Cracking Ancient Codes: Egyptian Hieroglyphs - with Andrew Robinson

Cracking Ancient Codes: Egyptian Hieroglyphs - with Andrew Robinson

SUBTITLE'S INFO:

Language: English

Type: Human

Number of phrases: 779

Number of words: 5776

Number of symbols: 27808

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES:

DOWNLOAD AUDIO AND VIDEO:

SUBTITLES:

Subtitles prepared by human
00:00
[APPLAUSE] Thank you very much. I'm talking about Egyptian, of course, which is a later script. I'm going to really focus on the decipherment and how it was done. I'll be frank with you, it will be a somewhat, in fact strongly biographical talk about how Thomas Young and Champollion worked on it. And it's a real honour to be in the same place that Thomas Young was all those two centuries ago. Now, this building is a rather unusual place called the Egyptian Hall. It was in Piccadilly. But nobody will remember it now because it was demolished in 1905. It was built in 1812. And it lasted, you know, a century or so. And it was inspired by Egyptomania,
01:00
which started really with Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. A very strange and wonderful exhibition opened in May 1821 in the Egyptian Hall. And 2,000 visitors paid half a crown on the first day-- that's quite a lot of money-- to see it. And it lasted a whole year. And inside what was remarkable was the first scale model of an Egyptian tomb to be shown in London 15 metres long and two full-size reproductions of chambers in the tomb. And it was from what was later called the Valley of the Kings. So there was a huge crowd to see it. Paintings were made on site in Egypt. And here are some of them. The artist was Alessandro Ricci, who is not very well known now. But he was a medical doctor from Siena, Italian.
02:03
And he'd saved the life of the Egyptian pasha's son in Egypt. And then he travelled extensively in Egypt and became a painter. At the top of this bas-relief is the vulture goddess Nekhbet And underneath the oval signs, I think they're pretty clear here, are cartouches. They're called cartouches, as you probably know. And the signs inside them were thought to be the names of goddesses and gods and pharaohs. But, of course, nobody could read them in 1821, nobody at all. The most remarkable thing, I think, in the exhibition was this sarcophagus made out of alabaster. It arrived rather late from Egypt, actually, in August, well after the opening of the exhibition. But it was soon the centre of attention.
03:04
It was almost three metres long. And it's carved with hieroglyphs. The colour is originally known as Egyptian blue. It's actually calcium copper tetrasilicate. And the sarcophagus was then sold about three years later. It was given to the British Museum who decided not to buy it. And it was sold to Soane the architect, John Soane, Sir John Soane in 1824 for 2,000 pounds. And you can see it today in London in the Soane Museum in the basement rather atmospherically lit. And I do recommend it. It's well worth a visit if you haven't seen it. Now, the man who had discovered the tomb in 1817 was this man Giovanni Belzoni, another Italian. And as you may know-- because he's quite famous in his way-- he was a circus strong man turned Egyptologist,
04:09
rather an odd combination. And he was a flamboyant showman. On the very day that the exhibition opened, he appeared in front of the press and the audience wrapped in mummy bandages. And they were then unwrapped to reveal him. Now his book, which is a great pictorial study of his Egyptian adventures, came out in 1820. And almost a century later, Howard Carter, the English archaeologist, was inspired by that book, Belzoni's book to look for another tomb. And of course, he found it, the tomb of Tutankhamun. Now according to Belzoni, the tomb he discovered, which was on show in the Egyptian Hall, was assumed to be or presumed to be the tomb of Psammis, P-S-A-M-M-I-S. Now, nobody could be sure because, as I've said, nobody could read the hieroglyphs, not even the Greeks and Romans could read them. The knowledge was lost, except to the Egyptians themselves
05:11
and their priests. So this was guesswork. And the guess had come from Thomas Young, who's already been mentioned. Now, Young I don't probably need to say much about. Perhaps I can summarise him by saying I've written a biography of Young called The Last Man Who Knew Everything. Jokingly, but I must say when I worked on it, I got pretty exhausted even learning how many subjects he had got involved with. He was foreign secretary to the Royal Society. He was former professor of natural philosophy at the RI. And he was a doctor and he was a physiologist of the eye. And of course, if you're a physicist, you know Young's slits, very famous. And he was a linguist. He invented the term Indo-European and really a lot of other things, including work in life insurance of all things. Quite well paid.
06:13
Now he was unsure about Psammis as the name of the pharaoh buried in the tomb. It was a speculation. And when the tomb was taken, the exhibition was taken to Paris by Belzoni in 1822, the following year. It's an interesting fact that Psammis was not given the name of the pharaoh in the catalogue. There's no sign of Psammis. And the reason for that is that the notes for the catalogue and in fact the whole catalogue had been written by not Thomas Young and not Belzoni, but the key figure in this story, Jean-Francois Champollion. And here he is in later life. Now, in 1822 at the time of the exhibition, Champollion in France had made a startling announcement, that he could read the cartouches of some late Egyptian rulers like Alexander, Cleopatra,
07:16
and Ptolemy. But he was not yet confident of reading the earlier Egyptian rulers before the Greek period, such as, in quotes, "Psammis." And obviously the owner of the tomb was an early Egyptian ruler, not a late one. So he didn't identify it. And what happened next is that Champollion, as we'll come to in more detail later, suddenly started making progress. So after 1822, the decipherment took off in the 1820s, and soon he was able to actually come up with the name of the ruler. And it turned out, of the tomb, to be Setos or Seti the first, who had died, we now know in 1279 BC. And probably more famously, his son was Ramses II, Ramses the Great. So we now know that thanks to Champollion. Now the key, of course, to the decipherment was the Rosetta Stone.
08:19
And I'm not showing you the familiar image of the Rosetta Stone yet, as you can easily see. This is a model from France. The stone was originally discovered in 1799 by the French army in Egypt. It's now in the British Museum. It was captured in Egypt by the British army in 1801. That is actually written in English on the side of the stone if you go and have a look. It's quite hard to read, but it is still visible. Now, the copy I'm showing you is from a French town called for Figeac in southwestern France on the edge of the Massif Central. And this model is 100 times the area of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. And it's made out of black granite from Zimbabwe by an American conceptual artist in 1919. And the date is important. Because that's the bicentenary of Champollion
09:20
in Figeac in 1790. So this was created to celebrate his bicentenary. There's the street in which he was born. He was born on the upper level on the right in one of those rooms up there. And it's now, the street is called the Impasse Champollion in his honour. Now I'm not going to say much about his parents because they didn't have much influence on his life. His father was a bookseller. But the crucial figure, and I will talk about him because he is very important, is his elder brother of Champollion, Jacques-Joseph Champollion who was quite a good scholar in his own right in later years. Jacques-Joseph is shown here in his 20s. And he was 12 years older than Jean-Francois. And he effectively was in loco parentis. He took over and brought up the boy.
10:21
I think it's true, it's quite a claim, but without Jacques-Joseph's financial and emotional support for Jean-Francois and also his "savoir faire." He really was a practical figure who knew how to get things done. I think nobody would have heard of Jean-Francois today. The elder brother was absolutely crucial. And after the younger brother's death, the older brother said, quite movingly, I think, I was, by turns, his father, his master, and his pupil. And that's certainly true from the record. Now, just briefly, Jacques-Joseph moved to Grenoble from Figeac in 1798. He took up a job there. And then his younger brother joined him in 1801 when he was only 11 years old. And he started living in the same house as his older brother amongst a huge and growing library of books.
11:22
Because Jacques-Joseph had very strong scholarly ambitions. So the young boy was living there until 1804 when he was 14. And then I have to say the elder brother insisted for financial reasons, I suspect, that he go and board in the local lycée which had just been established, the government school in Grenoble under Napoleonic law in 1804. And in some ways, this was a disaster because it was under military discipline. And there are rather appalling stories about sort of riots in the dormitories. And Jean-Francois was fairly defenceless and much disliked the place, but he had to stay. There is a letter, charming letter, from him here. You don't have to read the details, of course. But this was written to his brother in 1804 to '07.
