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The Keys of Egypt

The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs

Author: Lesley Adkins and Roy Adkins  

Paperback

An account of the unravelling of one of the great intellectual puzzles, set against the backdop of Europe in the Napoleonic era.

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Summary

An account of the unravelling of one of the great intellectual puzzles, set against the backdop of Europe in the Napoleonic era.

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Description

A vivid and superbly written account of the unravelling of one of the great intellectual puzzles, set against the backdop of Europe in the Napoleonic era.
When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs and statues, all covered with hieroglyphs – the last remnants of an unreadable script and a language lost in time. On their return Egyptomania spread rapidly and the quest to decipher hieroglyphs began in earnest.

Jean-Francois Champollion was obsessed with ancient languages from a very young age, and once he heard of the unreadable ancient Egyptian text he had found the challenge to which he would dedicate his life: the decipherment of hieroglyphs. Despite poverty he made gradual progress, although he had to fight against jealous enemies, both professional and political, every step of the way – a dangerous task when in post-Revolutionary France a slip of the tongue could mean ruin, exile or even death.

Failure threatened, as he was only one of many attempting to read the hieroglyphs, and his main rival, the English Thomas Young, claimed that decipherment was imminent, but Champollion refused to be distracted and finally, in 1822, he made the decisive breakthrough: he was the first person able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a thousand years.

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Critic Reviews

“'A fascinating and elegantly written biography of Champollion, doing justice to one of the great stories of academic heroism.'Simon Singh, Sunday Telegraph 'A fascinating account of the race to unlock the cryptic language of the pharaohs'Giles Milton, Daily Mail”

'A fascinating and elegantly written biography of Champollion, doing justice to one of the great stories of academic heroism.' Simon Singh, Sunday Telegraph 'A fascinating account of the race to unlock the cryptic language of the pharaohs' Giles Milton, Daily Mail

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About the Author

Lesley Adkins, an archaeologist and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, is the author of several books on archaeology and ancient history, including The Keys of Egypt, written with her husband Roy Adkins and published to acclaim in 2000. This is the gripping tale of Jean-François Champollion and his decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, set against a background of late 18th and early 19th-century France and Egypt.Her latest book, this time as sole author, is Empires of the Plain, a biography of Henry Rawlinson, a fearless soldier, gifted sportsman, brilliant linguist and tireless explorer. The book details Rawlinson's tremendous achievement in copying and deciphering ancient cuneiform writing, as well as his adventures and discoveries in what is today India, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Lesley lives near Exeter in Devon. She has a degree in archaeology, ancient history and Latin from the University of Bristol. Her previous books include The Handbook of British Archaeology, Introduction to Archaeology, Introduction to the Romans and The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.Husband-and-wife Lesley and Roy Adkins are both archaeologists and Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Roy has a degree in archaeology from University College Cardiff. Their previous books include ‘The Handbook of British Archaeology’, ‘Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome’, ‘Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece’ and ‘Dictionary of Roman Religion’, and they have just completed ‘The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphs’. Lesley and Roy recently moved to Devon, where they are embarking on the restoration of an extensive garden.

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Back Cover

When the French invaded Egypt in 1798, they were astonished to find countless ruins covered with hieroglyphs - remnants of a language lost in time. The quest to decipher hieroglyphs began in earnest: fame and fortune awaited the successful scholar. Amid political turmoil in France, caused by Napoleon's meteoric rise and catastrophic fall, Jean-Francois Champollion was hounded, exiled and even charged with treason, but still overcame poverty and ill-health to beat his closest rival, the English scientist Thomas Young. Having cracked the code, Champollion led an expedition through Egypt, deciphering texts unread and triumph over extreme adversity. "The Adkins duo succeed in providing a fascinating and elegantly written biography of Champollion, doing justice to one of the great stories of intellectual heroism."SIMON SINGH, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH "Champollon's story has long deserved to be told, and the husband-and-wife authors of 'THE KEYS OF EGYPT' have told it extremely well, producing a fascinating account of the race to unlock the cryptic language of the pharaohs... 'The Keys of Egypt', always readable and enjoyable, is a worthy tribute to the man who named, and unlocked, the valley of the Kings."GILES MILTON, DAILY MAIL "A compulsive account of the life of Jean-Francois Champollion... A first rate blend of high scholarship and great narrative pace, this is one of those rare, wondrous books which turns an intellectual adventure into high drama. It deserves a huge audience."DOUGLAS KENNEDY, THE TIMES.

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More on this Book

A vivid and superbly written account of the unravelling of one of the great intellectual puzzles, set against the backdop of Europe in the Napoleonic era. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were astonished to discover ancient temples, tombs and statues, all covered with hieroglyphs - the last remnants of an unreadable script and a language lost in time. On their return Egyptomania spread rapidly and the quest to decipher hieroglyphs began in earnest. Jean-Francois Champollion was obsessed with ancient languages from a very young age, and once he heard of the unreadable ancient Egyptian text he had found the challenge to which he would dedicate his life: the decipherment of hieroglyphs. Despite poverty he made gradual progress, although he had to fight against jealous enemies, both professional and political, every step of the way - a dangerous task when in post-Revolutionary France a slip of the tongue could mean ruin, exile or even death. Failure threatened, as he was only one of many attempting to read the hieroglyphs, and his main rival, the English Thomas Young, claimed that decipherment was imminent, but Champollion refused to be distracted and finally, in 1822, he made the decisive breakthrough: he was the first person able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a thousand years.

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Product Details

Publisher
HarperCollins Publishers | HarperCollins
Published
3rd September 2001
Pages
352
ISBN
9780006531456

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