THE National Museum of Scotland has responded strongly to statements by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities casting doubt on the provenance and authenticity of the Museum’s famed pyramid stone.

The only one of its kind on display outside Egypt, the museum says the piece of limestone formed part of the original casing of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

It forms the centrepiece of a display about the design and construction of pyramids in ancient Egypt, which goes on show on February 8.

It is believed that publicity about the display prompted the Egyptian Ministry’s Antiquities Repatriation Department to issue statements casting doubt over its authenticity and documentation. They have said they could seek the return of the Pyramid Stone unless the Museum can prove it was acquired legally.

Now Shabaan Abdel Gawwad, supervisor-general of the Antiquities Repatriation Department, has said he wants an official to visit Edinburgh, seeking a certificate of possession and export documents.

He said: “The ministry of antiquities has addressed the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take necessary measures to contact Scottish authorities and the museum asking for a certificate of possession and export documents for the casing stone and how it left Egypt and when the museum obtained it.

“We want to see all certificates of possession for other Egyptian artefacts due to be exhibited in the museum as well.

“The Egyptian law on protection of monuments no.117 for 1983 stipulates that trading or exporting antiquities is a crime.

“If it’s proven that this block or any other artefact were found to have been illegally smuggled, necessary measures will be taken to repatriate them.”

The National Museum of Scotland vigorously denies any claim of lack of authenticity or provenance.

They told The National: “We have in our collections a casing stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza. After reviewing all the documentary evidence we hold, we are confident that we have legal title to the stone and the appropriate permissions and documentation were obtained in line with common practice at the time.

“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. 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.”

It's the real thing, and legally here

YOU do not want to mess with Egypt’s Antiquities Repatriation Department.

They usually tackle smuggled Egyptian artefacts, and on Tuesday it was revealed that an ancient Egyptian item had been returned to Cairo after being illegally smuggled out of the country and displayed in an unnamed London auction house.

In a statement, the Ministry of Antiquities confirmed that a tablet carved with the cartouche of King Amenhotep I had been recovered, after they scoured the websites of international auctioneers.

The pyramid stone of the National Museum of Scotland is an entirely different matter, having been legally obtained for Charles Piazzi Smyth, the astronomer royal who made a groundbreaking survey of the Great Pyramid of Giza in 1865.

Smyth, incidentally, was the man who started the tradition of the firing of the one o’clock gun at Edinburgh Castle.

Ironically, if the casing stone – and museum officials are sure it really was from the pryamid – had not come to Scotland, it would have been destroyed for use on roads.