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The Rosetta Stone

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For thousands of years the culture of ancient Egypt has been admired and coveted. Today some of the greatest artefacts of Egyptian culture are found thousands of miles away from the land that created them and that angers Dr. Zahi Hawass. What they mean...to steal these artefacts to put into their museums, and they damage the value of the tomb, and they damage Aspur, and they damage our civilization. Dr. Hawass is the man in charge of Egypt antiquities and he's got a wish list of items he'd like to see come home. To look at the bust of Nefertiti and the Zodiac that shows the sky, at the Louvre and the statue of the architect of the great pyramid Hem-iunu. Every piece that has been stolen from Egypt it should come back. At the top of his list is the greatest prize, the Rosetta Stone. It was really my dream to see in a hall at the Cairo museum, looking at the Rosetta Stone. It is an icon of our Egyptian identity. The Rosetta Stone, arguably the most important Egyptian artefact ever on earth. This nearly one time rock is engraved with messages in ancient Greek and two hieroglyphic scripts. By comparing the Greek to the hieroglyphs, scholars were able to crack the hieroglypic code. And for the first time understand the meaning of the ancient Egyptian language. It's an object that is important to all the humanity. It's important to all of us to have access to seeing an object that is as significant as the Rosetta Stone. And I think that's why we feel it's important for it to be based here in the museum. Hannah Bolton is a spokeswoman for the British Museum where the Rosetta Stone has been on display for the last two centuries. The Rosetta Stone came into the museum collection historically it was originally found by Napoleon when he took his archeologists and invaded Egypt and they discovered the Rosetta Stone and when the British beat Napoleon, they took the material that he had collected. So the British seized from the French what the French seized from the Egyptians. You're talking about a material that's been in the museum collection particularly in times of the British Museum for over 200 years, 250 years. and therefore it has a history within this collection. But the history of the object here has been of 200 years ...and the history of the object from where it came is about.... how many thousands of years? Well thousands of years, but under the sand. So you're not talking about a situation where for 2000 of years, people were able to go and see that object in Egypt. All of this material is uncovered and excavated It is actually only at that point that you start to get this issue of where it should be on display, because that's when you've discovered it. Gary Deacon, director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, believes the question of ownership is complicated. The English and the French have contributed to what the Rosetta Stone is. The Rosetta Stone didn't come out of the ground with a neon sign on it saying: "I'm important by the way!" It took work. It took knowledge. And that, I think, it has to translate into some sense of at least metaphysical ownership. What if....just say if ...you know Egyptians had invaded Britain 200 years ago. They had found stones. Massive stones and carted them back to Egypt. And there Egyptian scholars discovered what they are, what we now know as Stonehenge. Would Britain not be right in asking for their return? I think we again come back to the issue of ownership. I think the then trustees or the trustees that ended up being set up to run the Egyptian museum if you like, would be probably use the same argument that the trustees at the British Museum use here. Which is that actually, you know, there is a need and there's a great benefit to having a museum of world civilizations, because you are able to compare and contrast. There's always new things you can learn, there's always new connections that you can make I need one person to come and debate with me to tell me this sentence. That you keep these monuments outside of Egypt, it has a value... The value of it is in Egypt. Not in these museums. Dr. Hawass's passion may just soon pay off. He's asked the British Museum to allow the stone to be exhibited in Cairo for three months when Egypt's new Giza Museum opens in 2012. We lend many thousands of objects to many hundreds of museums every year. and subject to fitness to travel, and conditions and conservation and so on, there isn't any reason why aspects of the collection can't be sent on short time loan anywhere in the world. It will happen on day that these artefacts should be shown here. for a short time like three months, and it will happen. And perhaps this stone that once brought about such understanding centuries ago, still has the power to unite the people of two great cultures.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 49 seconds
Country: Spain
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 301
Posted by: maykafdez on Mar 26, 2011

National Geographic video where the ownership of this artefact is discussed.

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