Egypt’s top antiquities official will head to Britain tomorrow in his quest to goad the British Museum into returning the Rosetta Stone. Dr. Zahi Hawass calls the stone an “icon of Egyptian identity,” and says the museum doesn’t really value it. “They kept it in a dark, badly lit room until I came and requested it” in 2003, he tells the Times. “Suddenly it became important to them.”
The British Museum has had the 2,200-year-old tablet since 1802. It’s repeatedly denied Hawass’ requests, though in 2005 it sent Cairo a replica of the stone. “The trustees feel strongly that the collection must remain as a whole,” the museum said. Privately, European curators worry that Egypt wouldn’t properly protect the stone; tourists can sometimes be seen touching exhibits in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.