International News

Egyptians want British Museum to return the Rosetta stone

The debate over who owns ancient artifacts has become a growing challenge for museums across Europe and America, and the spotlight has fallen on the British Museum’s most visited piece: the Rosetta stone.

After being taken from Egypt by British forces in 1801, the inscriptions on the dark grey granite slab became a seminal breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Thousands of Egyptians are demanding the stone’s return as Britain’s largest museum commemorates the 200th anniversary of the decipherment of hieroglyphics.

“The British Museum’s possession of the stone represents Western cultural violence against Egypt,” said Monica Hanna, dean of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport and organizer of one of two petitions calling for the stone’s return.

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The Rosetta Stone’s acquisition was entwined with the imperial battles between Britain and France. Following Napoleon Bonaparte’s military occupation of Egypt, French scientists discovered the stone in the northern town of Rashid, known as Rosetta to the French. When British forces defeated the French in Egypt, the stone and a number of other antiquities were handed over to the British under the terms of an 1801 surrender agreement between the two sides generals.

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