Friederike Seyfried, director of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection at the Neues Museum in the German capital, said Cairo had clear evidence that Berlin’s acquisition of the priceless sculpture nearly a century ago was legal.
“The documents on the division of archaeological finds made by the German Orient Society dating from January 1913, which Hawass has at his disposal, clearly show that the bust of Nefertiti is legally in Berlin,” she said, referring to Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass.
“The position of the German side is clear and unambiguous – the acquisition of the bust by the Prussian state was legal,” Seyfried said in a statement.
Seyfried noted that Egyptian officials had often staked a claim to the bust of the ancient beauty in the media but said that the Egyptian government had never made an official demand for the sculpture to be returned.
She also disputed media reports that Nefertiti, long a bone of contention between the two countries, was the subject of the meeting with Hawass in Cairo Sunday, saying they had discussed future cooperation such as joint exhibitions.
Hawass, who heads the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Sunday that Cairo planned to demand the return of Nefertiti, accusing Germany of fraudulently acquiring it.
The statue was discovered in 1912 in southern Egypt by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt.
Egypt first requested the statue’s return in 1930 but successive German governments have refused.
Hawass claims that Nefertiti was sneaked out of Egypt under a coating of clay and shipped to Germany.
Nefertiti, renowned as one of history’s great beauties, was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, who is remembered for having converted his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton.