The Rosetta Stone is a stele composed of granodiorite inscribed with three versions of a decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts respectively. The decree has only minor differences between the three versions.
The stone was found in July 1799 by French officer Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times. Lithographic copies and plaster casts soon began circulating among European museums and scholars.
A study of the decree was already underway when the first complete translation of the Greek text was published in 1803. It took longer before scholars could read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently.
The Rosetta Stone is no longer unique, but it was essential to the modern understanding of ancient Egyptian literature and civilization. The term ‘Rosetta Stone is now used to refer to the essential clue to a new field of knowledge.