Thread: Zahi Hawass
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Old 12-14-2009, 12:19 PM   #3
Rocket Surgeon
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“We own that stone,” he told al-Jazeera television recently. “The motherland should own this.”
For Dr Hawass, and many others in so-called “source” countries, this is a simple issue of restoring looted cultural property: “For all of our history, our heritage was stolen from us. They [the British Museum] kept it in a dark, badly lit room until I came and requested it.”

There are several objections to this, beginning with what he means by “we” and “the motherland”. Modern Egypt did not exist in 1799, let alone in 196BC, when the stone was carved. Unlike some controversial items in Western museums, the stone was not smuggled away, but handed over to the British as part of a legal treaty, signed not only by the French and British, but by the Ottoman Government in Egypt.

As for the absurd notion that it was undervalued and poorly exhibited: the Rosetta Stone has been on almost continuous, prominent display since 1802, the single most visited object in the entire museum.

But more than that, the Rosetta Stone is an emblem of universality, and a product of the multiple cultures that existed in the 2nd century BC, in what we now call Egypt. Dr Hawass, a brilliant and inspiring defender of the past, has selected the wrong object over which to fight a narrow, nationalistic political campaign for “repatriation”.

You think he's picking a worthy battle, or is he still searching for the elusive limelight?
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