Egypt asks German museum for Nefertiti bust


Cairo : Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities has asked Berlin’s Neues Museum to return a priceless painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, the ancient Egyptian queen renowned for her beauty.

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The treasure has been in the possession of the museum since its discovery in 1912 by a German archaeologist.

The exquisite bust underscores the ancient Egyptian’s understanding of realistic facial proportions and in fact is credited with making Nefertiti famous world wide. It also sealed her renown as a great beauty and is one Egypt’s most well known images.

Nefertiti, lived from 1370-1330 BC, was queen and wife to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV and mother-in-law to pharaoh Tutankhamun and had six known daughters.

This is not the first time Egypt sought to get back the priceless bust – efforts in 1946 -47. The new request represents four years of legal preparation and work with Egyptologists, the Supreme Council said.

The request was sent by the council’s head, the renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, with backing from Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Culture Minister Farouk Hosny.

It was addressed to Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, which oversees all of Germany’s state museums. Other high-level officials were also informed of the request.

Archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt and his team discovered the bust while excatavating Amenhotep IV’s court sculptor Thutmose’s workshop.

Records at the time note that the archaeologist immediately recognised the unique quality and historic value of the painted bust.

Egypt is seeking restitution of archaeological and historical artifacts that have been taken illicitly out of the country – more than from any other.

The Nefertiti bust is the top item on a list of five objects for which Egypt is seeking to get back.

Hawass and the government of Egypt are basing their request on article 13(b) UN culture body UNESCO’s 1970 convention which aims to prevent illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

The antiquities council also expressed its ‘gratitude’ for the care and effort undertaken to preserve and display the bust and expressed their confidence that “the German authorities will assist in facilitating its return”.