The bombastic star of History Channel’s Chasing Mummies, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s colorful antiquities chief, is hunting for Egypts’ treasures in the world’s prominent museums.
Hawass is lobbying to get back the Rosetta Stone, displayed for more than 200 years in the British Museum, and the Zodiac of Dendera, housed in the Louvre in Paris.
“I’m going to fight. I’m going to go and tell the world that these countries have no right to these antiquities,” Dr. Hawass told reporters at a press conference.
The archaeologist earned his Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1987 from the University of Pennsylvania
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is working with Hawass, and is giving back 19 items, including a bracelet and a small bronze statue of a dog, that were excavated from the tomb of King Tutankhamun and kept for many years.
“These objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt,” said Met Director Thomas Campbell. The items will remain on display in New York City for several months before being returned to Egypt in June 2011.
Dr. Hawass lauded the Met for their actions.
His campaign has returned 5,000 antiquities to Egypt, Dr. Hawass claims. The items he is seeking are intended to fill a new national museum in Cairo set for completion in 2013.
The nearly million square foot Grand Egyptian Museum will hold more than 100,000 artifacts and will be “one of the flagship institutions in the world,” the archaeologist said.
Dr. Hawass would like the Rosetta Stone, a 196 B.C. text used to first decipher hieroglyphs to be a star showpiece in the new facility. The odds of him getting it are uncertain, as it was considered a spoil of war, and outside any jurisdiction Hawass can use to reclaim it for Egypt legally.
Other items on his list for return: Ramses II statue, in Turin, Italy, and a statue depicting the architect of the Great Pyramid in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Hawass’ antiquity-repatriation efforts now have other countries knocking at his door for his help and expertise.