12:23
And that line says, "Ludolphi Ethiopica Gramatica." And that's a Latin grammar of the Ethiopic script. And he was requesting at this early teen age, these various scholarly books. He wanted his brother to provide them for his research. But there's a rather nice, rather piteous PS at the side here. I hope you can see. "Je n'ai pas de boucle pour mes culotte." I don't have any buckles for my trousers, which gives you a little hint of how he was living at this time. The misery, it's probably not too strong a word, ended in 1807. He was able to come home and live with his brother again because he was permitted to study at home. The school allowed him to do that. And the man who allowed it was this man, Joseph Fourier, who is an honoured name in an institution like this.
13:23
He's a mathematician and physicist of real note-- the Fourier series. But from our point of view tonight, it's not mathematics and physics that matter, it's the fact that Fourier had gone with Napoleon to Egypt in 1799 or 1798. And Fourier was a key scholar, probably the key scholar with Napoleon. He was Secretary of the Institute d'Egypt. And when he came back to France with Napoleon, he took up the editing of a great volume called the Description de l'Egypte, which was the government publication based on all the discoveries made by Napoleon's soldiers and scholars. That came out over many years. And Fourier was the editor to begin with. And he was helped in Grenoble, and this is crucial, unofficially helped by Jacques-Joseph Champollion
14:26
and the younger brother who was helping his elder brother to help Fourier. They did research for him, although they weren't acknowledged. But I think that it's fair to say it was through this absolutely hands-on exposure to ancient Egyptian monuments and drawings and all the things that were brought back that Jacques-Joseph and Jean-Francois became passionate about ancient Egypt. So that's how he got introduced to it, the young boy or the teenager. Fourier sort of took him up, as well. And he introduced him to a Greek Catholic priest who proved quite crucial because he taught the boy Coptic, guided him anyway. Then Jean-Francois started teaching himself. And Coptic was thought to be the language of the late Egyptian period, or at least related to it. I don't have time to say much about Coptic, but the idea was that if he could learn Coptic,
15:26
it might help him to understand late Egyptian inscriptions. So that proved quite fruitful. And Fourier also sent him to Paris in 1807, which was hugely important, to study ancient languages. And his professor was this man Silvestre de Sacy And there's no time to speak much about him, but he's an interesting character in his own right. He was at the School of Oriental Languages in Paris. Champollion was his student. And they admired each other up to a point. But they had also terrible moments in later life where daggers really are drawn between de Sacy and Champollion, partly for political reasons, as I'll mention later. But also, I think de Sacy had an ambition to use the Rosetta Stone to decipher the hieroglyphs. So the student was really something of a rival. And he didn't really encourage him as a result.
