And they shall be at liberty to keep festivals and make rejoicings

… says the decree that Ptolemy V issued in 196 BC, at the time of his accession to the Egyptian throne. He – or the people who erected the stele with this text – probably didn’t know what joy they had actually given to later generations: first, to Jean-François Champollion; second, to historians who could finally understand ancient Egyptian scripts and unravel Egyptian history; third, to language technicians who found yet another historic item that they could use as legacy and name their products after.

Maybe the last part is a bit too sarcastic because the Rosetta stone and its likes hold real value for all these people – I mean, beyond the symbolic significance. In fact, the Rosetta stone is not the most important or the best-preserved specimen of its kind (see another example here) – but it had been discovered first, which made it the primary vehicle of deciphering the Egyptian scripts. Continue reading