The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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9780060194390: The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs

When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops and scientists were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs, and statues, all covered with strange markings-the last remnants of a language lost in time.  After the Rosetta Stone was uncovered, hope was raised that the mystery of this ancient writing could be solved.  Egyptomania spread throughout Europe, and the quest to decipher the hieroglyphs began in earnest, for it was understood that fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded.

In rural France, Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with breaking the code of the ancient Egyptians texts.  At sixteen years of age he decided that he would dedicate his life to the decipherment of hieroglyphs.

Suffering from hardships of poverty, but with devoted support from his older brother, Champollion made slow but significant progress in decipherment.  After the Revolution, however, France was a dangerous place; an unguarded word could mean ruin, exile, or even death.  Always possessed of strong political beliefs, Champollion often found himself in grave personnel danger.  Yet he continued to strive for the key to the ancient texts, and he persevered despite ill health and the knowledge that he was at the mercy of vicious political enemies. Even more troubling to him was the threat of failure-his closest competitor, the English physician Thomas Young, also working to solve the puzzle of the hieroglyphs, and he was rapidly gaining ground.  In 1812,  Champollion made the decisive breakthrough, beating Young to the prize and becoming the first person to be able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a thousand years.

The Keys of Egypt is the fascinating true story of the race to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs and of the rediscovery of the world of ancient Egypt- a world that had been closed to the West for centuries.

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Review:

Jean-François Champollion's biography is neatly interwoven with Napoleonic history and the functions of Egyptian hieroglyphs in The Keys of Egypt. A gifted bookseller's son born in Revolutionary France, Champollion was to become "gripped by energetic enthusiasm" for Egypt. By the age of 12, he was studying several ancient languages, and, amid a "wave of Egyptomania," he would beat rivals to discover the key to deciphering hieroglyphs. If this was a race, it was a marathon. The breakthrough came after "20 years of obsessive hard work," not through the quick-fix solution often thought to have been provided by the Rosetta stone. The Keys of Egypt details Champollion's life and work, which were hampered by politics, poverty, and an almost hypochondriacal series of health problems. Its sources include letters and journals, the authors having undertaken researches in major libraries and museums. Chapters on Champollion's travels in Italy and Egypt include a good smattering of excerpts from his writings. Although no bibliography is given, there is a helpful passage on various levels of further reading. Highly instructive and fast-paced, The Keys of Egypt is perhaps less dramatic than it might be in portraying troubled times and groundbreaking discovery. It is, however, a clearly expressed and wide-ranging book explaining the complexity of hieroglyphic interpretation and revealing the man whose achievements "meant the discovery of a whole new civilization." --Karen Tiley, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Husband-and-wife Lesley and Roy Adkins are both archaeologists and Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London. They have written many books on archaeological subjects and have just completed The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs. They also run a colour picture library specialising in archaeology and history. Lesley and Roy recently moved to Devon, where they are embarking on the restoration of an extensive garden.

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Book Description HarperCollins, 2000. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops and scientists were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs, and statues, all covered with strange markings-the last remnants of a language lost in time. After the Rosetta Stone was uncovered, hope was raised that the mystery of this ancient writing could be solved. Egyptomania spread throughout Europe, and the quest to decipher the hieroglyphs began in earnest, for it was understood that fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded.In rural France, Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, was obsessed with breaking the code of the ancient Egyptians texts. At sixteen years of age he decided that he would dedicate his life to the decipherment of hieroglyphs.Suffering from hardships of poverty, but with devoted support from his older brother, Champollion made slow but significant progress in decipherment. After the Revolution, however, France was a dangerous place; an unguarded word could mean ruin, exile, or even death. Always possessed of strong political beliefs, Champollion often found himself in grave personnel danger. Yet he continued to strive for the key to the ancient texts, and he persevered despite ill health and the knowledge that he was at the mercy of vicious political enemies. Even more troubling to him was the threat of failure-his closest competitor, the English physician Thomas Young, also working to solve the puzzle of the hiero. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0060194391

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