16:27
Now here's a copy of the stone, the very first ever done, ever made by lithography in Cairo in 1800 by French scholars, before it was captured, needless to say. Now, it can be read through the Greek translation at the bottom. And as I expect everyone here knows, the hieroglyphs are at the top broken, badly broken. Here in the middle is the Demotic section, which is a later Egyptian script. And the Greek section is this bit at the bottom, which is also somewhat broken. And the Greek section turned out to be readable in alphabetic script of course. And it was an edict of King Ptolemy the Fifth epiphanies dated 196 BC. And the really crucial thing about it is that the Greek states in the last line, I think, that the three inscriptions are equivalent in meaning, not
17:31
exact translations of each other, but equivalent in meaning. So the Greek was going to be obviously a clue to reading the other two. And that's the importance of the Rosetta Stone, of course. Now, Champollion took up the study in 1808. He was still very young. And he worked at it in various ways till 1815 working on the Rosetta Stone. But he didn't make a breakthrough. He made various contributions, but nothing really got going. And then he abandoned it for a while. And the reason is politics, which is always part of his life. Napoleon came back from Elba in 1815, landed with some soldiers, came straight to Grenoble. And they must have gulped loudly, but they opened the gates and Napoleon came in. And these are the people welcoming Napoleon, including the Champollion brothers. Jacques-Joseph actually became Napoleon's secretary,
18:33
went with him to Paris. Jean-Fracois was left behind to edit the government gazette. And on the very day of the Battle of Waterloo, he rather unwisely wrote in the government gazette, "Napoleon is our legitimate prince." So he suffered. Both of them suffered after Napoleon's fall pretty badly. They were exiled from Figeac. They lost their jobs in Grenoble. And to make matters worse, de Sacy, who was a Royalist through and through actually told Thomas Young in a letter, Thomas Young was in London and de Sacy wrote to him saying that my former student is a potential plagiarist of your work and probably a charlatan, he used the word. So things had got pretty bad for poor old Champollion. Now, Young, I have to say something about Young and his work. And I'll try and keep it as concise as possible.
19:36
He published a really remarkable article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1819 simply called "Egypt," based on his work in London over the previous four years. And he shows the last line of the Rosetta Stone in this drawing. And he said I can spot striking resemblances, as he put it, between the hieroglyphic symbols at the top and the Demotic underneath. This, of course, is the Greek on the third line. This is the last slide of the Rosetta Stone. And if you really study it, you can see other resemblances. And Young really did study. It was quite clear he was obsessive. From his papers in the British Library, you can see that. But there are a lot of signs in Demotic that do not resemble hieroglyphs. And he also recognised that. So he speculated that there was a striking resemblance
20:38
between certain corresponding hieroglyphs and the Demotic signs, but that it was probably a mixed script, Demotic. It was probably imitations of the hieroglyphs mixed with letters of the alphabet, to quote Young. But he was unsure. In other words, he was suggesting a phonetic element in the Demotic script in addition to a symbolic element. But he was unsure whether the hieroglyphs also had phonetic elements. As most people did, including the Greeks and Romans believed they were purely symbolic without any phonetic signs. So he decided to investigate that by using an idea of de Sacy's. De Sacy had actually suggested, well, let's look at the Greek names in the Rosetta Stone-- like Ptolemy, that's the key name-- and see whether we can compare the hieroglyphic spelling of Ptolemy with the Greek spelling. Now that, of course, is the cartouche of Ptolemy.
21:42
And I can't go into much detail for lack of time, but the idea that Young had is let's compare the two and see whether we can give some phonetic values to the signs of the name "Ptolemaios" as it is spelt in Greek. And I think you can see fairly easily that the hieroglyphs are on the left from the name of Ptolemy. Then there's Young's suggested phonetic value in the middle. And then today's value accepted by Egyptologists. And he did a fairly good job. He didn't get it quite right. He then went further. He took another cartouche of a late Egyptian ruler called Queen Berenice. And he analysed that in the same way. And then he came up with this chart in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1819. "Sounds?" said Young. He was cautious.
22:44
Based on the same principle of comparison with the Greek. And Egyptologists today recognise that of the signs that he had identified, six are correct, three are partly correct, and four are incorrect. So it was a mixed picture. He did even go further than that, rather remarkably. He compared 80 Demotic words with their hieroglyphic equivalents translated with the help of the Greek. And you can see here the cartouche of Ptolemy and here the cartouche of the Queen Berenice and lots of other words. So he compared the two and those 80 equivalents are still accepted today. So he was really making progress. But as ever with Young, he was distracted by his polymathy. And after 1819, after he published this great article, he doesn't make further progress.
