Egypt’s decision to force France to return the potentially looted frescos has proven very successful. The objects, allegedly stolen from Egyptian tombs in the 1980’s had been purchased by the Louvre in 2000 and 2003. At least two consequences of this decision will soon emerge.
First, how many other nations of origin will attempt to make similar claims? Egypt ceased all ongoing archaeological digs by French archaeologists. Was this a threat only reserved for objects which may have been looted recently? Will this set the precedent for this kind of treatment by German archaeologists if the bust of Nerfertiti isn’t returned to Egypt?
Second, might this signal renewed scrutiny of the acquisition practices of museums outside the US? Much of the discussion has rightly focused on wrongdoing by some American museums and dealers. But what of their counterparts around the world? Shouldn’t they be subjected to the same scrutiny?
Louvre to return Egyptian frescos, BBC Oct. 9, 2009.