The Rosetta Stone Controversy — Interesting Insights from Mary Beard

The debate over the return of artifacts to their ‘rightful’ owners has become increasingly heated in the past decade as countries have discovered the power they yield to get these objects returned.  The active return of objects in the past decade began with the Getty Villa’s unprecedented return of 40 objects to Italian state.  Italy’s success in coercing the Getty and later the Met has been emulated by Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who succeeded in getting the Louvre to promise the return of four frescoes.

While there was evidence that the frescoes which the Louvre returned had been stolen from Egypt in the 80s, the history of the Rosetta Stone is much less murky.  Mary Beard, an eminent Classicist at Cambridge, makes an astute assessment of Egypt’s claims to the Rosetta stone stating, ” It wasn’t born an icon, it became an icon by a lot of hard academic grind.”  She argues that the Rosetta Stone became a symbol of French and English academic pursuits and even of the 18th century struggle for power between the two nations.  I am impressed that a scholar of Beard’s standing is willing to take, as she puts it, this “jingoistic” stance.


About projectpatrimonio

Helena Boyden Lamb, born 1985 in New York, has studied and worked in Politics, Heritage Ethics and Politics, and Opera Singing. Most recently, she is working in Brussels where she started in a European Think Tank and is now the Executive Office of a NGO which facilitates Youth Politics across the EU. She has a Bachelor with Honors from Stanford University, California in Classics: Politics and Heritage and a Masters with Honors from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK in European Identity. She has conducted academic or independent grant-funded research in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Albania. She was, previously, an archaeologist and an opera singer. Cynthia Querio is a Museum Educator currently living and working in Los Angeles. She is interested in heritage and identity politics and the role of museum education departments in the trajectory of this debate. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a 9 month graduate internship at the Getty Villa's education department and has continued to work in many museums in Los Angeles including LACMA and the Autry National Center. Her academic background is in the Classics, which was her major at Stanford University and which she continued to pursue with a Masters in the History of Classical Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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