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Artefacts Claim Back

According to Ramazani Mwamba who wrote recently for England’s Manchester Evening News, the rest of the world wants ancient artefacts back from the United Kingdom.

Egyptian archaeologists have become the latest in a long line to call for the British Museum to return historic artefacts to their original owner. The Rosetta Stone, which has been on display as part of an exhibition at the museum, has come into conversation after a petition was raised calling for its return.

A petition , which has over 150k signatures was set up by archaeologist Zahi Hawass and states that "it seems absurd that the British Museum would continue to hold on to such a blatant symbol of its colonial past". But what are some other artefacts that are in the British Museum which other countries have asked to be returned?

The Benin Bronzes

These bronze figures of soldiers were stolen from the King's palace by British troops during the Benin Expedition in 1897. The sculptures that were made in 1550 and 1750 helped changed European attitudes to African culture in that it showed that African countries had sophisticated technology and a rich artistic tradition.

The return of these artefacts has a muddled history due to the territories claimed by Benin and neighboring Nigeria. Both countries were once part of the West African Kingdom but have since been separated. However, there are questions as to where Bronzes were created and who they belong to.

Cyrus Cylinder

The baked clay cylinder has the rules of former Persian King Cyrus inscribed on them. They were found in the ruins of Babylon (50 miles south of Baghdad), Iraq, and taken to the British Museum.

Like the Benin Bronzes, the rightful owner of the artefact has been called into question. Despite being found in Baghdad, the cylinder is claimed by Iran.

Easter Island statue

Perhaps the most iconic and well known on the list, the giant statue was taken from the remote Cayman Easter Island back in 1869. Back in 2019 the Rapa Nui leaders requested the return of the statue during a meeting with British Museum bosses.

However, just a month after the meeting, the mayor of Rapa Nui conceded that maybe the statue should remain at the British Museum to better preserve the monument.

Actually, come to think of it, perhaps having these artefacts at the British Museum might help not only in their preservation, but also help tourists decide to visit the countries where they originally come from. Afterall, London is one of the world’s high destination visiting platforms that could spark tourism to these lands.

Have a terrific day!

Prof. Carl Boniface

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