Egyptian archaeologists are traveling to the Louvre in Paris later this month to collect five ancient fresco fragments stolen from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in the 1980s. These are just some of the “stolen” antiquities which they are seeking to return to Egypt.

The most high-profile item that the archaeologists would like to see returned home is the Rosetta Stone, which is the only artefact in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo which is not real. The real stone is in the British Museum.

If the Stone cannot be returned permanently, Mr Hawass would at least like it back on loan for the opening of Egypt’s Grand Museum at Giza, due by 2013. So far there has been only a cautious response.

Thousands of artefacts were spirited out of Egypt during the period of colonial rule and afterwards by archaeologists, adventurers and thieves. According to a 1972 United Nations agreement, artefacts are the property of their country of origin and pieces smuggled out must be returned.

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