Stolen Antiquities: Should they be Returned?

Posted: December 1, 2014 in Discussion, Uncategorized
How are antiquities essential to a country’s nationalism?
Aren’t these antiquities being preserved? Doesn’t Egypt just want them back  to make money?
Won’t more people see the Rosetta Stone in London than in Cairo?
Isn’t it  important for countries to have the objects which reflect their cultural heritage and national history in their own museums?




  1. Miller Yarbrough says:

    Cool stuff.

  2. Juliana Kaldany says:

    I can see why people may think that all artifacts should be returned to their rightful countries. The return of all Egyptian artifacts means a big boost in tourism in Egypt, which results in an economy boost, which is amazing for the country. It also means tourists can get the full experience, they get to see the artifacts in their “natural habitat”.
    But even though I see why people think they should return, I don’t exactly agree. The economy of a certain country isn’t as important as the safe keeping of important artifacts that we can learn from. And it’s a better experience to see many international artifacts on one building than travelling each country just to see their artifacts. Using the excuse that it once belonged to them is invalid, it’s the equivalent of Italy asking Jordan to “give back” all Jerash artifacts.

    • eunsoljun15 says:

      I don’t agree that these artifacts would bring a “big boost” in tourism in Egypt. I think Egypt has already enough historical cites that attract the tourists’ eyes. It has the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile River and much more. I don’t think this is the why Egyptians would want it back. I agree with you; however, on the point that it’s invalid to use the excuse that it once belonged to them. The world is too global now to recognize property because history is intertwined as we made “interactions” and “diffusion”.

      • Juliana Kaldany says:

        Eun, I didn’t mean that just getting the Rosetta Stone by itself will create that big boost, I’m talking about ALL the artifacts being returned to Egypt. If all of them return then it definitely will result in a boost. (in my opinion, of course)

      • William Close says:

        I disagree with two things about your reply. Firstly there is a lot of history in Egypt and there is a lot to see, but the intricate facades and expert craftsmanship that was stripped from the surfaces of these incredible works is also a big portion of what once made them so astonishing to behold. If a tomb is stripped of its collections of mummies, riches, and various antiquities what is it but just a hole in the ground? Who wants to go see a bunch of holes in the grounds? That still leaves many sites of significance but many truly unique things are gone so to say they have enough stuff to see shouldn’t be an excuse for the theft that has taken place.

        Secondly I disagree with your last statement that the world is too intertwined to recognize property because that is simply not true. If you bought stolen property does that make it legitimately yours or shouldn’t it be returned to its legitimate owner? if you mean to question the legitimacy of Egypt’s claim then please carry on but to say it can’t be done in my opinion should never be said.

      • Xu Zhaoying says:

        I have to agree with Juliana here. The value of an antiquity is based on how much historical importance it has and how many “stories” are involved. Take Rosetta Stone as an example, once it is returned, it’s no longer a simple antiquity. A symbol of victory of Egyptian nationalism (Arab nationalism, on a greater scale) and respect for the Middle East will be added on the Rosetta Stone, boosting its value and adding on the reason for people to have another look at it. The illustration of Rosetta Stone of any book will change from merely “an ancient inscribed decree” to “Egyptian’s victory in the long history in European-Arab struggle”, multiplying its value. The true value of these antiquities lie within the fact that they were robbed and have the potential to be returned as a sign of peace, while such value cannot be revealed if they’re kept in a British museum. And there will definitely be a boost in Egyptian economy,tourism and national/Arab pride. You can’t imagine how involved people are in searching for a new dramatic story, in this case a story like Britain returning antiquities to Egypt, and travelling around to see it.

      • eunsoljun15 says:

        To reply back to Will’s point, without those big portions, tourists got themselves into Egypt. What were their incentives of going there? I am sure they didn’t go to see some random walls. There is still something there that attracted and still attracts these tourists.

        I slightly agree that it’s fully not true, but how do we know who the legitimate owner is if these artifacts were used by other generations that we are not even aware of? For example, how can we distinguish a certain property if the place was conquered by them?

    • I doubt that the artifacts, if returned, would stay safe and make Egypt rich. I think upon their arrival they are most likely to get looted or destroyed. I mean look at Egypt, the insecurity rises daily.

