Skip to main content

Country of Origin: Egypt
Museum: Ägyptisches Museum, Neues Museum Berlin

“With its almond-shaped eyes and its vivid colors, a 3,500-year-old limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti is considered one of the most important artifacts to come out of ancient Egypt — though you can only view it if you visit Germany. The sculpture was removed from Egypt in 1913 after being found during a dig at the archeological site Amarna by Ludwig Borchardt the year before. Over the past decade, as Egypt has ramped up its efforts to get back its cultural heritage held abroad, the bust has faced calls for Berlin’s National Museums to return it, including from the former Egyptian minister of antiquities affairs Zahi Hawass, who claimed that it entered Germany illegally.

Such demands are not new — Egypt began imploring Germany to give back the bust as early as 1920 — though they have grown louder in recent years. German officials have responded that the work deserves to remain in Berlin, with art historian Monika Grütters telling the New York Times in 2009, “There was a complete understanding about what would remain in Egypt and what would be taken to Germany. The process was legal.” In 2011, Egypt submitted a formal request to get the work back.” – ARTnews


20 January 2023: “Berlin officials have said there are no plans to return the bust of Nefertiti or the Pergamon Altar to their countries of origin. Lena Kreck, the senator for justice, diversity and anti-discrimination in Berlin, said to the Berlin State Parliament’s legal committee last Wednesday that there were “different perspectives on the justice of the possession of the Pergamon Altar and the Nefertiti bust, in the legal as well as the moral sense.”” – The Art Newspaper

01 October 2020: “The Egyptian government is trying to reclaim the bust of Queen Nefertiti from Germany, but the latter is refusing calls for returning the Pharaoh statue to Cairo. Meanwhile, Egypt has emphasized that it is taking all necessary measures to restitute Egyptian antiquities that were smuggled out of the country illegally, including Nefertiti’s bust.

German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt and his team had discovered the Nefertiti bust on Dec. 6, 1912, in what had been the workshop of sculptor Thutmose in Amarna in Minya governorate. Borchardt took the statue out of Egypt in 1913, in breach of the rules on the division of architectural finds at the time.

Back then, the division rules stated that exceptional antiquities discovered by foreign excavation teams would be handed over to Egypt, while the remaining artifacts would be distributed among the party that discovered them and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.” – Al-Monitor