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04th Oct 2022

Academics want the Rosetta Stone to be returned to Egypt

April Curtin

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Visitors wearing face masks look at the Rosetta Stone next to social distancing markers on the floor at the British Museum on August 27, 2020 in London, England. The British Museum has reopened to the public after being closed for 163 days due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown. Many other museums have already reopened in the United Kingdom with safety precautions in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

It’s been in the UK for 220 years

Academics from Egypt are asking for the UK to return the Rosetta Stone to its homeland.

The stone, which was discovered near the town of Rashid in Egypt in 1799, has been in the UK for over 220 years.

It was dug up during Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of the country, and when Britain defeated Napoleon in 1801, leaders took the Rosetta Stone from France to England.

It was linguist Jean-François Champollion who cracked the stone’s code in 1822. This made it possible to translate the hieroglyphics into modern languages, in what was a key turning point for historians in understanding the past.

But the stone has actually been on display in the British Museum since in 1802, and Egyptian campaigners have just about had enough.

Repatriate Rashid, the team behind the campaign, is asking Britain to give back several artefacts that were illegally taken from the country.

A statement from the campaign group said: “History can’t be changed, but it can be corrected. And despite the withdrawal of political, military, and governmental rule of the British Empire from Egypt over a century ago, decolonisation is far from being over.

“This is a powerful opportunity for Britain to demonstrate moral leadership, and to choose to follow moral principle over profit and support the healing of the wounds inflicted by colonial powers. An act of Parliament will allow Rosetta Stone to be restored to its rightful home in Egypt.”

Speaking to CBS, Monica Hanna, an academic helping lead the petition to return the stone to Egypt, said: “Previously it was the government alone asking for Egyptian artifacts, but today this is the people demanding their own culture back.”

“Definitely all these objects are going to be repatriated, it is just a matter of when,” she added.