This amazing granodiorite stele with script in hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek, was discovered 20th August 1799 near the town of Rashid by Pierre-Francois Bouchard, a soldier in Napoleon's army, whilst strengthening the defences at Fort Julien. Following defeat of the French in 1801 the stone was appropriated by the English under the Capitulation of Alexandria and, since 1802, has been on display at the British Museum. Thomas Young began deciphering the hieroglyphs.
During the summer of 1808 the Abbe de Terson, who had made a copy of the stone whilst on a visit to London, allowed Jean-Francois Champollion access. He already had a book of notes and drawings created by Vivant Denon in 1802. The race was on!
Champollion began with the demotic but had difficulty getting any further with the hieroglyphs. Another study published in 1808 by Marie-Alexandre Lenoir frustrated him - he was determined to be the first to crack the 'code' but it took him another 14 years and career as a University professor before his breakthrough in 1822.
The stone is judged to be so important that it has been the subject of debate for over 300 years. As well as the contributions of Young and Champollion there are also constant demands from Egypt for its return.