      • Juliana Kaldany says:

        Wali, I never said that the return of the artifacts will make them rich, I just said it’ll make a positive change in their economy (boost). And clearly you don’t know that much about Egyptian security rates at tourist sites. It’s pretty secure in Egyptian tourist sites. And the biggest contributor to the country’s income is tourism, and second is the Suez Canal *chokepoint*. So, if over 6 million people annually visit the International British Museum then imagine how many million more people will visit Egypt if all artifacts are returned.

    • Juliana, I know more about Egyptian security than a lot of Egyptians themselves do and certainly more aware of it than you ever was. I have multiple friends who live both in Cairo and Alexandria and I have an ongoing dialogue with them. Yes, it is true that the media isn’t all that trust worthy, but look at what is going on in the heart of Egypt these days.
      Just today a terrorist group admitted the abduction and murder of an American citizen who was killed some days ago. I can give you multiple accounts from just this past year in which foreigners i.e “tourists” have been targeted and killed in Egypt. AND just today hundreds and hundreds of people protested in Cairo about the release of Husni Mubarak. Do you know what happens in many of the protests in Egypt? I doubt it, but I will tell you. People go rogue and burn or loot markets, and banks and anything else. Anything can happen during protests. A museum or a historic site is not an exception. People can easily get into a museum and break things in an insecure place like Egypt…

  3. First and foremost, Nationalism is a baseless old phenomenon that is concerned solely with a people’s illusory pride that neither feeds the poor nor educates the public about life and living in harmony with others. Secondly, storing a pile of artifacts in some building in a nation like Egypt with grand insecurity and political issues does very little to its nationalism and the uniting of its people who fight over power, religious beliefs etc.

    If the purpose is as “noble” as informing people about the history of a nation then is it logical to put historic data in a place where a grand majority can see it FOR FREE and many great scholars can study them or store them in a hostile environment where the artifacts are not only not appreciated, but are prone to destruction? As Richard Faulkner, an archaeological scholar says, “Rosetta Stone and other artifacts from around the world are safe, easily accessible, and free to visit in British Museum, the greatest art museum in the world.” British museum is a global cultural center that has over 6 million visitors each year, and these are not just British people, but people from all over the world.

    Furthermore, contrary to the claims of Mr. Zahi the director of Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, and for a fact, Egypt is one of the most insecure places on earth. Egyptian news is all over the media and we can see the day to day issues with the security in Cairo and Alexandria. In a country where the majority of the people struggle with safety issues, lack of good health, mediocre educational system, and terrible economy… the appreciation of art and artifacts is never really a big thing.

    Besides, Rosetta Stone doesn’t belong to the Egypt that we know today. It belongs to (Ptolemaic dynasty) an era utterly incomparable to the Egypt as we know it today. Nobody can claim ownership of such things as Rosetta Stone because they are historic data that speak history to the human race as a whole. Britain never claimed that they found Rosetta Stone and other artifacts under the London Bridge or in Stonehenge. It is clear as sun that the artifacts are Egyptian and they show the history of a part of the globe in east. So Egypt should be happy that their history is easily accessible to anybody in the safest of museums.

    …Rather than wanting to make easy money off of artifacts, Egypt should work on its judicial system where they can actually persecute criminals responsible for the destruction of thousands of innocent lives.

  4. Yes, indeed those antiquities reflect the country’s cultural heritage and historical significance but our region is not capable of maintaining such heritage.
    Egypt might have advanced technology and well preserved antiquities at their museums nowadays, but not everybody has that full awareness of the importance of those antiquities. Those archeologists do know the importance of those historical pieces but not the commoners. Most of them usually try to steal from the tombs and sell them elsewhere for the money. Egypt’s government doesn’t want the money, the people do. Personally, I have seen pictures of people in Iraq sitting and standing on Babylonian lion statue without taking into account that it is an artifact. That statue has been left unpreserved for fifteen thousand years and scientists believe that all the features and details on that statue will soon erode and it will just turn into a rock due to the fact that it has been exposed to pollution and other factors.
    Also, another reason why those antiquities should be kept and preserved outside is the instability of our region. The simplest example would be when Iraq’s regime had fallen and everybody started looting museums. There were ships and cars waiting for the regime to fall to take everything away. Lets not go so far back in time, just a few months ago a terrorist organization bombed prophet Adam’s son and a mosque that dated back to prophet Adam’s time. People’s extreme religious beliefs also impose a threat on those artifacts. Muslim extremists could possibly say it is wrong to have statues and go off ruining whatever historical statue there is in Egypt, even though there is no such thing stated in the Qur’an. It is safer for those antiquities to be preserved in London, and as Zahi Hawass said, they do not belong to a single nation but to the whole world. To some extent it’s like when you have something for a long time that you have forgotten about and someone else finds it and takes it from you. Only then will you realize you have it and how valuable it is to you.

