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Egypt demands Berlin return Nefertiti bust

The Local · 24 Jan 2011, 16:20

Published: 24 Jan 2011 13:11 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Jan 2011 16:20 GMT+01:00

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Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities head, Zahi Hawass, announced an "official request" for the bust's return, backed by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Culture Minister Faruq Hosni.

The demand was sent in a letter to Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the governing body of the Neues Museum in Berlin where the piece has pride of place, he said.

But the German government, which has always refused to return the bust,

unearthed in 1912 by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, was unmoved.

"This is not an official request. An official request is a request from one government to another," foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular government briefing in Berlin.

He added that the position of the German government was "unchanged and not new."

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation confirmed that Parzinger had received a letter from Hawass, but said that it was not signed by the prime minister and was not "an official demand from the Egyptian state."

It added that under a 1912 agreement, artefacts found in the dig were properly listed and photographed, showing clearly their "beauty and quality," and then divided up between the two sides.

"Moreover, the objects were in open crates so that they could be inspected. There can be no talk of anyone being fooled," the foundation said in a statement.

According to Egypt, Borchardt immediately realised "the unique nature and artistic quality of this piece, as well as its historical importance," and transported the bust to Germany illegally.

Cairo began to demand the restitution of the Pharaonic-era statue back in the 1930s, but successive German governments have insisted the piece was bought legally by the Prussian state, and that there are documents to prove it.

Nefertiti, renowned as one of history's great beauties, was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, remembered for having converted his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton.

Story continues below…

The bust is at the top of a "wish list" of five major artifacts exhibited abroad that Egypt wants returned as part of its cultural heritage.

"Egypt recognises and appreciates the care and effort undertaken by the government of Germany to preserve and display the painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti," Hawass said in a statement. But he asked that "this unique treasure be returned to the possession of its rightful owners, the Egyptian people."

In December 2009, Friederike Seyfried, a German Egyptologist at the Neues Museum, said Cairo had often aired its demand through the media but never made an official request.


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Your comments about this article

13:53 January 24, 2011 by Frenemy
...finders keepers
14:03 January 24, 2011 by jbaker
Give it back and let Them Live in the Past. It all sounds So Greedy.
14:25 January 24, 2011 by adipk
i think it must keep its origin. and we should go and visit instead of putting somewhere else. beauty is where they belong.
15:05 January 24, 2011 by Ruderman
If it was purchased legally, then I suppose Egypt can just buy it back.
15:57 January 24, 2011 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:01 January 24, 2011 by Scottt
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:32 January 24, 2011 by William Thirteen
the trolls are out in force!
01:02 January 25, 2011 by fryintl
One fear I would have is to now visit the piece and fear for my safety. If teh Extremeists feel they are owed soemthing it may turn political or worse.
08:59 January 25, 2011 by marimay
If the Egyptians had the mummified remains of the first bratwurst ever made, I'm sure the Germans would want it back, too.
09:47 January 25, 2011 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
This article is lacking basic truth. The German government has not always refused to return the specious artifact. The German governtment had agreed to return the questionable piece in 1930. It was Hitler who in 1935 broke this promise to return the forgery. Every German leader since then has continued this Colonialist tradition on pendantic pretense.

Mr. Hawass is nevertheless, an unashamed showman with no concern for intellectual honesty, or ethics and morality. Such are the mores of persons who seek to support a corrupt establishment.

I will be keen to see if our biased editors seek to remove again my factual comments only because it arouses the ire of the nutbags of visit this site.
10:16 January 25, 2011 by PawD
It is a shame on Germany to keep holding on to something which it had stole from Egypt during the colonial era... and Egypt should follow this up with an official request and maybe increase pressure on Germany by appealing to UNESCO and other such organizations.

India should also follow suit and ask for the return of the Kohinoor diamond from Queen Elizabeth's crown!
11:04 January 25, 2011 by venkyfra
Anything thats stolen from another country should be returned.

Wonder why countries are not taking legal action? Is that even possible?
11:10 January 25, 2011 by Frenemy
Most of these allegedly stolen artifacts are only still on public display for the world to see precisely *because* they were removed from their original countries! Most of these places simply aren't responsible enough to provide for the security of such precious artifacts and they would likely soon be stolen and whisked away into some private collection.

I wonder how long the Hope Diamond would survive on public display in New Delhi should India demand that the US give it back...(?)
11:35 January 25, 2011 by Celeon
The bust was not stolen. Point.

It went to Germany in 1913 with an official export license.

It may be that Borchardt did not go into detail about its true value to enhigh his chances of getting the license but Germany is not responsible for the lack of expertise and obvious indifference by egyptian antiquity authorities of the year 1913.

