sábado, dezembro 08, 2012

Why I Think the Bust of Nefertiti is real

Thanks to my dear colleague Mennat el-Dorry, who asked about this blogpost I did in 2009 for Heritage Key, but which is no longer available, I went to my archives and 'dis-interred' the article.


Why I Think the Bust of Nefertiti is real

Nefertiti's bust at the Neues Museum, Berlin

KMT Fall 2008
Following all the controversy, I would like to present ‘my case’ and say why I believe this piece, the bust of Nefertiti housed at the Altes Museum in Berlin, is an original. Back to the past first, to its’ first known appearance, as described in KMT magazine, Volume 19, No.3, Fall 2008, pages 44 -53, on a comprehensive article named "Why Nefertiti Went to Berlin" written by Dr Rolf Krauss. 

Some important transcripts of text for this shown below: A photo shows Egyptologists looking at the bust of Nefertiti, held by an Egyptian workman (page 46), "The first presentation of the bust of Nefertiti following its discovery on December 6, 1912"; in page 47 it is stated that "The excavation was paid for by James Simon, treasurer of the German Oriental Society, (DOG) with his own money. Simon thus intended to avoid gift taxes to be paid by the society. Simon was also the concession holder at El Amarna and thus legally owned the German share of what was found there. He first loaned and then donated all of these objects to the Berlin Egyptian Museum in 1920."; "El Amarna was under the authority of the Antiquities Inspectorate  in Asyut, and the inspector there was Gustave Lefebvre..................it thus fell to Lefebvre to divide the El Amarna finds.”
On page 50, Bruno Gueterbock (secretary of  DOG) wrote to Guenther Roeder, (director Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum) :
"You can imagine that we all had very little hope that this wonderful piece would not go to Cairo, so little, that on the evening before Lefebvre's arrival all the inhabitants of the excavation house walked in solemn procession, candle in hand, to the storeroom to bid our farewell to the colourful Queen"
page 52
And important to mention is "A decade later, when questioned, Lefebvre said he could not remember whether he had seen the bust or not. If he had examined the bust, how could he have justified that he did not claim the object for Cairo?"
1.      Some preliminary conclusions that substantiate why this piece is an original: the bust was found in 1912 by Ludwig Borchardt and photographed as so, does not look exactly like now at the Berlin Museum as it was still unclean; Lefebvre had to send the piece somewhere; the piece did not stayed in Cairo.
Dietrich Wildung, former curator of the Egyptian collection in Berlin, says, in May 2009, in Der Spiegel, (he is the curator of the Berlin's Egyptian Museum), "We would not put an even remotely questionable object on display for 700,000 visitors to see every year”. Indeed, although some museums recently returned artefacts to it’s’ origins, those artefacts were all originals, none was a fake. If the Nefertiti bust was a fake I am sure Dr. Hawass would not want it back in Egypt so much...Trying to scientifically prove if this piece is a fake we might take into consideration the recent study of March 31, 2009, a CT scan done by the Radiological Society of North America. Researchers in Germany have used a modern medical procedure to uncover the ‘two faces’ of Nefertiti whose differences are creases at the corners of the mouth, a bump on the nose of the stone version which Dr. Alexander Huppertz suggested that someone expressly ordered the adjustments between stone and stucco, the study was published in the April issue of Radiology. the complete article (Nondestructive Insights into Composition of the Sculpture of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti with CT and the dependence of object surface from image processing) with pictures form the scanned images explains how a first CT investigation was done in 1992, which was followed by a second in 2006, both intending to clarify the technology of fabrication. Siemens, together with Professor Dietrich Wildung, and the National Geographic Channel have scanned the bust for an investigation conducted for a National Geographic documentary. The results, provided by the Siemens computed tomography (CT) system SOMATOM® Sensation 64, display a different picture of the former Egyptian queen. It is somewhere suggested she had a different nose...

In the NG article, "CT [scans] impressively demonstrated that the inner core was not just an anonymous mould, but rather a skilfully rendered work of quality art," and "In the final stucco layer, Thutmose (the sculptor) smoothed over the creases and nose bump, possibly to reflect the "aesthetic ideals of the era," said Huppertz.
Going back to 'my case', if the sculptor did a bust almost identical to the real person in the core and then covered it with layers to adjust reality to art, and this is shown by the recent scans, we have to conclude that he has a real model, thus, the piece is an original.
Another scientific study done on the pigments present in the bust and compared to identical pigments of contemporary architecture blocks (talatat of the dismantled temple erected by Akhenaton in Karnak) proves this bust to be made in the  Amarna period of Egypt. A scientific article by Bayer even calls these layers of Nefertiti's bust 'make-up'!!
"We acquired a lot of information on how the bust was manufactured more than 3,300 years ago by the royal sculptor," said Huppertz, after the recent scanning.
If a scientist is convinced the bust is real, I am too. On public display since 1923, it is a beauty icon since 1350 BC. It is too fragile to travel, maybe the main reason why it is not being temporarily sent to Egypt, but also a symbol for the Museum in Berlin. As science developments are swift nowadays, we can hope for more tests to be done that will prove that this is a real object form ancient Egypt.

Paula Veiga
November 2009

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