Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World (2005) BBC

The Mystery of the Rosetta Stone (3/8)

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Video Description

Episodes 5 and 6 - Champollion - show how Jean-François Champollion, used the Rosetta Stone to unlock the mysteries of the lost civilisation of Ancient Egypt which had been closed off to Europeans for centuries prior to the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798. The stone, discovered by the French in 1799, had been created as a work of propaganda by the Greek speaking Pharaoh Ptolemy V to establish his place in Egyptian cosmology and flashbacks are included to explain this belief system. In Episode five: "The Mystery of the Rosetta Stone", the young Champollion, encouraged to develop his gift for languages by his elder brother, becomes obsessed with deciphering hieroglyphs as a means to telling the age of the world and revenging France against the British who had confiscated the stone in 1801. When Alexander the Great had conquered Egypt he had fuelled local resentment by bringing in a Greek speaking elite to rule. Their descendant Ptolemy V had commissioned a series of stones written in Greek, common Egyptian and hieroglyphs for temples across the land to extol his virtues and underline his claim to the throne.

Champollion's studies under Silvestre de Sacy in Paris but finds the professor who had himself failed decipher hieroglyphs dismissive of further attempts believing them to be symbolic rather than a true language. English scientist Thomas Young uses mathematics to decipher the inscription like a code whilst Champollion believing hieroglyphs to be representative of a spoken language attempts to relate them to the Coptic language of Egypt's ancient Christian communities. Young makes a number of breakthroughs including the spelling of Ptolomey in hieroglyphs while Champollion finds work as assistant professor at the University of Grenoble. France is thrown into political turmoil in 1815 following defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and the republican Champollion is arrested for sedition and exiled to Figeac until 1821. Eccentric Egyptologist Giovanni Belzoni discovers an obelisk inscribed with the name of Cleopatra in Greek and hieroglyphs at Philae and sends it back to Young in England.

Young makes a mistake in translating the obelisk setting back his work whilst Champollion using a copy of the obelisk creates a hieroglyphic alphabet that he uses along with Coptic to translate the name of Ramesses the Great from sketches of Abu Simbal. Champollion's discovery arouses the suspicions of the Catholic Church who fear hieroglyphs might disprove the historical accuracy of the Bible. Young wishes Champillion good luck in proving his theories but Sacy and the Church are determined to stop him.

Source: Wikipedia

Documentary Description

For the first time on British television, the stories of these amazing and truly unique individuals are brought to life in a six-part historical drama-documentary series, which will reveal how the mysteries of Ancient Egypt were uncovered piece by piece by these three incredible men. The first two, hour-long episodes feature the life and work of Howard Carter, the man who finally uncovered the resting place of Tutankhamun. The third and fourth episodes follow the archaeological adventures of Giovanni Belzoni - a real-life Indiana Jones – as he battles with his French counterpart to be the first to discover lost tombs and fantastic treasures. In the final episodes, the series follows Jean-François Champollion as he struggles to be the first to decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Source: BBC

Egypt is the title of a BBC television drama serial about various archaeological discoveries taking place in that country's history, with the occasional 'flashback' scene involving actors portraying the ancient Egyptians themselves. Focusing on three of the most important discoveries from the world of the ancient Egyptians, this series journeys back in time to explore Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Great Belzoni's finds from the reign of Ramesses II and Champollion's deciphering of the hieroglyphs. Join Carter, Belzoni and Champollion as they overcome immense obstacles to unlock the secrets of an as-yet undiscovered world and reveal their seminal finds. Then travel even further back, to the amazing period of history unveiled by their astounding work. The hour-long show originally aired on Sunday nights at 9pm on BBC1 in 2005. The first two episodes explored the work of Howard Carter and his archaeological quest in Egypt in the early part of the twentieth century. The next two episodes focused on the eccentric explorer "The Great Belzoni", played by Matthew Kelly. The final two episodes dramatise the discovery and deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Jean-François Champollion, who is played by Elliot Cowan. Source: Wikipedia


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