Rosetta-style engraving lauding Cleopatra I and two Ptolemaic Pharaohs unearthed in Egypt
A 2,200-year-old Rosetta-style limestone stele has been found at an ancient site near the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Though archaeologists and Egyptologists haven’t deciphered the entire meaning yet, they say that, like the Rosetta stone, the stele commemorates ancient Egyptian royalty, in this case two Ptolemaic pharaohs and Cleopatra I.
This finding dates to the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 204 B.C. to 180 B.C. of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, 332 B.C. - 30 B.C. The Ptolemys ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.
Antiquties Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said on Facebook that the importance of this discovery lies in the different scripts it was inscribed in. The stele has hieroglyphs and an apparent translation into demotic script. Demotic was a language used by the common people, while royals and the upper class used hieroglyphics.
The stele resembles the Rosetta Stone, which was inscribed in the ninth year of king Ptolemy V's reign. That is two years after the Taposiris Magna stele was inscribed. The find is an exact copy of a stele from the Philae Temple near Aswan, which also dates to Ptolemy V’s reign. In it the pharaoh offered a large area of Nubia to the goddess Isis and her priests.
The world famous Rosetta Stone ( Wikimedia Commons )
The Rosetta Stone in translation into English begins by lauding Horus and saying Ptolemy is the “Son of the Sun” and the beloved of Ptah:
On the twenty-fourth day of the month GORPIAIOS, which correspondeth to the twenty-fourth day of the fourth month of the season PERT of the inhabitants of TA-MERT (EGYPT), in the twenty-third year of the reign of HORUS-RA the CHILD, who hath risen as King upon the throne of his father, the lord of the shrines of NEKHEBET and UATCHET, the mighty one of two-fold strength, the stablisher of the Two Lands, the beautifier of Egypt, whose heart is perfect (or benevolent) towards the gods, the HORUS of Gold, who maketh perfect the life of the hamentet beings, the lord of the thirty-year festivals like PTAḤ, the sovereign prince like RĀ, the King of the South and North, Neterui-merui-ȧtui-ȧuā-setep-en-Ptaḥ-usr-ka-Rā-ānkh-sekhem-Ȧmen, the Son of the Sun Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptaḥ , the god who maketh himself manifest.
The Rosetta Stone decree appears in three scripts: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts, it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The Taposiris Magna Temple
The stele was found at Taposiris Magna temple on Lake Mariout by archaeologists with the Catholic University of Santo Domingo working with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Several other important finds have been made at Taposiris, including beautiful statues from which the heads were removed centuries ago, ironically possibly by Catholic iconoclasts seeking to stamp out the ancient Egyptian religion.
Ruins of the Osiris Temple at Taposiris Magna (Photo by Koantao/ Wikmedia Commons )
The Supreme Council of Antiquities’ Dr. Zahi Hawass said in 2010, when a large Ptolemaic statue was found, “the mission has discovered a collection of headless royal statues, which may have been subjected to destruction during the Byzantine and Christian eras. A collection of heads featuring Cleopatra was also uncovered along with 24 metal coins bearing Cleopatra’s face.”
Hawass said in 2010 the headless statue “is very well preserved and might be one of the most beautiful statues carved in the ancient Egyptian style.” It may be an image of Ptolemy IV, who had the Taposiris Magna temple complex constructed.
A beheaded statue possibly of Ptolemy IV found at Taposiris Magan in 2010 (Supreme Council of Antiquties photo)
The head of the Dominican Egyptian Mission, Dr. Kathleen Martinez, said in six years at Taposiris Magna Site they’ve made many important discoveries about ancient Alexandria. Major discoveries include tombs of nobles, statues of the Isis and many bronze coins showing Cleopatra.
Martinez has been interested in Cleopatra and her lost tomb for quite some time. She has proposed an alternative to the popular belief that Cleopatra was buried in the ancient city of Alexandria. Instead, Martinez believes that Cleopatra may have been laid to rest beneath a temple. That location could have served a double purpose – keeping her body from the hands of the Romans, and to support Cleopatra’s belief that she was an incarnation of Isis (in Cleopatra’s belief, Mark Antony was also the living form of the god Osiris). Cleopatra may have wanted to be treated as a goddess even after death, thus her final resting place at a temple would make sense following that belief.
Featured image: The stele has hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions and measures 41 inches (105 cm) by 25.6 inches (65 cm) by 7 inches (18 cm). ( Photo by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities )
By Mark Miller