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The Rosetta Stone







Things were not going well for Ptolemy V, king of Egypt in the second century B.C. He was not one of the all-powerful Egyptian pharaohs who had ruled for many centuries. The young king was one of the Ptolemaic pharaohs who were of Greek heritage, descendants of a ruler put in place by Alexander the Great when he conquered Egypt in the fourth century B.C. The reign of Ptolemy V was a time of civil unrest and foreign incursions, and the king was unpopular. It was time for a public-relations campaign. The priests of the king wrote a short history of the king’s family, described his accomplishments, and explained his future plans. This message was written on stone tablets in demotic Egyptian for the common people, in Egyptian hieroglyphs for the priests, and in Greek for the ruling class. Thus, it was written in two languages but in three scripts. These tablets were posted all over Egypt.

Almost two thousand years later, in 1799, the French army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, was occupying Egypt. Several years earlier, Napoleon’s army had defeated the British army near Cairo and had taken over the country. However, the British fleet had destroyed the French navy and there was no way for the French soldiers to return home. During this “extended vacation,” French military engineers strengthened existing defensive positions. In the port town of Rosetta (now known as El-Rashid), the French were rebuilding an old fort when Captain Pierre-François Bouchard discovered an irregularly shaped slab made of dark granite (often misidentified as basalt) with three types of writings on it in three distinct bands. Besides military forces, Napoleon had also brought scientists and scholars with him. The Rosetta Stone, as it became known, was turned over to them. They quickly realized that the three scripts contained the same message. They translated the Greek quickly but could not understand the other two scripts.

In 1801, the French were forced to surrender. Under the terms of the Treaty of Alexandria, the British claimed the artifacts that the French had found during their occupation. The French tried to smuggle the Rosetta Stone out of Egypt in a small boat but failed. The stone was brought to London and presented to the British Museum. On the back of the stone is the painted message, “Captured by the British Army in Egypt in 1801.”

It was through the Rosetta Stone that scholars learned how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphic alphabet, one of the earliest writing systems ever developed, had been used by the Egyptians for 3,500 years. However, it is far more complex than simple picture writing and contains thousands of symbols. After Egypt was conquered by the Romans, Latin became the dominant language, and by the fourth century A.D., no one could understand the symbols. Before the Rosetta Stone was discovered, some scholars even believed that hieroglyphs were not really an alphabet at all but were merely decorations.

Copies of the Rosetta Stone were sent by the British Museum to linguists all over Europe, but learning which Greek word represented which hieroglyph proved difficult. It was the brilliant French linguist Jean François Champollion who finally unlocked the mystery. He began studying the Rosetta Stone at the age of 18. After fourteen years, he deciphered the code. In a letter to the French Royal Academy of Inscriptions, he explained the three basic assumptions that led to a translation: (1) The Coptic Egyptian language, still spoken by a small group of Egyptians, was the final stage of the ancient Egyptian language. Champollion could consult with experts on Coptic Egyptian to learn about Ptolemaic Egyptian. (2) Hieroglyphs served not only as symbols of words and ideas (ideograms) but also as symbols of spoken sounds (phonograms). (3) Certain hieroglyphs enclosed in ovals were phonetic transcriptions of pharaohs’ names. Once these hieroglyphs were understood, it was easier to decipher the rest. Armed with Champollion’s translation, scholars all over the world took a new interest in Egypt and laid the foundation for our understanding of this ancient civilization.

The Rosetta Stone is still displayed at the British Museum and is one of the most popular exhibits there, but the Egyptian government wants it back. In 2003, Dr. Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo and a noted archaeologist himself, formally requested its return, saying, “The British…should volunteer to return the stone because it is the icon of our Egyptian identity.”


demotic: describing a form of a language that is spoken by ordinary people

  1. What was the original purpose of the Rosetta Stone?

    1. To preserve the writing systems that were once used in ancient Egypt.

    2. To record the history of the all-powerful pharaohs of Egypt.

    3. To announce that a new king had been crowned.

    4. To present information about the then current ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy V.

  1. The word incursions in the passage is closest in meaning to

    1. influences.

    2. travelers.

    3. invasions.

    4. adventures.

  1. It can be inferred from the information in paragraph 1 that the author believes that

    1. demotic Egyptian and the form of Egyptian used by the priests were the same language.

    2. the priests of ancient Egypt were all members of the ruling class.

