Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Repatriation: Hawass on the Rosetta Stone

Asharq Alawsat (Zahi Hawass)

I recently travelled to London to give a lecture at the British Museum on my archaeological discoveries, and to host a book-signing event for my book ‘A Secret Voyage’ that has finally been published in English. This book deals with the experiences of my career [as an archaeologist] from my view on the beauty of the Pharaonic civilization, to [discussing] the Pharaonic view on love, religion, daily life, and festivals, and also includes stories about my latest discoveries in the Valley of the Kings.

This visit came a long time after my last visit to the British capital, and I told journalists and reporters from various media organizations that I had come to London to demand the return of the Rosetta Stone that is housed by the British Museum. The Rosetta Stone was part of an agreement concluded by the French with the British following the Battle of the Nile [also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay]. The French fleet was defeated in this battle, forcing it to leave Egypt, which then fell under British influence.

One of the conditions of this treaty was the French surrendering all antiquities in their possession to the English, including the Rosetta Stone, which held the key to the secrets of the ancient Pharaonic civilization. The secrets of the hieroglyphics were later discovered by French scholar [Jean-Fran├žois] Champollion, even though the Rosetta Stone itself was on display at the British Museum.

In truth, I had no desire to wade into this battle, but I told the media that Egypt is demanding the return of six individual antiquities, and that the real home of these artefacts is their native Egypt. These six antiquities are; the bust of Queen Nefertiti in Berlin's Neues Museum, the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, the Dendera Zodiac at the Louvre in Paris, the statue of Great Pyramid architect Hemiun in Hildesheim's Pelizaeus Museum, the bust of Prince Ankhhaf in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and the statue of King Ramses II in the Turin Museum.

See the above page for details.

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