Academics want the Rosetta Stone to be returned to Egypt

Shola Lee

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Academics want the Rosetta Stone to be returned to Egypt

Featured Image Credit: Roger Cracknell 01/classic / Sheila Halsall / Alamy Stock Photo

Egypt is, quite rightfully, asking for the legendary Rosetta Stone back.

Repatriate Rashid, the team behind the campaign, is asking Britain to repatriate several artefacts that were illegally taken from Egypt.

"History can’t be changed, but it can be corrected," the campaigners urged as they logged the latest in a string of requests to have the artefact, responsible for helping us translate hieroglyphics, returned home.

Campaigners want the stone returned. Credit: PRISMA ARCHIVO / Alamy Stock Photo
Campaigners want the stone returned. Credit: PRISMA ARCHIVO / Alamy Stock Photo

For those not familiar, the Rosetta Stone was the key to helping us translate hieroglyphics into modern languages.

It was discovered in 1799, having been dug up near the town of Rashid, amid Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt.

When the British defeated Napoleon in 1801, they took the Rosetta Stone from France to England where, since 1802, it has been on display in the British Museum.

The stone remained shrouded in mystery for years; then, in 1822, linguist Jean-François Champollion cracked the stone's code and, with it, the key to translating hieroglyphics, an ancient language long thought to be dead at this point.

Following this, the stone was held at the British Museum, where it is currently on display.

Now, Egyptian campaigners are asking for the artefact to be returned. Monica Hanna, an academic helping lead the petition, explained why this request for the Rosetta Stone is different, telling CBS: "Previously it was the government alone asking for Egyptian artifacts, but today this is the people demanding their own culture back."


Sure of her mission, Hanna added: "Definitely all these objects are going to be repatriated, it is just a matter of when."

The campaign team behind Repatriate Rashid shared the same sentiments, saying: "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.

Keeping the monuments and artefacts taken from their homes through violence and unlawful treaties is proof that decolonisation is not a simple story from the past, but a very contemporary issue that needs to be addressed and rectified. 

The stone is currently being held at the British Museum. Credit: Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
The stone is currently being held at the British Museum. Credit: Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

"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," the campaign group states.

The petitioners asked for everyone to get involved in the campaign: "We urge everyone who believes in the right of cultural identity, the right of equality among nations, and the inalienable right of each sovereign state to enjoy their own heritage and reclaiming that heritage if it has been taken from them; to sign this petition in support of the return of Rosetta stone to its country of origin: Egypt."

Renowned Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass echoed these sentiments, telling AFP: "This stone is the icon of Egyptian antiquities.

"These are unique objects, their home should be in Egypt, not Germany, England, or France."

Joyce Tyldesley, professor of Egyptology at the University of Manchester, said it now is the right time to return the 2,200-year-old stone. "Talks could start now in the 200th anniversary year of the decipherment of the stone to send it back to continue its journey. There would be no harm in that," she said, adding: "Why is it in London as opposed to in Cairo?"


Topics: News, World News

Shola Lee
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