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The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a larger stele. No additional fragments were found in later searches of the Rosetta site. Owing to its damaged state, none of the three texts is complete. The top register, composed of Egyptian hieroglyphs, suffered the most damage. Only the last 14 lines of the hieroglyphic text can be seen; all of them are broken on the right side, and 12 of them on the left. Below it, the middle register of demotic text has survived best; it has 32 lines, of which the first 14 are slightly damaged on the right side. The bottom register of Greek text contains 54 lines, of which the first 27 survive in full; the rest are increasingly fragmentary due to a diagonal break at the bottom right of the stone.
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At the time of the stone's discovery, Swedish diplomat and scholar Johan David Åkerblad was working on a little-known script of which some examples had recently been found in Egypt, which came to be known as Demotic. He called it "cursive Coptic" because he was convinced that it was used to record some form of the Coptic language (the direct descendant of Ancient Egyptian), although it had few similarities with the later Coptic script. French Orientalist Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy had been discussing this work with Åkerblad when, in 1801, he received one of the early lithographic prints of the Rosetta Stone, from Jean-Antoine Chaptal, French minister of the interior. He realised that the middle text was in this same script. He and Åkerblad set to work, both focusing on the middle text and assuming that the script was alphabetical. They attempted to identify the points where Greek names ought to occur within this unknown text, by comparing it with the Greek. In 1802, Silvestre de Sacy reported to Chaptal that he had successfully identified five names ("Alexandros", "Alexandreia", "Ptolemaios", "Arsinoe", and Ptolemy's title "Epiphanes"),[C] while Åkerblad published an alphabet of 29 letters (more than half of which were correct) that he had identified from the Greek names in the Demotic text.[D] They could not, however, identify the remaining characters in the Demotic text, which, as is now known, included ideographic and other symbols alongside the phonetic ones.
Work on the stone now focused on fuller understanding of the texts and their contexts by comparing the three versions with one another. In 1824 Classical scholar Antoine-Jean Letronne promised to prepare a new literal translation of the Greek text for Champollion's use. Champollion in return promised an analysis of all the points at which the three texts seemed to differ. Following Champollion's sudden death in 1832, his draft of this analysis could not be found, and Letronne's work stalled. François Salvolini, Champollion's former student and assistant, died in 1838, and this analysis and other missing drafts were found among his papers. This discovery incidentally demonstrated that Salvolini's own publication on the stone, published in 1837, was plagiarism.[O] Letronne was at last able to complete his commentary on the Greek text and his new French translation of it, which appeared in 1841.[P] During the early 1850s, German Egyptologists Heinrich Brugsch and Max Uhlemann produced revised Latin translations based on the demotic and hieroglyphic texts.[Q][R] The first English translation followed in 1858, the work of three members of the Philomathean Society at the University of Pennsylvania.[S]
In 2005, the British Museum presented Egypt with a full-sized fibreglass colour-matched replica of the stele. This was initially displayed in the renovated Rashid National Museum, an Ottoman house in the town of Rashid (Rosetta), the closest city to the site where the stone was found. In November 2005, Hawass suggested a three-month loan of the Rosetta Stone, while reiterating the eventual goal of a permanent return. In December 2009, he proposed to drop his claim for the permanent return of the Rosetta Stone if the British Museum lent the stone to Egypt for three months for the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza in 2013.