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Unlocking Egypt's Past: The Rosetta Stone and Dendera Zodiac – Exclusive Interview with Dr. Hawass

A Journey Through Time and Diplomacy, and Determination as Dr. Zahi Hawass Champions Egypt's Cultural Heritage

By: Nour Elshenawy

The quest to bring back Egypt's cultural treasures, the Rosetta Stone, and the Dendera Zodiac, has been an ongoing mission for Dr. Zahi Hawass, the renowned Egyptologist, archaeologist, and former Minister of Antiquities. In an exclusive interview with The Gaudie, Dr. Hawass shared his insights on the historical and cultural significance of these artifacts, his inspiration to initiate a petition for their return, the current status of his efforts, and the potential benefits for Egypt's cultural heritage.

Unraveling the Significance

The Rosetta Stone is not merely a stone; it is a symbol of cultural heritage and linguistic discovery. Dr. Hawass elucidated its importance by recounting its history. Discovered by the French in 1799 and subsequently claimed by the English, the stone carries inscriptions in two languages: ancient Egyptian and Greek. These inscriptions comprise a decree from Ptolemy King Number 5 to the priests, and they played a pivotal role in deciphering the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. "This is why it's an icon in my eyes," Dr. Hawass emphasized.

In the case of the Dendera Zodiac, a captivating piece of astronomical history, Dr. Hawass lamented its removal from the Temple of Hathor. It was taken by a French thief and eventually ended up in the Louvre Museum, far from its rightful home.

A Personal Mission

Dr. Hawass's inspiration to initiate the petition for the return of these artifacts was born out of a deep sense of responsibility. He began his mission in 2010 by requesting the return of the Bust of Nefertiti, followed by his petition to return the Rosetta Stone and Dendera Zodiac. "I decided to take it upon myself without the help of the Egyptian government to return these artifacts to Egypt," he explained. With the help of the Egyptian community, he aimed to gather one million signatures to send an official letter, reigniting the call for repatriation.

The Current Status

As of now, Dr. Hawass and his supporters have garnered over 200,000 signatures, a significant milestone but still a distance from their one-million-signature goal. Dr. Hawass highlights the importance of reaching this goal and enlists the help of people in the UK to acquire more signatures. The aim is to prompt the UK Parliament to consider the return of these cultural artifacts to their rightful home.

The Potential Benefits

Dr. Hawass stressed that he is not advocating for the return of all artifacts, but specifically for the unique and culturally significant ones. He believes these treasures belong in the Egyptian Grand Museum, where they can be properly preserved and appreciated. The recent theft of 2,000 artifacts from the British Museum's basement has raised concerns about their ability to safeguard Egypt's cultural heritage.

Challenges and Obstacles

The primary challenge in this endeavor is uniting people from around the world as one voice to request the museums' cooperation in repatriating these artifacts. It's a fight that Dr. Hawass continues to pursue with unwavering determination.

International Support

While organizations may be hesitant to contribute, Dr. Hawass has received support from many Egyptians, and foreigners, through his lectures, have shown immense interest in and support for the cause. The majority of those who have signed the petition are, in fact, foreigners who recognize the importance of cultural heritage.

Strategies for Success

With a successful career in repatriating over 6,000 artifacts, Dr. Hawass explained his strategy is to focus on the return of the unique and culturally significant pieces. He advocates for museums to cease the practice of purchasing stolen artifacts, which perpetuates the theft of valuable cultural treasures.

A Plea to Museums

In his closing message, Dr. Hawass urged museums and institutions holding these artifacts to reconsider their role in preserving cultural heritage. He expressed the dangers of buying stolen artifacts, encouraging further thefts of ancient tombs and cultural treasures stating that “It’s a shame, if any museum will buy a stolen artifact, you are encouraging thief’s to come and attack tombs, and steal our artifacts, museums need to thank god for how many of our artifacts they already have, this is really enough!” Instead, he implored them to embrace the responsibility of preserving and celebrating the heritage already in their possession.

Dr. Zahi Hawass's tireless efforts to repatriate Egypt's cultural treasures are not just a matter of national pride but a testament to the shared cultural heritage of the world. The call for the return of the Rosetta Stone and Dendera Zodiac is a compelling narrative of history's journey home.


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