Language of the Ancients: The Rosetta Stone

Egypt is a constant destination for the world’s historians because it is, in many ways, the world’s largest living museum. People will come to visit from far and wide because so much of what we know today has been influenced in one way or another by events or people with an Egyptian connection. Along with the early Roman and Greek civilization, Egyptian history is one of the most important aspects of the ancient history of this world – to understand how and why the world came to be how it is, it is essential to know about these civilizations. One of the pivotal moments in the understanding of this history was the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799.
Rosetta Stone
The Stone was discovered, as the name suggests, in the Egyptian town of Rosetta (known locally as Rashid), and was important because it was the first modern discovery of an ancient bilingual text. Indeed, the Stone itself bears the same text written three times: once in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, once in demotic Arabic script and once in Ancient Greek. Its discovery was of massive benefit in enabling historical scholars to decipher the hieroglyphics that are present at many of the ancient sites which make up so much of Egyptian history and, in the present, represent the core of its thriving tourist trade.

See the Stone
If you visit Rosetta as part of an Egypt holiday, you will not be able to see the Stone there. Since 1802 it has in fact been on display in the British Museum in London, a spoil of British military victory over the French army who held control of the region at that time. Copies of the Stone were made and sent to historical scholars all over the world, the better to enable an understanding of what the Stone could tell us about the history of the area, and about ancient Egyptian civilization in general. The loss of the Stone has however not put an end to interest in Rosetta, which remains a fascinating site for anyone keen on Egyptian architecture.

Rosetta is home to perhaps more monumental residences than any other site in Egypt, and the uniqueness of these buildings is something that any visitor will be bound to comment upon. The residences are characterized by a specific style of brick; brown, trimmed and pointed, a style of brick which is unique to the area and which has led to no shortage of interest because some mystery still surrounds how the bricks were made.

Within the residences, it is a delight to see how intricate the architecture was as far back as the Ottoman era – residences which would be considered quite luxurious even today were achieved with some ingenuity. Although many of the residences are at the present time being refurbished, some always remain open for visitors. Also of interest in Rosetta, the Abu Madour Tower is the spot from which French military historian Vivien Dinon witnessed the battle of al-Qadir (in which Britain took control of the area), and the Hammam Azouz is worth visiting.