    • Prophet Adam’s son’s shrine**

    • I would like to point out that people who bomb the tombs and what not aren’t “muslim extremists,” but rather people with little knowledge about their religion. The word “extremist” suggests that the people understood the core of the religion with all its depth and acted upon their grave and in-depth understanding of the religion. That really isn’t the case.

      • I am aware of that, but that is what they’re known to be called. I am not saying they do understand Islam as a religion and I clearly stated that it is not what is stated in the Qur’an anyway. They claim to be muslim. None of their actions represent Islam though.

  5. Maybe they are called that by some people who don’t know, but if a person knows the correct meaning of a title and still use it in the wrong context then…. I mean it is easy to be misunderstood, so clarity can be helpful…

    • Plus I didn’t say it was “muslim extremists” who bombed the tombs, I said terrorist organisations. Read carefully next time that could also be helpful. What I meant to say is that “Muslim Extremists” do have extreme beliefs where they could possibly say that having a statue is wrong due to the fact that people before used to worship statues and idols.

      • I don’t really like arguing over technicalities that much, but since you are insistent then let me point our exactly what you said and dissect what you said. This is a direct quotation from your post:
        “Muslim extremists could possibly say it is wrong to have statues and go off ruining whatever historical statue there is in Egypt, even though there is no such thing stated in the Qur’an.”

        A Muslim extremist is a person who knows Quran and islam by all means and DO NOT do or “say” something against the religion. When you say that “Muslim Extremists could possibly say something…” you are making an assumption that Muslim extremists are people who usually make false claims and it is possible that they would ruin the artifacts.

        Besides you said this sentence right after you said: “People’s extreme religious beliefs also impose a threat on those artifacts.”

        That leads the reader to draw one possible conclusion. And that is that the writer means that Muslim extremists who as you said, have “extreme religious beliefs” impose a threat to the artifacts.

    • I am not going to go into a a long discussion regarding religion, but I will reply to your “argument”.
      A Muslim extremist isn’t necessarily ” a person who knows Quran and islam by all means and DO NOT do or “say” something against the religion.” There is a portion of those extremists who misunderstand the real meaning of Islam which is really a religion of EASE, and that is the extremism I am talking about. The extremist who doesn’t accept having a piece of art like a statue or a picture in their house because it signifies idols. Although during prophet Mohammad’s time (PBUH) in Ramadan, families would create toys for their children to play with, to kill the time until Iftar, which could look like a statue but the prophet did not prohibit such making of toys. Regardless, there are people who believe statues are symbols of worshipping idols, and I personally know people who have such beliefs and they are MUSLIM. Wouldn’t you say that their beliefs are extreme?? Anyway, that is what I meant by extreme Muslim beliefs.

  6. abbyhungate says:

    I think that the places where the artifacts were taken from should choose whether they want them back and which ones they want back. It is true that the artifacts would probably be better taken care of in a museum or something, but it is part of a countries culture and identity and I think it deserves to be theirs. It might not be beneficial to either place to give it back, but in this case, I don’t think the British have the right to keep these artifacts that were made somewhere else, that they took, and are now refusing to give back. History is what makes someones or some places identity and if important Egyptian history is being shown in a museum in Britain, why would someone go to Egypt to see the culture? Instead of traveling and experiencing places, it becomes easy to go to one place and see things from a hundred others. I think it is extremely important for the Egyptians and Greek to be able to claim their artifacts if they want them because they were created there and are a part of their culture and identity.

    • Bridghid Sheffield says:

      I get what you’re saying but as you said, why go to Egypt to see Egyptian artifacts when you can go to the British museum and see antiquities from all over the world? Would you rather take 1 trip and see everything, or take many trips to see one thing at a time?