    3. demotic Egyptian was a spoken language that did not have a written form.

    4. ancient Greek and demotic Egyptian were different languages but used the same script.

  1. Why do you think the author put quotation marks (“ ”) around the phrase extended vacation in paragraph 2?

    1. The French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte used this exact phrase to refer to the time his army spent in Egypt.

    2. The French Army was in Egypt because their fleet had been destroyed, not because they were on vacation there.

    3. The French were not really in Egypt for an extended period, but rather for a very short time.

    4. Unlike the soldiers, the scientists and scholars who came with Napoleon’s army were enjoying their time in Egypt.

  1. What was Pierre-François Bouchard’s probable occupation?

    1. Captain of a warship.

    2. Archaeologist.

    3. Military engineer.

    4. Linguist.

  1. When writing about the Rosetta Stone, authors are sometimes mistaken about

    1. the significance of the writing on it.

    2. its true shape.

    3. the name of the place where it was discovered.

    4. the material it is made of.

  1. The word bands in the passage is closest in meaning to

    1. lines.

    2. areas.

    3. symbols.

    4. pieces.

  1. We can infer from the passage that the scholars mentioned in paragraph 4

    1. did not think that the hieroglyphic alphabet could ever be translated.

    2. were experts on the decorations used by the ancient Egyptians.

    3. played an important role in deciphering the Rosetta Stone.

    4. did not believe that Latin was ever the dominant language in Egypt.

  1. Which of the following is NOT one of the assumptions that helped Champollion to translate the Rosetta Stone?

    1. That hieroglyphs represented not only words and ideas but also sounds.

    2. That the three messages written on the stone did not have exactly the same meanings.

    3. That some of the hieroglyphs set off from the others represented the names of pharaohs.

    4. That one form of modern Egyptian was related to the ancient Egyptian language.

  1. The phrase the rest in paragraph 5 refers to

    1. pharaoh’s names.

    2. ovals.

    3. scholars.

    4. hieroglyphs.

  1. How does the author emphasize the point that is made in paragraph 6?

    1. By making a comparison.

    2. By asking the reader a question.

    3. By quoting an expert.

    4. By summarizing the previous paragraph.


Equal at work?












In the early seventies, when the Department of Employment and EEC alike said the answer to women’s low pay –and perhaps to poverty in general– was for women ‘to break through the ring-fence of special women’s employment’, it seemed improbable this social transformation would ever be achieved.

Hedged about by our own self-images, as much as by the opposition of employers, unions and husbands, it looked as if it would be impossible for us to grasp that the roles of Pamela the Great Man’s Handmaiden and Dora the tea-lady were roles, imposed from outside, and not the limits of our capacities.

Events since have demonstrated the untruth of these impressions. Women of all types have blazed trails in new areas, so that in a matter of a few years the impossible has happened. There are women piloting British airliners, women as navigating and radio officers on ships, women detective superintendents leading murder enquiries, women military officers performing strenuous training exercises –all on equal terms.

The change has not been one of revolutionary speed but it has spread through a wide range of jobs. It is no longer only university graduates and the like who are breaking the boundaries of tradition. The late seventies was the time when June Wilson, a cleaning lady, Alison Crompton, a nightclub hostess, and Rosalba Turi, a clothing factory presser, left their ‘traditional’ jobs and became crane drivers. It was the time when Colette Clark and Margaret Chairman resisted all their schools’ pressure for them to become shopgirls, clerks and seamstresses, to take up electrical trades apprenticeships. When Maureen Marshall gave up assembly work for skilled joinery. When Cristina Stuart, who abandoned her secretarial work to travel the roads of Europe as a rep, became Sales Manager of her Publishing House.

Even without high-flying ambitions, work of a more masculine cast has strong advantages. At Maureen Marshall’s factory in Doncaster, work had been traditionally segregated –even though, ironically, all the work involved was of a ‘masculine’ character in a joinery factory making doors, window-frames and even housefronts. The bulk of the labour, however, was female and it was the women who supplied the joinery work which was frequently very heavy. Meanwhile the men minded cutting machines and drove fork-lift trucks at higher rates of pay.

