A priceless black granite slab. The Rosetta stone, a multi-translated inscription brought the seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Over 2 centuries after forces of the British Empire brought it to Great Britain from Egypt, growing calls demand its restitution. Monica Hana, is the organizer of one two petitions demanding the return of the stone.
“I think all nations have the right to ask back for their heritage,” the dean at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport says.
“In the 19th century, there was also – slavery was legal, child labor was legal and women had no rights. Today, we are in the 21st century and we have to correct the mistakes of the past and correct the mistakes of the history because we cannot change it.”
The British Museum refutes the stone was seized illegally; arguing an 1801 treaty includes the signature of a representative of Egypt who fought alongside the British against the French to rule the north African territory.
“Symbol of colonialism”
The Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul was nominally the ruler of Egypt at the time of Napoleon’s invasion.
A French soldier had found the black slab near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles east of Alexandria.
“The Rosetta Stone for me, is a symbol of western colonialism over my culture. It represents a spoil of war, it represents cultural violence”, Monica Hana explained.
“I’m not only asking for it’s restitutional repatriation, I’m also training generations of students who will become researchers to continue the fight until the Rosetta Stone is back in Egypt.”
Western museums have long pointed to better equipped facilities and larger crowd draws to justify their holding of world treasures.
Some institutions are returning ownership of artifacts but the majority remains in their collections. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for example agreed with Nigeria to keep one-third of the artifacts on loan.
“My message to the British Museum is that it’s about time that you find a new role for your museum in the 21st century. The British Museum is still locked up as a cabinet of curiosity in the 19th century. They need to find a new vision and a new philosophy for their role as a museum, and restitution and repatriation is at the heart of this new philosophy.”
The Museum said Egypt’s government has not submitted a request for the return of the Rosetta stone which was carved in the 2nd century B.C.
The granite slab is one of more than 100,000 Egyptian and Sudanese relics housed in the British Museum.