Explore Ancient Egypt's Rosetta Stone With This New Interactive 3D Scan

We understand Egyptian hieroglyphics to the extent we do thanks to the Rosetta Stone. Natalya Okorokova/Shutterstock

The Rosetta Stone might just be one of the most important artifacts ever recovered from an ancient civilization. If you’ve never had the chance to see it for yourself at the British Museum, then check out the interactive 3D scan of this ancient Egyptian artifact to get a taste of this important discovery from the comfort of your own armchair.

With the help of SketchFab, the British Museum has now conducted the first full 3D scan of the relic and created an interactive platform that allows you to explore the stone in vivid detail. It also includes audio descriptions using SketchFab’s newly released sound support feature.

The Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The inscribed black granodiorite stone was the first ancient Egyptian bilingual text to be discovered in modern times, featuring the exact same text written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script and Demotic script (the ancient Egyptian “language of the people”), as well as in ancient Greek.

Since Ancient Greek is still understood, it allowed scholars to decipher many of the Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time. This alone made it instrumental in our understanding of ancient Egyptian language and culture.

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The stone was unearthed in 1799 during Napoleon's campaign in Fort Saint Julien, El-Rashid in Egypt and has been housed in the British Museum since 1802 onwards. One of the most important figures in deciphering the stone was Thomas Young, an early 19th-century English physicist and polymath.

The Rosetta Stone was originally written by a council of priests in 196 BCE, essentially singing the praises of Ptolemy V, a 13-year-old royal cult leader who was clawing onto power. You can read the full translation here.

One of the longest periods it wasn’t in the British Museum was during the First World War, when London was getting bombed. Out of fear it could be destroyed, they put it underground in a central subway station.

The model was created using 228 high-definition photographs of the original stone at the British Museum. This is the first time the stone has undergone a three-dimensional scan, although replicas of the stone have been scanned before.

The British Museum has uploaded dozens of their artifacts using SketchFab, including a marble bust of Zeus, a statue of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and a sculpture of the Pacific Island god A’a. The 3D scans are free to use and available online, so now you have no excuses not to check them out.

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