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Egypt celebrates 200 years of decoding ancient hieroglyphs

Tourists visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

by Marwa Yahya

CAIRO, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Marking the decoding of ancient hieroglyphs and the creation of Egyptology 200 years ago, a series of events are being organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo launched on Saturday a two-day program for teaching children about the Ancient Egyptian language via sculpture and buff paints workshops.

Tourists visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

Sama Ahmad, a ten-year-old Egyptian student, joined the interactive classes and portrayed some symbols of Egyptian hieroglyphs, the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt.

"I was happy to learn about old letters and to listen to information about the Rosetta Stone," she said while showing a paper carrying her name in the ancient language.

The ministry also launched a social media campaign to explain hieroglyphs as well as to display artifacts that are key to understanding Ancient Egyptian civilization under the titles "Ancient Egyptian language," and "Learn about treasures in your province."

A visitor takes a photo of the replica of Rosetta Stone at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

The Rosetta Stone is one of the main keys that helped to decipher the Ancient Egyptian language and the genesis of Egyptology.

With its original version exhibited in the British Museum, the granodiorite block was discovered in 1799 in the Nile delta town of Rosetta (Rashid in Arabic) by the occupying French forces, while it fell into the hands of British officials later and was sent to London.

On Sept. 27, 1822, French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion was able to unravel the mystery of the stone and read the Ancient Egyptian signs correctly after centuries of attempts by scholars and researchers.

The stone dated back to 196 B.C. when the syndicate of Egyptian priests gave a congratulatory speech to King Ptolemy V for assuming the throne of Egypt, thanking him for exempting all Egyptian temples from taxes due to low flood.

A boy watches the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London, Britain, on May 11, 2022. The Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous objects in the British Museum. The Stone is a broken part of a bigger stone slab. It has a message carved into it, written in three types of writing. It was an important clue that helped experts learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphs (a writing system that used pictures as signs). (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Now the replica of the stone is fixed at the entrance lobby of the NMEC, which is inscribed in three languages: hieroglyphic, demotic and ancient Greek.

"Visitors coming from the gate of the museum can spot it from a far distance till approaching it and reading the label underneath," said Sayed Fadel, supervisor of scenario display of the NMEC.

The 200 anniversary of the creation of Egyptology is a good occasion for displaying the bloc, added Fadel, stressing "thanks to decoding the stone, we managed to read texts, paintings and inscriptions on Egypt's temples that narrate the old history of Egypt."

He explained that the stone exhibited in London is one of six others that were placed in front of Egyptian main temples, but the other five have not been discovered yet.

Emili Jones, a 32-year-old tourist from Canada, was curious about the stone. She told Xinhua that "the stone is a treasure of knowledge for exploring and digging into the mysterious history of Ancient Egypt."