      • Mr. L says:

        Good point newbie!!!

      • abbyhungate says:

        Thats an arguable point, but I would rather take one trip and see one thing in its original place and understand where it came from and its meaning, than see hundreds of things in the same room with no context and no sentimentality towards them.

      • Benjamin Broz says:

        On a similar note, you don’t go to the Louvre, British Museum, or Smithsonian to see Egyptian artifacts, you go because they are among the best institutions in the world and are know for promoting international heritage, not just a nationalistic identity.

    • Miller Yarbrough says:

      The history of a region shouldn’t determine whether its deserving of an artifact. Egyptians have as little right to own such artifacts as the British, since neither has any connection to the objects aside from the vague cultural similarities. Modern Egyptian culture is nothing like Ancient Egyptian culture, and these artifacts have to significance to Egyptians’ lives. Therefore, the artifacts should stay where they are since nobody has any claim to them.

  7. salehqadi says:

    I don’t think these antiquities would mean anything to the Egyptian tourism because in the Arab world, not many people are interested in seeing such things like the Rosetta stone and not many people from the West would make it to Egypt to see such a thing. My second point is that I personally think that a country that had the gas pipeline bombed in its lands for more than 26 times to save such things from getting damaged or even stolen. In Egypt, when the Muslim Brotherhood come to power they wanted to destroy all the Pyramids as they said they were haram, so extremists are a problem too. The fact that these antiquities are saved in a safe place where it’s easy for people to go see, and scholars to go study, is better than having them in their home lands.

    • Mjdul AlRowwad says:

      La ya habeebi, a country like Egypt is able to protect its antiquities,and we’ve seen that even during the Arab spring where policemen and people stood together to defend the national museum in Cairo, which proves that the Egyptians now understand the real value of their antiquities and shall have them back. Also,the stolen antiquities should be returned to Egypt so scholars can have a better understanding of the identity that those antiquities represent.Another thing,you can’t claim that Arab people are not interested in seeing things such as antiquities.Arabs understand the value of their antiquities now and they also know that having such things will attract people and scholars to their country so they could benefit financially. An example of that is Jordan where a huge part of the country’s income comes from tourism.

      • salehqadi says:

        Thank you Mr. L for proving my point…

      • salehqadi says:

        First of all, many of these antiquities were not stolen, they were bought from people. Ancient Arab people did not value the things they had so they just sold it for some amount of money, now knowing that these things would be some valuable stuff nations would fight for. I say this is all because because the people were not well educated, it is like you selling a table from house, and after a thousand years it becomes an antique and maybe something that represent the country and the culture. That what it was like at the time. Second, the financial part is not something that the country of pyramids care about much, they have got the pyramids and Abul Hol man. They get the money anyways, theyre the only country with pyramids but not the only country with ‘old rocks’.

  8. Bridghid Sheffield says:

    Even though the ancient artifacts are a representation of the country, I do not think they should be returned to their original lands. As mentioned in class, the antiquities were not viewed as valuable until someone put them in a museum and deemed them as valuable. In such a well-known and well-funded museum, an artifact like the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum is sure to be well looked after and preserved. Although it is important for countries to have the objects which reflect their cultural heritage and national history in their own museums, the British museum receives over 6 million visitors each year, which I believe would be more visitors than if an Egyptian Museum were to showcase the Rosetta Stone in Cairo. Keeping the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum would be giving the artifact more ‘publicity’.

    • Well, do you not think that the British Museum gets over 6 and a half million visitors each year because it has such precious historic data and artifacts as Rosetta Stone? If so then isn’t it possible that the number of visitors visiting British Museum would decrease once artifacts like Rosetta Stone are returned to their countries. If that is possible then we can conclude that the Egyptian museum too can attract millions of visitors (of course over time).

      I mean we can agree that it is the artifacts in a museum that attracts visitors not just the empty glass cases. So isn’t an artifact better off in the place of its origin and wouldn’t it also effect the situation on the ground in Egypt if the the artifacts are brought back. Once a lot of visitors come to visit Egypt and get informed about Egyptian history, the government’s focus would shift from the nonsense that it does to securing the country and its historic sites…
      There is a saying that goes something like, “a flower looks better in the garden in which it belongs than in a vase in an alien setting.” What do you think?

