Friday, April 30, 2010
Napoleon, Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard, Rosseta stone
A yesterday birthday.
Bill Ashworth in the Linda Hall Library Newsletter wrote...
Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard, a lieutenant and engineer in the French army, was born Apr. 29, 1771. Bouchard was one of many scientifically-trained officers that Napoleon took along when he invaded Egypt in the summer of 1798, but Bouchard distinguished himself on July 19, 1799, when he found part of an ancient Greek stele built into a wall in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta. The "stone from Rosetta" was one of the great archeological finds of the expedition, with its Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic inscriptions, and it was immediately recognized as a possible key to the decipherment of hieroglyphic writing. The inscriptions were carefully copied by the members of the Institute of Egypt, primarily by taking prints directly from the stone, and casts were made as well, which was a good thing, because when the French surrendered to the British in 1801, the Rosetta stone, and many other antiquities, were surrendered as well. Which is why, if you want to see the Rosetta stone, you must go to the British Museum, and not the Louvre. Ironically, it was not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, Jean-Francois Champollion, working from the copies, who finally deciphered hieroglyphics in 1822.