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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Rob. -And I'm Sam.

  • In this program, we'll be unlocking the secrets of the ancient Egyptians, pyramid builders and the inventors of hieroglyphs -

  • a writing system which uses pictures and symbols to represent words.

  • The meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs remained a mystery until 1799

  • when Napoleon's soldiers unearthed a dark, damaged rock in the Egyptian coastal town of Rosetta.

  • On the broken granite stone three scripts were faintly carved: Greek at the bottom, Demotic in the middle and Hieroglyphs at the top.

  • Today, the Rosetta Stone is perhaps the most famous museum object in the world.

  • But what's actually written on it is quite dull! In fact, the Rosetta Stone contains a tax break!

  • It describes an agreement exempting priests from paying taxes to the King.

  • Ah, the famous Egyptian pharaohs!

  • Exactly - but which one, Sam?

  • Let's test your ancient Egyptian knowledge with this quiz question:

  • the writing on the Rosetta Stone is a tax agreement between the priests and which Egyptian pharaoh?

  • Is it: a) Cleopatra, b) Ptolemy, or c) Ramesses?

  • I'll guess a) Cleopatra.

  • OK, Sam, I'll reveal the answer to that mystery later on.

  • Before the discovery of the Stone, no scholar had been able to understand the strange symbols carved on the great pyramids.

  • Egyptologist, Richard Parker, was in charge of the Rosetta Stone exhibition at the British Museum for twenty years.

  • Here he is, telling BBC Radio 4 programme, In Our Time, about circumstances before the discovery of the Stone:

  • People were exploring all sorts of means of trying to decipher, including trying to link the script with Chinese to see if that offered a parallel.

  • It was known from the classical authors that the Egyptian script contained great, mysterious pearls of wisdom from the Egyptian philosophers

  • and people had hugely high expectations and all attempts to decipher, to get a grip on the script, I think, had really failed.

  • Before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, no-one had managed to decipher hieroglyphs -

  • to work out the meaning of writing which is difficult to read.

  • Experts hoped that the Egyptian script contained great pearls of wisdom - wise words, sayings or advice.

  • As we know, the actual meaning of the text turned out to be quite dull.

  • But it was the fact that the messages were written in three scripts,

  • including Greek - a language scholars already knew - that provided the key to finally crack the code.

  • In 1801 the race was on between Egyptologists in Britain and France to be the first to translate the entire system of hieroglyphs.

  • In the end, it was a young Frenchman named Jean-François Champollion

  • who became the first person to understand hieroglyphs since the ancient Egyptians themselves, nearly two thousand years earlier.

  • Here's Penelope Wilson, Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University,

  • explaining more about this remarkable young Frenchman to BBC Radio 4's, In Our Time:

  • He was certainly a prodigy, I think as far as language is concerned, but also had a fascination for Egypt I think,

  • and the story is he was taught Coptic by a Coptic priest, and at that lecture was one of the first to argue that Coptic was related to ancient Egyptian.

  • So, he was also encouraged by this by his older brother so I think there was soon to be no holding him back,

  • and once he got the bug he was encouraged and he made great strides.

  • When Penelope Wilson calls Champollion a prodigy, she means someone young with a great natural talent for something, in this case, studying languages.

  • Added to his natural ability was a fascination with Egypt and the encouragement of his brother,

  • so Champollion soon got the bug - suddenly developed a strong enthusiasm for something.

  • In English, we often add a noun to describe exactly what someone is enthusiastic about -

  • so, for example, the skiing bug, for someone who loves to ski.

  • Champollion was so enthusiastic, there was no holding him back -

  • an idiom to say that you are doing something so eagerly, you cannot be stopped.

  • The story goes that he worked so hard deciphering hieroglyphs, when he finally finished,

  • he ran through the streets of Paris shouting, 'I've done it!', before collapsing unconscious.

  • Rob, earlier you asked me which pharaoh ordered the Stone to be written.

  • Yes. And what did you say?

  • I thought it was Cleopatra. Was I right?

  • Well, Cleopatra was from the same dynasty but a little later than the correct answer,

  • which was b) Ptolemy, the pharaoh who ruled from around 300 BCE.

  • OK. Let's recap the vocabulary we've learned,

  • starting with hieroglyphs - symbols used represents words in ancient Egypt.

  • The challenge was to decipher them - to uncover the meaning of writing which is difficult to read or understand.

  • Maybe they contained pearls of wisdom - wise words, sayings or advice.

  • The hieroglyphic code was finally cracked by Jean-François Champollion - a prodigy or young person with a great natural talent.

  • When Champollion got the bug, or suddenly became very enthusiastic about understanding hieroglyphs,

  • there was no holding him back - nothing could stop him from succeeding.

  • And nothing can stop us from saying goodbye, because our six minutes are up! -Goodbye!

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Rob. -And I'm Sam.

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B1 egyptian rosetta rosetta stone stone cleopatra pharaoh

The Rosetta Stone - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/06/22
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