200 years of decipherment

The Rosetta Stone. EA24, Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum.The decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs was presented by Jean-François Champollion in Paris on 27 September 1822. Since 1802, the British Museum has curated the most important single source used to decipher this script – The Rosetta Stone. The conference aims to celebrate the event’s 200th anniversary and reflects on the implications of this monumental achievement. The conference is co-funded by the British Academy.

Image: The Rosetta Stone, EA24. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Call for papers

There will be contributions from archaeology, linguistics, and ancient and modern history, ranging across four continents. Sessions will focus on the breakthrough itself, its historical and intellectual context, the types of research that it engendered, and what deciphered scripts reveal for understanding ancient states, and the archaeology of early civilizations. Each session will include papers by Egyptologists alongside comparative perspectives from Mesopotamian, Chinese and Mayan writing scholars. The sessions are structured with invited papers as well as ones to be identified through this open call.

We invite contributions that explore:

  • Early modern engagement with Egyptian writing
  • The intellectual context of scholarly debate before the decipherment (1799-1822)
  • Multilingual inscriptions from Egypt and other cultures
  • Contrasting histories of archaeology and literate societies
  • State of the art methods of epigraphy
  • Recent text-related discoveries in the field.

We do not encourage contributions of case studies on individual texts unless they address wider research questions.

This call seeks submissions for papers (in English, 25min including time for questions) that consider the above themes. Submissions will be assessed by a committee.

The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation Distinguished Lecture in Egyptology will take place on the evening of 3 November, entitled The Book of the Temple and its multilingual and multiscriptal documentation, it will be presented by Prof. Joachim Quack of the University of Heidelberg. The lecture will be followed by a reception.

The conference is intended as an in-person event, but contingency plans are being made for a hybrid form in case this proves necessary.

This open call will close on 15 January 2022. Submissions should be emailed to [email protected], with name, institutional affiliation, title, an abstract of 200 words and one image with caption. Applicants will be informed of the outcome in early 2022. Travel bursaries will be available to support speakers’ attendance. It is intended that the colloquium will result in a publication.

Download a copy of this call for papers

Colloquium committee

John Baines, Professor of Egyptology emeritus, University of Oxford
Ilona Regulski, Curator of Egyptian Written Culture, Department of Egypt and Sudan, British Museum
Jonathan Taylor, Curator Cuneiform Collections, Department of the Middle East, British Museum
Penelope Wilson, Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Non-EES event

Please note that this is not an event of the Egypt Exploration Society. If you have any questions about the event then please contact the organisers above.