Wikipedia:Today's featured article/January 24, 2020

Jean-François Champollion

The decipherment of ancient Egyptian scripts was accomplished in the early nineteenth century by several European scholars, especially Jean-François Champollion (pictured) and Thomas Young. Egyptian writing, which included the hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic scripts, ceased to be understood in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Afterwards, it was believed that Egyptian scripts were exclusively ideographic, representing ideas, rather than phonetic, representing sounds. The Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799, bore a parallel text in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, but deciphering the Egyptian text through its Greek translation proved difficult. Young, building on the work of Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy and Johan David Åkerblad, identified several phonetic signs in demotic. In the early 1820s Champollion realised the hieroglyphic script had both phonetic and ideographic elements. He identified the meanings of most phonetic hieroglyphs and established much of the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Egyptian. (Full article...)