Reconstruct Rosetta Stone?

I visited the British Museum and saw fragments of a wall fresco that had been completed into a full rectangular painting by an artist (with some guesswork I suppose).

I also saw the Rosetta Stone, which has bits missing and is no longer rectangular. Now that we understand heiroglyphics, is it possible to reconstruct what the Rosetta Stone looked like before the corners got knocked off?

Because the Demotic inscription (the middle one) is damaged at the start, in its top-right-hand corner, while the Greek (at the bottom) is missing at the end, in its botton-right-hand corner, a reliable English translation of the whole decree can be reconstructed.
Experts can certainly translate this into hieroglyphics to produce an inscription that will match the surviving bits and that would also have read well overall to any ancient Egyptian able to read the original. But two translations of anything are never exactly identical, due to things like the freedom to use words of a similar meaning. So I’d expect there to be minor differences in the missing areas were we ever to be able to compare such a reconstruction to the full original inscription.

But, yes, enough is known about the text and how to write hieroglyphics that someone can try. And conjectured versions of the full hieroglyphic text have been produced.

Thanks! Are any of the conjectured reconstructions available on the web?

There is a picture on page 150 of “The Last Man Who Knew Everything, Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath…” by Andrew Robinson.

The caption reads, “Rosetta Stone, as it would have looked before it was broken (drawn by C. Thorne and R. Parkinson and reproduced with their permission)”.

Sorry, doesn’t help you much - just thought it a coincidence that I had just finished reading that chapter before logging on and seeing your question! :slight_smile:


This BBC news story from 1999 includes a photo of a fullsize physical reconstruction. Though nothing is legible in the photo. (I can’t recall whether this was included in the BM’s “Cracking Codes” exhibition that that story is about, but I suspect it may have been and I’ve just forgotten.)

The photo raises a point that I thought of mentioning in the previous post, but decided was incidental to what the OP’s question was. Would there have been any decoration? The stone in its current state just has fields of text in the different languages, but there’s evidently quite a lot missing from the top. By analogy with other similar, better preserved, inscriptions in Egypt, it’s usually presumed that there would have been some sort of decoration at the top. None of this survives at all on the Rosetta Stone, so this aspect is entirely conjectural in the reconstruction.

The illustration in the book I mentioned above appears to be another representation of the picture in your link (and I assume the “R.Parkinson” who supplied this illustration is the same Dr Richard Parkinson of the British Museum’s Department of Antiquities quoted in your article).

“The Last Man Who Knew Everything…” states that the Rosetta Stone was most likely broken before it came to Rosetta, so the inscriptions are incomplete. However, the author also states, “Fortunately, there exist other similar complete inscriptions (found after the decipherment), including a near-copy inscribed fourteen years later and now in the Cairo Museum, so we can visualize the Rosetta Stone as it would originally have looked”.

I’m not exactly sure what this passage is trying to say - was the complete copy “inscribed fourteen years later” from the same period as the original Rosetta Stone, or a recreation made fourteen years after the original Rosetta Stone was translated in the 1800’s?
If an original completed copy was found from the same time period, why isn’t that piece more well known? I was in the Cairo Museum many moons ago, and I don’t recall any exhibition displaying such an important artifact.

According to (the generally not terribly good) The Rosetta Stone (Profile, 2001) by Sole and Valbelle, there are three other ancient versions that have survived of the original decree.

[ul]A partial version of the Greek inscription that emerged in 1923, now in Alexandria.[/ul]
[ul]A sandstone stela in three fragments found in 1907, now in the Louvre. Has some of the missing parts of the British Museum version, but still highly incomplete.[/ul]
[ul]A rough copy bought by the Bulak Museum in Cairo in 1884. Multiple errors - the carver apparently didn’t understand what he was copying so there are mistakes in the hieroglyphics - but overall complete, including the top.[/ul]

I’d guess that the latter is what Robinson is referring to.

The fundamental reason none of these are famous is by the time any of them was discovered then the decipherment was complete.

Hmm - never knew that! Thanks for the information.