How The Rosetta Stone Unlocked Hieroglyphics

How The Rosetta Stone Unlocked Hieroglyphics

I’m in the British Museum, after hours when
all the visitors have gone, and here is the Rosetta Stone. It was the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics,
and it is one of the most precious and valuable treasures of the British Museum. Okay, this isn’t the actual Rosetta Stone,
that’s locked away in an incredibly well-secured cabinet on the other side of the Great Court,
this is the replica that they let people touch. And so many people touch it that they have
to hand-make a new replica every couple of years. Anyway. Until the Rosetta Stone was discovered, and
promptly “acquired”, by Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt, no-one in the modern age had a clue
about how Egyptian writing worked. The most popular idea was that they were purely ideographic,
with each drawing representing a concept. Modern linguists know that’s unlikely, but
that’s more obvious in hindsight: without any context or existing translations there
was no way to decipher any hieroglyphics, anywhere. But then: the Rosetta Stone. Originally part
of a temple that was likely demolished when a Roman emperor ordered all non-Christian
temples to be closed, then probably used as building material. It was buried for centuries,
until French soldiers found it and one of them realised what its significance might
be. The same text, in three languages: hieroglyphics, Demotic, and most importantly
Ancient Greek, which had never been forgotten. But translation wasn’t easy: it took scholars
twenty years to work it out, because the stone is filled with jargon. The concepts here aren’t
simple. And Egyptian hieroglyphics are complex: the same symbol can be used phonetically,
to represent a sound, AND to represent an abstract concept, AND to represent literally
what’s been drawn, all depending on context. And yes, that is a bit like texting with emoji
when you think about it. The big clue that helped translation was here:
the cartouches, these circles with lines. They are honorific markers attached to the
names of royals. So scholars knew: there are names in the other languages here that we
can read. Those names should also be in the hieroglyphics, Well hang on, there was already
a theory that cartouches meant names. So if we match up those letters with… I mean,
I’m simplifying, massively, it was incredibly difficult, and frustratingly, the translations
aren’t exact, there are differences between each of the three texts here. But once one
piece was cracked, there was a way in, and over decades of hard work, we started to be
able to translate hieroglyphics. The question very few people ask, though:
what’s actually on the Rosetta Stone? What’s written here? What mysteries of ancient Egyptian
life did it reveal… it’s about a royal cult being granted certain favours including tax
exemption. It is, essentially, Ancient Egyptian tax paperwork. The British Museum are piloting four new series
on YouTube, and the one you all like the most will get made. So go look over on their channel! And thank
you very much to them for letting me into this incredible place after hours. [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]

100 thoughts on “How The Rosetta Stone Unlocked Hieroglyphics”

  1. Over here is the Rosetta stone. It was the key to understanding Egyptian hyeroglyphs…

    pat pat

    and it is one of the most precious and valuable posession of the British Museum.


  2. Haven't watched the video yet, but it did not unlock "hieroglyphics" because they aren't called "hieroglyphics". Hieroglyphic is an adjective, not a noun. The word is hieroglyphs.

  3. I always thought it was a shame to remove artifacts from where they were found, but a lot of ancient Egyptian temples were destroyed for their stone, England and France saved a lot of it. Some will argue but it is true

  4. you can join my page:
    i succeeded to crack complex of hieroglyphics by professional work on inscription of mastabas and tombs,temples……it took many years of mind-hell thinking

  5. One question. Before you are able to decipher the hieroglyphics, how do you know the same symbols can be used to denote sound, pictorial representation or abstract concept depending on context. How do u know that?

  6. Right… DAD MAKE US SOME SNACKS WE ARE GOING TO LONDON in school I am currently reading the red pyrimid it is great and the rosetta stone like holds loads of God's like osiris

  7. Imagine some future linguist scrutinizing your Tax returns to translate your language

    They'd think we were a civilization of dull, lifeless suits XD

  8. How did we find out that Pomme is similar to Apple?
    I mean it could be used as Pomme de terre
    We know terre means earth and de means of…
    The translation would still be ???? of Earth

  9. Well, I was so curious and eager to know what is the text telling about. I was wonder is it their culture, history, treasure or scientific achievements until you say tax paperwork. Now, I am don't even want to know what it says about the tax.

  10. I think someone knew what they were doing when they used this as a building block. At the time, the Romans may have been trying to completely erase the language. Which isn't that hard when only a few people are literate. That's why we live in a very blessed era; my snaps will be saved forever and ever.

