A Chip of The Block of History.

Patricia Davids here, wishing you all a happy February. A month known far and wide for romance.

I looked up our blog topic for this month and after reading it, I sat scratching my head for quite some time. If I could personally witness one event in history, what would I want to see and why?

That's like asking me to walk through the Russell Stover candy factory, pick out one piece and then tell you why I chose it. I love chocolate in all its forms, and I love HISTORY. I can't choose one event. I'd like to witness it all. I can't, of course, so it's a good thing someone wrote it down.

Someone wrote it down. Wow. That's what I'd like to witness!

I'd like to go back in time and meet the young man who carved the Rosetta Stone. I'd like to tell him that his ordinary day at the office (or temple) would one day unlock the secrets of ancient Egypt. I'd like him to know his creation would solve some of the greatest mysteries of mankind. He had no idea that his society would crumble and fall or that his very language would be lost for centuries. He just went to work like usual, got out his hammer and chisel, and knocked out another decree from the higher-ups.

So what is the Rosetta Stone you may well ask? (My daughter did. I was shocked.) Well, it is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele.

A what?

A granite-type rock, carved and placed upright as a monument or commemorative plaque. (I had to look that one up.)

Written in about 196 BC, the inscription on the Rosetta Stone is a decree passed by a council of priests. It affirms the royal sect of 13-year-old king Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation. It lists the good deeds done by the king for the temples and people of his kingdom. The decree is inscribed on the stone three times. Once in hieroglyphic which was suitable for a priestly decree. Once in demotic, which is the native script that was used for daily tasks, and once in Greek, the language of administration. How long or where it stood, we don't know. We do know it was covered over by the sands of Egypt until 1799. Some soldiers in Napoleon's army discovered the Rosetta Stone when they were digging the foundations for an addition to a fort outside the town of el-Rashid (Rosetta). Thank goodness they didn't use it for building material. After Napoleon's defeat, the stone became the property of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801. It remains in the British Museum to this day.
With it, scholars were able to decipher the previously unreadable hieroglyphic in the royal tombs and throughout Egypt. Everything we know about ancient Egypt today became possible because of one young priest with a hammer and chisel.

I'd like to think someone will find my writing entertaining or useful after 2000 years, but I'm sure not going to carve my manuscripts into stone to help them out. Imagine the postage for sending that to New York.

Did you know what the Rosetta Stone was before reading this? Are you a history buff?



Reese Mobley said...

You never cease to amaze me. You research and remember better than anyone I know. You probably remember all the beautiful artwork we flew by in D.C.

Pat Davids said...

I do remember that beautiful artwork. The flawless marble carving by Botticelli, the beautiful paintings by da Vinci, Whistler, Van Gough, the Spanish horse armor covered in gold. Room after room of masterpieces. They were all wonderful, but seeing them with you (however fleetingly) made it all super special.

Joan Vincent said...

Pat, I've always loved ancient Egypt. I've read various fiction and non-fiction on it. The latest were two books about Napoleon's expedition to Egypt and the endeavors of the scientists which included the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. You are so right, there are just too many things I'd like to see. Picking one is, well, difficult.

Rox Delaney said...

Back in 4th grade, I was head over heels for Egyptian history, especially Cleopatra. The entire Ptolemaic dynasty spoke Greek, not Egyptian, which is why it's included on the Rosetta Stone.

Thanks for nudging my memory, Pat! I had to check it out before commenting, because I've forgotten more than I know. However, I vividly remember the asp. Darn snakes always get a bad rap.

Pat Davids said...

Joan, how good to see you here. I knew you would enjoy my choice. You are a bigger history buff than I am.

Pat Davids said...

I vividly remember the asp, too. Cleopatra picked a tough way to go, but what a woman.