Visitors examining the Rosetta Stone in the Egyptian Sculpture gallery

Explore: the Rosetta Stone

Room 4

See the Rosetta Stone and other objects in the Egyptian sculpture gallery.

For products inspired by the Rosetta Stone, visit the British Museum Shop.

In July 1799, a group of soldiers stumbled upon an object set to change our understanding of the ancient world.

That object was the Rosetta Stone, perhaps the most famous piece of rock in the world. This fragment of an ancient stela (an inscribed slab) became the key that unlocked the mysterious hieroglyphic script of ancient Egypt. 

The rediscovery was made by French soldiers digging foundations for a fort in the town of Rashid (or Rosetta), a port city 65 km east of Alexandria. The soldiers – troops in Napolean's Egyptian campaign of 1798–1801 – were preparing for the land Battle of Abuqir on 25 July 1799, between France and the Ottoman Empire. The Stone was swiftly recognised as a valuable relic of antiquity and news of the discovery spread quickly.