CAIRO – 25 September 2022: The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir will open free-of-charge to the public on September 27, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of deciphering the Rosetta Stone and the emergence of Egyptology. All Egyptians, Arabs, nationals of African countries and foreign residents will be welcomed.
The famous Rosetta Stone consists of a black granite slab inscribed with three ancient texts, two ancient Egyptian texts and one Greek.
This formula eventually helped researchers decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, whose meaning had eluded historians for centuries. But why did ancient scribes include three different types of writing or texts on this iconic stone in the first place?
The reason for the existence of three texts stems from the legacy of one of the generals of Alexander the Great, as the Greek text on the stone is related to the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt founded by Ptolemy I Soter. Soter was a Macedonian Greek-speaking general from the family of Alexander.
Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 BC and Ptolemy I Soter took over the country 9 years later after Alexander's death, while Cleopatra, who died in 30 BC, was the last active female ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
The Rosetta Stone was revealed by the French expedition in 1799 during the construction of a fort in the town of Rosetta. The stone was not complete. It was a broken part of a larger slab, but although it was missing a large part of the hieroglyphs from the long lost upper section, the stone has the same messages carved into it in ancient Greek writing; Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Egyptian demotic script, which was a connecting script used by the ancient Egyptians between the 7th century BC, and the 5th century AD, according to Britannica.
"The Egyptian Demotic script was the contemporary language used in everyday speech as well as administrative documents," Foy Scalf, head of research archives and research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, told Live Science.
On the other hand, the “hieroglyphic grammar mimics the Middle Egyptian language,” which is the stage of the Egyptian language associated with the Middle Kingdom period in Egypt. It spanned from about 2044 BC until 1650 BC.
By the Ptolemaic period, Middle Egyptian was often used for very formal inscriptions, as Egyptian scribes considered it a classic version of their language whose tradition bestowed authority on the text.
Ancient Greek grew to become widely used in ancient Egypt among the literate class during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Modern scholars were still trying to understand it at the time of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. As such, the stone helped researchers decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs and Demotic script, two different scripts of the same language.
The use of hieroglyphs began to disappear after the Romans took over Egypt in 30 BC with the appearance of the last known Egyptian hieroglyphic writing in the fourth century AD, as indicated by Britannica.