The Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous archaeological discoveries in the world. It is a large stone slab with inscriptions in three scripts. These inscriptions helped scholars learn how to read hieroglyphics, which was the writing of ancient Egyptians. It was created around 196 BC. The slab was discovered in 1799 by French soldiers who were rebuilding a fort near the Egyptian town of Rashid (also known as Rosetta). It was eventually transferred to the British Museum in London, where it remains today. Now thousands of Egyptians are demanding the return of the artifact.
The latest campaign to reclaim the antiquities has gathered more than 2,500 signatures in an online petition launched by a group of prominent archeologists.
Together, these archeologists urge Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to "work through diplomatic and legal means" to retrieve the antiquities.
According to the group and those who have signed on, the objects are integral to Egypt's national heritage, and their continued display in European institutions deliberately ignores a history of colonialist looting and exploitation.
Given changing attitudes toward the ethical acquisition of items, as well as an evolving sense of moral responsibility, the organizers say British authorities would be amenable to the return.
From the petition:
The confiscation of Rosetta Stone, among other antiquities, is an act of transgression on culture property and cultural identity, and a direct result of a long history of colonial violence. Its presence in the British Museum supports past colonial violence endeavors, and deprives its country of origin, not only of the material repatriation of the artifacts, but also of any form of reparation to the intangible damage occurring from centuries of violence, occupation, and an unjust balance of power.
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 artifacts ripped from their homes through violence and unlawful treaties is proof that a decolonisation is not a simple story from the past, but a very contemporary issue that needs to be addressed and rectified. 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.