Egyptian archeologist to take back Rosetta Stone from Britain
The Rosetta Stone, native to Rashid - or Rosetta - Egypt, has been illegally acquired by the UK and former minister Zahi Hawass demands they be taken back.
Renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass will be launching an initiative to bring the Rosetta Stone back to Egypt from the British Museum, as the latest move against museums that have looted artifacts away from their homeland and relocated them to their imperial captors' countries.
Hawass, a prominent archaeologist and a former antiquities minister, remarked that European peoples "are really awakening" to this cause.
The stone, aged 2,200 years old, has been in the British Museum since 1802, taken from France after the Napoleonic Wars on a signed treaty. The stone has unraveled the mystery of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and is one of the three artifacts that Hawass is demanding to return to Egypt from Europe. The other treasures are a bust of Queen Nefertiti which is stored in Berlin, and a sculpted Zodiac ceiling at the Louvre in Paris.
Egyptian Archeologist asks British Museum to return famous Rosetta Stone back pic.twitter.com/ob2U9XmlFl— Parliamentary Society for Arts, Fashion and Sports (@parliament_afs) August 23, 2022
“I believe those three items are unique and their home should be in Egypt. We collected all the evidence that proves that these three items are stolen from Egypt,” he told The National.
Hawass looks to relaunch his efforts by pushing forward a petition signed by a group of Egyptian intellectuals which he will send to European museums in October.
“The Rosetta Stone is the icon of Egyptian identity. The British Museum has no right to show this artefact to the public.”
The museum said there hasn't been a formal request to return the tablet to Egypt, arguing that not everyone holding Egyptology as an interest shares Hawass' "fixation" with the stone.
However, the trend is turning in a different direction, as Germany has recently taken the decision to return the looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, praising itself as "moving into the future."
“There is a change in the air in this respect,” said Alexander Herman, the director of the Institute of Art and Law in Britain. “Some of the old arguments, the ones that used to hold sway for so long, are beginning to wear thin.”
Soldiers in Napoleon's army stumbled upon the Rosetta Stone while they were building a fort near Rashid - or, Rosetta - realizing the importance of hieroglyphics. The stone, which enabled the understanding of hieroglyphics for the first time in hundreds of years, became one of the museum's most famous treasures.
Hawass asserts that the stone left Egypt illegally, and campaigned for its return when he was in office as antiquities minister. During his reign, he brought back thousands of artifacts to Egypt.
In 2003, Hawass informed former British Museum director Neil MacGregor that he will battle the museum if it did not return the Stone.
"They left Egypt completely illegally and they should come back," he said, asserting that he will not back down anytime soon on his quest to return the Rosetta Stone to the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, even if it takes over a lifetime.
“If I did not succeed, at least people after me will continue,” he said. “This is a case that you cannot stop.”