Giants carved into the old Egyptian mysteries

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TODAY is a double anniversary for Egyptology. On this day 220 years ago, French scholar Jean Francois Champollion, who played a major part in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, was born. It is also the bicentenary of the birth of Karl Richard Lepsius, a Prussian archeologist who built on Champollion's research into the ancient writing system, making his own discoveries.
Champollion was born on December 23, 1790, at Figeac in France. His parents lacked money to send their youngest of seven children (two of whom died in infancy) to school so he was mostly educated at home until, at nine or 10, he went to study at the Lycee at Grenoble. There he came under the influence of Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, the great mathematician, who had been in Egypt with Napoleon and had made a study of ancient Egypt.

Fourier was there when a large piece of granite inscribed with hieroglyphs, Egyptian demotic script and ancient Greek was found in 1799. The granite block was later called the Rosetta Stone.

Under Fourier's tutelage, Champollion developed an interest in Egyptology and eastern languages. By age 16 he had mastered Greek and Latin along with Persian, Ethiopian, Sanskrit, Zend, Pahlevi and Arabic. At age 19 Champollion became a professor at the Lycee in Grenoble....

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