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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Original Rosetta Stone

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Originally published in 2022, edited on July 15, 2023 The Rosetta Stone dates back to 196 B.C. and is a granite slab issued by a the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy V and his clergy. It featured a written decree attesting to his "generosity and devoutness." The decree was using ancient Greek, hieroglyphics, (mainly used by priests), and Demotic, a simpler script used for everyday purposes. It wasn't until two thousand years later, in the nineteenth century, that French soldiers discovered the stone and scholars started to show how to use the Rosetta Stone to crack the code of hieroglyphics. On (or about) July 15, 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered in the Egyptian village of Rosetta (modern-day Rashid) by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard in 1799. This occurred during Napoleon Bonaparte's Egyptian Campaign, when French soldiers were conducting excavations in the area. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone marked a significant moment in history as it eventually led to the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

By 1801, the stone fell into the hands of the British and British scientist Thomas Young, began studying the Rosetta Stone’s texts in 1814. He made progress in analyzing its hieroglyphic inscription. Young discovered that the hieroglyphs enclosed in ovals contained the phonetic spellings of royal names, including Ptolemy. In 1822, French scholar Jean-François Champollion announces he has deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics using the Rosetta Stone. By 1824, Champollion showed that hieroglyphics weren't just pictures that didn't represent the sounds of a language, but rather were a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs that together could be interpreted.

So, Rosetta Stone??

In 1992, Allen Stoltzfus founded what is now known as Rosetta Stone with his brother-in-law, John Fairfield. Stoltzfus, a former Peace Corps volunteer, learned German relatively easily through immersion while living in Germany. But when later studying Russian, he struggled, so he attempted to replicate his immersive learning process through a computer program. He enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, John Fairfield, who held a PhD in computer science and by the early 90's, CD-ROM technology made their program possible.

They called the original company Fairfield Language Technologies and called the technology "The Rosetta Stone", for obvious reasons (well, now obvious!). Development of the language-learning software continued through the early 2000's, focused on developing language-learning software based on advanced technology and pedagogical principles. The software employed an immersive approach to language acquisition, utilizing visual and auditory cues to enhance the learning experience.

In 2006, Fairfield Language Technologies underwent a significant rebranding effort and changed its name to Rosetta Stone, the new name paying homage to the ancient artifact and reflected the company's commitment to language education and cultural understanding. 2021 marked a year of transformation for the company as it was purchased by the IXL family of brands. Today, Rosetta Stone offers language-learning solutions in over 30 languages and serving customers in more than 150 countries. The actual Rosetta Stone, the ancient artifact, is currently on display at the British Museum in London, United Kingdom. It has been housed in the museum since 1802, following its acquisition from the British government. The Rosetta Stone holds great historical and cultural significance, and it continues to be one of the most popular exhibits at the British Museum, attracting visitors from around the world. There have been calls in recent years for the British to return the artifact to Egypt.


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