Ancient Egypt for Kids
Over 5000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, scribes wrote things down. That was a scribe's job, to write things down. Scribes used a system of pictures to do so. These pictures were called hieroglyphics. It was beautiful art. Each symbol had a meaning. But it took time to write things down using hieroglyphics. The scribes needed a faster way to write, because the ancient Egyptians loved to write things down. They especially loved lists, endless lists of just about everything. The scribes created a new written language called Demotic script, which was much faster to use.
Many years later, when archaeologists discovered hieroglyphic writing on the walls of tombs, they could not read it. They knew the pictures had meaning. But the best they could do was to guess what those pictures meant.
One day, about 200 years ago, someone found a stone in ancient Egypt, a very old stone. There was some writing on the stone. It was a very short story. The same story was written in Greek, in Demotic script, and again in hieroglyphics. Scientists could read Greek. They could even read Demotic script. Thanks to the brilliant translation done by Jean-Francois Champollion, they could now read hieroglyphics! Champollion was so good at ancient languages that he was on the staff of Grenoble University when he was only nineteen years old! His job was made a easier because the ancient Egyptians surrounded royal names with an oval call a cartouche. Archaeologists had discovered two ancient Egyptian royal names written in Greek - Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Champollion's job was to find those two names in the hieroglyphics. He did!
This stone was named the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone is currently on display at the British Museum in London, England.