There is a bitter custody battle going on these days and it does not involve a battle between husbands or wives. There is no fight over children or pets in this battle. This fight is far more serious. It involves a battle between museums and foreign governments. Currently in the United States court of appeals for the eighth district, the United States is the appellant and is being sued by Egypt for the return of artifacts that have been on display in American museums safely and carefully for many years. Egypt has a lot of nerve trying to do this successfully especially since the government there is a mess and couldn’t possibly protect the integrity of the ancient artifacts in question.
It was not that long ago when we all remembered the takeover of the government in Egypt. We saw the crowds of protesters march throughout the streets of Cairo in unorganized protests. The world saw on their televisions reports of the rape of journalists. Security at the museum’s themselves was terrible. It was only three years ago that the Cairo museum was looted and the building next to it was set on fire and destroyed. Only a human shield of patriotic citizens Locked arms in a circle around the museum and prevented a ransacking of the precious items in the Cairo museum. And now the Egyptian government dares to attempt getting back what the world’s treasures has kept safe for generations.
Masterpieces like the tomb of kings and one of the prized artifacts of the ancient world, The Rosetta Stone which is the granite tablet that was key to deciphering the language people spoke then. It unlocked the secrets of ancient Egypt. It was the beginning of recording history. Carving in granite stones lasts for eternity. Burying art and sculpture deep in tombs kept gold and other valuables safe for generations. Our culture today is all being stored on flash drives and computers all dependent on electric power. Once the palate is gone, so is our history gone.
The most valuable Rosetta stone sits 3,000 miles away from Egypt in London’s British museum. It is interesting to know how it arrived in London. The French discovered it in 1739 when they invaded Egypt. When French forces surrendered to the British in 1801, the stone was handed over. It has remained in London ever since. Egypt wants it back despite the fact that it has had a very good home in England. Many countries want their artifacts back now in their countries. In 2011 the JP Getty Museum in Los Angeles returned a statue of a Goddess carved in marble to Italy. This past May the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art returned art to Cambodia.
Turkey has demanded the return of their historical artifacts from the Museums of several countries and has threatened to withhold the loan of art to some institutions until their demands were met. The Saint Lewis Art Museum is being sued for the return of an ancient mask to Egypt. The Minister of Antiquities in Egypt wants back all the artifacts that were looted from their tombs throughout the years. He is proud of anything Egyptian being on display around the world as long as they are things loaned out for display in foreign countries legally and not stolen. The argument is also being made by Greece. They want the return of the marble artwork that was removed from the famous Parthenon. There is a new Museum built at the foot of the Parthenon in Athens. Inside are some of the greatest Greek classical sculptures.
The missing parts are replaced with plaster figures of which the original marble pieces are on display in London’s British Museum. In this case I agree that all the pieces of a puzzle belong together weather stolen or acquired legally. However, with Egyptian art, the world jut does not think anything would be safe there considering all the instability in their government. No one needs to put anything valuable or rare in the hands of chaos and irresponsibility and possible corruption. I hope the divided works of Greece are reunited and placed back on the decorative Parthenon as they were centuries ago. The body of a figure does not belong in Athens while the head is in a British Museum. Thank goodness this stuff isn’t in a landfill somewhere.
It is always unclear as to what was given and what was stolen. How do you go back throughout history through wars and disruptions where things have changed hands in order to save art from the destructive forces of a stupid bomb. It is always a shame when beautiful evidence of a culture gets destroyed from the efforts of stupid stubborn careless war. Security at existing museums must be secured better since terrorists are quick to destroy anything these days. It is the new kind of war. Ordinary people armed with backpacks filled with destruction.