Egypt is asking European countries in possession of Egyptian artifacts, historical and cultural monuments to return the items to the country for the opening of Egypt’s Grand Museum at Giza, due by 2013. So far, their request has been overlooked.
“I’m not asking for all the artifacts of the British Museum to come to Egypt. I’m only asking for the unique cultural objects,” he added, referring to items of great archaeological value, such as the Rosetta Stone,” says Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The Rosetta Stone, the welcoming artifact at the neoclassical Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a fake, and the original is kept in the British Museum. “A loan request regarding the Rosetta Stone was received and acknowledged. The request currently stands as a matter for further consideration in due course,” a spokeswoman for the British Museum was quoted as saying.
Thousands of artifacts were carried out of Egypt during the period of colonial rule and afterwards by archaeologists, adventurers and thieves. However, an Egyptian delegation is due to collect Pharaonic steles thought to have been chipped from the walls of the 3,200-year-old tomb of the cleric, Tetaki, from Louvre palace in France, on 20 November.
Ancient Egyptian artifacts are scattered all around former colonial countries, and the Egyptian want the pieces of their histories back. Currently, the statue of Hemiunu, the architect of the Great Pyramid at Giza is in Germany; the bust of Anchhaf, builder of the Chepren Pyramid is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; a painted Zodiac from the Dendera temple, is kept in the Louvre palace in France; and the 3,500-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, wife of the famous Pharaoh Akhenaten, is on show at the newly re-opened Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany.
“I have very mixed and difficult feelings when I go to a museum overseas and see all these wonderful items taken from Egypt. The objects are giving a good example of Egyptian civilization to people in different countries so that they then come here to see the Pyramids and tombs. At the same time, I always say the Egyptian people also have the right to see these unique objects, some of which were taken when Egypt was under occupation, so my first wish is that they come back,” Wafaa al-Saddiq, the director of the Egyptian Museum, was quoted as saying.
According to a 1972 United Nations agreement, artifacts are the property of their country of origin and pieces smuggled out must be returned. Egyptian Archeologists are mostly interested in the original basalt slap which dates back to 196 BC, a key to the modern decipherment of hieroglyphics; an ancient fresco fragment stolen from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in the 1980s, which is currently in Britain.
Since 2002, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has secured the return of 5,000 stolen artifacts back to Egypt.