Historical Precedents

A few of The Rosetta Project's Historical Precedents:

Phaistos Disk (1600 BC)

A 6" diameter clay disk, found in Crete in 1903, dating from the 17th century BC. It is inscribed with an as yet undeciphered and unidentified spiraling hieroglyphic script. The disk was made of baked clay and kept in a little clay storage hole in the basement of the Minoan palace of Phaistos. It remained buried until found under the debris of the palace, which probably collapsed as a result of an earthquake. No other examples of the script or parallel texts have been found.

Rosetta Stone (100 BC)

A granite slab with inscribed text from the second century BC, discovered in Rashid, Egypt in 1799 by troops under Napoleon's command. Three text bands offer parallel translations of a priestly decree into Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Demotic (a cursive script for writing Egyptian) and Greek. Working from the known Greek, Thomas Young, Silvestre de Sacy and Jean-François Champollion used the Rosetta Stone to progressively decipher the Hieroglyphic script during the early 1800s. More on the Rosetta Stone

Hyukumanto Darani (600 AD)

The oldest surviving wood block printed text in the world. In 7th century Japan, Empress Shotoku commissioned the printing of one million copies of a Buddhist sutra to be distributed throughout Asia. The sutra was a prayer for peace. Each scroll was encased in a small carved wooden pagoda for protection, and they soon become valued objects in ancestral shrines, burial sites and temples throughout Asia. More on the Hyukumanto Darani

Mithridates of Adelung (early 1800s)

Commissioned by Catherine The Great in the late 1700s, this was the first attempt at a complete survey of the languages of the world. Through a global call to missionaries, traders and government, several decades of work eventually produced a text which gave parallel translations of the Lord's Prayer in 500 languages. This broad corpus was a main reference for early work on the genetic relationship of languages and the identification of the Indo-European language family—quickly disproving the mono-genesis theory that all languages descended from the Holy Tongue, Hebrew.

Polyglotta Africana (mid-1800s)

Created by Sigismund Koelle in the 19th century, a corpus of 300 words or phrases translated into 156 African Languages (mostly West African.)

SIL International's Ethnologue

The most comprehensive metadata reference system for the languages of the world. Covering nearly 7,000 languages, The Ethnologue offers information on language names, related dialects, classification, number of speakers, maps, history and other demographic and sociolinguistic factors. The Rosetta Archive is built using Ethnologue naming standards, family identifications and country affiliations. These naming standards are now the basis for the draft international standard ISO/DIS 639-3.

The Rosetta Disk

Fifty to ninety percent of the world's languages are predicted to disappear in the next century, many with little or no significant documentation.