Egypt Called; It Wants Its Rosetta Stone Back
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Unidentified Man: King Tut, the golden pharaoh.
NEDA ULABY: This mummy has been a celebrity for almost a century. But, says Thomas Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, let's be real about the 19 artifacts returning to Egypt.
THOMAS CAMPBELL: We have to keep this in perspective. These are not kind of gold faced masks, and vast sarcophagi.
ULABY: So, what are they?
CAMPBELL: Fragments. They are bits of wood, bits of textile, a little vase with some gunk in it.
ULABY: And some cooler things, like a teeny tiny sphinx and a little bronze dog - hardly the stuff of blockbuster exhibitions. Still, the fact that the Met voluntarily gave them back, although the museum was under no legal obligation to do so, was a triumph for the Egyptian antiquities department.
(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)
ULABY: You'd also like to try to repatriate the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum. Do you really think that's going to happen?
ZAHI HAWASS: Yes. I am - you will hear soon some good news. I need these unique objects back and I will fight to return them back.
ULABY: Many Egyptians believe these objects are significant to their national heritage, and their presence in European museums is a monument to the days of colonialist looting and exploitation.
HAWASS: Anything that left illegally, it should be back to Egypt.
ULABY: But legalities are difficult to pin down with objects taken 100 or 200 years ago.
PATTY GERSTENBLITH: My guess is that it's relatively unlikely that those will be returned.
ULABY: But Terry Garcia has a little more confidence in Dr. Hawass's powers of persuasion. Garcia works for the National Geographic Society. He says, still, objects like the Rosetta Stone come with their own sets of ethical and legal dilemmas.
TERRY GARCIA: The legal consequences or the claims that might be asserted against the countries or museums holding these objects be is much less clear. It's very murky.
ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
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