The Original Rock Star

200 years on from the deciphering of the most famous piece of rock in the world, what does reading the Rosetta Stone reveal?

Contemporary replica of the Rosetta Stone.
Contemporary replica of the Rosetta Stone © The British Museum/Trustees of the British Museum.

As the most viewed object at the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone is admired by far more people than were ever expected to see it in ancient times. An infinitesimally small number of those who see it today can actually read any of the three different scripts it carries – Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic Egyptian and Greek – but perhaps that is as intended. The Rosetta Stone’s ancient purpose and modern magnetism depend on the opacity of its meaning far more than on its legibility as a document.

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