Sunday, August 30, 2009
A Rose is a Stone
I was doing a bit of reading about the Rosetta Stone this morning. The article was covering the progression of the Egyptian languages... in order for all of Egypt to read the writings of the Stone, the Egyptian priests inscribed the Stone's decree in 3 languages: Greek, hieroglyphics, and Demotic. They wanted everyone to know their King was a good fellow deserving of admiration and respect.
Because hieroglyphics was such an intricate and sacred language, the Egyptians developed hieratic, which was like an abbreviated version of hieroglyphics. Hieratic was used to record some governmental and business transactions, but it wasn't used for sacred purposes. By the Ptolemaic Period,(Ptolemies a line of Greek rulers of Egypt, 323 B.C-30 B.C), when the Rosetta Stone was inscribed, Egyptians had turned to Demotic, an even more simplified version of hieroglyphics- keeping hiero sacred.
Until the fourth century A.D., the Rosetta Stone was perfectly readable. But as Christianity became more widespread in Egypt, hieroglyphics was abandoned for its association with pagan gods. Demotic wasn't a taboo language like hieroglyphics, but it eventually evolved into Coptic. Coptic was based off of the 24 letters in the Greek alphabet as well as a few Demotic characters for Egyptian sounds that weren't represented by the Greek language.
When Arabic replaced Coptic, the last frayed thread to hieroglyphics finally snapped. More than a thousand years of Egyptian history became lost in translation. Egypt made way not only for a new language but also for new politics and religion.
It was the cracking of the Rosetta code that allowed access to this lost Egyptian history.
I wonder if hieratic or demotic is the reformed Egyptian the Book of Mormon was originally written in. Any ideas?
For more info on the topic, I found an elaboration of the above info here: http://history.howstuffworks.com/rosetta-stone1.htm