March 6, 2013
The Neferti bust is one of the most high profile artefacts that Egypt is requesting the return of. Germany’s latest actions only draw attention to this case though, by organising a special exhibition to commemorate the fact that it is 100 years since they acquired the artefact.
The Bust of Nefertiti: Remembering Ancient Egypt’s Famous Queen
By Ishaan Tharoor
Dec. 06, 2012
On a sunny afternoon on Dec. 6, 1912, an Egyptian worker at a dig along the banks of the Nile came across what may be the most striking find in the history of Egyptology. Ludwig Borchardt, the German archaeologist in charge of the excavation, scribbled excitedly in his diary a century ago: “The tools were put aside, and the hands were now used … It took a considerable amount of time until the whole piece was completely freed from all the dirt and rubble.” What emerged was a 3,300-year-old limestone bust of an ancient queen, colored with a gypsum lacquer. A flat-topped crown perched above a finely defined brow. Her cheekbones were high, nose distinguished. A thin, elegant neck — some now describe it “swanlike” — rose from the bust’s base. “We held the most lively piece of Egyptian art in our hands,” wrote Borchardt.
The bust is of Nefertiti, queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who reigned in the 14th century B.C. A hundred years after Nefertiti’s bust was lifted out of the ground at Amarna, some 480 km south of Cairo, it remains one of the most iconic figures of Egyptian antiquity, far smaller than the pyramids or the Sphinx, but no less globally resonant. The bust adorns souvenir schlock throughout Egypt and history schoolbooks worldwide. When it went on display at a museum in Berlin in the 1920s, it was almost immediately held up as a symbol of universal, timeless beauty. That’s not surprising. Nefertiti’s name means “the beautiful one has come.”
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