Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hawass: "We are not the Pirates of the Caribbean"

The Rosetta Stone was debated on this morning's BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme. Sarah Montague interviewed Zahi Hawass and Roy Clare (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council).

Hawass rejected a short-term loan. He commented on the security of the new museum in Cairo: "Security will be perfect". He rejected the suggestion that Egypt would not return a loan: "We are not the Pirates of the Caribbean."

He asked for the return of the Rosetta Stone as part of Egypt's identity: "I want the Rosetta Stone to be back in Egypt".

Clare presented the legal position and the role of the Trustees of the British Museum. He made it clear that he did not want a discussion about the "recovery" of the Rosetta Stone. Clare stated that it is an "icon for global culture", in effect making a case for the universal museum. He described the British Museum as a centre for world culture.

Montague asked if Hawass would get the Rosetta Stone back: "Believe me, we will". Hawass then talked about the case of the wall-paintings returned from the Louvre. When Montague mentioned the action that Egypt had taken against the Louvre, Hawass rejoined, "I am not going to threaten the British Museum".

Clare asserted that the Rosetta Stone has "acquired" additional "culture" by being displayed in the British Museum.

Hawass also talked about the proposed meeting in Cairo to discuss the return of cultural property.

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1 comment:


It is a pity that the British Museum keeps repeating baseless arguments that the objects acquired under dubious circumstances by the museums have acquired additional culture. Objects do not acquire any culture, additional or not.
The statement that the British Museum is a centre for "world culture", (whatever that may mean) is also very misleading. The British Museum has undoubtedly looted objects from all over the world. Does that make it a centre of world culture?
We should get away from such meaningless phrases and face the fact that the countries where these objects were taken, now want them back. The Rosetta stone may be an "icon for global culture" (whatever that means) but above all, it is an object of Egyptian culture and should be returned to the Egyptians.

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