      • But isn’t it that nonsense the thing that’s keeping people away from Egypt? I don’t think bringing the Rosetta stone back will increase tourism until Egypt gets its act together, not the other way around.
        What really bothers me is: why does it matter? We seem to be treating the Rosetta stone as the epitome of Egyptian culture, the very embodiment of all that is Egyptian. That’s not the case. Yes, I understand the Rosetta stone is an item of great significance, but it is only a part of Egyptian history, a history that is, by far, one of the oldest and, arguably, most consistent. If it is truly history that dictates one’s culture, how is it that we can reduce it to one item? The existence of this one artifact – or really any of the other artifacts, for that matter – does not take anything away from the culture. You don’t see the British Museum saying, “so yeah, this was right next to Stonehenge, 100% Anglo-Saxon historical artifact right there!” They are sharing Egyptian culture with the world, and if it’s pride that is the prime motivator for the Egyptians wanting it back, then they should realise that it serves them best to leave it where it is.
        Let’s suppose they did take it back. What about the Ishtar Gate for Iraq? Or Jordan’s ancient Roman ruins? Or Japanese silk screens? If were going by the logic of “everything should be in its origin,” these things would be everywhere. EVERYWHERE! People aren’t going to spend money traveling everywhere just to get a taste of all these artifacts. In fact, having all these artifacts in such popular places might even promote tourism. When I see the Rosetta stone, I don’t think, “alright that’s Egypt for you.” I see a small part of it. If people are truly interested in exploring the culture, seeing an artifact might encourage them to actually travel!

      • Waliullah Hairan says:

        I agree with you Kahlalyleh. You can see my earlier post;we pretty much address the same things. At the time I saw everybody arguing against returning the artifacts, so I thought maybe I should take the opposing side knowing that it was a bit of a stretch.

    • Juliana Kaldany says:

      I agree with Bridghid in “the antiquities were not viewed as valuable until someone put them in a museum and deemed them as valuable.” We can relate this today and compare it to what we study in school. Most of us learned about Leonardo Di Vinci at some point in our education. The only thing I remember learning about him from last year was that he was described as the “perfect man”. We are taught certain things and those things are given a level of importance that is decided by others. In the end, there are many historical men and women who were greater than Leonardo, but his importance in today’s education remains profound.

  9. Mjdul AlRowwad says:

    I absolutely believe that the stolen antiquities of any country in the world should be returned to their mother land. Stealing the artifacts of a region doesn’t only represent colonialism, it represents cultural occupation which is –in my opinion – is much worse than military occupation. Although some countries claim that they bought the antiquities of Egypt (didn’t steal), they’ve paid much less money to the ignorant Egyptians that didn’t recognize the value of their antiquities.

    I believe that stealing antiquities, and artifacts of a nation leads to the loss of that nation’s identity. “The concept of cultural heritage and identity includes a multitude of tangible as well as intangible components” which means that stealing the antiquities of a country is erasing its identity and its existence. Those antiquities reveal the country’s cultural heritage.

    Some people might argue that the protection of these artifacts is questionable in insecure countries or countries in financial difficulty, and for example artifacts should not be returned home to conditions they wouldn’t possibly be able to survive in. However we have to be aware of the fact that taking and moving the artifacts of their origin to different countries around the world will reduce the understanding of civilizations that the artifacts belong to.

    I agree with the point Eun stated when she denied that Egypt wants its antiquities back just to make money. Egypt and every other country should have back their antiquities because of their cultural value.

  10. William Close says:

    I believe as many objects as can be returned should be returned but the returning of such objects should be contingent on, in this case, Egypt’s ability to provide them with the proper care.

    To say that the Rosetta Stone and other artifacts do not positively effect the economy of Britain solely because they do not charge admission fees is unbased. Tourism is a major part of the British museum that in turn draws people from all over the world. Tourism is beneficial to countries not because of admissions prices of museums but because of the money that tourists spend in those places. This money is going to nations that are not the true home of these artifacts. This is wrong. The proposed policies of visiting exhibits are a step in right direction and are probably the best that can be achieved.