  11. I thought cartouches were coffins that’s the problem with learning all you know about ancient Egypt from stargate

  12. 1. You lucky duck.

    2. I LOVE the idea of tax paperwork being used to discifer (disciffer, discipher, discypher, discyfer GAH!) a script.

  13. When you were gesturing wildly at it in the beginning, I was so nervous. Once you started running your hand over it, I worked it out.

  14. like much of the ancient Egyptian heritage the Stone was found in rubble and was being used as building material before its second birth. So the snide remark about it being "acquired" by Napoleons troops is not correct…One could argue that the Egyptian heritage as we know it is something that was preserved (and created) almost solely by European and American scholars and explorers.

  15. Older American here. Want to say thanks for your videos. It's great to see someone breaking down all manner of material and subjects into smaller, bitesize pieces that might awaken curiosity in youth around the globe. You're doing great work here. It's hopefully not thankless, and absolutely worth every second you spend making these.

    From your friend(s) across the pond, thanks. May Britain last another thousand years, and may they and the US always be friends.

  16. What if 3000 years in the future someone finds our tax papers and it changes their out look on the past.

  17. I was instantly so jealous that you had gotten to touch the real one!! And then and then!! BOOOOO! THAT WAS JUST WRONG!!!

  18. The second text or so called (demotic), is infact Ancient Macedonian language, it's about on the living masters, in that time living masters were Macedonians.

    The third text on rosetta stone is Koine, а new language which Alexander introduced in the whole empire as official language,so that nobody feels submissive.

  19. At least now when you have to fill out your paperwork in triplicate, you don't have to use three different languages 😀

  20. According to Professor Jim Al-Kalili, it turns out that because of the shared origins of Arabic and Egyptian, a ninth century alchemist, Abu Bakr Ahmad Ibn Wahshiyah, deciphered Hieroglyphs 1000 years before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone!

  21. So thanks to ancient Greek now we can translate the hieroglyphics (also greek word) ιερογλυφικά and learn the ancient Egyptian civilisation. Without that we wouldn't have a clue about them!!!

  22. Oh, Tom, expected more from you. Napoleon "eh… acquired" the Rosetta Stone but the British excavated rightfully the Ur tablet about the royal game, the sarcophagi of Egypt and cut out the Parthenon marbles?

  23. I knew this and wouldn't have clicked on it already knowing the information but this series is called things you might not have known so I felt compelled to let everyone know that I did in fact already know it. Thank you.

  24. I saw that coming, yea it was basically a key to other text. It's a dope tool song too! SEEING E MOTHERFUKIN T!

  25. One key person was a Frenchman named Jean-François Champollion. I’ve read the biography of his life and the full story of its decryption.

  26. Nice video, thank you! Just a small correction. The writings is not about taxes at all. This is words of prise to the Pharaoh Ptolemy V written by the Egyptian preasthood.

  27. An ancient magic cult exempt from paying taxes to the Pharaoh. They must have had some very powerful magic.

  28. Imagine if the only thing left of the English language was an Emoji copypasta shitpost, future scholars would be wasting thousands of hours trying to decipher it, speculating if it has a phonetic properties.

  29. This is the Rosetta Stone, * pat *
    one of the the most precious * pat * and valuable * pat * treasures * pat * of the British Museum * pat *

  30. so you're saying Egyptians invented emoji's. hmmmm interesting.. i bet they had good wifi back then from them pyramids 😛

  31. 5000 years from now some will discover Trumps tax returns and will then translate 21st century New York-eez to Martian.

  32. You are really interesting to watch. I have watched a few videos I'm gona watch a few more. Well done.

  33. Hum, doing a video on the Rosetta Stone without mentioning the name of Champollion, the guy who actually deciphered the Egyptians writings..

  34. I find it funny that we have a stereotype that anything very ancient has a huge meaning and not something like taxes

  35. Bro I work at a historical landmark and when you said it’s the actual Rosetta Stone and then TOUCHED IT, then KEPT touching it I almost had a heart attack. Not gonna lie I hated that part, but you definitely fooled me! Keep the gags like that for future videos, they’re good!

  36. *two languages, three scripts. Demotic and Hieroglyphic are two different ways of writing the ancient Egyptian language; the other language is ancient Greek.

  37. It all came down to one thing…
    TAX PAPER WORK? !!!!


    Dayum. 🙂

  38. One of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time. Great gag slapping and rubbing it in the start. 😱

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