The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10


Show Summary


The beginning of archaeology may be said to have been made with the decipherment of the Rosetta stone. This was found at Rosetta in 1799. It contained three inscriptions, one in hieroglyphic, one in demotic and the other in Greek. There was reason to suspect that the three inscriptions were identical in meaning and with this clue scholars set to work to decipher the hitherto unknown hieroglyphics. Young and Gell made a good beginning and by 1832 Champollion had succeeded in deciphering all the inscriptions.

Before this result had been reached Grotefend made a substantial start at explaining the cuneiform characters of Mesopotamia by comparing the known names of Persian kings with cuneiform inscriptions he thought might contain the names. This gave the key, and Bournouf and Lassen (1836–1844) completed the short Persian alphabet. Next Rawlinson, from the trilingual inscription at Behiston in Persian, Assyrian, and Vannic worked out the great Assyrian syllable-system of six hundred signs.

Since this time Egypt and Mesopotamia have furnished magnificent fields for research into times hitherto lost below the horizon of history, and the date of the beginnings of civilization has been placed further and further back.

The relics of the Egyptian literature hidden in papyrus rolls belonging to the period from A. D. to 1000 B.C. have been deciphered. The Book of the Dead, showing the worship of Osiris, (see volume I) is one of the great finds of this period. Study of the remains of temples, tombs and towns has shown before this period and from 1000 to 1600B.C. the everyday life of a great empire. Anterior to this had come the invasion of the Hyksos; prior to the Hyksos the civilization of the twelfth dynasty (about 2600 B.C.); then back beyond a period of decay, the civilization of the Old Kingdom (4500–3500 B.C.) that built the grandest of the pyramids and monumental remains. This was preceded by the invasion of a people probably from the direction of the Red Sea (about 5000 B.C.), who brought with them much of the base of the civilization of the Old Kingdom; and dating probably from as early as 6000–5000 B.C. are found relics of a primitive Egyptian race that built towns of brick, used linen, leather, pottery, wood, ivory, copper, and polished flint.

The remains in Chaldea seem to be even more ancient. The religious literature given in the first volume dates further back than any literature of Egypt. Libraries of clay tablets seem to have been in existence before 3000 B.C. Researches have not been as extensive in the sites of towns as in Egypt and the oldest civilization is not as well known. We give below a summary of the facts of the Babylonian period.

In Greece, archaeology has discovered the remains of high civilizations existing in the Mycenian age before the Doric invasion of about 1000 B.C. The earliest relics of civilization seem to go back to about 3000 B.C.

But archaeology pushes its researches into the study of primitive man far back before the eras of even Chaldea or Egypt. The great ages of these countries correspond to the ages when men used bronze largely for weapons and ornaments (about 3000–1000 B.C.) and even to the age of copper (5000–3000 B.C.). The take dwellers belonged to the latter period or even before. Prior to them there were workers in polished stone. The ages of the cave dwellers, who at the last were workers in bone, and at the first were rude shapers of stone, carry us back no man knows how many thousand or tens of thousand years.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Archaeology," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 183–184. Original Sources, accessed February 25, 2024,

MLA: . "Archaeology." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 183–184. Original Sources. 25 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Archaeology' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 10. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.183–184. Original Sources, retrieved 25 February 2024, from