    If Egypt as a country is not safe then priceless cultural artifacts should not be given back, yet. Risking the integrity of these artifacts when the safe transfer can be insured in a few years is not beneficial. Now there can be no doubt that this will benefit Egypt whether in a small or large way can be argued.

    The proper care and protection of these antiquities must be administered and to say that Egypt is unstable at the moment is fair but when Egypt becomes stable again the excuse will just change. For items such as these that draw people from around the world every year to spend money in a given countries economy it is no wonder that it does. I think all antiquities should be returned but this will not happen unless geopolitical pressure from multiple nations is applied.

  11. Jude Hadadeen says:

    I personally believe that the antiquities should not return to Egypt. It is undeniable that Egypt is the nation that once owned them, however, nowadays, Egypt is in no suitable condition to retain these antiquities. Only ten months ago, The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo was completely destroyed in a bombing. One cannot foresee the future of what would happen to the claimed antiquities if they returned to their homeland – an unstable, unpredictable country. Also, Egypt’s reaction to these stolen antiquities is quite immature. It reminds me of a child that only started wanting a toy when he/she saw another child play with it. Even Hawass himself said, “Sometimes when I open a store and this store is never opened since 100 years, we discover that there is main artifacts stolen. We begin to look for it everywhere.” What he said makes me wonder: Why were these antiquities in storage for a hundred years? Did the Egyptian historians only remember them when they found stolen antiquities in other countries? Clearly, these antiquities were only in storage if the Egyptian museum felt that they were not as important as the other antiquities displayed. Moreover, only a small fraction of Arabs care about art. For example, in Jordan, I personally saw young men leaning on important ruins for a cigarette break. If this is the case in Egypt, England keeping the antiquities should be more emphasized. Also, the fact that England makes no money off of these antiquities makes England’s side of the debate nobler.
    On another note, I personally believe that Hawass is not the suitable person for the quest to take the antiquities back. The fact that he feels the need to raise his voice whenever this issue is raised makes me, as a member of his audience, not take him seriously. I understand that this is a sensitive subject, and he is a prominent historian, but he should act more professionally while dealing with this topic.

  12. Daniel A. Leal says:

    The matter of fact is that the Egyptian antiquities were stolen. It is by the very nature of this theft that the correct thing to do is to return them. Personally, it is not a question of whether they should return but rather when? It is true that Egypt currently lacks the stability as a country and as society, having apparent fractures along religious, ethnic, political, and other divisions. Yet, these antiquities are a part of Egypt’s heritage. To say that the Egyptians who currently live in Egypt are not the same as those from the Ptolemaic Dynasty holds sense in physical terms but in identity and culture, the Ptolemaic Dynasty is a foundation stone of Egypt’s current identity, as events that occurred then have modern day ramifications, after all that is why history is studied.

    The Rosetta Stone in particular was a souvenir the British took when they defeated the French in Egypt, in 1801. After all it had been Napoleon’s Egyptologists who deciphered hieroglyphs. It was instantly shipped to the British Museum, where it came on public display in 1802. With such a context, the Rosetta Stone became a symbol of triumph and domination over another. The British possession of the Rosetta Stone is a symbol of imperialism and a domination over the Middle East, one that was directly present in Egypt through the Suez Canal and the war Gammal Abdel Nasser would eventually embark on war, resulting in the Suez Crisis in 1956, where it became public knowledge that Israel’s involvement was incentivized by France and the U.K. which lead to their defeat as the U.S. diplomatically stepped in. Considering this incident and others, the British possession of Egyptian antiques such as the Rosetta Stone is a sign of the U.K.’s dominance over Egypt.

