Further coverage of the arguments underway  between Egypt & Germany over requests for the return of the bust of Nefertiti.
New Zealand Herald 
Bitter battle over bust’s true home
5:00AM Friday May 11, 2007
By Catherine Field
PARIS – More than 3000 years after her reign as queen to a mysterious pharaoh, Nefertiti has sparked a row between Egypt, which wants her bust returned for an exhibition, and Germany, which is refusing to let it leave Berlin, where it is the city’s greatest treasure.
The painted limestone sculpture of the great queen is one of the most famous depictions of beauty and female power, showing a woman with exquisite features in the prime of life.
After lying in sand on the banks of the Nile for more than three millennia, the life-size bust was brought back into daylight in 1912 by a German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt.
How Borchardt got his find home remains a controversy. One version is that he talked Ottoman empire officials into letting him keep the bust. Another is that he smuggled it out of the country, falsifying an inventory.
In 1933, Egypt began what would be a long campaign to bring her home, but its request was quashed by Hitler.
“Nefertiti continually delights me. The bust is a unique masterpiece, an ornament, a true treasure … I will never relinquish the head of the queen,” the Fuehrer wrote.
Under a grandiose scheme conceived by Hitler to rebuild Berlin and rename it Germania, Nefertiti was to have been placed on a throne under a large dome, the centrepiece of a new Egyptian museum.
The quarrel has now stirred anew, for Egypt wants the bust to be lent for the opening exhibition in 2011 of a Grand Egyptian Museum, being built near the Great Pyramids.
“I really want it back,” Egyptian chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass told the Egyptian Parliament last week.
“If Germany refuses the loan request, we will never again organise exhibitions of antiquities in Germany … it will be a scientific war.”
Hawass said the Germans were afraid the bust would never be allowed to return to Berlin.
“They think we will be like the Raiders of the Lost Ark, that we will take it and not return it.”
Germany’s response is similar to the British Museum’s rebuttal of Greece’s demand for the Elgin Marbles, the frieze that once adorned the Parthenon.
Dietrich Wildung, head of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, said he was unfazed by the threat of an antiquities boycott, as Egypt had not lent anything since 1985 and there was already a rich collection in Germany.
He added that the bust was too delicate to be sent abroad: “Nefertiti is not a pop star that can simply go on tour.”
But Wilfried Rogasch, a German historian and museum curator, said political will was what was keeping Nefertiti in Berlin.
“People are opposed to the loan, saying the bust might not return, but that’s nonsense.”
He described the real problem as grandstanding, in which culture officials seized on certain artefacts, elevating them to the status of national treasures, to boost their political stature.
Work of beauty
- Queen Nefertiti was the co-ruler of Egypt in the 14th century BC.
- Her name means “a beautiful woman has arrived”.
- It is believed the bust of Nefertiti was made around 1350BC.
- The bust was unearthed at Amarnain, Egypt, by a German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt, in December 1912.
- Nefertiti’s bust was taken to Germany in 1913 and has been on public display in Berlin since 1923.
Al Jazeera 
THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2007
22:15 MECCA TIME, 19:15 GMT
NEWS MIDDLE EAST
‘Hands off my bust’ says Egypt prof
The man responsible for protecting Egypt’s antiquities has said he will “fight” for the return of an ancient bust of Nefertiti, an ancient Egyptian queen, now housed in a Berlin museum.
Zahi Hawass also requested the temporary return of other ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone which is housed in London’s British museum.
“Some people say, ‘If we give this bust to Egypt for three months they will not return it’.” Hawass said, regarding the bust of Nefertiti, in an interview on Wednesday.
“I say: we are not ‘the pirates of the Caribbean’. We are in the 21st century, we have co-operation with all the countries and who respect our work.”
Hawass told the Associated Press that his goal was to temporarily display some of the pieces in Egypt’s planned Grand Museum, located next to the Great Pyramids of Giza and expected to open in 2012.
Too fragile to travel
He said Egypt was seeking “unique artifacts” from at least 10 museums around the world, including the Louvre in Paris and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Hawass has also requested the British museum return the Rosetta Stone, a 1,680 pound slab of black basalt with an inscription that was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
But many museums are reluctant to hand over some of their most prized posessions. Germany says the bust of Nefertiti is too fragile to travel to Egypt.
“Our Egyptian colleagues know very well that Nefertiti will never leave Berlin for two reasons: Firstly, due to reasons of conservation,” said Dietrich Wildung, head of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum Berlin.
“Secondly, for security reasons. Given the current international political situation, it would be completely irresponsible to allow such a piece of art to travel such a far distance.”
But Hawaas warned that if Berlin rejects a loan in exchange for the 3,000 year-old bust of the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten, he will prove it was stolen and try to bring it back to Egypt permanently.
“If Berlin will not agree to give us the loan, we will fight back to bring this bust for good,” Hawass said.
Egypt is also seeking artifacts suitable for display at the 2010 debut of the Atum Museum in the Nile Delta city of Meniya.
Hawass has sought help from UNESCO in retrieving the artifacts, but it is unclear what Egypt can do to win back the artifacts, beyond exerting public pressure.
Recourse to the courts in the various museum’s countries would mean a costly legal battle whose outcome could not be guaranteed.
The British Museum confirmed on Thursday that it had received a letter from Hawass seeking a loan of the Rosetta stone and that the request would go to the museum’s trustees for consideration.