23:45
He's doesn't exactly abandon ancient Egypt, but he stops making progress, gets involved with other things including longitude and problems like that. It's only in the late 1820s Young returns to Egypt or to the study of ancient Egypt. And with, it's nice to say, some help from Champollion, despite the fact they were rivals, Young becomes the decipherer of Demotic, not the hieroglyphs, of course, which is Champollion. But Demotic is really Young's achievement. But that's later. Now Champollion was having a pretty bad time still in France while Young was busy in England. He'd returned from Figeac, his hometown, in 1817 to Grenoble. But the Royalist authorities in Grenoble were dead set against him. And they later tried to put him on trial for leading a rebellion for treason. But the government in Paris intervened and so he got off.
24:50
But things were really bad in 1817 to '21. He did manage to marry. He married Rosine Blanc, a local woman, daughter of a glover. And they had a daughter Zoraide. But essentially, he abandoned ancient Egypt for three or four years. And he thought of becoming first a teacher just to earn money, and then a notary and actually giving up entirely the study of Egypt. But there is one publication from April 1821. It's a small booklet on the Egyptian script by Champollion, obviously in French. And unfortunately for him, it does contain a real blunder. Because he says that there are no phonetic values in the Demotic or hieroglyphic signs. He says they stand for things not sounds. In other words, they're symbolic not phonetic. And he knew he'd made a blunder pretty quickly.
25:51
And he tried to withdraw the booklet. And I was amused. Because when I was writing his biography, I went to the British Library, which has one of the very few copies of this booklet, and the French curator said, I can't find it. So I thought maybe Champollion's ghost has removed it. And then three or four years later, the curator said when my paperback came out, well, actually, we've finally found it. So it was just a bit of-- it was mislaid in the library. But they're extremely rare. And that's because Champollion was embarrassed. He wanted to get rid of it. And he never refers to it in his later work. So in July, he's forced to leave Grenoble. And he goes really in despair to Paris and lives with his brother. And he thought maybe that was the end of his career. But in fact, it turned out to be the absolutely right thing for him to do. It was a great boon. He lived here in the Rue Mazarine, number 28, he
26:52
and his brother and the family. And the Institute de France is visible in the distance, the dome of it where the brother was working in the Academy of Ancient Inscriptions in Belles-Lettres. And there he started to read Thomas Young's work, by his own admission. He claimed he hadn't read the Encyclopaedia Britannica article until 1821. Possible, but I'm not totally convinced. But he certainly admitted reading it in the house in Paris. And he never really admits what he got out of it. There are hints, but there are also things that are contradictory. So a great argument starts between Young and Champollion. And it's really gone on for two centuries. Nobody can really totally say what Young contributed because Champollion kept quiet among about some things. Maybe they were his research, maybe it was Young's ideas that had prompted him. But he certainly does make a breakthrough
27:53
in 1822, the following year. Although it is reminiscent of Young's analytical approach with Ptolemy and Berenice. It involves Cleopatra, another name from late Egypt, not one of the early Egyptian rulers. And the clue as to the fact that this was her cartouche came from an obelisk which had been brought back by Belzoni from Egypt. And it was brought back to England. And now, actually, you can see it still in Dorset in the garden of a house. And it was published in 1821 in November. And Champollion must have seen it soon after that in the published version. And the really crucial thing about it is that the obelisk, the shaft of the obelisk has two cartouches on it. And on the Greek base block, it's a bilingual like the Rosetta Stone, there are two names in Greek, Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
28:56
So it was a pretty fair guess that the second cartouche-- well, the first was Ptolemy's and the second was Cleopatra's. So Champollion tried the same approach of comparing the Egyptian signs with the Greek alphabetic phonetic values. And he came up with this analysis-- Cleopatra on the left and Ptolemy's on the right. And I think you can see pretty quickly that there are signs in common, which is how it should be if the system is correctly analysed. But the sign for T here, the hand sign differs from the half circle here. So there is a difference. There are two different signs for the same sound. But Champollion said, well, that occurs in many languages. It's known as homophony. And it occurs in English, for instance,
29:58
with Jill spelled G-I-L-L or J-I-L-L or Catherine spelled with a C or with a K. So it wasn't an unreasonable speculation that he'd got it right, although there were two different signs for the same sound in some cases. Now he went much further and rather brilliantly looked at this cartouche. That had been brought back in a drawing by a French architect who visited Abu Simbel, the temple at Abu Simbel. And Champollion looked at this in September 1822 in Paris and he said I can read the signs on the right, the two hooks. They are the S from Ptolemaios. There's no doubt about that. Then he said I think I can read the sign on the left, which is the circle with the dot. It looks like the sun. And the Coptic for sun was ra or re. So he thought of the idea it started "re" and ended "S-S."
