Friday, September 9, 2011

Documenting Nefertiti


 There was a recent article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel about a 1924 document found by the German Oriental Association who's author implies that the archaeologist who found the famous bust of Nefertiti at Tell el Amarna in 1912, Ludwig Borchardt used deception to secure the bust for Germany. If this turns out to be true and not just somebodies opinion in 1924 it may help Cairo's call for the return of Nefertiti.

A part of me laughs at the size of that "if", yes it is a big word and one that I am very fond of myself however there has always been the issue that the official of Egypt's antiquities service in charge of the division of finds did not do the job properly. As for what statute of limitations exist in this case that may perhaps be the bigger issue? Whether those statutes are recognized by either party may be a nest of bureaucracy unto itself?

Add to this I can see the director of the Neues museums name being destroyed both academically and publicly scorned in Germany that the star was handed over on that persons watch? Which other museum would hire that director or would not other museums fear that if they hired that person they may do the same to their star pieces?

That is even a side point as to who is going to retrieve it on behalf of Cairo is another nest? Dr. Hawass may have difficulty receiving the proper documents to even enter Germany? So how about the head of UNESCO Irina Bokova of course after a smart caviar and champagne lunch.

There is little doubt to me it is unlikely that a small mismanaged country like Egypt can do anything to impress upon an economic giant like Germany.

So it seems that the 1924 document may not even hold any weight whatsoever even if it is valid and it appears unfortunate for Egypt that in the end laws are meant to be broken and as grotesque a message as that sends few care when they are standing in front of the beautiful Nefertiti in her beautiful room at the Neues museum!

2 comments:

Stephen said...

Your latest post is an interesting coincidence, Tim, because I just finished rereading Dr. Rolf Krauss's article "Why Nefertiti went to Berlin" in Kmt, 19:3, Fall 2008, page 44. He quotes from letters and diaries of the people involved.

The gist of it: Borchardt learned that Lefebvre would generously let the Germans keep anything made of plaster, so Borchardt placed the bust of Nefertiti with the rest of the plaster studies they found. It was described to Lefebvre as painted plaster rather than limestone, and as depicting one of the princesses rather than Nefertiti. It is listed in the division protocol as "bust of painted plaster of a princess of the royal family" (original in French).

Lefebvre was intentionally shown a picture that "disguised the true nature of the painted limestone" and when he inspected the actual objects to be divided, they were already packed in open crates and the bust of Nefertiti had been placed in "as unfavorable light as possible."

tim said...

Hi Stephen

That was a good edition of KMT and an interesting article.

If Monsieur Lefevbre had done a better assessment of the artifacts in that year of 1912 at Amarna this whole mess and the division of finds may look very different today?