Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he is preparing to “fight” for the restitution of the stone which has been on display in the museum in London since 1802.
He regards the pinkish-grey tablet — the key to deciphering hieroglyphs — as one of the most important treasures removed from Egypt which now take pride of place in western collections. It dates from 196BC.
Hawass hopes Britain will hand it back in time for the opening of a new museum near the pyramids at Giza in 2013. The demand follows the decades-old tussle between Britain and Greece over the Elgin Marbles.
The Rosetta Stone was discovered by French soldiers in 1799 in the Nile Delta town of el-Rashid, or Rosetta. On Napoleon’s defeat in 1801, the artefact was taken by British troops and shipped to London.