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Dispute with Egypt over Nefertiti bust reignites

Kristen Allen · 13 Feb 2009, 13:05

Published: 13 Feb 2009 13:05 GMT+01:00

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This latest edition of newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the German Oriental Association (DOG) had discovered a 1924 document that claims Germany acquired the bust of Queen Nefertiti - often referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world - under specious pretenses. According to the magazine, the document’s authenticity is currently being analysed by experts.

On Thursday, Egyptian Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass took a threatening tone in an interview with German broadcaster ARD in Cairo.

"If this document is real, we’re taking Nefertiti home," Hawass told ARD. "And this time I’m mean it seriously."

But Egyptian Deputy Chief Ambassador Bassem Khalil said that media reports are "projecting" hype onto a simmering issue from the past.

"We are just following up on the issue," he told The Local. "We don’t know if the document is authentic or not and have not been asked by Cairo to take any official action."

Der Spiegel reported that the document, written by an eyewitness, claimed that German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt intentionally concealed and misrepresented the value of the artefact from Egyptian officials in 1913 to "save the bust for us."

A spokesman for the DOG told British daily The Times that the bust belongs to Germany. "It is not right to complain now about a deal that was struck long ago," a spokesman told the paper.

Story continues below…

Egypt and Germany squabbled over the bust in 2007 when Cairo tried to get it on loan for the 2012 opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum near the ancient Giza pyramids. But the city of Berlin, where the bust is currently housed at the Egyptian Museum, declined to hand over the artefact, which draws some 500,000 visitors each year.

The DOG did not respond to The Local’s inquiries about when analysis on the document would be finished.

"This is still to be proved, and then we will see," Deputy Chief Ambassador Khalil said.

Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

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