What did the Rosetta Stone’s inscription actually communicate?

There’s a good chance you know a fact or two about the artefact called the Rosetta Stone – namely that, because it was inscribed with a single message written in three different scripts, its discovery allowed archeologists to decode ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Or you might have heard that the new Grand Egyptian Museum has been calling for the artefact to be returned to its homeland. However, you may not know some of the most basics facts about the object. For instance, what was its purpose, and what did it actually say? In this video, Ilona Regulski, curator of Egyptian written culture at the British Museum in London, walks viewers through the stone and its ‘decree’, issued during the Ptolemaic dynasty in 196 BCE. In doing so, she reveals how this ancient stele, first unearthed in 1799, was just the first of many copies that have been found throughout Egypt, and what its message can tell us about the transitional period in which it was written. The video supports the exhibition ‘Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt’, which runs at the British Museum through to February 2023.

Video by the British Museum