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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Egypt wants antiquities loan
Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone dates from 196 BC
Egypt is mounting a campaign for the return of antiquities taken from the country for an exhibition to mark Cairo's Egypt Museum's 100th birthday.

Top of the museum's list is the ancient Rosetta Stone, which is housed in the British Museum, and a bust of Nefertiti from Germany.

Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, is behind the calls for the return of items.

His latest project is to "recover all the antiquities stolen from Egypt" for an exhibition next year.

He has already made an unsuccessful approach to the British Museum about loaning the 2,000-year-old Rosetta Stone for three months to mark the renovation of the Egypt Museum.

A British Museum spokesman said: "The trustees do not consent to the loan of what might be called 'iconic' objects.

"To loan such pieces would result in our disappointing the five million or so visitors who come to the museum every year."

'Be fair'

But Mr Hawass is determined to get the museum to change its mind so the engraved tablet can form the centrepiece to the new wing of the Cairo museum.

He said the Egypt Museum would only refuse to lend artefacts to other institutions if they were fragile.

Queen Nefertiti
Queen Nefertiti's bust was discovered in 1912
And he said he had already pledged to lend Tutankhamen relics to the British Museum for a forthcoming exhibition.

He said the British Museum "should not be selfish, they should be fair".


Mr Hawass has also reignited calls for Germany to return a 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, which is in the Berlin Museum.

A German archaeologist working in Egypt in the early 1900s took the bust to Germany under a law that allowed him take 50% of what had been excavated.

But Mr Hawass said: "We're asking for the return of this statue, which was smuggled out of Egypt illegally."

The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 at the mouth of the Nile and provided a key insight into hieroglyphics because it was accompanied by the Greek translation.

The French yielded it to the British in 1801 and it has been housed in the British Museum since 1802.

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