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Egyptians call on British Museum to return Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum [Simone Ramella/Flickr]
The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum [Simone Ramella/Flickr]

Thousands of Egyptians are demanding that the British Museum return the Rosetta Stone as the museum marks 200 years since deciphering hieroglyphics.

The Rosetta Stone was a breakthrough in allowing Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols to be decoded for the first time in centuries.

An organiser of one petition calling for the stone to be returned to Egypt, dean of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Dr Monica Hanna, told AP: "The British Museum's holding of the stone is a symbol of Western cultural violence against Egypt."

Repatriate Rashid is made up of Egyptian archaeologists who want the stone, and 16 other objects, to be returned to Egypt.

The British Museum says an Egyptian representative has signed the surrender deal, but Repatriate Rashid says that the articles in the treaty were in violation of the local laws at that time.

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Organiser of a second petition, Egypt's former minister for antiquities affairs Zahi Hawass, says Egypt had no say in the 1801 surrender deal when British forces defeated the French in Egypt, and several antiquities were handed to forces of the British empire.

Monica's petition has 4,200 signatures, whilst Zahi's has over 100,000.

Zahi Hawass is also calling on the Berlin Neues Museum to return the bust of Nefertiti and the Louvre to return the Dendera Zodiac ceiling.

In September, the USA returned six antiquities to Egypt worth more than $4 million after an investigation found they had been illegally trafficked.

Several of these artifacts were seized from American billionaire and antiquities collector Michael Steinhardt during a raid on his home, others were from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In June, five Egyptian antiquities in the museum found to be looted were returned and in 2019 a gold coffin trafficked out of Egypt during the 2011 uprising was repatriated.

Six objects stolen by British soldiers in the 19th century from Benin City, now Nigeria, were handed back to the director general of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments on Monday.

Experts hope the move by the Horniman Museum in London, the first in the UK to do so, will encourage the British Museum to hand back objects in its collection.

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