On This Day, July 19, 1799 – French Soldier Discovers the Rosetta Stone

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1799 – During Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria. The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been “dead” for nearly 2,000 years.

When Napoleon, an emperor known for his enlightened view of education, art and culture, invaded Egypt in 1798, he took along a group of scholars and told them to seize all important cultural artifacts for France. Pierre Bouchard, one of Napoleon’s soldiers, was aware of this order when he found the basalt stone, which was almost four feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide, at a fort near Rosetta. When the British defeated Napoleon in 1801, they took possession of the Rosetta Stone.

Several scholars, including Englishman Thomas Young made progress with the initial hieroglyphics analysis of the Rosetta Stone. French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832), who had taught himself ancient languages, ultimately cracked the code and deciphered the hieroglyphics using his knowledge of Greek as a guide. Hieroglyphics used pictures to represent objects, sounds and groups of sounds. Once the Rosetta Stone inscriptions were translated, the language and culture of ancient Egypt was suddenly open to scientists as never before.

The Rosetta Stone has been housed at the British Museum in London since 1802, except for a brief period during World War I. At that time, museum officials moved it to a separate underground location, along with other irreplaceable items from the museum’s collection, to protect it from the threat of bombs.


1525 – The Catholic princes of Germany formed the Dessau League to fight against the Reformation.

1553 – Fifteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey was deposed as Queen of England after claiming the crown for nine days. Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII, was proclaimed Queen.

1788 – Prices plunged on the Paris stock market.

1848 – The Women’s Rights Convention took place in Seneca Fall, NY. Bloomers were introduced at the convention.

1870 – France declared war on Prussia.

1909 – The first unassisted triple play in major-league baseball was made by Cleveland Indians shortstop Neal Ball in a game against Boston.

1939 – Dr. Roy P. Scholz became the first surgeon to use fiberglass sutures.

1942 – German U-boats were withdrawn from positions off the U.S. Atlantic coast due to effective American anti-submarine countermeasures.

1943 – During World War II, more than 150 B-17 and 112 B-24 bombers attacked Rome for the first time.

1946 – Marilyn Monroe acted in her first screen test.

1954 – Elvis Presley’s first single was released by Sun Records. It was “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

1960 – Juan Marichal (San Francisco Giants) became the first pitcher to get a one-hitter in his major league debut.

1964 – In Illinois, Cahokia Mounds was designated as a U.S. National Landmark.

1974 – The House Judiciary Committee recommended that U.S. President Richard Nixon should stand trial in the Senate for any of the five impeachment charges against him.

1975 – The Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts separated after being linked in orbit for two days.

1979 – In Nicaragua, the dictatorship of the Somozas was overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional or FSLN).

1982 – The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 14% of the population had an income below the official poverty level in 1981.

1984 – Geraldine Ferraro was nominated by the Democratic Party to become the first woman from a major political party to run for the office of U.S. Vice-President.

1985 – George Bell won first place in a biggest feet contest with a shoe size of 28-1/2. Bell, at age 26, stood 7 feet 10 inches tall.

1985 – Christa McAuliffe of New Hampshire was chosen to be the first schoolteacher to ride aboard the space shuttle. She died with six others when the Challenger exploded the following year.

 

Source: On-This-Day.com; History.com