Zahi Hawass Leads A Petition To Return 2 Famed Ancient Egyptian Artifacts, The Rosetta Stone And The Dendera Zodiac, to Egypt

Zahi Hawas

An official petition is made calling for the return of prized antiquities, The Rosetta Stone And The Dendera Zodiac, from European museums and requesting assistance from the international community to demand the repatriation of these objects to show that the world knows that these objects belong in Egypt.

As of publishing this article, the online petition has gathered over 3,300 signatures in less than 24 hours for the latest campaign to reclaim antiquities.

The petition, which Zahi Hawass created, stated:

Returning these two iconic artifacts to Egypt would be an important acknowledgment of the commitment of Western museums to decolonizing their collections and making reparations for the past. They would be prominently displayed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to be opened in 2023.

The famous artifact, which nearly 200 years ago enabled scientists to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, has been in English hands ever since Napoleon seized it and 16 other artifacts as part of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801.

Former Egyptian antiquities minister and high-profile archaeologist Zahi Hawass joined the restitution debate urging the return of two legendary ancient Egyptian artifacts: the Dendera Zodiac from the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Rosetta Stone housed in the British Museum in London.

Hawass clarified that the Rosetta Stone and the Dendera Zodiac ceiling, both exhibited in European countries, should be permanently returned to Egypt. he has gone to great lengths to return stolen Egyptian artifacts. However, his goal has never been to return legitimately acquired Egyptian objects from museums worldwide but rather to return recently illegally obtained artifacts. Hence, he published an international petition on his website and his Instagram, and it’s now circulated in honor of the Grand Egyptian Museum’s upcoming opening.

How was the Rosetta Stone taken from Egypt?

A French military officer discovered the Rosetta Stone (196BC) in Memphis, Egypt, in 1799. It was seized by British forces in Alexandria two years later and shipped to England. The British Museum received the stele that allowed hieroglyphs to be decrypted in 1802.

Rosetta Stone as displayed at the British Museum
Rosetta Stone, as displayed at the British Museum

How was Egypt’s Dendera Zodiac taken?

The French ripped the Zodiac from the ceiling of a chapel in the Temple of Dendera in the 1820s, and it has been housed in the Louvre since 1922. Although it is a one-of-a-kind and significant artifact, “its removal from Egypt was completely unethical and should be returned to its rightful home.” Hawass said.

Dendera Zodiac as displayed in the museum of Louvre
Dendera Zodiac as displayed in the museum of the Louvre

This isn’t the first time Hawass has demanded the return of these artifacts. When he was secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), he stated at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin, held at the UN cultural agency UNESCO in Paris in 2005, that Egypt has been deprived of five key items of its cultural heritage, that it must be returned to their homeland.

Before the establishment of the antiquities service in the 19th century, Egypt was plundered, and its antiquities were illegally exported while under the control of the French and British. As a first step toward decolonizing foreign museums, Egyptians request the return of two iconic Egyptian objects: the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum and the Zodiac of Dendera at the Louvre.

It’s noteworthy that Returning these two iconic artifacts to Egypt would demonstrate Western museums’ commitment to decolonizing their collections and making amends for the past. They will be prominently displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open in 2023.

Many other petitions have been circulated lately, along with the one on repatriaterashid.org stating:

The presence of these artifacts in the British Museum to this day supports past colonial endeavors of cultural violence and deprives Egypt as the country of origin of not only the physical return of these objects but also of their important role as Egyptian cultural heritage that spans millennia of rich history.

We urge all Egyptians to sign the international petition on Change.org and help return Egypt’s ancient gems to their original home, where they will be prominently displayed at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open early next year!

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