Egyptian Scholar Tells Britain to Give Back the Rosetta Stone

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Egyptian Scholar Tells Britain to Give Back the Rosetta Stone


Byline: Terry Kirby

THE British Museum was at the centre of a new row over "stolen artefacts" today after Egypt renewed demands for the return of the Rosetta Stone.

Dr Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who is in London to deliver a lecture at the Museum today, said Britain must return the "icon of Egyptian identity".

Speaking before leaving Egypt, he told The Times: "For all of our history our heritage was stolen from us. It is important for Egyptians that it is returned."

He did not believe Britain had looked after the Stone. "They kept it in a dark, badly lit room until I came and requested it. Suddenly it became important to them," he said.

The inscription on the 2,200-year-old Stone, a public declaration of a tax amnesty for priests, enabled experts to decipher previously impenetrable ancient Egyptian texts because it was written in three separate versions: hieroglyphics, the everyday written Egyptian language and ancient Greek.

Discovered by French troops in 1799 during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, the tablet has been on display in the British Museum since shortly after being handed over by France in 1801 under the Treaty of Alexandria.

Egypt first formally called for it to be given back 15 years ago and Dr Hawass, who claims to have been responsible for the return of more than 5,000 items to Egypt in the past eight years, has repeated the demand several times. …

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