June 22, 2007

Egypt asks British Museum for Rosetta Stone return

Posted at 12:54 pm in Similar cases

After many suggestions to the British Museum that it would like the Rosetta Stone to be returned, Egypt has now made a formal request to the British Museum.

The Art Newspaper

Egypt asks British Museum for Rosetta Stone
By Martin Bailey | Posted 21 June 2007

LONDON. The Egyptian government has made a formal request to borrow the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum (BM). A letter was sent last month by Dr Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The Art Newspaper can reveal that the request is for a three-month loan in 2012, for the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is being built near the Pyramids. Until now, the BM has been able to fend off questions about the return of the Rosetta Stone, since there had been no formal request.

Whether the loan is eventually granted is expected to depend on three main factors. First, conservation, and whether the 1,680 pound stone could be at risk.

Secondly, if the Rosetta Stone can be lent in view of its iconic importance. It is probably the single most-visited object in the BM’s entire collection, attracting even more visitors than the Parthenon Marbles. The Rosetta Stone has been at the museum since 1802, and has only left the building twice—when it was evacuated during World War I and when it was lent to the Louvre for one month in 1972.

Finally, there will concerns over whether it would be prudent to lend to Cairo, because of possible pressure in Egypt to retain the stone or request its permanent return. After receiving advice on these points, the request will be considered by the BM trustees.

In March, Dr Hawass told The Art Newspaper that he intends to seek the loan of five key masterpieces from international museums. The others are the head of Nefertiti (Berlin Museums), the Dendera zodiac ceiling (Louvre), the bust of Hemiunu, builder of the Great Pyramid (Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim, Germany), and the statue of Ankhaf, builder of the Khafre Pyramid (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). “I will give guarantees for their safe return,” he promised.

A row has already broken out over Nefertiti, with the Berlin Museums arguing that the head is too fragile to travel. Dr Hawass warned last month that if the Berlin loan is refused, then “we will fight to bring back this bust for good”.

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  1. Simon Pearson said,

    12.30.08 at 7:10 am

    Like many people around the world I am enthralled by the accomplishments of the ancient Egyptians and it sickens me to watch programs where learned people try to justify the retention of items such as the bust of Nefertiti. As regards Nefertiti, the evidence that it was removed illegally is compelling and I, for one, want nothing more than to see the bust returned to where it belongs. I applaud the work Dr. Hawass continues to do and can but hope that other institutions around the world quickly realise that these items rightfully belong back in Egypt.

  2. Arriyad said,

    04.16.11 at 8:41 pm

    The Rosetta stone received its significance from the work of Champollion (and of Young). Were it not for Champollion, the stone would have been considered just a stone by the Egyptians. Were it not for the French army, and the Western interest in ancient Egypt, it might still be in the foundations of a fort in Rachid.
    The Rosetta stone is part of Western culture, not of Egypt, even if it has been made in Egypt (by the way, by a Greek king). The discovery and reconstruction of ancient Egypt is a work of the West.
    The indifference of the Islamic people for their pre-islamic history is sometimes stunning (see the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan). What Egypt is after, is tourist money.

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