Translating Stones: Movement, Meaning, and Metaphor of the Rosetta Stone and the Obelisk of Philae
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AbstractThe Rosetta Stone and the Obelisk of Philae tell us a unique and highly evocative story that is usually – as briefly as successfully – summarised under the idea of “translation”. Indeed, such a notion may well be explored on and articulated in different levels: the context where these monuments were originally placed and subsequently displaced from; the key role they had in the struggle towards the decipherment of the ancient Egyptian language as well as in the foundation of a new discipline; the symbolic status they have acquired since then, as iconic objects (especially the Rosetta Stone), carriers of wider cultural meaning that goes well beyond Egyptology. Movement, meaning and metaphor, therefore, will be the main aspects the paper will focus on, addressing the two monuments as cultural products that not only must be framed within the proper historical milieu of the civilisation that produced and erected them, but could also be appreciated as meaningful for the modern society that has succeeded in recover, translate, and reshape them as “an emblem of our identity” (after Ray, The Rosetta Stone, p. 6). In this perspective, the choice of the names “Rosetta” and “Philae” by the ESA’s comet mission, while reflecting the very hopes and achievements that the two monuments aroused and triggered in the understanding of the ancient Egyptian culture, has in turn provided them with a further step in their long history of movement and transformation.