As a native New Yorker, I think of all the items in our city alone. The collections of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) are among the best in the world. In fact, a large section of the Temple of Dendur was meticulously dismantled block by block and shipped to The MET to be situated in the middle of an indoor moat in their Sackler Wing. While the temple was legally given to The MET, many other antiquities were presented as gifts during foreign/colonial rule or simply smuggled. Consider that the most ubiquitous architectural monument of Ancient Egyptian art, the tekhen (known by the Greek name obelisk), is actually more prevalent outside of Egypt. While there are 29 known tekhenui (plural of tekhen), 20 of them have been shipped to many major cities around the world including London, New York, and Paris.
While most would probably agree that most of Egypt's antiquities should probably remain on Egyptian soil, our question is really about the cultural and ethnic legacy of Ancient Egypt. Are these artifacts the birthright of Egypt's current Arab occupants, the much maligned Nubians, other indigenous Africans, the countries who currently own them, Diasporan Africans, or others? Be sure to watch the video of Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, attached to this post. Regular readers of The Udjat are aware that I am certainly not a fan of Hawass, but he does discuss (overtly and subtlety) some of the major issues in this debate. My personal belief is that these cultural prizes are the particular birthright of indigenous Africans and their relatives in the African Diaspora, but that they are also shared by all of humanity. Do you agree? What do you think? Please weigh in and let's get a dialogue going! Shem em Hetep (Go Forth in Peace)!
Al-Ahram Weekly - http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/946/eg3.htm
Bloomberg Online - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aTp8L4YyrY6I&refer=muse
Survey Results - GlowDay.com