The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt

The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt

Hardback Wonders of the World

By (author) John Ray

List price $19.95

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Hardback | 199 pages
  • Dimensions: 112mm x 186mm x 18mm | 227g
  • Publication date: 27 July 2007
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, MA
  • ISBN 10: 0674024931
  • ISBN 13: 9780674024939
  • Sales rank: 1,132,125

Product description

Read the Bldg Blog interview with Mary Beard about the Wonders of the World series (Part I and Part II) The Rosetta Stone is one of the world's great wonders, attracting awed pilgrims by the tens of thousands each year. This book tells the Stone's story, from its discovery by Napoleon's expedition to Egypt to its current--and controversial-- status as the single most visited object on display in the British Museum. A pharaoh's forgotten decree, cut in granite in three scripts--Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian demotic, and ancient Greek--the Rosetta Stone promised to unlock the door to the language of ancient Egypt and its 3,000 years of civilization, if only it could be deciphered. Capturing the drama of the race to decode this key to the ancient past, John Ray traces the paths pursued by the British polymath Thomas Young and Jean-Francois Champollion, the "father of Egyptology" ultimately credited with deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. He shows how Champollion "broke the code" and explains more generally how such deciphering is done, as well as its critical role in the history of Egyptology. Concluding with a chapter on the political and cultural controversy surrounding the Stone, the book also includes an appendix with a full translation of the Stone's text. Rich in anecdote and curious lore, "The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egypt" is a brilliant and frequently amusing guide to one of history's great mysteries and marvels.

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Review quote

The stone is an icon because it provided the key to decoding ancient Egyptian writing, allowing the pharaohs to speak to the modern world. It also stands for great intellectual achievement: the genius of Thomas Young, the English physicist and polymath who was the first to try and decipher it, and that of his rival, the French scholar Jean-Fran?ois Champollion, who cracked the hieroglyphs in 1822 and founded Egyptology as a science. The stone also stands for national rivalry: between Napoleon's army, which discovered it in Egypt in 1799, and the British army, which took it to the UK. Though few people know what it actually says, the Rosetta Stone has come to symbolise the enduring power of writing. Ray writes knowledgeably about all these aspects of the stone, drawing on four decades of engagement with ancient Egypt--a career partly inspired by a schoolboy encounter with the stone in the 1950s. There are already some good books on the subject...but Ray sheds new light on topics such as the fragile political position of the stone's hero, teenage pharaoh Ptolemy V, and the issue of whether the stone should one day be returned to Egypt.--Andrew Robinson"New Scientist" (02/03/2007)