Shall egypt blame them.

It is a fact that they had more interest in other artifacts than busts at that time and therefore made no attempt to examine the bust beyond the photographs provided by Borchardt, nor did anybody tried to block the export licence.

No demand or accusation can turn the approval of an official export license by egyptian authorities into a theft by Germany just because Egypts point of view has changed.

They can ask but have to accept the answer.

But there is clearly no ground for any demands.

Following the logic and argumentation of Zahi Hawass, Russia would also have a right to demand Alaska back from the USA as it just didn't knew about its oil reserves when it sold it for a rediculous price. ;-)
13:02 January 25, 2011 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
It can never be the case that India needs the U.S. to protect the "Hope Diamond" when we can see what a fine job the U.S. has done in protecting the National Treasures of Mesopotamia.

As to whether or not the specious artifact was stolen is of little question to the intelligent mind. This land which anglophiles call Egypt had been under Western European domination since the barbarian from France invaded the land in the 18th C. The crumbling Ottoman Empire was already indebted financially to the West. This was after the Berlin Conference and before the start of the Great War. Most Western European powers were still on amiable terms with each other. Under such favorable conditions there existed minimal difficulty for the Germans or any Occidental to have their pick of the fruit of the land. This would be akin to someone breaking into your home and deciding to live there only for someone else to break in and take what they like while you are tied up and gaged in the corner.

The recorded documents show, however, that the German Government agreed to return the specious artifact in 1930 only for Hitler to refuse to honor this promise in 1935.

To this day the Great Game continues.
13:08 January 25, 2011 by OkieinBerlin
Egypt has every right to demand the return of the Nefertiti bust, and Germany should take these demands seriously. Anyone with the slightest understanding of Egypt's 19th and 20th century history will recognize that Egypt's great ancient treasures were looted from the country while Egypt was governed by imperial powers (English and French "controllers") that had no moral right to release artifacts. Germany, as well as England, France and the United States could right a historic wrong by returning Egypt's rightful patrimony.
14:49 January 25, 2011 by LouiseGarcera
If I was to give my mum a chocolate bar, i haven't got the right to ask for it back again, right? and that is something Mr. Hawass hasn't been taught by his mummy and is now causing such a riff-raff.

Germany legally acquired Nefertiti under an official export license, therefore, Egypt does not have any rights to Nefertiti anymore ( FULL STOP)

Nefertiti was discovered by germans. In fact if it wasn't found by germans Nefertiti would have been stolen by egyptian tomb robbers anyway (like many other artifacts) and would have disappeared forever. So thanks to Germany we can still admire Nefertiti in one piece
23:11 January 25, 2011 by wenddiver
The thought of the Great Nefereti hidden under a birka or handled by men who embrace a theology that despses Women is to awful to contemplate. We need only look to the fate of the Giant Buddahsof Afganistan to know that turning treasures over to the unwashed mobs that destroyed the original Superior Culture. Sad, but true, this part of the world is hurtling toward a future in caves, let us hope that Eygpt re-embraces the culture that once made it great and leads the area to a new and grand future, free from the evil thoughts of the Arabian penusula.
23:24 January 25, 2011 by Frenemy
Yes, Egypt is well on its way to becoming a very safe, calm and stable place:

23:27 January 26, 2011 by DOZ
Finder's Keepers. Demanding it's return is not right, but asking (and negotiating) is a different matter.
10:49 January 27, 2011 by LecteurX
WENDDIVER, don't you think you're beyond ridiculous to judge what "would" happen to Nefertiti in Egypt by what the Talibans did to the Buddhas (mind the spelling of it) of Bamiyan just because the inhabitants of these extremely distant lands have one religion in common?

How about just tarring Germany and Russia with the same brush just because we're talking about two predominantly white and Christian countries, eh? Yeah, just bring it on: "brutal mafia, negation of human rights", etc; it's happening in Novosibirsk so it could happen in Berlin any day.

The rights of women? oh well, in macho Southern Italy and in Ireland or in Québec it has to be exactly the same, right? We're talking about Catholic countries after all. Approach to culture? Well, it has to be the same in the middle of redneck Texas and in Protestant Denmark, right?

Thanks anyway for casting a light on how thoughtful and intelligent Thilo Sarrazin's readership is, now I get it. Just an uninformed lot that would rather read garbage to feed their prejudices instead of opening their eyes to how the complex world really is.

