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'Indiana Jones' of Egyptian archaeology demands Rosetta Stone from British Museum, Zahi Hawass, the 'Indiana Jones' of Egyptian archaeology, has his sights set on the most glittering prize of all - the Rosetta Stone.
Dr Hawass has demanded that Britain return the 2,200-year-old stone tablet to its homeland.
Archaeological treasure: Zahi Hawass has demanded that Britain return the 2,200-year-old Rosetta Stone to its homeland of Egypt
Archaeological treasure: Zahi Hawass has demanded that Britain return the 2,200-year-old Rosetta Stone to its homeland of Egypt
Arriving in Britain to publicise his quest, he declared that a loan would not be good enough.  Instead, the Rosetta Stone, which has resided in the British Museum since 1802, must be handed over on a permanent basis.
The Museum, however, is standing its ground, declaring its collections should not be broken up and it is the legal owner of the stone.
The stone, which dates back to 196BC, was discovered in Egypt by Napoleon's French forces in 1799 and seized from them by the British two years alter.
Its value lies in its inscriptions, which in three different languages - Ancient Greek, heirogylphic and Demotic, an ancient Egyptian script - provided scholars with the key to deciphering ancient hieroglyphs and unlocking many of the secrets of the pharaohs.
Indiana Jones: Dr Hawass, who wears a trademark stetson, is head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities
Indiana Jones: Dr Hawass, who wears a trademark stetson, is head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities
Dr Hawass, who like Indiana Jones wears a trademark stetson, is secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, making him responsible for the conservation and protection of all archaeological finds.
He regularly features on TV documentaries, has written 16 books, and it is said, likes to tease friend Omar Sharif, that his by far the better known as the two men.
As part of his conservation duties, he has drawn up a 'shopping list' of artifacts 'stolen' from Egypt by colonial powers and claims to have already secured the return of several thousand.
Bolstered by France's agreement to return some fresco fragments earlier this year, he has renewed a campaign, first launched six years ago, for the return of the Rosetta Stone.
Earlier this week, it appeared he would be pacified with temporary custody.
But today he claimed that he didn't not like the 'tone' of the British Museum's response and he wants the stone back for good.
He said: 'When I said I want to have it on a short-term loan, the British Museum wrote a letter to say that they need to know the security of the museum that will host the stone.
'They know that this museum is going to be the largest museum in the world, the security will be perfect.'
Secrets of the pharaohs: The stone is inscribed with Ancient Greek, heirogylphic and Demotic scripts, and provided the key to deciphering ancient hieroglyphs
Responding to suggestions that Egypt would be tempted to return the treasure if given it on loan, he said: 'We are not the Pirates of the Caribbean.
'We are a civilised country.  If I sign a contract with the British museum, (we) will return it.'
He has also accused the British Museum of not looking after the treasure properly, saying: 'They kept it in a dark, baldy lit room until I came and requested it.  Suddenly, it became important to them.'
Archaeological treasure: Zahi Hawass has demanded that Britain return the 2,200-year-old Rosetta Stone to its homeland of Egypt
Custody: The stone, which resides in the British Museum, was discovered in Egypt by Napoleon's forces in 1799 and seized by the British two years later
The Museum, however, is well-practised in fending off such requests.
It has long refused Greek treatise to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens, and has retained ownership of dozens of 'Lewis Chessman' - elaborately carved chess figures discovered on Scotland's Outer Hebrides in the early 19th century despite calls for them to be returned to Scotland.
Roy Clare, head of the government-funded Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, said the stone must stay in London.
He told BBC Radio4's Today programme: 'This icon is an icon globally.
'An object inherits additional culture through its acquisition.'


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