Champollion and Egyptian hieroglyphics

Penetration into the history of Ancient Egypt for a long time hampered the barrier of Egyptian writing. Scientists have long tried to read the letter of the ancient Egyptians. But in 1790 a man came to our world, Jean Francois Champollion (1790-1832) - a brilliant French linguist who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics. The certificate of one of his teachers is preserved, that even at a young age, Champollion vowed to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

In 1790 a man came to our world, Jean Francois Champollion (1790-1832) is a brilliant French linguist who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics

One day Champollion received a newspaper from which he learned that in March 1799 a certain soldier from the expeditionary corps of Napoleon found near Rosetta, a small Egyptian village in the Nile delta, a "flat basalt stone the size of a desk board on which two Egyptian and one Greek inscription".

The Rosetta Stone was the key to solving the Egyptian hieroglyphic and demotic writing. However, before the "Champollion era" only very few scientists managed to advance in deciphering the texts carved on it. For example, the Englishman Thomas Jung (1773-1829) was able to establish the sound value of the five hieroglyphic signs of the Rosetta stone, but this, one iota, did not bring science closer to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. This unsolvable, as it seemed at the time, could only solve the problem of the genius of Champollion.

Champollion even before Jung's discovery came to the conclusion that some Egyptian hieroglyphs were signs conveying sounds. Already in 1810 he expressed the opinion that with such phonetic signs the Egyptians could write foreign names. And in 1813 Champollion suggested that alphabetic characters were also used to transmit the suffixes and prefixes of the Egyptian language.

In 1820, Champollion correctly defines the sequence of species of Egyptian hieroglyphs (hieroglyphics - hieratic - demotic). By this time it was already established that in the latest form of the letter - demotic - there are signs-letters. On this basis, Champollion comes to the conviction that sound marks should be sought among the earliest kind of writing - hieroglyphics. He explores on the Rosetta stone the royal name "Ptolemy" and singles out 7 Egyptian hieroglyphic letters. Studying a copy of the hieroglyphic inscription on the obelisk originating from the Temple of Isis on the island of Phile, he reads the name of Queen Cleopatra. As a result, Champollion determined the sound meaning of five more Egyptian hieroglyphs, and after reading the names of other Greco-Macedonian and Roman rulers of Egypt increased the hieroglyphic alphabet to nineteen characters.

It remained to answer the important question: maybe Egyptian hieroglyphs-letters were transmitted only foreign names, in particular, the names of the rulers of Egypt from the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the real Egyptian words were written in a non-sound way? September 14, 1822 Champollion was able to read a copy of the hieroglyphic inscription from the temple in Abu Simbel the name "Ramesses". Then the name of another pharaoh - "Thutmose" was read. Thus, Champollion proved that already in ancient times the Egyptians along with symbolic hieroglyphic signs used alphabetical signs.

Champollion concluded that the Egyptians had a semi-alphabetic system of writing, since they, like some other peoples of the East, did not use vowels in writing.

After many years of desk work, Champollion now in practice had to make sure of the correctness of his conclusions. In July 1828, a man who knew the language of the ancient Egyptians came to Egypt for the first time!

Champollion began to look for inscriptions with Egyptian hieroglyphics. After visiting the ruins of Memphis, he went down the Nile. In Tell el-Amarna, he discovered and explored the remains of the temple (later, the city of Ahetaton was opened here), and in Dendera saw the first preserved Egyptian temple.

Until now, there was a certainty that the temple in Dendera was dedicated to the goddess Isis, but Champollion was convinced that it was the temple of Hathor, the goddess of love. Moreover - it is not ancient at all. Its true form, it acquired only under the Ptolemies, and was finally completed by the Romans.

From Dendery, the scientist went to Luxor, where he studied the temple of Amon in Karnak and determined the individual stages of his long construction. His attention was drawn to a giant obelisk, covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Who told you to erect it? The hieroglyphs enclosed in the cartouche frame answered this question: Hatshepsut, the legendary queen who ruled Egypt for more than twenty years.

Champollion crossed to the west bank of the Nile, visited the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the ruins of the Hatshepsut temple in Deir el-Bahri. Then the scientist continued his journey to the south, to the rapids of the Nile, visited Elephantine and Aswan, visited the Temple of Isis on the island of Phile. And everywhere he copied Egyptian hieroglyphs, translated them and interpreted, sketched, compared architectural styles and established differences between them, determined to what era these or other finds belong. He made a discovery after discovery.

Thus, Champollion discovered the system of Egyptian hieroglyphs, establishing that their basis was the sound principle. Champollion deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, established the relationship between the hieroglyphic and hieratic letter and both of them with the demotic, read and translated the first Egyptian texts, compiled the dictionary and grammar of the ancient Egyptian language. In fact, he resurrected this dead language!