The men were allowed day-release to become skilled apprentices; the women remained, in paper terms, uneducated even after 28 years in the same factory, and even when they were privately skilled in advanced cabinet-making. The men, as qualified machinists, had the option of moving elsewhere if better jobs presented themselves. And they progressed up the firm to become foremen and managers. The women, technically unqualified, were considered good only for the exact job they were in, however skilled they might individually be. When equal pay legislation came into force, the work done by the women, which in the pre-war past had been done by recognized qualified joiners, was downgraded by the employer to unskilled, and continued at unequal rate to the men’s. Maureen, whose foreman had encouraged her to move into the male area, was one of the few who got equal pay, and has a foot on the ladder towards supervisory work, or work options elsewhere.

Another problem for women, according to an industrial psychologist, is that ‘they consistently undervalue themselves’, taking a humble viewpoint. Cristina Stuart, in fact, has learned the male technique of making her own chances. ‘There really are things you have to grow out of once you’re moving, that sort of feeling you have at first of just being grateful for having a place on the bench alongside the big boys, that initial wondering when you’re talking to directors and managers in other companies of whether it will come over as what you intend, or whether they’ll take what you say as female chatter. You have to train yourself out of that female lack of assertiveness. At least, I don’t think it is specifically female – you see it in men too – they have to make an effort when they move into management from another job, to get the style – though I think it’s harder for women because it goes against a lifetime’s training. And you’ve also got to counter that female tendency to be overhelpful, insufficiently competitive and wary.

‘And it is possible. Bit by bit, when you find things work, that you are effective, that you are indubitably really there as far as work results are concerned, any feeling that you are wearing a disguise gradually melts away. Suddenly you wake up one morning and you are a manager in the whole way you react and act and think, and it is second nature. There are an awful lot of girls in jobs below their capacities simply because of the way they think about themselves. In the end it all boils down to a matter of attitude.’

It is evident that women can, and are, adapting themselves to male professions. But for true equality, why can there not be a further stage – unmentioned as yet – valuing women’s jobs properly. Why should not a nurse or a home help be considered as valuable and paid as well as a carpenter or plumber? When this equation is solved, equality will be here.

from ‘Driver, banker, carpenter, sailor’ by Lyn Owen in the Observer, London

Now answer the following questions.

  1. What do you understand by the phrase ‘the ring-fence of special women’s employment’ (lines 2-3)?

  2. In what way is it suggested that women themselves have contributed to their inequality at work?

  3. What does the expression ‘blazed trails’ (lines 9-10) suggest about the achievements of the women mentioned?

  4. What was unusual about the choice of crane driving as a job for the three women?

  5. Why do you think there was pressure from schools for girls to take certain jobs?

  6. Explain the phrase ‘in paper terms’ (lines 29-30).

  7. Why was equal pay legislation ineffective?

  8. Explain in your own words what Maureen Marshall has gained, apart from equal pay.

  9. What fear do women often have when addressing senior staff, according to Cristina Stuart?

  10. What masculine characteristics does she suggest that women should cultivate in order to fight inequality at work?

  11. What does ‘it’ (line 50) refer to?

  12. Explain ‘it is second nature’ (line 53).

  13. Summarise in a paragraph of 50-100 words the disadvantages which women have suffered from at work, as described by the author.

Part III

Each of the following sentences contains one mistake. Please identify it and provide the correct version.

  1. Contemporary poet Allen Ginsberg prides him on the ability to create poetry which invites complete emotional and physical participation by his audience.

  1. According to many economists, international specialization in the production of some goods, such as cars and computers, increase world efficiency and output, making all nations richer.

  1. Walking along the shore, it started raining so heavily that we had to take refuge in our car and wait until the storm subdued.

  1. It was his refusal to cooperate what made me lose my temper and yell at him.

  1. However unavoidable the Civil War may have been, it was more devastating also exhausting than any European war between 1815 and 1914.

  1. Generally speaking, proteins that come from animal sources are complete whereas those that come from another sources are incomplete proteins.

  1. When I told my friend that I wanted to change jobs she suggested me to upload my CV in LinkedIn.

  1. The nests of most bird species are strategic placed to camouflage them against predators.

  1. Under no circumstances you are allowed to smoke inside the premises.

  1. It’s a pity I missed that concert. I wish somebody told me about it.


Because of computers, telephones, and other means of technology, it is now possible for many people to work at home. Some people prefer working at home, while others would rather work in an office. Which of these do you prefer and why?

Write an essay responding to the issue raised in this extract and expressing your own views. Write your answer in 300-350 words (minimum), and in an appropriate style.
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