When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, his troops were astonished to find countless ruins covered with hieroglyphs -- remnants of a language lost in time. Egyptomania spread throughout Europe with their return, and the quest to decipher the hieroglyphs began in earnest, for it was understood that fame and fortune awaited the scholar who succeeded.
In rural France, Jean-Francois Champollion, the brilliant son of an impoverished bookseller, became obsessed with breaking the code of the ancient Egyptians. At sixteen years of age he decided that he would dedicate his life to the decipherment of hieroglyphs. Amid political turmoil in France caused by Napoleon's meteoric rise and catastrophic fall, Champollion was hounded, exiled, and even charged with treason, yet he continued to strive for the key to the ancient texts. In 1812, Champollion made the decisive breakthrough, beating his closest rival, English physician Thomas Young, to the prize and becoming the first person to be able to read the ancient Egyptian language in well over a thousand years. The Keys of Egypt is a true story of adventure, obsession, and triumph over extreme adversity.