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Egypt calls for return of Rosetta Stone from British Museum


The Rosetta Stone should be returned to Egypt from the British Museum and replaced with a virtual reality replica, the head of the country’s new national museum said today.

Egypt calls for return of Rosetta Stone from British Museum
The Rosetta Stone, currently at the British Museum [Credit: EPA]
Dr Tarek Tawfik, director general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, risked sparking a new row over the prized artefact which has been on display in London for more than 200 years.


“It would be great to have the Rosetta Stone back in Egypt but this is something that will still need a lot of discussion and co-operation,” he told the Evening Standard.

The stone fragment, which dates to 196BC, is one of the British Museum’s most popular exhibits. Before it was found by accident by Napoleon’s army in 1799 nobody knew how to read hieroglyphs. Scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on it as the key to decipher them.

Egypt calls for return of Rosetta Stone from British Museum
Grand Egyptian Museum's monumental entrance in Cairo [Credit: EPA]
It was handed to the British under the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801, along with other antiquities that the French had found, and shipped to London, where it was put on display a year later. Egypt has long called for its return and Dr Tawfik revealed he was having “vivid discussions” with major institutions, including the British Museum, about the return of historic objects.


He said new technology would allow works to be shared in a way that was not possible previously. “Due to the fact today we have all these modern means of communication and the means of virtual reality, there will be a way of co-operation and means of complementing each other between the museums.”

The stone is not the only disputed treasure in the British Museum’s vast collection. Most famously the Greek government has regularly pressed for the return of the Elgin Marbles, which were taken from the Parthenon, also in the early 1800s.

Egypt calls for return of Rosetta Stone from British Museum
Grand Egyptian Museum's monumental entrance in Cairo [Credit: EPA]
Opponents of repatriation have often argued that artefacts are better looked after in major western institutions, but Dr Tawfik said his museum, which is to open outside Cairo in 2020 with 50,000 exhibits, would have the technology to “protect” them and “prolong their life”.


A British Museum spokeswoman said: “We have not received a request for the return of the Rosetta Stone from GEM.

“In April, British Museum director Hartwig Fischer and colleagues visited the galleries at GEM with Dr Tawfik, which will allow a stunning new display of pharaonic Egypt.”

Author: Robert Dex | Source: Evening Standard [November 06, 2018]

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