Malta Independent

Seum to return Rosetta Stone

“Given the treaty and the timeframe, the Rosetta Stone is a hard legal battle to win’’



‘’Given the treaty and the timeframe, the Rosetta Stone is a hard legal battle to win,’’ said Donnell.

The British Museum has acknowledg­ed that several repatriati­on requests have been made to it from various countries for artifacts, but it did not provide The Associated Press with any details on their status or number. It also did not confirm whether it has ever repatriate­d an artifact from its collection.

For Nigel Hetheringt­on, an archaeolog­ist and CEO of the online academic forum Past Preserves, the museum’s lack of transparen­cy suggests other motives.

‘’It’s about money, maintainin­g relevance and a fear that in returning certain items people will stop coming,’’ he said.

Western museums have long pointed to superior facilities and larger crowd draws to justify their holding of world treasures. Amid turmoil following the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Egypt saw an uptick in artifact smuggling, which cost the country an estimated $3 billion between 2011 and 2013, according to the U.S.based Antiquitie­s Coalition. In 2015, it was discovered that cleaners at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum had damaged the burial mask of Pharaoh Tutankhamu­n by attempting to re-attach the beard with super glue.

But President Abdel Fattah elSissi’s government has since invested heavily in its antiquitie­s. Egypt has successful­ly reclaimed thousands of internatio­nally smuggled artifacts and plans to open a newly built, state-of-theart museum where tens of thousands of objects can be housed. The Grand Egyptian Museum has been under constructi­on for well over a decade and there have been repeated delays to its opening.

Egypt’s plethora of ancient monuments, from the pyramids of Giza to the towering statues of Abu Simbel at the Sudanese border, are the magnet for a tourism industry that drew in $13 billion in 2021.

For Hanna, Egyptians’ right to access their own history should remain the priority. “How many Egyptians can travel to London or New York?” she said.

Egyptian authoritie­s did not respond to a request for comment regarding Egypt’s policy toward the Rosetta Stone or other Egyptian artifacts displayed abroad. Hawass and Hanna said they are not pinning hopes on the government to secure its return.

‘’The Rosetta Stone is the icon of Egyptian identity,’’ said Hawass. ‘’I will use the media and the intellectu­als to tell the (British) museum they have no right.’’

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