Explore / Online Tours
Height: 22.500 cm
AES Archives of the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan
Enlightenment: Ancient scripts
Enlightenment: Ancient Scripts
A letter from Thomas Young about hieroglyphs
The English polymath Thomas Young (1773-1829)
had been trying to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs since the
French army discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799. He wrote this
letter to the father of William John Bankes (1786-1855), the
English traveller and
In his letter, Young expresses the hope that lost fragments of the Rosetta Stone might be discovered (which never happened), and that a duplicate of the Stone's text might be recovered in Cairo. He also encourages Bankes to concentrate on copying the most relevant inscriptions for decipherment - those giving the names of kings and gods - and indicates where these are to be found in relation to carved reliefs.
At the bottom of the letter Young copied out the hieroglyphic words he had deciphered by this date. The meanings he gives are mostly correct, but, unlike Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), he failed to understand the way in which the script worked.