    Most of Egypt’s instability comes at the hands of nationalism, a feeling of belonging to a specific group of people, which came unto Egypt from France. This nationalism has been radicalized, leading to Egypt’s past and current issues which have led to its instability. The usurpation of Egypt’s antiquities is a manifestation of Europe’s intrusion in Egypt. The solution lies upon the legitimate recognition of Egypt’s identity through actions such as the return of their antiquities. While having such antiquities in the British Museum is more convenient, history is not about convenience, it is about understanding, which in terms of antiquities mean having them in their original context. The reason they are studied is to gain understanding of a culture, from which they where stolen, implying that in the British Museum such artifacts as the Rosetta Stone are trophies rather than true works of art and manifestations of human expression To say that these antiquities were not valued until they were bought or taken is a gross understatement, in fact these objects had such a great value to a society that they transcended their own material existence and diffused into the culture under which they came into existence. Simply because these artifacts were not kept in glass displays and polished everyday, does not mean that they were not held up to their respected importance. Rather, these artifacts were respected in their original context which endowed them a portion of their value, granted there were those who were ignorant to such value and did not care for the antiquities. The Europeans cared less for the value of such antiquities, for they knew that their importance came from their context and the chose to take them from their context as trophies of dominance.

  13. The return of these antiques, in my opinion, has nothing to do with tourism or money. Heck it even has little to do with national identity. My art history friends should know, this is about power and authority. What these antiques represented (to the rich and educated few) in the west is what the great had left after their death. Today the west’s argument for hoarding all of these antiques makes it seem as if all that the likes of Howard Carter and George Herbert wanted was to ‘protect’ and defend those poor precious pieces from the barbarism of those who inherited it. In reality, this was a very bold symbolic move.

    By having what the great civilizations of the past left behind in the possession of the west symbolizes the inheritance of that greatness- that the light of civilization now shines over the west. Think about it.To all those intellectuals, the gate of Ishtar and the code of hammurabi are representative of greatness. They are tokens, passed on from one great civilization to another in the cycle of history, where one civilization is inevitably championed by another emerging one.

    The west wants to keep those for as long as it can, because it feels entitled to keep them. Their well being was not the main reason for transferring them. Heinrich Schliemann was sending artifacts in the tons to Germany whilst it was in the midst of its war with France. Besides, Europe has only been peaceful for not more than the past half century, but most of the antiques have been there for at least a century with some having been there for over 2 centuries (and where were the pieces in the midst of the two world wars? talk about safety in Europe!). Sure, the west takes good care of them now, but it did not bring them there to bring them to safety. You can talk about the physical care that they give them all day, but that is all a symbolic power move.

    The return of those antiques will have great ramifications. Never underestimate the influence which these pieces can have on people. When you uncovered them, and now own them, and you know the value that they have, they will affect how you conduct yourself- this is what they have done to the West. We can only imagine the effect which they will have on the- now educated- population which is descendant of who created them.

  14. Lilia_Smyth says:

    I think the ethics of repatriation of artwork and artifacts of cultural significance should be considered on a case by case basis. Personally, with the current situation in Egypt, it will benefit no one to return the antiquities. Also, it should be noted that in both videos, Hawass requests that not all of the art and artifacts excavated from Egypt be returned, only a few famous pieces, and even suggests that some be repatriated temporarily for a ‘visit’ instead of being returned to the country. This, to me, undermines the claim being made that the repatriation of Egyptian art is necessary because it belongs to Egypt, and is a part of its national identity. If that were the case, there would be no room for compromise; ALL artifacts taken from Egypt would be requested for repatriation – not just the famous and iconic ones. Also, it’s been made clear that the artifacts would be seen by more people in the metropolitan museums where they are already located, and that they are safely preserved in those museums.

    And, in terms of the idea of a ‘loss of the national identity,’ even though the artifacts are being displayed in a different country, this does not make them any less Egyptian. They are merely showcased in a different location, but understood, studied, and presented in the context of Ancient Egypt and recognized as symbols of Egyptian culture. They’re being displayed in a foreign country does not erase their history or connection to their homeland, it merely physically separates it.

    However, in the case arguing for the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece, there is a different story. Greece is stable enough to preserve the artifacts, and in fact already has a museum constructed to house the marbles, which complete the other half of the collection already in Athens. The Greek government is stable, with a strong flow of tourists visiting the country to visit it’s museums and cultural heritage sights. In Greece, the Marbles will be guaranteed great exposure due to the many tourists, as well as adequate preservation and protection.

    It is true that both the antiquities taken from Egypt and Greece which are housed in the British Museum were obtained deceitfully and do not ‘belong’ to the British in the sense that they are not of British origin, and therefore are requested to be repatriated. However, the circumstances of their potential repatriation, not unlike the artifacts themselves, must be understood in the context of the current situation of the country, and the assurance of the preservation, protection, and accessibility of these artifacts so important to cultural identity and to human history.

