Monday, June 11, 2012
Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Francois Champollion (Oxford University Press), by Andrew Robinson
In the 1800s, deciphering hieroglyphics was the great and much-publicized goal of scholarship, much as finding life on Mars is for science in the 2000s. Cracking the Egyptian Code is the fascinating account of the Frenchman who finally deciphered the ancient script by comparing it to Greek on a bilingual document called the Rosetta stone. Precocious and hotheaded, Jean-Francois Champollion's fascination with Egypt and the East along with his facility with languages put him ahead of older rivals working with the same materials. British biographer Andrew Robinson sifts fact from legend, but the legends prove unnecessary. The facts of this story of blind alleys and trial and error against a background of political upheaval are fascinating.