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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics Hardcover – May 9, 2002


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The Rosetta Stone is a dense summary of the 1799 discovery in Egypt of the granite block that, by virtue of having been engraved with identical text in three different languages (Greek, demotic--or "common"--ancient Egyptian, and hieroglyphics) made possible the deciphering of the last, the long-lost language of ancient Egypt. The book follows the false starts and feuds of French and British scholars, culminating in the success of the brilliant, precocious Orientalist Jean-Francois Champollion, who came to realize in 1824 that the ideograms were a complex mix of the semantic and the phonetic. The book includes a translation of the Rosetta Stone's script and a small sampling of hieroglyphic translation. The subject matter is arcane; the book, brief and somewhat bloodless, is finally less than engaging. --H. O'Billovich

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (May 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568582269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568582269
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,370,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Collaboratively written by novelist and journalist Robert Sole and Egyptologist Dominique Valbelle (President of the French Egyptological Society), The Rosetta Stone: The Story Of The Decoding Of Hieroglyphics is the amazing and true story of the Rosetta Stone, from its discovery by Napoleon's army during their sojourn in Egypt, to how the Rosetta Stone became the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics -- which had not been used as a written language for over fourteen centuries. An amazing saga about the reclamation of history itself, The Rosetta Stone is a highly recommended addition to both school and community library Archaeology and Egyptology reference collections.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By LHN on July 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was looking very forward to reading about the Rosetta Stone after seeing it in the British Museum. What should be a very interesting and in many ways an exciting story, was turned into a boring, quickly read, fact-based book which offered no insight or understanding into how the translation of hieroglyphics was accomplished. The book can be summed up in one sentence: "Someone found this stone with 3 types of writing on it and then a few other people figured out how to translate hieroglyphics from it." The end.

I was not expecting the book to teach me how to translate, nor become a expert myself, but I did expect to gain some understanding of how the process worked, how difficult it was, and some of the dead-ends that occurred. There was absolutely no insight as to how it was done. They did not even cover the side stories of people who claimed to be able to read hieroglyphics, which is fascinating in and of itself. Again, the book skimmed right over this whole topic. It was more educating and interesting to read the topic on Wikipedia then to read this book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on December 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is highly useful to understand in plain language the real endeavour of archaeologists when confronted to the Rosetta Stone at teh beginning of the 19th century, to the various writing systems of the old dead Egyptian language. These archaeologists had to become linguists and that was difficult for them because they did not have the slightest idea of how a language can work. The first attempts failed because they did not take into account the fact that the signs they were trying to understand and identify were a writing system for a particular language that you had to visualize as a language in order to understand the writing system. The key for that was also to visualize the various uses and hence discursive situations that this language and its writing systems (there were three writing systems for the old Egyptian language before the final coptic one took over before Arabic arrived) were supposed to satisfy. The break-through effort came from Jean François Champollion who stated that after all the hieroglyphs were an overall alphabetical writing system. From there came the penetration of the language that today we know pretty well. This book is honest about the various contributions of different people at the time and the value of each one of them, with Champollion's attempt being the main step towards a full understanding of the language. The book also concentrates on the particular role of the Rosetta Stone and all the events happening around it, particularly the national embroglio between England and France as for the righteous ownership of it, only solved in 1972 after a discreet but effective intervention of Queen Elizabeth II.Read more ›
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