Bust of Queen Nefertiti: Egypt's most fascinating artifact after Tut's mask
CAIRO: Several museums all over the world house ancient Egyptian treasures but the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti, currently on display at Berlin's Neues Museum, remains one of Egypt's top plundered artifacts.
The 3,300-year-old painted limestone bust was discovered by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt during a 1912 excavation work that took place in at the ancient settlement of Tell el-Amarna, 150 kilometers south of Cairo, former head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Abdel Haleem Noureddin told The Cairo Post.
"According to Law No.14 for the year 1912 concerning antiquities, findings during legal excavations are equally shared between the excavator and the antiquities authority," said Noureddin.
In order to be able to keep his most valuable find, Borchardt seemed to "have deliberately misled the Egyptian authorities by claiming that the bust belonged to an unknown Egyptian princess, showing pictures of the bust taken in poor light and by lying about its historical significance," according to Noureddin.
The SCA has repeatedly asked museum curators and official authorities of countries housing ancient Egyptian artifacts to give them back, or at least let them return to Egypt on a temporary basis, said Noureddin adding that these countries, including Germany, insist their ownership of Egyptian artifacts is "not questioned."
"Nefertiti's bust is definitely the most vivid artifact from the reign of Akhenaten. Although it is way smaller than the Great Pyramid at Giza, it is of no less global fame," Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Central Administration of Middle Egypt's Antiquities Department told The Cairo Post.
The bust is very well preserved with a symmetrical face. It is 50 centimeters high and weighs 19 kilograms (41 lbs.)
"The queen is portrayed with her elegant facial features held proud and high on a delicate neck, wearing a blue crown with a golden diadem band along with a broad collar adorned with a floral pattern," said Afifi.
Queen Nefertiti was the wife of Pharoah Akhenaten (1353B.C–1336B.C) the "heretic pharaoh" who was the first recorded monotheist on earth, archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post.
"Two years after ascending the throne of Egypt, the Pharaoh, along with Nefertiti, has overthrown the old gods in favor of the solar god Aten. They also have abandoned Thebes, [now Luxor] Egypt's historical capital city and built a new capital dedicated to the Aten's worship in Minya's east bank," said Sabban.
Akhenaten was the predecessor of King Tutankhamun, so Queen Nefertiti, whose name literally means "the beautiful one approaches," could have been Tut's mother, according to Sabban.