“We have received the letter … and will consider it at the appropriate moment,” Hannah Boulton, a museum spokeswoman, said.
The Louvre also confirmed it had received a letter from Hawass, in this case requesting a zodiac-themed ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple.
“We will treat it, as well as any other loan request,” Bénédicte Moreau, a spokeswoman for the museum, said on Thursday in a written statement.
Hawass has also sent letters requesting the bust of Anchhaf, the builder of the Chephren Pyramid, from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the statue of Hemiunu, the nephew and vizier of the pharaoh Khufu – the builder of Egypt’s largest pyramid – to Germany’s Roemer-Pelizaeu museum.
International Herald Tribune 
Egypt’s top archaeologist says he will fight for Nefertiti bust in Germany
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 10, 2007
CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt’s antiquities chief told The Associated Press in an interview that if persuasion does not work, he will fight for an ancient bust of Nefertiti now in a Berlin museum that Germany says is too fragile to loan to Egypt.
Zahi Hawass rattled the world’s museums last week with requests to hand over masterpieces of ancient Egypt, including the Rosetta Stone — some for loans, others permanently.
Hawass said in the interview Wednesday that the goal is to display the pieces in two new museums, particularly the Grand Museum, which is opening in 2012 next to the Great Pyramids of Giza and it to be Egypt’s main antiquities showcase.
But the bombastic archaeologist — known for the Indiana Jones-style hat he wears as he unveils new discoveries — has met resistance from museums reluctant to part with their most prized artifacts.
“Some people say, ‘If we give this bust to Egypt for three months they will not return it,'” Hawass said, regarding the bust of Nefertiti. “I say: We are not the pirates of the Caribbean. We are in the 21st century, we have cooperation with all the countries and who respect our work.”
At the top of his list of requests for loans are the famed 3,300-year-old bust of Nefertiti — the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten, now at Berlin’s Egyptian Museum and the Rosetta Stone at London’s British Museum — a 1,680 pound slab of black basalt with an inscription that was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
But Hawass said Egypt was seeking “unique artifacts” from at least 10 museums around the world, including the Louvre in Paris and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
“We would like these 10 pieces to be at the opening of the Grand Museum in the year 2012 to invite everyone to show the whole world the cooperation between all of us,” he said.
But while he touted cooperation, he also threatened that if Berlin rejects a loan, he will prove the bust was stolen and seek to bring it back to Egypt permanently.
“If Berlin will not agree to give us the loan, we will fight back to bring this bust for good,” Hawass said.
Dietrich Wildung, head of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum Berlin, said German officials have for years insisted the 3,000-year-old bust is too fragile to travel. “The structure of Nefertiti’s material, plaster over limestone, is very sensitive,” he told Associated Press Television News.
“Our Egyptian colleagues know very well that Nefertiti will never leave Berlin for two reasons: Firstly, due to reasons of conservation … Secondly, for security reasons. Given the current international political situation, it would be completely irresponsible to allow such a piece of art to travel such a far distance,” Wildung said.
Hawass refuted Berlin’s assertions.
“I’m going to give them all the guarantees, insurance, transportation, guarantee completely that the bust will come safe,” he said.
Besides the Grand Museum, Egypt is also seeking pieces for the 2010 debut of the Atum Museum in the Nile Delta city of Meniya.
But it is not clear what Egypt can do to win even a temporary handover of the artifacts beyond public pressure. Hawass has sought UNESCO’s help in retrieving them. Another recourse would be courts in the museum’s countries — but that would mean a costly legal battle whose outcome is uncertain.
The British Museum told AP on Thursday that it has received the letter from Hawass seeking a loan of the Rosetta stone and that the request would go to the museum’s trustees for consideration.
“We have received the letter … and will consider it at the appropriate moment,” said Hannah Boulton, a museum spokeswoman. Boulton said the museum loans many objects but must take into consideration a number of factors including where the item is going, for how long, as well as its popularity and fitness for travel.
A spokeswoman for the Louvre said the museum had also received Hawass’ letter requesting a zodiac ceiling painting from the Dendera Temple. “We will treat it, as well as any other loan request,” Bénédicte Moreau said Thursday in a written statement.
Hawass has also sent letters requesting the bust of Anchhaf — the builder of the Chephren Pyramid — from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the statue of Hemiunu — the nephew and vizier of the pharaoh Khufu, builder of the largest pyramid — in Germany’s Roemer-Pelizaeu museum.
Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for the Museum of Fine Arts, said Thursday the museum had not received any inquiries from Egypt but would review any request.
Hawass also said he is requesting items from the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Italy’s Turin Museum.
One of Hawass’ most bitter ongoing battles is with the St. Louis Art Museum over the 3,200-year-old funerary mask of Ka Nefer Nefer, which depicts a young lady. He has threatened the museum repeatedly for not heeding his requests to return the item and says he has documentation that proves it was stolen from Egypt in 1913.
“We want to tell the whole world about this crime that the museum of St. Louis is doing and even wrote the children in St. Louis to tell them, Don’t go to this museum because it has a stolen artifact,” Hawass said Wednesday.
The St. Louis museum says it bought the mask from a dealer in 1998 for about $500,000 after checking with authorities and the international Art Loss Register to see if the item was stolen. The museum also approved the purchase with the Egyptian Museum, Saint Louis museum director Brent Benjamin has said.
For years Hawass has sought the retrieval of items he says were stolen from Egypt, with recent success in the return from France of stolen hair from the mummy of Ramses II.