unlocking ancient Egypt


Accompanying a landmark exhibition at the British Museum, this book tells the story of the pioneers who cracked the code of Egyptian hieroglyphs and the mysteries of ancient Egypt that they unlocked.


ISBN: 9780714191287 Category:


Praise for the exhibition

***** The Telegraph
***** The Times
***** Daily Telegraph
**** The Evening Standard

“Plunge into the infinity pool of ancient Egyptian history with this dizzying array of artworks” – Waldemar Januszczack, Sunday Times Culture magazine

Today the history of ancient Egypt is known around the world, recognisable in precious museum collections and countless retellings from popular culture. Yet for hundreds of years, from the late Roman Empire to the 19th century, the wonders of this ancient civilisation were frozen in time, locked in artefacts that could not be understood due to the loss of the ancient Egyptian language. In 1799 the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a slab inscribed in three scripts, hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek, changed the course of history, unlocking thousands of years of ancient culture and eventually becoming one of the world’s most famous museum artefacts.

The British Museum’s exhibition Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt and this accompanying publication tell the story of the Rosetta Stone and of countless other objects that were key to efforts to decode the hieroglyphs dating back to the Islamic Golden Age. Featuring fascinating objects from the British Museum and international lenders, the book shows how the presence of a written language was the key to understanding life in ancient Egypt, from everyday business affairs to the sacred secrets of the afterlife. Interweaving the story of decipherment with colonial history, the book takes readers up to the present day, revealing what researchers are doing now to tell us more about one of the world’s longest surviving civilisations through the understanding of their writing.

Published to coincide with the bicentenary of Jean-Fran├žois Champollion’s breakthrough in decipherment, this beautifully illustrated book shows how an unassuming grey stone was the key to the secrets of ancient Egypt and led to the most significant code breaking moment in history.

Additional information

Weight 1812 g
Dimensions 28.8 x 26.2 cm
Publisher name The British Museum Press
Publication date 5 January 2023
Number of pages 272
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Ilona Regulski
Dimensions 28.8 x 26.2 cm
Weight 1812 g


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Ilona Regulski is Curator of the exhibition Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt and Curator of Egyptian Written Culture at the British Museum.

With contributions by Susanne Beck (Tuebingen University), Monica Berti (Leipzig University), Willy Clarysse (Leuven University), Cary Martin (University College London), Franziska Naether (Leipzig University), Richard Parkinson (Oxford University), Daniela Picchi (Archaeological Museum, Bologna), John Taylor (British Museum), Patricia Usick (British Museum) and Pascal Vernus (Sorbonne).