Scotland's National Museum has insisted it has the legal right to a stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The stone is at the centre of a new controversy after plans to display it in the museum's Ancient Egypt Rediscovered display, which opens next month.

The head of the repatriation department at Egypt's ministry of antiquities has said it wants to inspect all the documentation about the stone, brought to the UK in 1872, and said that it could be open to a repatriation request.


Mr Shaaban Abdel Gawad has said that if the documents suggest it was illegally smuggled out of Egypt, "all necessary measures" would be taken to retrieve the stone.

However a statement from the museum (NMS) in Edinburgh said that it is confident it has the legal title the stone, and the "the appropriate permissions and documentation were obtained in line with common practice at the time."

The statement adds: "It was found by Waynman Dixon in 1872.

"He uncovered it amongst a rubble heap resulting from road building works which had been undertaken by the Egyptian Government in 1869.

"Waynman Dixon was working on behalf of the Astronomer Royal of Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth."

It adds: "In 1865 Piazzi Smyth had initiated a programme of research including the first largely accurate survey of the Great Pyramid.

"In doing so, he had the official permission of the Viceroy of Egypt and the assistance of the Egyptian Antiquities Service.

"The stone was brought to the UK by Waynman Dixon in 1872 and transported to Charles Piazzi Smyth in Edinburgh.”

An Egyptian law, of 1983, bans the trade or export of antiquities.

According to a report today, the former antiquities minister of Egypt, Zahi Hawass, has called the proposed exhibition "disgraceful" in a TV interview.

The NMS Egyptian collections include 6000 items, including statues, reliefs, mummies, coffins, jewellery, furniture and textiles.

It was begun in 1819 and many of the objects come from the archaeological excavations of AH Rhind, of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Egypt Exploration Society, and other institutions.