Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Rosetta Stone

 No, I'm not talking about learning a new language.  I'm talking about THE Rosetta Stone, one of our earliest forms of written language. 

The stone was found by Napoleon's men (1798) while invading Egypt.  They found ruins in the city of Rashid (Rosetta) and built into a wall was this stone!  It weighed three quarters of a ton and it contained three different types of writing.  The top part of the stone had Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle had a hieroglyphic script called demotic, and the last piece was Greek script (Egypt fell into the hands of the Greeks and later the Romans).

The top portion of the Egyptian hieroglyphs was badly damaged and contained some curious ovals around certain engravings.  These ovals were coined 'cartouches' (cartridges) because they looked like the bullets in their guns. 

These cartouches became the focus of attention over time, because it helped linguists decipher the other symbols.  The cartouches apparently contained names of important people such as Ptolemy and Cleopatra. 

Through the Rosetta Stone we learn that language can be written in symbols (drawings that represent things based on their qualities).  One example of this is the vulture.  Horapollo, in the 4th century (wasn't published until 1505, patience people) said that the vulture symbolized: a mother,boundaries and foreknowledge.  Later linguists said that Horapollo was mostly full of it and that a vulture simply symbolized--mother. 

The other form is what we use, the alphabet.  But as I was studying this, this morning I couldn't help thinking about how many symbols we use today in our language.  Look at texting and Facebook! 

So I will you with two thoughts.  One, what symbols do you use in written language today?  And second if you were to use hieroglyphs to write your name, what image would you draw?