  The Rosetta Stone, on display in the British Museum, has text inscribed on it that permanently tells a story. On the left side, the painted text reads: "Captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801." On right side it reads: "Presented by King George III."


   The hieroglyphic images were studied by many (Johan David Akerblad, Silvestre de Sacy, Rev. Stephen Weston, Dr. Thomas Young, et al), but the Rosetta Stone was ultimately deciphered in 1822 (approximately 23 years later) by Jean-Francois Champollion (see image), the brilliant French academic who specialized in ancient languages of the Middle East.


The Mysterious Rosetta Stone Cracking the Code to Your Team's Success


   Champollion compared the three texts, all stating the same Decree. Since these three languages were all used at the time, the Decree had to be “published” in all of them.


   Champollion could read both Greek and Coptic. He was able to figure out what the seven demotic signs in Coptic were. By looking at how these signs were used in Coptic he was able to work out what they stood for. Then he began tracing these demotic signs back to hieroglyphic signs. By working out what some hieroglyphs stood for, he could make educated guesses about what the other hieroglyphs stood for.


   Given such a rich history, it's makes even more sense when we see contemporary "non-weird" examples of the "Rosetta Stone metaphor" being utilized in genomics, science, language learning, translation work, math, cryptology, space exploration and IT security. For instance, the RSA Conference has used the "Rosetta Stone: Security Decoded" as their 2010 conference theme in Europe, Japan and the USA. The RSA Conference is the largest forum in the world for cryptographers to gather and share the latest knowledge and advancements in the area of internet security. There's no doubt that IT professionals have a special connection with the Rosetta Stone as they attempt to stay ahead of the global security threats perpetrated by hackers.


   Here's another quick example: In 2004 the European Space Agency (ESA) stated, "Just as the Rosetta Stone provided the key to an ancient civilization, so ESA's Rosetta spacecraft will unlock the mysteries of the oldest building blocks of our Solar System – the comets. As the worthy successor of Champollion and Young, Rosetta will allow scientists to look back 4600 million years to an epoch when no planets existed and only a vast swarm of asteroids and comets surrounded the Sun." Somehow, its connection to space exploration makes sense, doesn't it?


The personal & collective impact of the Rosetta Stone is at once timeless & universal.


What is your connection to the significance of this intriguing stone?


   Bottom Line: The overwhelming importance of the translation of the Rosetta Stone is that it made it possible to read hundreds of hieroglyph inscriptions on tombs, obelisks and other ancient objects. Let's take an "easy-to-understand" look at the meaning of the text found on the Rosetta Stone (below).


   OVERVIEW: The text on the Rosetta Stone gives us a glimpse into Egyptian life -- ripped out of the headlines -- recounting the many decrees of Ptolemy V upon the anniversary of his reign (196 BC). During the previous year, Ptolemy had succeeded in subduing a rebellion by a certain temple and priesthood who had refused to pay tithes and taxes to the Pharaoh. They occupied a fort-like temple on the banks of the Nile. Rather than attacking the temple with his army, Ptolemy diverted the Nile River around the Temple by damming, digging trenches and canals around it, depriving them of food and water.


  A few months later, the rebel priesthood surrendered. Ptolemy decreed a general amnesty for the rebels (except for the leaders). He allowed many of the priests to retain their homes and wealth, decreed a national celebration of the jubilee of his reign and gave the people a tax break (for real!). Ptolemy also declared himself a deity to be worshipped in all temples of Egypt, with a facsimile of himself in stone to be the object of veneration with the burning of incense and prayer 3 times per day.


   His final decree was that the entire record of this adventure be inscribed in stone in the three languages of the kingdom and that the decree should be placed prominently in all temples in Egypt and other important places and towns. Hence the Rosetta Stone.


   The story behind the Rosetta Stone was intriguing all by itself, but the cracking of the code of the hieroglyphs was enormously important for understanding the history and culture of ancient Egypt, thus revealing details of a civilization going back close to 4,000 years BC.


   Let's fast forward to the 20th Century. As you probably know, the genuine Rosetta Stone is housed at the British Museum in London. In the 1970’s, the British Museum made a mold of the full face of the authentic Rosetta Stone, and cast a small number of first-generation reproductions.


   And now, the 21st Century. The Freeman Institute obtained one of these facsimiles (see image above, to the left) from a gentleman who was informed by the British Museum that only 12-15 first-generation replicas had ever been made, and that he had acquired the last one. (It had been stored in the basement of the British Museum and the museum cleaned it before selling it to him.)


   It is a first-generation, full-size, life-size facsimile (in black resin) with the characters in white (carnauba wax and chalk compound), made from a direct mold of the original Rosetta Stone face. The size of the casting is approximately 40 inches in height, 30 inches in width, and the resin is molded so that it has two-inch sides.


  A representative of the British Museum Company (in charge of sales & marketing for the British Museum) emailed the following: “Unfortunately we do not have any records of how many Rosetta Stone casts were produced. However, (we) estimate that it would have been two or three a year (in the 1970s) at the very most.”


  Based upon the emailed correspondence and other anecdotal evidence, it is safe to say there are relatively few full-size, first-generation facsimiles of the face of the Rosetta Stone (manufactured in the 1970s) that exist in the entire world.

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