Egypt Making Demands on Met. Museum To Return Cleopatra’s Obelisk
Egypt’s department of antiquities has sent a letter to the City of New York claiming that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has not done its job in protecting Cleopatra’s Obelisk from air pollution. It is making demands that the museum return the 3,500 year old object.
An Egyptian government official penned a stinging letter to Mayor Bloomberg, accusing the city of neglecting “Cleopatra’s Needle,” the ancient obelisk his country gave the city over 100 years ago, and threatening to take it back if it isn’t properly cared for and preserved.Egypt, along with Greece and Italy have been looking at international museums trying to reclaim their national heritage. Objects that were taken by hook or crook a century or more ago are now being claimed by their nations of origin.
Zahi Hawass, secretary general for the Supreme Council of Antiquities, claims it is his job to monitor the country’s antiquities, whether in Egypt or on a knoll in Central Park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He claims the 3,500-year-old obelisk is in shoddy shape.
“It has recently been brought to my attention that this incredibly valuable monument has been severely weathered over the past century and that no efforts have been made to conserve it,” Hawass wrote.
He said he saw recent photos of the needle that show damage.
The letter does highlight the possibility that the museum has not taken adequate protections of the obelisk, but the museum’s evaluation found that the damage cited was done in the 19th century and doesn’t reflect on current inadequacies in conservation.
Moreover, Egypt has many of the same problems and air pollution is an even bigger threat to its antiquities than seen in the US. Air pollution has damaged the surfaces of the great pyramids and the Sphinx, and the pollution obscures the dramatic views as well.