The birth of archaeology
Ancient voices
Discovery and decipherment of inscriptions allowed the ancient cultures to speak to us directly.
Before the 19th century what was known about the great civilisations of Babylon, Assyria and Egypt came from classical and biblical sources. Now the discovery of texts written by those cultures themselves became known in large numbers. In 1822, French scholar Jean-François Champollion cracked the Egyptian hieroglyphic code thanks to the Rosetta Stone. While in 1857, the official decipherment of Assyrian was recognised.

The ancient world was no less cosmopolitan than today’s. The sound of many languages filled the streets of big cities. Some are related to languages still spoken today: Akkadian and Aramaic are sister languages to Arabic, for example. This closeness helped scholars to decipher and read the ancient texts.

Great efforts were made to correlate the newly discovered monuments and texts with classical and biblical sources. Would they confirm or refute their testimony?
The Rosetta Stone

196 BC; acquisition date: 1801

The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

The Rosetta Stone is famous for providing the key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The inscription is a priestly decree affirming the cult of young King Ptolemy V. The text, written in hieroglyphs, Demotic and Greek, played the key role in the decipherment of hieroglyphs.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past