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206 years after the Rosetta Stone made its way to the British Museum, thanks to a British defeat of Napoleon’s Army in Egypt in 1799, Vicki and I came across it on a spring day there in London, and took this photo of the fabled block of basalt, which had opened the door to 1400 years of previously untranslated ancient Egyptian history. Hieroglyphics, the enigmatically graphic script which recorded the sound of the language of the Pharaohs, had been lost to the world since 400 AD, when Egyptians were no longer able to read or write it. Recording a royal tax decree, the Rosetta Stone, carved in 196 BC, was found by French soldiers embedded in the foundation of an ancient building in Rosetta, Egypt. It contained the same 1600 word tax decree repeated in three languages, 1) hieroglyphics, by then used only by priests, 2) Demotic, the native script in daily use, and, 3) Greek, the language of the land’s administrators. It was eventually realized that the Greek corresponded to the symbols in Hieroglyphic, allowing the archaic language to finally be translated, opening up a window to the culture of that time and place. Egypt has long, unsuccessfully, sought the return of the historic stone.

One day, will there be unearthed some relic or device that acts as a key to open the history of our modern times, so that another race, in another time, can gain perspective on our lives, and learn of our experiences? Let’s hope so.

May 2023

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