Lost treasures Egyptians want back

For decades, Egyptians have dreamed of bringing back some of the glories of their ancient civilization scattered across museums and private collections across the world. Now as Cairo gears up to open "the largest archaeological museum in the world" at the foot of the pyramids of Giza in November, Egypt's former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass told AFP that he will soon demand the return of three of its greatest lost treasures.

The basalt slab dating from 196 B.C. was the key that helped French linguist Jean-Francois Champollion crack the code of Egypt's ancient hieroglyphs.

The stone was discovered by Napoleon Bonaparte's invading French army in 1799 while troops were repairing a fort near the Nile Delta port of Rashid (or Rosetta), close to the Mediterranean.

It bore extracts of a decree written in Ancient Greek, an ancient Egyptian vernacular script called Demotic and hieroglyphics.

Comparing the three scripts finally helped resolve a mystery which had bedeviled historians for centuries.

Champollion announced his discovery on Sept. 27, 1822.

The stele has been housed in the British Museum since 1802, inscribed with the legend "Captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801" on one side and "presented by King George III" to the museum on the other.

Egypt has been demanding its return for decades, with Egyptologist Heba Abdel Gawad saying the inscriptions alone were "an act of violence that no one talks about, and which the British Museum denies is destruction of an artefact."

The museum told AFP that the stone was "handed over to the British as a diplomatic gift."

The bust of the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, whose name meant "the beautiful one has come," was sculpted around 1340 B.C. but was carted...

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