NOTE: Occupiers' Title to Cultural Property: Nineteenth-Century Removal Egyptian Artifacts Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1999 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law Association, Inc.
Columbia Journal of Transnational Law

NOTE: Occupiers' Title to Cultural Property: Nineteenth-Century
Removal Egyptian Artifacts


37 Colum. J. Transnat'l L. 969


Dalia N. Osman *


This note examines the deficiencies of British and French legal claims to artifacts taken during the nineteenth century when Egypt was under Ottoman rule. It then examines the modern regime for solving these claims, as well as for preserving artifacts. This regime is centered around the concepts of cultural nationalism and cultural internationalism. Finally, it proposes an equitable solution based on a managed market for cultural property which would involve narrowing the class of artifacts that should be repatriated and banned from exportation.
The recent restoration of the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Pharoah Ramesses II in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes (known as Luxor today), unveiled a statue depicting a man in a seated position. Although well-preserved, the statue is decapitated. Crudely etched in the back is the word "Belzoni." Two centuries before, Giovanni Battista Belzoni had been commissioned by Henry Salt, the British consul-general in Egypt, to collect antiquities on behalf of the crown. 1 While there is no proof that Belzoni was the perpetrator of this ancient graffiti, the Ramesseum otherwise bears witness to his expedition's destructive hand. Salt had sent Belzoni to Thebes to recover the head of the Young Memnon 2 for transportation to the United Kingdom. Despite the difficulty of the task given the weight of seven tons and the distance to the final destination, Belzoni was successful in delivering the Young Memnon to its current home, the British Museum. 3 The task, however, involved more than manual labor ...
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