Launched in September, the campaign calls on Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to file an official request for the repatriation of the Rosetta Stone and 16 other antiquities. These antiquities are illegally or unethically removed from the country. As a result, the document already signed more than 2,500 people.
“People want their culture back” – about cultural violence
“Previously, the government alone started asking for Egyptian artifacts”, said Monica Hanna, an archaeologist who cofounded the current restitution campaign. “But today this is the people demanding their own culture back.”
“I am sure all these objects eventually will come back. The ethical code of museums is changing, it’s just a matter of when,” said Hanna.
Hanna also says the goal of the campaign is to show people what is taken from them. The Rosseta Stone symbolises cultural violence and cultural imperialism. “The stone is a symbol of changing things – it shows we don’t live in a 19th century, but we’re working with an ethical code of the 21st century”, says Hanna.
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According to Egypt, the return of the artifacts benefits the country’s suffering economy by boosting the tourism industry. It is due to open a sizable new museum near the Giza pyramids to display its most renowned ancient Egyptian collections in the coming months.
“Egyptian antiquities represent one of the most important tourism assets”, tourism minister Ahmed Issa said. He also stated they distinguish Egypt from other tourist destinations from all over the world.
What does the petition say about the Rosetta Stone?
“The confiscation of the Rosetta stone, among other artifacts, is an act of encroachment on Egyptian cultural property and identity. It is a direct result of cultural colonial violence against Egyptian cultural heritage”, states the petition.
It also says the presence of these artifacts in The British Museum supports past colonial endeavors of cultural violence. “History cannot be changed,” the document goes on, “but it can be corrected”. Although the political, military, and governmental rule of the British Empire withdrew from Egypt years ago, cultural colonization is not yet over.”
A spokesperson from The British Museum explained there was never a formal request for the return of the Rosetta Stone. Next week, the museum will open “Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egyptan exhibition”. The exhibition looks at the Rosetta Stone and its role in the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs from 200 years ago.
The History Behind the Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is a 2,200 year-old granodiorite stelae, inscribed with hieroglyphs, discovered in 1799 during a Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. Napoleon’s troops apparently stumbled upon the stone while building a fort near the town of Rashid, or Rosetta.
The British Museum acquired the stone in 1802 from France under a treaty signed during the Napoleonic Wars. Other countries also saw the stone’s potential in the Rosetta Stone. When the French surrendered to the British in the 1801 Treaty of Alexandria, they also surrendered numerous historic relics.
And that also includes the Rosetta Stone who’s been in The British Museum’s possession since then. The Rosetta Stone is among the British Museum’s most notable artifacts.