November 3, 2009

Suspicious behaviour surrounding Nefertiti bust in Berlin’s Neues Museum

Posted at 11:31 pm in Similar cases

Despite requests to provide any available evidence of the legitimacy of Nefertiti’s journey from Egypt to Berlin by Zahi Hawass, the newly re-opened Neues Museum hasn’t been forthcoming.


Berlin’s Nefertiti Trouble
Egyptian Official Calls Museum Behavior ‘Suspicious’

She’s been dead thousands of years but she’s still causing trouble. The bust of Queen Nefertiti has taken pride of place in Berlin’s New Museum, re-opened this weekend after 70 years. Now Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, says Berlin should give it back.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you really want to take Nefertiti away from her privileged new position in the newly re-opened New Museum in Berlin and bring her back to Cairo?

Hawass: Not by any means. Such an important issue won’t be resolved just by wishful thinking or by making statements of intent.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So have you asked that Nefertiti be returned — or not?

Hawass: We are still addressing the question and we are looking into all details related to the current location of Nefertiti — as the world famous, former chief consort of the great Pharaoh Akhenaten is now known. We will only reach a decision when we are absolutely clear on this issue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What exactly do you still need to know?

Hawass: We want to know if the Nefertiti sculptures — and most importantly, the head of the queen as exhibited in Berlin — left Egypt legally. When that is absolutely clear and the evidence is in front of us, then there won’t be any problems.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it so difficult to find this sort of evidence? After all, those in the German capital who are responsible have tried their best to ensure that these valuable sculptures were brought to Berlin with the knowledge and agreement of Egyptian officials.

Hawass: Around two months ago I petitioned the Berlin museum administration to share with me the exact details of Nefertiti’s “emigration” and to send all and any material that relates to the legitimacy of that process. To this day, my request has not been answered. That is annoying. What sort of conclusions should we draw from this? That seems suspicious.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You doubt the legitimacy of the transport of the sculpture out of your country?

Hawass: We have evidence that supports that suspicion: That Nefertiti was smuggled out of Egypt, bypassing the law. But we don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions and we will wait for an answer and some other evidence from Berlin. However because my requests (for further information) were never replied to, I was not interested in accepting the invitation to attend the opening of the New Museum.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will happen if you never get a reply?

Hawass: We will have a conversation like civilized human beings and thoroughly discuss every aspect of this case.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it true that you might be prepared to do an exchange — send Nefertiti home to Egypt and you will give Berlin some other important ancient Egyptian artifacts?

Hawass: That’s a novel idea. Indeed, the Egyptian administration suggested a solution like this around 10 years after Nefertiti came to Germany — but Berlin declined the request.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the very least, is there some sort of agreement with the Germans that in five year’s time, Nefertiti will be loaned back to Cairo in time for the dedication of the new Egyptian museum there?

Hawass: Nothing is set in concrete. In fact a rumor even reached me that said that lending ancient pieces like this to the Egyptians is risky — because we might not send those sorts of pieces back. That is embarrassing.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could this affair endanger German-Egyptian cooperation on archeological work?

Hawass: No, we want long term cooperation. I am really hoping to find some sort of satisfactory solution with Berlin.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Egypt is still digging for another long-lost queen: Cleopatra. Is this search still going on?

Hawass: The final excavations, which had to be postponed for months, will continue next Sunday. What we have found so far makes us hopeful that we will soon uncover the tomb of Cleopatra and her consort Mark Antony. But really, we should pay tribute to the ancient Egyptians in some other way too.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you have in mind?

Hawass: In order to strengthen our cultural consciousness, we should incorporate the study of ancient Egyptian language and hieroglyphics (ancient Egyptian writing) into our education system in the same way that Europeans teach Latin and ancient Greek. The Germans could certainly help us with that.

Interview conducted by Volkhard Windfuhr in Cairo

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  1. Edgard Mansoor said,

    09.20.13 at 8:41 pm

    First thing Spiegel Online says in above posting: “Nefertiti has been dead thousands of years but she’s still causing trouble.

    Yes! Nefertiti has been dead thousand of years ago; whether she caused trouble or not in the past, no one will ever know for sure. As for today, she’s not the one who’s causing trouble.

    For 20 years it is Dietrich Wildung, former Director of the Berlin Egyptian Museum who has been the one causing trouble, trouble for the Berlin Egyptian Museum and trouble for Germany’s Ministry of Culture. Then again, trouble for the Cairo Museum, trouble in the relations between Egypt and Germany; and finally trouble for German Egyptologists who can no longer excavate side by side with their Egyptian colleagues and Egyptologists of foreign Countries.

