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Egypt revives effort to retrieve Nefertiti bust 'stolen' by Germany

The bust of Nefertiti was taken from Egypt in 1913 [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 October, 2020

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After decades of refusals from Germany, Egypt is renewing efforts to repatriate the iconic bust of Ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti.
Egypt is renewing efforts to reclaim the iconic bust of Nefertiti from Germany, despite resistance to calls to repatriate the historical artefact.

In recent years, Cairo has led a drive to claim back its antiquities that were smuggled overseas illegally.

The bust of Nefertiti, a Queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, was discovered in 1912 by a German team led by archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in Minya governorate. Borchdart illegally smuggled the sculpture out of Egypt in 1913, in breach of conventions on archaeological finds.

At the time, foreign archaeologists were required to hand over antiquties regarded to be of significant importance. Other smaller finds would be shared between the foreign teams and the Egyptian Museum.

Having been discovered in the workshop of Thutmose, who was also known as 'The King's Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose', the work is highly regarded both for its aesthetic value and the prominence of its maker.

Germany, however, disputes that the bust was taken illegally and says that it was acquired as part of Borchardt's share of the finds.

Egypt has attempted since the early 1920s to retrieve the bust from the Germans without success, according to a recent report by Al-Monitor.

In 1933, Hitler reportedly refused to return the statue as he wanted it displayed in a museum in his planned capital, Germania.

After the Second World War, King Farouk of Egypt attempted to have the statue returned via the Allied Control Council in Germany.

German authorities, meanwhile, say that the statue belongs to the Neues Museum.

"There are no negotiations with Egypt currently to return the statue, which is the property of the Neues Museum in Berlin,"
Brigitte Gobtsel, press and media officer at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) in Berlin, was quoted by Al-Monitor as saying.

Gobtsel also said in press statements last month that Egypt has made no official requests for the bust's return, but added that Germany is always open for negotiations.

Hawass, the former antiquities Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, says he can prove that the statue was stolen by Borchardt. He is currently undertaking a private effort to repatriate the bust, with the support of Egyptian and foreign intellectuals, according to Al-Monitor.

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