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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Hieroglyphs


The Rosetta Stone


From Fort St Julien, el-Rashid (Rosetta)


Height: 112.3 cm
Width: 75.7 cm
Thickness: 28.4 cm

 

 


Excavated by Pierre François Xavier Bouchard
Gift of George III

EA 24


Hieroglyphs were the form of writing used by the ancient Egyptians. They were used mainly on temples and official monuments, but handwritten forms of the script also existed for everyday use. They were no longer used after about the fourth century AD, however, and they acquired an almost magical significance.

By the eighteenth century, scholars throughout Europe were attempting to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, which they believed could help them rediscover the mystical wisdom of ancient Egyptian priests. Their fascination sprang from the fact that each sign is a picture. This made people think that hieroglyphs were symbols recording ideas rather than the sounds of a spoken language.

The key to deciphering hieroglyphics was an inscribed stone discovered at Rosetta by the French army in 1799. The stone was handed over to the English after they defeated Napoleon's army in 1801. The work of scholars from both countries led to the decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1824. They discovered that hieroglyphs did in fact record the sounds of the Egyptian language. As a result, the Rosetta Stone has become an icon of all decipherments and of attempts to access the ancient past in its own terms.

On display: Room 4: Egyptian sculpture