    When Dietrich Wildung was dismissed as Museum Director of the Berlin Egyptian Musem and Dr. Friederike Seifried took over the directorship of the Museum, she was asked if the Museum would give up the Nefertiti bust and give it to Egypt. She answered that it was not up to her to make this decision, but that it was up to Professor Hermann Parzinger, President of the “Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation which runs the Neues Museum. She then added that she would like to go back to Egypt to do excavations as she did in the past, perhaps meaning that she doesn’t care too much about the Nefertiti bust since she knew that the P.C.H.F refused in previous occasions to return the bust.

    What is worse is that in an interview with Mr. Jack Malcolm, a representative of “Heritage Key”, Dr. Seifried was asked which object in the Museum was her favorite. Following is exactly her answer as printed in the article about the New Museum in the blog of “Heritage key: “In the part of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection the most famous pieces are of course the bust of Nefertiti and the so-called Berlin Green Head, but beside these marvelous pieces, my favorite one is the seated quartzite statue of Cherti-hotep, an official of the Middle Kingdom, dating [from] about 1800 BC”.

    So, the Nefertiti bust and the so-called Berlin Green Head are the most famous pieces, but beside these marvelous (famous) pieces, it is the “Sheti-hotep” that is her favorite piece.

    For a genuine Egyptologist, a favorite object must be beautiful, important as far as artistic and historical values are concerned, and most of all “authentic”.

    I had posted 3 dissertations in the website of “Heritage Key” between 8-3-2011 and 21-3-2011. The moderator of Heritage key kept them for “more than 2 years”, then all of a sudden “the entire website”, including the most beautiful article ever written about the new Berlin Egyptian Museum, together with splendid photographs of the Museum, pictures of some damages in the old Museum, caused by the bombing during WWII, and pictures of the interview and Conference with Dr. Matthias Wemhoff and Dr. Friederike Seifried the 2 Directors of the new Museum. All this disappeared. Why? Because Dr. Seifried’s favorite object was not the Nefertiti bust and perhaps especially because of the three dissertations I had posted in this website.

    For the Beautiful catalog of the long exhibit of “In the Light of Amarna, 100 years of the Nefertiti discovery” Dr. Seifried wrote an article in pages 189 to 192 with the whole page 190 dedicated to a standing limestone figure of Nefertiti. Title of the article is: “Nefertiti: What remains but beauty?” Why the “question mark” after the word “beauty”? Perhaps one should ask Dr. Seifried.

    Nothing was said about the controversy since the bust had “supposedly” been discovered in 1912, buried or should I say placed half way buried with Nefertiti’s face against the ground. At one time it had been claimed that it was found buried “SIX INCHES” below the surface of the ground. How do they know that if Borchardt never said this in his diary?

    The word controversy is never to be mentioned again. Wildung was the last individual to condemn the bust viciously when he had written in his “Historical/Stylistic Analyses of the bust” that “it does not have a shred of amarna style, that it is nothing but a lifeless, ice-cold perfection and fabricated work of art”.

    The officials of the Berlin Museum have kept him quiet now that they had satisfied his dream of becoming Director of the Museum, and in forcing him to let scientists examine the bust under “CT scans” to prove it authentic and him false for the way he accused and treated the bust. BUT they did nor extend his stay as Museum Director by another 5 months in order for him to have the honor and privilege of becoming the “First Director” of the New Museum which would have stained he Museum’s reputation. He was forced into retirement, but instead of retiring he got himself another job as Professor of Egyptology at the “Freie Universitat Berlin”.

    Nevertheless, the Museum’s officials must have realized that my 3 long dissertations posted in the blog of “Heritage Key” were detrimental to the reputation and integrity of the New Museum. In fact they must have been. Luckily, I have saved the “complete article” on Word Perfect.

    The first dissertation iss titled: “Why the Nefertiti Bust IS NOT AND CANNOT BE AUTHENTIC”. Eight pages, posted on 8-3-2011.

    The second one titled: “ Why the Mansoor Amarna Collection is authentic BEYOND ANY AND ALL reasonable doubts”. Twenty three pages, posted on 16-3-2011, and

    The third titled: “The Shameful Sabotage of the Mansoor Amarna Collection Rome Exhibit”. Seven pages, posted on 21-3-2011, in which dissertation I exposed and accused Wildung as being the shameful saboteur of the exhibit. Do I have a good reason for accusing him of being the Saboteur? I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t accuse him falsely, and here is why:

    In 1985 Dr. Andreina Leanza Becker-Colonna, Professor of Egyptology at San Francisco State University and Curator of the Mansoor Amarna Collection, sent a letter to Dietrich Wildung in his capacity as “Organizer of the 4th International Egyptian Conference”, requesting time to speak about the princess portraits in the Mansoor collection. Wildung took it upon himself to speak “on behalf” of the community of Egyptologists at large which consists of about 800 Egyptologists, and this without their knowledge or approval, and in May 14, 1985, sent her the following letter on the letterhead of the “Fourth International Congress of Egyptologists” in which such meetings Egyptologists discuss different topics including what is for and what is against specific subjects.

