Hawass plays hardball with the Louvre and wins

It only took them 2 days to cave completely when he flexed his muscles. Here’s what happened. On Wednesday, Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, dramatically announced that Egypt was cutting all ties to the Louvre. No more collaborative dig in Saqqara. No more Louvre curators making speeches in Cairo. No more nothing.

The bones of contention were 4 fragmentary steles chipped off the walls of the 3200-year-old tomb of noble cleric Tetaki in the 80’s and bought by Louvre in 2000 and 2003. Hawass said he’s asked for them to be returned before, most recently sending the museum a letter 7 months ago, but has gotten either refusals or the silent treatment in return, so he whipped out the big gun.

The French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand immediately stepped into the fray and assured everyone that the Louvre had acted in “good faith” when it purchased the stolen funerary inscriptions, and they were just waiting for a special investigative committee to confirm the pieces were stolen is all.

Today, Mitterand convoked the National Scientific Committee of the Museums of France and in an unanimous vote of the 35 experts, the committee agreed that the pieces had indeed, quel dommage, been stolen and will be returned to Egypt without delay.

That’s a matter of weeks, in slightly more concrete terms. Egypt is holding them to it. All ties to the Louvre will remain suspended until the steles are safely back in the motherland.

Tekati’s tomb was discovered by Lord Carnarvon — who along with Howard Carter would later uncover King Tutankhamen’s tomb — in 1908. The tomb was quickly closed to keep out looters (that worked out great, didn’t it?), and only rarely re-opened for scientific study.

Last year, Egyptian archaeologists reinvestigated the tomb and found the theft damage. That’s when they started taking a good hard look at the pieces the Louvre had bought.

Hawass pwns the Louvre

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8 Comments »

Comment by Ordinary Jill
2009-10-09 20:40:26

Maybe Greece should take that approach with the British Museum.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-09 20:51:07

Anything taken before the 1970 UNESCO convention is a bit of a trickier thing. Even Hawass has had no luck getting back the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum or the bust of Nefertiti from the Berlin Museum.

Berlin has just built a new room to exhibit Nefertiti all by herself, in fact. I don’t see them coughing it up any time soon.

 
 
Comment by Qingdai
2009-10-09 23:42:41

I was just going to post about that, but I see you scooped me again.
Nice graphic!

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-10 10:08:00

Thank you! I couldn’t find any pics of the steles, so I had to go creative.

Sorry to have stepped on your line. I promise I won’t tell that I done it first. :giggle:

 
 
Comment by Dina
2009-10-11 02:30:21

I wish Israel had a Hawass.

Thanks for this good story with a happy end.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-11 10:30:45

You’re very welcome. I think every ancient country could use a Hawass or two. :yes:

 
 
Comment by Clutch
2009-10-11 12:06:58

Great story.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-11 12:33:18

Merci beaucoup.

 
 
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