200 years after the Rosetta Stone’s translation revealed the mysteries of hieroglyphic script and heralded the advent of Egyptology, prominent Egyptian archaeologists have renewed their appeal for its return from the British Museum to Egypt.
According to Monica Hanna, acting dean of the College of Archaeology in the Egyptian city of Aswan, the archaeologists’ online petition has garnered 2,500 signatures so far and intends to “inform Egyptians what has been taken from them.”
Napoleon’s forces discovered the Rosetta Stone in northern Egypt in 1799; it was discovered in 196 BC. Along with other artifacts discovered by the French, it was shipped to Britain following Napoleon’s defeat in accordance with the stipulations of the 1801 Treaty of Alexandria. It has been kept there since 1802 at the British Museum.
It has inscriptions of the same text in hieroglyphs, Demotic (an ancient Egyptian alphabet), and Ancient Greek. Jean-Francois Champollion, a Frenchman, used it to translate hieroglyphs from 1822, enabling us to better comprehend ancient Egyptian language and culture.
Egyptian archaeologists have already demanded its return, but they are optimistic that growing efforts by Western institutions to repatriate artifacts taken from nations under colonial rule will aid their cause.
Since the ethical standards of museums are evolving, I am confident that all of these items will be returned at some point. The question is when “Hanna remarked.
“The stone is a representation of cultural imperialism and cultural aggression.
Restoring the stone is a sign that times are changing and that we are now operating under 21st-century ethical standards rather than those from the 19th century.