  15. Xu Zhaoying says:

    The ability of Egypt for retaining or preserving the antiquities should not become a justification for Britain or other European countries to lawfully possess these antiquities. I don’t think any one can personally accept the logic that “If you don’t take care of your properties, I can just take them away from you.” If the antiquities were given as a gift, then let them remain in the museum and be labeled “gift from Egyptian hospitality”. If not, then it belongs to their original owner, whenever they have the ability and technology to retain them.
    Coming from another country with robbed antiquities, I can understand why there’s a need for Egyptians to retrieve these antiquities, and what it means for the Egyptian if the British make such a compromise. Now in this intertwined world, millions of people visit the British Museum per year, some of them coming from the Arab world. They’re walking around in this foreign country, yet they see their own culture, their robbed property laying in someone else’s exhibition window labeled as someone else’s property. If this scene doesn’t make them furious, at least it would make them uncomfortable, nationalism playing a role in their mind. I don’t know how it works here, but back in China, the returning of an antiquity was often marked with national pride and used to boost the faith in this country, and surely Egypt now have the need for such faith and unity. The benefit on Egyptian economy and tourism definitely exists, but the amount can be argued. Only looking at what these antiquities mean to Egypt, there’s a need for Egypt to ask them back.
    In addition, I don’t see any reason why these antiquities don’t belong to Egypt. “Sure Egypt once had it but now it belongs to Britain and the world” is not an accurate description for their ownership, since Egyptians didn’t give up their historical right in possessing them. During WWII, the Nazi seized countless antiquities and artworks from Austrian and other countries involved. Those artworks are not laying in “the German Museum.” They were returned not only to their country, but specifically, to their original owners. If this could happen in the 20th century, I don’t see a reason why Egypt cannot get their properties back. Antiquities don’t and will not become the world’s property by the act of robbery, neither should it be lawfully kept by the robber.

  16. farah sinokrot says:

    Nationalism is defined by an individual identifying himself by his nation. Therefore a nation is identified by the people’s heritages, culture, ideals and customs. However, when a nation like Egypt, identify it’s self by it’s history of an ancient civilization, the artifacts represents who Egypt is. Hence, if these artifacts are in London or Berlin or in any Museum they still represent Egypt and Egyptian nationalism and will be shown to the world and people will know what the artifact’s value is, especially that people from all around the world are scared to come to the middle east because of the Arab spring. In Egypt the history and heritage will never be lost because the pyramids and the artifacts that are already their and that should be preserved to represent the Egyptian nationalism and identity.Thus, now that Egyptian people are asking for the artifacts and the fact that they just realized that it is a part of who they is evident it is not because the artifact have been taken away by the Europeans a long time ago and then just realizing that they want it back shows that it is not important if they didn’t need it all this time.

  17. Benjamin Broz says:

    This situation reminds me of the story of Adele Bloch-Bauer’s portrait done by Gustav Climt. In Adele’s will she donated the painting to the Austrian State Gallery. During WW2 the painting was seized by the Nazi regime, after WW2 the Austrian government recovered the paintings, but in 2006, the niece of Adele sued the Austrian government over rightful ownership of the paintings. She eventually won the ensuing legal battle, received the painting, and promptly turned around and sold it to a New York museum for a cool 135 million dollars.
    If these antiquities are returned to Egypt or other countries because they claim they are rightfully theirs that they have more of a right to own these artifacts, what is stopping them from immediately turning around and selling them back to the museums the artifacts just vacated?

  18. Misk says:

    Egyptian Artifacts in the British Museum are well preserved and taken care of, and should not be returned to Egypt. The placement of the Rosetta stone in the British Museum has attracted a lot of attention, and people from all over the world are able to immerse themselves in the culture of Egypt, without actually having to travel that far. Egypt has the great pyramids as a main attraction, and yet London is still one of the most visited cities. Artifacts are easily accessible, and people from all over the world are educated about a culture they would not previously know much about.

  19. Faisal.D says:

    Egypt’s artifacts are important not because Egypt needs it to make money but because its there history and one needs his or hers history its essential and plus Egypt is a very important country in the middle east and known for its history and artifacts .

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