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Source: The post is based on the article “Why Egypt historians wants the UK to return the 2,000-year-old Rosetta Stone” published in the Indian Express on 8th October 2022.
What is the News?
According to a Reuters report, the UK is being asked to return the Rosetta Stone, a large stone slab that has fascinated the world since its discovery around two centuries ago.
What is the Rosetta Stone?
The Rosetta Stone is a large stone slab with inscriptions on it and is believed to be a piece of a bigger rock. It has inscriptions in three scripts, all of which convey a decree or public message.
The decree is inscribed three times, 1) Hieroglyphs – Suitable for a priestly decree, 2) Demotic – The cursive Egyptian script used for daily purposes, meaning ‘language of the people’, and 3) Ancient Greek – The language of the administration – the rulers of Egypt at this point were Greco-Macedonian after Alexander the Great’s conquest.
Note: It is similar to how in Ancient India, King Ashoka ordered stambhas or edicts that had messages of Buddha’s teachings and news about victory in a war inscribed.
The engraving was done during the reign of King Ptolemy V who ruled from 204–181 BC. This puts the stone’s age at well over 2,000 years. It is believed to carry messages by some priests in support of the king. With time the stone, among other inscriptions, was displaced.
Discovered by: While details of its discovery are vague, it is said to have been found by Napoleon’s soldiers accidentally in 1799 in the city of Rashid (called Rosetta by the French) in the Nile Delta.
On Napoleon’s defeat later at the hands of the British, the Treaty of Alexandria (1801) led to its transfer, and it has been at the British Museum since then.
What is the significance of the Rosetta Stone?
Before the stone was found, there was no knowledge of what Egyptian hieroglyphs meant. But the stone conveyed the same information in three languages and the Ancient Greek was understood by scholars.
So, Hieroglyphics was finally within the grasp of modern historians. Hence, its discovery helped in developing the specific field of Ancient Egypt studies, called Egyptology.
Further, the stone is a symbol of cultural violence and a symbol of cultural imperialism.