31:02
And at some point the idea occurred to him that maybe this was the cartouche of an early Egyptian ruler Ramses. Nobody knew a damn thing about Ramses in 1822 except that he appeared in a Greek Ptolemeic historian's chronicle of ancient Egypt, a man called Manetho, a famous priest. And so Champollion was aware of that. And he thought well Ramses must have been a historical figure. I'll take a chance. Maybe this is Ramses' cartouche from Abu Simbel. And he then took another step which is much more difficult to understand. But the sign in the middle, he said, I've seen that sign in the middle with the hook sign in the Rosetta Stone where it is translated into Greek as "genethlia." And "genethlia" means give birth. And the Coptic for "genethlia" is "mise," M-I-S-E.
32:06
So maybe he speculated this is the sign for M or MS. Now we can see that as wishful thinking in a way. But he turned out he was right. This is the cartouche of Ramses. And supposedly on the 14th of September 1822 Champollion, Jean-Francois goes around his brother in the Institute of France, slaps the papers at noon on his desk. He says, [SPEAKING FRENCH]. "I've done it. Eureka." Collapses on the floor. And his elder brother is quite fearful he's had a stroke and even possibly died. But it turns out he's just dog tired. He goes home, he rests. And five days later, he gives a really important speech, which is probably the most important speech he ever gave, published later as the "Lettre a Monsieur Dacier" a month later in October.
33:07
And in this letter, Champollion claims to read the alphabetic hieroglyphs, as he calls them, of the Greek and Roman rulers of Egypt. He doesn't claim that he can read the early Egyptian names. And in fact, Ramses is not mentioned in the letter. It's only later he starts to convince himself that he can read much more of the script. There's a table of phonetic signs in the letter, very famous in Egyptology, "Tableau Des Signes Phonetique." But you can see there are many separate symbols for one sign here. The Greek sigma, for instance, there are lots of hieroglyphic symbols, all very different. So this is the Demotic here. He hasn't cracked it, but he's made some progress. And he signed himself, very proudly, "Champollion" in phonetic Egyptian, which gives you some idea of his
34:07
sense of humour and, of course, his pride in his work. And this is finally him before he becomes famous. He's holding the "Tableau Des Signes Phonetique." in 1823. And it's a famous portrait. Now his career really takes off, in a sense. He becomes internationally known. He's taken up by the King of France through the Duke of Blacas, who is a loyal friend. And the King appoints him as curator of Egyptian antiquities, the very first one at the Louvre in Paris in 1826. And then his life's dream comes true. The King says I will fund you to go to Egypt as an expedition. We will give half the money and the ruler of Tuscany will give the other half. And you will be accompanied by Ippolito Rosellini, who was the second in command, a Tuscan scholar who was a great admirer of Champollion. Well, as I say, his dream came true.
35:09
He landed at Alexandria in August 1828. He was given boats by the pasha of Egypt. And the expedition, it's a wonderful story. Sailed up the Nile right up to the second cataract or just short of it, beyond Abu Simbel. And all the way they were stopping to look at these monuments and inscriptions. And Champollion was in his element because he was able to start reading them for the first time since antiquity. Nobody had been able to do it for 2,000 years. And then they turned the boat around, they sailed all the way back, and they stopped at other sites on the way back, including Thebes. And it was, in effect, a vindication of his system. There were many problems, but it worked. It was very obvious. There's a painting of the expedition here. It gives you a bit of an idea of the atmosphere. Here is Champollion looking like a Bedouin with a sword. And he was speaking fluent Arabic. So he could have probably passed as a Bedouin.
