The Rosetta Stone: Where Does It Belong?

The Rosetta Stone

For most of us, we have heard of the Rosetta Stone through the language-learning software. However, the actual Egyptian antiquity, made in 196 BCE, is now making headlines for the question of its ownership.

The Rosetta Stone was originally discovered by French soldiers in 1799 when the French invaded the Ottoman Empire but was quickly changed hands when the British defeated the French in 1801. According to the Treaty of Alexandria, the stone now belonged to the British. The Rosetta Stone is about 45 inches tall and includes inscriptions about priesthood. It is significant in history because it included some Greek as well as hieroglyphics in the inscriptions. Using the Greek writing, the British could solve the ancient puzzle and decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Today, the Rosetta Stone rests in display in the British Museum, but it may not for long. In 2002, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, requested that the stone come back to its homeland of Egypt, where he thinks that it rightfully belongs. Because the stone was looted by the French, Hawass expresses, it never legally belonged to the British after the Treaty of Alexandria. After extensive consultation, however, the British ownership of the stone was confirmed legal in 2005. Now it has become a moral issue as to where the Rosetta Stone should reside and debate continues today. It appears that this issue will be resolved by 2013, which is when the Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open. One possible resolution is to rotate the stone between the Louvre (in Paris), the British Museum, and the Grand Egyptian Museum. Personally, I feel that this is the best solution because it gives people from all over the world an opportunity to see an important artifact. The stone is very durable, and would not be harmed during transportation. If this rotational ownership were to occur, the stone would once again link cultures, as it did 200 years ago.

Egypt Wants Rosetta Stone Back–Youtube Video


Works Cited

Downs, Jonathan. “Returning the Rosetta Stone to Egypt.” The Rosetta Stone: the Controversy, the Solutions. 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.

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2 Responses to The Rosetta Stone: Where Does It Belong?

  1. bmathieu says:

    I believe the Rosetta Stone should be permanently returned to Egypt. The colonizing powers of Britain and France stole the work, and neither nation has the right to claim it as their own. Following this line of thought, the British and French (or any nation other than Egypt for that matter) have no jurisdiction to decide what should be done with the stone, as it is the property of Egypt. The Rosetta Stone – like so many other works of arts – is a victim of colonial thievery. In addition, I think the premise of alternating the work between nations is flawed, because it is not for westerners to decide. I believe Dr. Zahi Hawass is correct in asserting that the Rosetta Stone return to Egypt, its rightful home.

  2. mejamerson says:

    This is a very interesting topic. Looting seems to be a common problem and after reading the article of how the Minneapolis Museum returned a looted artifact, it would seem right to return this wrongfully taken artifact to its homeland of Egypt. However, the point of how if the Rosetta Stone were to travel amongst all three countries it would connect today’s cultures just as it did 200 years ago is a very important one to make. I agree that this would be the best solution. Just as the King Tut exhibit has made tours to several different museums, so should the Rosetta Stone. This is the best way for the public to have access to an important historical artifact.

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