Letter: The pyramid's relics go from one tomb to another

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have been following with interest the debate surrounding the mysterious relics from the Great Pyramid of Giza. I have just returned from Egypt, and even senior staff members of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation had not heard of the existence of these relics prior to the article by David Keys (6 December).

This is scarcely surprising since, contrary to the impression created by the letter on 15 December by Vivian Davies, Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, his department had, for 21 years, lost all trace of these artefacts. He says that two of these are now registered as EA 67818 and 67819 respectively, but he does not tell us when they were so registered. Was it in 1972, when Mrs Porteous made her generous bequest, or was it, as one tends to suspect, only at the beginning of December this year?

The fate of these relics is by no means a trivial matter; they are the only artefacts known to have come from the Great Pyramid, the most important ancient monument in the world. That the museum refused to purchase them from John Dixon in 1872 for a modest sum was short-sighted but regrettable; that its staff should treat them so lightly when given them 100 years later by his great-granddaughter is unforgivable. Not only that, but it seems that the third relic - the fragment of wooden rule - is still missing. This is such a valuable object that the whole museum must be turned upside down until it is found, for then it could be carbon dated and we would at last have an accurate date for the construction of the pyramid.

Last week the Egyptian press was full of demands for the return of ancient Egyptian antiquities to their country of origin. If such an eminent institution as the British Museum cannot demonstrate to the world that it is the best place for such treasures to be stored and studied, it will find itself under increasing pressure from not only Egypt, but other countries as well.

Yours faithfully,

ADRIAN G. GILBERT

Motcombe, Dorset

22 December

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