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||grades 7 to 12
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||decode, basket-like, cartouche, demotic, determinatives, hieroglyphs, ideogram, phonogram, phonograms, picture-like, debuted, best, decipher, lowest, hieroglyphic, groundbreaking
||Nile Delta, Rosetta Stone, Jean Francois Champollion, Jean Francois, Francois Champollion
By Vickie Chao
1 Thousands of years ago, Egyptians developed a very sophisticated writing system. To describe what they saw or to convey their ideas, they carved picture-like symbols in temples and other monuments. Those symbols later became known as hieroglyphs (pronounced "HY-ur-oh-glifs"), meaning "sacred carvings" in Greek.
2 Hieroglyphs debuted in Egypt around 3200 B.C. For the next 3,000 years or so, they were immensely popular. But then they disappeared altogether during the Romans' occupation. After the last hieroglyphic inscriptions were carved at the Temple of Philae near Aswan in 394 A.D., the entire writing system was abandoned, forgotten, and dead! Hieroglyphs became the mysterious symbols that no one could comprehend. They became the codes that every Egyptologist wanted to crack.
3 Despite the best efforts and the collection of the world's smartest minds, deciphering hieroglyphs was proven to be extremely difficult. For a long while, the success was very limited. Then, a big breakthrough arrived in 1799. A group of French soldiers and engineers uncovered a large stone near the city of Rosetta in the Nile Delta. The stone had an ancient inscription written in three different languages -- in hieroglyphs, in a later Egyptian script called demotic, and in ancient Greek. The stone, now commonly known as the Rosetta Stone, was sent back to Europe for scholars to decipher. Among those who studied it, one by the name of Jean Francois Champollion used the portion written in ancient Greek to decode the two written in hieroglyphs and demotic. He unraveled the secrets in 1822 and published his findings two years later.
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