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The Rosetta Stone – An important key to understanding the ancient world

The Rosetta Stone

Image via Flickr

The Rosetta Stone is a large gray stele naturally tinted blue and pink measuring almost four feet high, over two feet wide and almost a foot thick.

It is a fragment of a larger, original stone, and was discovered in 1799 by a captain of Napoleon’s army, Pierre-François Bouchard, near Alexandria in the proximity of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta.

The stone is inscribed with an order issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC by King Ptolemy V. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts; the bottom is in Ancient Greek.

Ptolemy’s decree is mostly the same in all three languages, so the Rosetta Stone was used to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Before the discovery of the stone, the hieroglyphs had been undecipherable.¹

The English scientist, physician and Egyptologist Thomas Young – famous for his double slit experiment – helped to decipher the Rosetta Stone.

Report of the arrival of the Rosetta Stone in England in The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1802 – Wikipedia

The stone was probably first displayed in a temple.  One theory suggests it was moved sometime between early Christian and medieval times, and later used as building material for Fort Julien near Rashid (Rosetta).

Today it sits in the British Museum, along with a replica in the BM’s King’s Library.

Not surprisingly, a contemporary language education tool is called Rosetta Stone.

A crowd of visitors examining the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum – Wikipedia


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Diamond Sutra

Frontispiece, Diamond Sutra from Cave 17, Dunh...

Frontispiece, Diamond Sutra from Cave 17, Dunhuang, ink on paper. British Library Or.8210/ P.2 A page from the Diamond Sutra, printed in the 9th year of Xiantong Era of the Tang Dynasty, i.e. 868 CE. Currently located in the British Library, London. British Library Or.8210/P.2 According to the British Library, it is “the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Diamond Sutra is a well-known Buddhist work of thirty-two chapters, taking the form of a dialogue between the Sakyamuni Buddha and the disciple, Subhuti. It comes from a Mahayana school of Buddhism known as the perfection of wisdom school (Prajñāpāramitā), and therefore is also known as part of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutras.

The Diamond Sutra or “Diamond Cutter” is unique in that it involves a dialogue between an enlightened being and a mere disciple, whereas other dialogues within the collection are usually between the Buddha and other achieved bodhisattvas

A copy in Chinese translation is, according to the British Museum, the earliest surviving complete book with a date (May 11, 868 CE), and it’s the only surviving copy we have of this text.²

Contextually, the Diamond Sutra purports that all of what we take for reality is said to be a projection of the mind. True reality, it claims, is sunyata (emptiness). It also advocates other Buddhist staples like detachment and non-abiding (avoiding conditioned mental constructs).

¹ S. G. F. Brandon ed., A Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1971), p. 507.


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