Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Rosetta Stone: History and modern controversy (Gwynneth Anderson)

Listen carefully for ghostly chuckles during your next visit to Les Invalides. If you hear them, don’t worry - it’s merely Napoleon smirking at the continuing fallout from his 1798 Egyptian Campaign.

In 1799, soldiers constructing Fort Julian at a port city called Rosetta (now called Rashid) pulled a large black stone, almost 4 feet tall, 28 inches wide, 11 inches thick and weighing approximately 1,700 pounds, out of the Nile delta muck. Imagine their shock at seeing the inscriptions after it was cleaned off.

The stone was turned over to General Jacques-Francois de Menou who realized its significance and attempted to hide it from the British after they defeated Napoleon in 1801. Various stories still circulate on just how British troops finally wrested the stone from de Menou, either at gunpoint or a simple handover, but as of 1802, the Rosetta Stone was taken for permanent display at the British Museum.

And except for one brief outing to the Louvre in 1972, it has not left the country since.

However, while the Brits may have won the battle to possess the stone, the competition for deciphering it had only just begun and the French were determinedly nipping at English heels.

See the above page for the full story.

1 comment:

Art said...

Its a great story but I can't help wondering where claims end. Should the Queen return the many precious stones she owns (or borrowed)? Pandora's Box comes to mind.