    May 14, 1985
    Dear Colleague,
    As far as the program of the 4th International Egyptian Conference is concerned, I see myself “forced” to reject your report on a “A group of Portraits of the Amarna Princesses”. As it is well known to you, today in the “Egyptian art milieu” exists an overall understanding that the Mansoor objects are not authentic, During an exhibit in Munich, Hamburg and Brussels we “publicized” this position, and it looks upon us as our duty “to prevent anything” which would give the Mansoor pieces a Pseudo-legitimacy. The gifts of the Mansoor family to the Vatican Museum and to the Louvre were done by the Bank of America as advertisement during the offer for sale of further pieces and I fear that a presentation of the Mansoor pieces during the 4th International Conference of Egyptologists would also be used as advertisement for the authenticity and importance of these pieces. I beg you therefore to understand that your report at the Munich Conference cannot be accepted.
    With friendly greetings,
    Signed: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Wildung

    In his article titled FALSCHE Pharaonen” of July 1983, without our knowledge or Dr. Colonna’s knowledge and permission, Wildung stole 4 photographs from the 1975 exhibit catalog of the Mansoor collection at San Francisco State University and inserted them together with photographs of forgeries made by “Oxan Aslania”, the famous forger who sold 7 or 8 forgeries to the Berlin Egyptian Museum in the 1920’s and 30’s, and had the article signed by a respectable Professor of Geology at the University of Munich, and friend of his by the name of Dietrich Klemm sign the article only as “D. Klemm” so that in case we see the article we think it was written by a lady so that we ignore it, and do not suspect that he is the author of the article. But after tedious investigations, we found out he is the author of the article. Wildung didn’t know that “a geologist” would never comment on an object carved from a natural rock unless he sees it in the flesh and examines it personally.

    And since when a bank makes a donation to a museum on behalf of a dealer, collector or philanthropist? In any case, the Rome Exhibit of November 1, 1990 to January 31 1991 was the occasion that Wildung was waiting for to fulfill what he planned on doing in his letter to Dr. Colonna.

    But the worst of the worst is where, to the best of my knowledge, Wildung proved to be the only Egyptologist who went “from the sublime to the ridiculous”, and became the laughter of the “World of Arts and Sciences”. I told one German Gentleman by the name of “Lutz Franke” whose website’s link is right below.
    I told him what Wildung wrote in French about the bust in his “Analyse historico/stylistique: une perfection glacee, un rendu dans vie, aucun style propre a l’epoque n’est perceptible: une oeuvre d’art fabriquee”. J’ajoute que ce dernier terme, tel que je le traduis ici, tente de restituter l’expression allemande <>, qui qualifie litteralement une oeuvre “alambiquee”, “une synthese de divers elements sans relation organique entre eux (Please see page 47 in Hneri Stierlin’s book of “le buste de Nefertiti, une imposture de l’egyptologie). I told him it’s odd that Wildung would dismiss the bust before he became Museum director, only to embrace it once he got that job.

    In his own words, Mr. Franke answered: “nonsense, Wildung described his personal feelings and the feel about what the bust symbolizes in the present [for him]. He is not given an expertise. He has this once very nice told and explained during a [public] lecture here in Berlin [when he still was the director]. In the first years as director of the museum in the western part of the city, it really took some time until he was able to build a relationship with the piece, privately for himself. This was, however, at no time because he suspected about a fake. It was, according to his own words, a feeling that was determined by the modern reception of the piece and its commercial exploitation”.

    In other words, Wildung spelled his opinion on the letterhead of the “Direktion der Staatlichen Sammlung Agyptischer Kunst, Munchen” and calls it “Personal Feelings”. How ridiculous can a scholar can be!

    A scholar cannot be that ridiculous. Wildung cannot be a scholar. He wants us to believe that he is infallible, that he makes no mistakes, that he has never and will never make mistakes. The truth is that he doesn’t have the courage to admit having made a mistake.

    Wildung is not an Egyptologist. He is a problem. The Berlin Egyptian Museum knows it. And today, at least a few Egyptologists know that he is a fake; but no one can admit it. It’s too embarrassing for those who believed in him, and even more embarrassing to the Museum he fooled.

    An Egyptologist who desecrates the memory of decent and honorable deceased person, who ignores the wish of H. H. Pope John Paul II and tries to destroy authentic works of art to satisfy his ego is a nefarious Egyptologist.

    Wildung took a long slide from the highest to the ;pwest and infamous. By what he has done, he explained fully the meaning of going from “The sublime to the ridiculous.

    Edgard Mansoor

  2. Edgard Mansoor said,

    09.28.15 at 4:30 pm

    A beautiful article about the Mansoor Amarna Collection by Prof. Brian Stross of the University of Texas at Austin

    Edgard Mansoor

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