Champollion and the Rosetta Stone

About Jean-Francois Champollion and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, its importance in language and linguistics.


The mysterious stone was discovered by a French engineering officer near Rashid, or Rosetta, in Egypt in 1799, when Jean-Francois Champollion was only a 9-year-old boy in France. Resembling a tabletop, the slab of black basalt bore an indecipherable inscription. At 13, Champollion was studying Arabic, Chaldean, Coptic, Chinese, and obscure languages like Zend, Pahlavi, Parsi, and at 17 he was an eminent Egyptologist. Champollion turned his attention to the Rosetta Stone, which had been moved to London after Napoleon's defeat. Using his knowledge of dead languages, Champollion deciphered the writing on the stone--a decree of the Egyptian priesthood in 196 B.C.--and unlocked the door to the glorious past of ancient Egypt.

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