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Thousands of Egyptians seek return of Rosetta Stone from British Museum

As Britain’s largest museum marks the 200-year anniversary of the decipherment of hieroglyphics, thousands of Egyptians are demanding the Rosetta Stone to be returned.

The inscriptions on the dark grey granite slab became the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics after it was taken from Egypt by forces of the British Empire in 1801 after defeating the French army. 

It has remained in the British Museum since.

‘’The British Museum’s holding of the stone is a symbol of Western cultural violence against Egypt,” said Monica Hanna, dean at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, and organizer of one of two petitions calling for the stone’s return.

French scientists uncovered the stone in 1799 when France invaded Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte.

‘Spoil of war’

Hanna’s petition, with 4,200 signatures, says the stone was seized illegally and constitutes a “spoil of war.”

The claim is echoed in a near identical petition by Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister for antiquities affairs, which has more than 100,000 signatures.

Hawass argues that Egypt had no say in the 1801 agreement between Britain and France.

The British Museum refutes this. 

In a statement, the Museum said the 1801 treaty includes the signature of a representative of Egypt.

The Museum also said Egypt’s government has not submitted a request for its return. 

The stone is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum. A large percentage were obtained during Britain’s colonial rule over the region from 1883 to 1953.

It has grown increasingly common for museums and collectors to return artefacts to their country of origin, with new instances reported nearly monthly. Often, it’s the result of a court ruling, while some cases are voluntary, symbolizing an act of atonement for historical wrongs.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum returned 16 antiquities to Egypt in September after a US investigation concluded they had been illegally trafficked.

Amid turmoil following the 2011 uprising, Egypt saw an uptick in artefact smuggling, which cost the country an estimated $3 billion between 2011 and 2013, according to the US-based Antiquities Coalition.

READ MORE: How Western museums distorted the Muslim image after stealing its art

French scientists uncovered the stone in 1799 when France invaded Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte.

The stone is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum.
The stone is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum.
(AP)

As Britain’s largest museum marks the 200-year anniversary of the decipherment of hieroglyphics, thousands of Egyptians are demanding the Rosetta Stone to be returned.

The inscriptions on the dark grey granite slab became the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics after it was taken from Egypt by forces of the British Empire in 1801 after defeating the French army. 

It has remained in the British Museum since.

‘’The British Museum’s holding of the stone is a symbol of Western cultural violence against Egypt,” said Monica Hanna, dean at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, and organizer of one of two petitions calling for the stone’s return.

French scientists uncovered the stone in 1799 when France invaded Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte.

‘Spoil of war’

Hanna’s petition, with 4,200 signatures, says the stone was seized illegally and constitutes a “spoil of war.”

The claim is echoed in a near identical petition by Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s former minister for antiquities affairs, which has more than 100,000 signatures.

Hawass argues that Egypt had no say in the 1801 agreement between Britain and France.

The British Museum refutes this. 

In a statement, the Museum said the 1801 treaty includes the signature of a representative of Egypt.

The Museum also said Egypt’s government has not submitted a request for its return. 

The stone is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum. A large percentage were obtained during Britain’s colonial rule over the region from 1883 to 1953.

It has grown increasingly common for museums and collectors to return artefacts to their country of origin, with new instances reported nearly monthly. Often, it’s the result of a court ruling, while some cases are voluntary, symbolizing an act of atonement for historical wrongs.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum returned 16 antiquities to Egypt in September after a US investigation concluded they had been illegally trafficked.

Amid turmoil following the 2011 uprising, Egypt saw an uptick in artefact smuggling, which cost the country an estimated $3 billion between 2011 and 2013, according to the US-based Antiquities Coalition.

READ MORE: How Western museums distorted the Muslim image after stealing its art

Source: AP

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