36:11
This is Rosellini standing with white and red. And they were close to each other as people as well as scholars. There's a portrait-- sorry, a little drawing Champollion did of the tomb of Ramses IV where they stayed for six months in the coolness to get away from the sun. And it's rather charming because it shows all the beds of the expedition, including "moi" for himself. And Rosellini is opposite. And then there's a little portrait of the cat's bed and the gazelle's bed. And at the top is the sarcophagus of Ramses, probably my-- I'm missing it. Yeah, so the sarcophagus was brooding over them as they were living in the tomb. And sometimes Champollion he was so excited he would collapse on the floor with the sheer drama of what he was experiencing, translating these inscriptions.
37:12
And he even left some graffiti. You can see it today in Karnak. He used the old family spelling, Champoleon, of his name, which Napoleon rather admired. He said he has half of my name. It's a good sign. So there's a bit of Champollion we can enjoy even today. He returned to Paris in 1829 at the end of the year. He'd been away for a year. Now his system was sort of proven, but not fully. And he really had to work damn hard in the years that remained to him to try and organise his papers and get some publications out. But I'm afraid he didn't have long to live. In 1831, he was appointed the world's first professor of Egyptology at the College de France, but his health was really deteriorating, probably due to diseases he'd picked up in Egypt.
38:15
In late 1831, he definitely suffered a stroke. And he continued to work a bit longer on his grammar, Egyptian grammar, with his brother, his ever-loyal brother. And then he gave it to Jacques-Joseph with the following words. He said, "look after it. I hope it will be my visiting card to posterity." Soon he could no longer speak. And in March 1832, he was only 41, apparently, according to his family, that night on the 3rd of March, he let out a groan. And they heard him say what they thought was in French, "now for the afterlife, onto Egypt, onto Thebes," which is where he felt he really belonged. Now, I'll finish with that, which I'm sure you'll recognise the cartouche of Tutankhamun discovered by Howard Carter a century after Champollion. His legacy took awhile to be established.
39:17
As I just said, long after his death, people were still arguing about it, in fact. It took until the 1860s before it was really accepted. But we can use it to read Tutankhamen today. And I'll try and do that quickly for you. This is a phonetic sign, T-U-T, tut. That's a symbol ankh, the hooked cross. So that's "tut" "ankh." Then the god's name, Amun, is at the top. That's a phonetic symbol. And then a biconsonantal sign, "amun." And that's a phonetic complement for N, to emphasise the N in the biconsonantal sign. And at the bottom, this is crucial, these are three symbols meaning ruler of Heliopolis of upper Egypt, i.e. ruler of Thebes. So there is no phonetic symbols at all at the bottom. So it's a mixed script, just like the Demotic.
40:19
Phonetic values and symbolic values or logograms as we call them now, signs for words. And so Champollion had got it right. He said in 1824 ahead of any other scholar in the world, he said hieroglyphic writing is a complex system, a script all at once figurative, symbolic, and phonetic in one and the same text, in one and the same sentence. And I might even venture in one and the same word. And I really will finish now by just saying, to me this is not-- I mean, it's absolutely essential to Egyptologists. But to me the story of the cracking of this code is fascinating for another reason. Because it did require a polymath, Thomas Young, and it did require a specialist, Champollion, to crack the code. Without this combination, I don't think it would have been solved, or at least not for a long time.
41:21
The broad mind of Young in 1814 to '18 really does have certain insights which are totally invaluable to Champollion, whether he admitted it or not. And Champollion failed at that time, right up to 1821. But then after 1821, he took Young's insights probably, and then his narrow focus, his tunnel vision took over. And that was really what took the decipherment forward. So I think it's fair to say that you need the broad vision of Young and the fanatical focus of Champollion for this revolutionary insight which Champollion alone announced in the 1820s. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES: