Egypt to Host Int'l Meeting on Stolen Artifacts
Sat 09 Sep 2023 | 07:53 PM - By Ahmad El-Assasy
Egypt has announced plans to convene an international meeting for countries affected by the smuggling of antiquities during the age of imperialism. The move comes in the wake of the revelation that over 2,000 artifacts were stolen from the British Museum, which has raised concerns about the credibility of several Western museums.
Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and a renowned archaeologist, has proposed the meeting and discussed it with the current Minister of Antiquities, who expressed readiness to take action. Hawass suggested that the meeting should outline a course of action and seek intervention from UNESCO, highlighting the failure of many Western nations to adhere to international agreements that prohibit the acquisition of looted antiquities.
Hawass specifically drew attention to the British Museum and the Louvre, calling for the return of unlawfully acquired Egyptian artifacts. He criticized the British Museum's handling of such antiquities as a "crime against humanity" and stated that these venues are no longer suitable for exhibiting Egyptian relics.
To rally support, Hawass initiated an online petition demanding the return of two renowned artworks—the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and the Dendera Zodiac currently displayed in the Louvre—to Egypt. Once the petition reaches a million signatures, he intends to submit an official repatriation request to the museums. The retrieved artifacts will be showcased in the Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to open between October 2023 and February 2024 in Giza.
The issue of repatriating stolen artifacts remains a matter of divided debate. Luca Belloni, director of the Sconesi Gallery in Dubai, acknowledged that the topic is complex and controversial. He argued that Western museums possess superior resources for maintaining and sharing global culture and arts, as well as effectively preserving and studying ancient artworks.
However, many experts, including Hawass, emphasize the importance of repatriating stolen artifacts as both a process of decolonization and historical redress. They view such actions as acts of justice toward the affected countries and a means to reaffirm their cultural legacies. The argument for repatriation is grounded in principles of historical justice and compensation for the harm caused to indigenous societies through colonization and plunder. These artifacts often hold significant cultural value for the countries of origin.