If you’re interested in archaeology, Egyptology, cryptology, science, mathematics, or language studies, you know the significance of the Rosetta Stone.
Found in 1799 on the west bank of the Nile by Napoleon’s French soldiers, this 1,700 pound fragment of an ancient slab gave up the clues that ultimately cracked the code to hieroglyphics in 1822.
Dr. Joel A. Freeman has taken his passion for this incredible artifact and channeled it into creating a modern-day metaphor for problem-solving. As part of the Freeman Institute’s new project, he is developing a 5,000 square foot traveling exhibit about the Rosetta Stone’s dramatic history and impact on language, culture, and problem solving – www.RosettaZone.com.
Dr. Freeman spoke with NML Vice President Greg Nedved about the intriguing applications of the Rosetta Stone.
How did you get involved with the Rosetta Stone?
Ever since I was a young man, I have been fascinated by the Rosetta Stone and its impact on archaeology, language and other disciplines. Not even sure how it started. I also have visited the British Museum pretty much every time I have visited London (many times) over the decades.
What are the most surprising facts about the Rosetta Stone?
It was almost smashed into pieces with a sledgehammer by General Menou just days prior to the British gaining control of it. Also, Napoleon probably never even saw it. He left Egypt just prior to the Rosetta Stone being brought down to Cairo.
Who is the leading expert in the world on the Rosetta Stone?
There are a few. Richard Parkinsons comes to mind. Richard used to help with the curation of the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum and wrote a comprehensive book about it. Jonathan Downs is also a premier expert.
What further mysteries are there surrounding the Rosetta Stone?
Is there a duplicate buried somewhere in Egypt?
Is the solving of the Rosetta Stone more of a cryptologic or language achievement?
Both. It’s the grandaddy for cryptologists. But it has also taught us much about language.
What do you think should be the role of a museum dedicated to languages?
To help demystify the many layers and meanings of language and to explore with the interaction language has with culture.
What do you think about the state of foreign language learning in the United States?
In Europe, the average young person can speak at least 3-4 languages. It is not so in America, because we somehow believe we are the center of the universe and English is the only language. Everyone else needs to adjust. I wish there was a much greater emphasis here in America on learning other languages.