May 4, 2007

Berlin’s dispute with Egypt over Nefertiti

Posted at 12:49 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of the requests by Egypt for the return of the bust of Nefertiti to its country of origin.

The Etownian (Pensylvania, USA)

Egypt, Germany disagree over loaning of ancient artifacts
Aidan E. Bauernschmidt
Features Editor
Thursday May 03 2007

Egypt is famous for monuments such as the great pyramids and for its art, including colorful hieroglyphics and statues.

Many Egyptian artifacts are currently being housed abroad, however; and the country is asking to have them back.

The nation is currently constructing two new museums: The Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open in 2010 and is in close vicinity to the pyramids at Giza; and the Atun Museum, located near the Nile Delta and set to open in the same year.

The Rosetta Stone currently resides at the British Museum in London. This is a massive stone, rediscovered in 1799, the sides of which sides are covered with two Egyptian languages, hieroglyphic and demotic, and also has a side written in classical Greek.

Written in all three of these languages is the same decree given by Egyptian ruler Ptolemy V in roughly 196 B.C.

The Rosetta Stone is just one of the artifacts which Egypt asks to be returned to its homeland. Another is the bust of the legendary Queen Nefertiti, one of Egypt’s most powerful and influential ancient rulers. Her likeness is currently housed at the Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany.

While the Egyptians believe that the rightful place for these artifacts is in their home country, the museums who house them now are not proving very generous.

This is part of a heated debate unfolding between the German and Egyptian governments over the issue. Germany is reluctant to ship Nefertiti, saying that the journey would be too much for the fragile, nearly 3500-year-old limestone sculpture.

However, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Counsel of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said that if Germany refuses to loan the bust, he will organize a worldwide boycott of artifactual loans to Germany.

According to, Hawass stated that, “If a museum cooperates with us, then we will continue our good relations and cooperate with them in a mutually beneficial, scientific manner.”

Unfortunately, the museums have not been cooperative.

Messages left by the committee with the Altes Museum and with two other institutions being asked for loans, the Louvre in Paris, France and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, have since gone unreturned.

Official letters requesting loans of other Egyptian artifacts will be mailed to Britain, the United States, France, and Germany this week. According to Hawass, the antiquities committee will deal with each country and request individually.

Other items being requested on loan include The Zodiac ceiling from the Dendera Temple, currently located at the Louvre in Paris; the statue of Hemiunu, an architect of the Great Pyramid, housed in the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum in Germany; and the statue of Ankhaf, under whose rule the Chepren Pyramid was constructed. His statue is now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

All of these artifacts are ones which the antiquities counsel believe should be returned permanently to Egypt. Museums in current ownership of the artifacts would be to differ.

So, as foreign museums seem to be unwilling to even lend their treasures for a three-month exhibition, a permanent stay at home seems unlikely for Nefertiti, Hemiunu and Ankhaf.

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