Ancient inscribed slab brought to light

Potsdam - A team of German and Egyptian archaeologists working in the Nile Delta has unearthed "quite a remarkable" stele dating back 2 200 years to Ptolemaic Egypt which bears an identical inscription in three written languages - like the famed Rosetta Stone.

Announcing the find on Monday, University of Potsdam chief Egyptologist Christian Tietze said the stone fragment was "quite remarkable and the most significant of its kind to be found in Egypt in 120 years".

The grey granite stone, 99cm high and 84cm wide, was found "purely by accident" at the German excavation site of the ruined city of Bubastis, a once important religious and political centre 90km north-east of modern-day Cairo.

It shows a royal decree, written in ancient Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphs, that mentions King Ptolemy III Euergetes I along with the date 238 BC.

"The decree is significant because it specifically mentions a reform of the ancient Egyptian calendar which was not in fact actually implemented until some 250 years later under Julius Caesar," Tietze said.

The inscription consists of 67 lines of Greek text and 24 lines of Demotic along with traces of Hieroglyphs outlining the calendar reform and praising Ptolemy.

The king is lauded for importing grain from Syria, Phoenicia and Cyprus to alleviate famine in ancient Egypt, among other deeds.

"It documents the might and beneficence of Ptolemy III," Tietze said.

Bubastis was the capital city of Egypt in the eighth Century BC. The temple where the Germany dig site is located was probably destroyed by an earthquake, according to Tietze.

The Rosetta Stone, named after the site where it was discovered in 1977, had an inscription in Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphs which let to the decryption by Jean-Franaois Champollion of the ancient Egyptian language. The Rosetta Stone is now at the British Museum. - Sapa-dpa


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