It was July, 1799, the invading army of Napoleon was digging in for a long stay, after its conquest of Egypt. One of the sites selected for fortification was the Old Mameluke ruins of Fort Rashid in the delta region of the Nile. The foundations were to be extended, and a new Fort Julian erected on them. Nearby, at Rosetta, a branch of the Nile could be used for bringing in supplies from the Meditterranean. As the French soldiers dug, they came across a black basalt stone that seemed quite unusual in that three different styles of writing were carved into the surface; the Rosetta Stone.
Key to the Egyptian language. The ancient Egyptian language was Hieroglyphic [picture writing, a symbol for each word]. By 800 B.C. a simpler form of writing came into use, called “Demotic” [nearer alphabetic], and continued as the popular language till Roman times. And then both went out of use, and were forgotten. So these ancient inscriptions were unintelligible until the key to their translation was found. This was the Rosetta Stone. It was found by M. Boussard, one of the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, in 1799, at a town on the westernmost mouth of the Nile called ROSETTA. It is now in the British Museum. It is black granite, about 4 ft long, 2 ½ ft wide and 1 ft thick, with three inscriptions, one above the other, in Greek, Egyptian Demotic, and Egyptian Hieroglyphic. The Greek was known. It was a decree of Ptolemy V [Epiphanes], made about 200 B.C, in the three languages which were then used throughout the land, to be set up in various cities. A French scholar named Champollion, after four years [1818-1822] of painstaking and patient labor in comparing the known values of the Greek letters with the unknown Egyptian characters, succeeded in unraveling the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian language.
Thus the Rosetta Stone and the Behistun Rock have proved to be the doors through which modern man has discovered the lost world of his early days.
For a thousand years before the days of Moses the literary profession had been an important one not only in Babylonia but also in Egypt. Everything of importance was recorded. In Egypt it was on stone, leather and papyrus. Leather was used as early as the 4th dynasty. The exploits of Thothmes 111 [1500 B.C] in Palestine were recorded on rolls of very fine vellum. Papyrus was used as early as 2700B.C. But records on stone were most durable; and every Pharaoh had carved on his palace walls and monuments the annals of his reign. There were vast libraries of state documents; and monuments galore covered with exquisite inscriptions.