On this date in 1799 the Rosetta Stone was rediscovered near the town of Rashid (anglicized as Rosetta) in the Nile Delta in 1799 by a French soldier Pierre-Francois Bouchard, a part of Napoleon’s French expedition to Egypt. The first ancient trilingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone promised an unusual glimpse into ancient Egyptian language. Reproductions of the stone were widely circulated in Europe and the race was on to translate the heiroglyphs. The stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria and was transported to London, where it has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802.
The task of translating the damaged obelisk was given to French wunderkind and linguistic genius Jean-Francois Champollion, who could speak a dozen languages while still in his teens in addition to a dozen dead or ancient languages. He spent three years (1822–1824) working on his translation and his 1824 work Précis du système hiéroglyphique started the field of modern Egyptology.
Image courtesy Rob Meredith under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.