More than 2,500 archaeologists have signed a petition calling on the British Museum in London to repatriate the Rosetta Stone to Egypt.
This effort, which was launched last month, urges the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to officially request the object’s return, along with 16 other artifacts that were illegally and unethically removed from the country.
Earlier this year, renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass called for the Rosetta Stone’s return and announced his plans to circulate a petition.
“Previously it was the government alone asking for Egyptian artifacts,” Monica Hanna, an archaeologist who cofounded the current restitution campaign, told CBS News. “But today this is the people demanding their own culture back.”
The Rosetta Stone, a 2,200-year-old granodiorite stele inscribed with hieroglyphs, Ancient Egyptian Demotic script, and Ancient Greek, was discovered in 1799 during a Napoleonic campaign in Egypt, in which Napoleon’s troops apparently stumbled upon the stone while building a fort near the town of Rashid, or Rosetta. The object was then acquired by the British Museum in 1802 from France under a treaty signed during the Napoleonic Wars. The Rosetta Stone, which led to archaeologists deciphering ancient hieroglyphs for the first time, is among the British Museum’s most notable artifacts.
“The confiscation of the Rosetta stone, among other artifacts, is an act of encroachment on Egyptian cultural property and identity, and is a direct result of cultural colonial violence against Egyptian cultural heritage,” states the petition. “The presence of these artifacts in the British Museum to this day supports past colonial endeavors of cultural violence.”
“History cannot be changed,” the document continues, “but it can be corrected, and although the political, military, and governmental rule of the British Empire withdrew from Egypt years ago, cultural colonization is not yet over.”
The British Museum, however, maintains that there has never been a formal request by the Egyptian government for the stone’s return.
This year has also seen renewed efforts to restitute other objects held by the British Museum that were taken during times of colonization, including the Parthenon Marbles which were looted from Greece by Lord Elgin, who according to recently discovered letters did not pay customs taxes on the marbles when they arrived in the England. The UK’s newly elected Prime Minister Liz Truss recently said she does not support the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.