It was on this date, December 23, 1790, that the Frenchman who unlocked the Egyptian inscriptions, Jean-François Champollion, was born in Figeac. Because of the Revolutionary chaos in France, Champollion got his instruction, until he turned 10, from his oldest brother, who was also an archaeologist. By age 11 Champollion could read the Bible in Hebrew. He also acquired Latin, Greek, Amharic, Sanskrit, Avestan, Pahlavi, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean, Persian and Chinese – in addition to his native French. With his acquisition of Coptic, an Egyptian language and script dating to perhaps two centuries before the Christian era, Champollion became interested in the race to translate the mysterious inscriptions of Ancient Egypt.
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Originally published December 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.