CAIRO: An Egyptology researcher has called for the display of another original version of the Rosetta Stone at the entrance of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, dismissing the official request by Egypt to repatriate the stone from the UK as mere propaganda.
Researcher Bassam El Shammaa, who also works as a tour guide, told Daily News Egypt that there are different versions of the stone, which was discovered in Rashid in 1799. The two similar stelae discovered in Kom El Hesn in the Western Delta are currently exhibited in the Greco-Roman section of the museum.
“They have never been promoted as exact copies of the Rosetta Stone despite the fact that, besides being in better condition than their counterpart, on exhibit at the British Museum since 1802, they display the same royal text, El Shammaa said.
The diorite bulky dubbed the Rosetta Stone derives its importance from the fact that it helped Thomas Young and Francois Champollion, pioneers of the modern science of Egyptology, to decipher the ancient Egyptian language by comparing the hieroglyphic text to its counterparts in classical Greek and Demotic, another ancient Egyptian script also inscribed on the stone.
Regrettably, says the researcher, only a modern replica of the Rosetta Stone is currently on display at the museum’s entrance although one of the two original stelae could easily replace it.
“They are known as the Canopy Stones because they were found at an archaeological site near Canopy, the extinct estuary of the Nile located 100 km from Rashid.
“Each is 220 cm high, unlike the Rosetta Stone, which currently measures 114cm after part of it was lost. Upon its discovery, the Rosetta Stone was 149 cm high.
El Shammaa also insists that a search be carried out to find similar stones that probably still remain buried beneath the different ancient Egyptian temples.
“Other original versions of the stone could also be lying under the bulky stones of the temples at Edfu, Dandara and Phaela – you never know, he argued.
The explained that the text on the stone, which stipulates that temples and priests are exempt from taxation during the reign of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, was a traditional honorary religious decree distributed across all temples in Egypt each time a Ptolemaic sovereign ascended the throne.
“I demand a sonar search be applied to all the ancient temples, especially the chamber of the ‘The Holy of the Holiest’ in each temple, where such stones are believed to have been preserved, he said.
This way, El Shammaa believes, Egypt will probably obtain scores of originals and bring an end the futile propaganda relating to the Rosetta Stone.
“Why should we ask for it back when we have several others?
He also questioned why the authorities are content with exhibiting a replica at the museum’s gate when one of the two Canopy Stones could go on display in a glass case equipped with a humidity regulator.
“The Canopy Stones are even older as they date back to King Ptolemy III, whereas the Rosetta Stone marked the ascension of King Ptolemy V to the throne of Egypt.
When the Canopy Stones were discovered in Kom El Hesn, we found out that the hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek texts were the same as the ones carved on the Rosetta Stone, but with the only difference that the Canopy Stones were intact, said El Shammaa.
“Comparing the versions, we also detected a spelling mistake in the last line of the Greek text, a fact that could probably prove that the texts on the Rosetta Stone were inscribed by Egyptians.
Part of the text was tell-tale, according to Shammaa.
He explained: “It is inscribed that: ‘this decree will be carved on stones and displayed at all the temples beside the sovereign’s eternal figure.’ Shouldn’t that tell you that scores of original Rosetta stones could be buried under the heavy rocks of these temples?