Unlocking Ancient EgyptUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
272 Pages, 9.84 x 11.00 in, 300 color and b&w images
- Published: September 2023
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Today the history of ancient Egypt is known around the world, recognisable in precious museum collections and countless retellings from popular culture. Yet for hundreds of years, from the late Roman Empire to the 19th century, the wonders of this ancient civilisation were frozen in time, locked in artefacts that could not be understood due to the loss of the ancient Egyptian language. In 1799 the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a slab inscribed in three scripts, hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek, changed the course of history, unlocking thousands of years of ancient culture and eventually becoming one of the world’s most famous museum artefacts.
Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt tells the story of the Rosetta Stone and of countless other objects that were central to efforts to decode the hieroglyphs dating back to the Islamic Golden Age. Featuring fascinating objects from the British Museum and international lenders, the book shows how the presence of a written language was crucial to understanding life in ancient Egypt, from everyday business affairs to the sacred secrets of the afterlife. Interweaving the story of decipherment with colonial history, the book takes readers up to the present day, revealing what researchers are doing now to tell us more about one of the world’s longest surviving civilizations through the understanding of their writing.
Published to coincide with the bicentenary of Jean-François Champollion’s breakthrough in decipherment, this beautifully illustrated book shows how an unassuming grey stone was the key to the secrets of ancient Egypt and led to one of the most significant code breaking moments in history.
Contributors: Susanne Beck, Monica Berti, Willy Clarysse, Fayza Haikal, Cary Martin, Franziska Naether, Richard Parkinson, Daniela Picchi, John Taylor, Patricia Usick, Pascal Vernus.