The Rosetta Stone is part of an Ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele with engraved text that provided the key to modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The inscription records a decree that was issued at Memphis in 196 BCE on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three texts: the upper one is in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle one in Egyptian demotic script, and the lower text in ancient Greek.
The Rosetta Stone is a slab of black basalt, which is now preserved in the British Museum (Egyptian Gallery, No. 24). It was found by a French artillery officer called Boussard, among the ruins of Fort Saint Julien, near the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, in 1799, but subsequently came into the possession of the British Government at the capitulation of Alexandria. It is inscribed with fragments of 14 lines of hieroglyphics, 32 lines of demotic, and 54 lines of Greek. A portion of the stone has been broken off from the top, and the right-hand bottom corner has also suffered injury. It now measures 3 ft. 9 in. × 2 ft. 4½ in. × 11 in. We may arrive at an idea of the original size of the Rosetta Stone by comparing the number of lines upon it with the number of those upon the Stele of Canopus, which is inscribed in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, measures 7 ft. 2 in. × 2 ft. 7 in. x 1 ft. 2 in., and is inscribed with 36 lines of hieroglyphics, 73 lines of demotic, and 74 lines of Greek. The demotic inscription is on the edge of the stele. This stele was set up at Canopus in the ninth year of the reign of Ptolemy III., Euergetes I. (B.C. 247-222), to record the decree made at Canopus by the priesthood, assembled from all parts of Egypt, in honour of the king. It records the great benefits which he had conferred upon Egypt, and states what festivals are to be celebrated in his honour, and in that of Berenice, etc., and, like the Rosetta Stone, concludes with a resolution ordering that a copy of this inscription in hieroglyphics, Greek and demotic, shall be placed in every large temple in Egypt.
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