So let's make it clear once and for all, for the benefit of everyone: all those d*mn muslims are exactly the same, from Morocco to Indonesia, no difference at all. Just the same bunch of Quran-toting, bomb-building, women-abusing, Arabic-speaking Neanderthals. Sure, absolutely brilliant.

I'm not even a muslim, and I would not even approve of Nefertiti being returned to Egypt, but such ridiculous and stupid points made by bigoted people like you drive me mad!

Have a good day, Torquemada! And don't bother thinking about stuff, it may hurt your brains.
18:43 January 27, 2011 by Frenemy
LecteurX, although you might have been a little harsh on Wenddiver, that was a pretty cogent post (you should comment more often). Oh yeah, I also like the Torquemada reference (very apt). That said, the Islamists ARE trying to standardize their "Quran-toting, bomb-building, women-abusing" way of life (aka Sharia Law) across ALL Muslim countries (from Tunisia to Indonesia).

Anyway, none of that alters the fact that Germany should not have to give Egypt anything back.
20:25 January 27, 2011 by Stephen Ash
Dr Hawass, the dictator or Eqyptian Archaeology, is not interested in truth. Discoveries relating to "Egyptian" history in fact relate to all humanity. This scientifically corrupt man will not tolerate anything that does not emphasize that modern Egyptians (at a cultural and population crossroad of the mediterranean region) should take exclusive pride in the acheivements of an entirely different set of men and women. His twisted nationalism, in a country subject to violent revolution, is no assurance that the bust of Nefertiti would be more secure and available to the world than it is today in Berlin.
14:11 January 28, 2011 by LecteurX
FRENEMY, I agree with you that Islamists and Sharia fundamentalists are a danger everywhere. They are in power in some places, although not always unwanted by the West. Why it's OK for the US to have the Wahhabis in power in Saudi Arabia on the one hand, while the Muslim Brotherhood should be kept at bay in Egypt at all costs (including by supporting Mubarak's tyranny till the very end), is beyond me. We know that supporting tyranny isn't going to do any good, neither for us, nor for the oppressed peoples of these countries.

Let's note that when Christian Fundamentalists are left to their own devices, they can produce pretty ugly results too. Let's consider Uganda, in this very January of 2011, where homosexuals are routinely publicly exposed, denounced in the press (with such headlines as "Hang Them!"), tried (when they're lucky) or murdered (when not). I found this in The Guardian yesterday:



Much of this crackdown on homosexuality in recent years in Christian African countries is partly the result of influent US evangelical fundamentalists.

Now, if such stories were to happen in Muslim countries, I'm asking you, wouldn't WENDDIVER be already up in arms? Just wait until the next execution of gay men is reported in Iran or Saudi Arabia... So far he's been pretty silent on abuses perpetrated in a Christian country.

So, back to you WENDDIVER. I had prepared another comment after my post yesterday but unfortunately I was prevented from posting twice in a row. You go as far as to say: "let us hope that Eygpt re-embraces the culture that once made it great"

Sorry, any idea about "women's rights" under the Pharaohs? Please share your knowledge with us. Any idea about how many thousands of slaves (actually it's more in the hundreds of thousands) worked to death in order to build the Pyramids and other grand monuments that you cluelessly goggle at in your nice Egypt vacation? Any idea which percentage of the population of Ancient Egypt could read and write (the "scribes") while the rest toiled away till death in all manners of uningratiating labour? Any idea that Pharaohs were "gods" and could marry their sisters (and they did)? Any idea how people really lived in Ancient Egypt, and if it was much better than "caves"?

Building big temples in the desert is no sign of a "superior" culture, the Arabs are very good at it too. By the way, what do you mean with your "superior" cultures anyway?

As for the "unwashed mobs", I meet them every single day on the Berlin U-Bahn, and they don't come from Afghanistan or Egypt mind you.

You're a fearful, bigoted person. And a poorly informed one at that. Shame on you!
17:49 January 28, 2011 by Frenemy
@LecteurX: "Why it's OK for the US to have the Wahhabis in power in Saudi Arabia on the one hand, while the Muslim Brotherhood should be kept at bay in Egypt at all costs" is beyond you??!!

OK, I'll give you a clue: its a 3 letter word that rhymes with boil.
22:31 January 28, 2011 by HANNIBAL-BARCA
@LecteurX & whomever else

While your criticisms are insightful they are also revealing of your own bias

Why would you choose a rather insignificant example of Xtian fundamentalism such as the outing of homosexuals at the urging of U.S. agents? Has this particular invasion of personal privacy in Uganda affected you in Berlin? Are you a refugee from the former escaping to the relative sexual freedom of the latter? Clearly the greater injustice ongoing in this nation (Uganda) is that of the continued U.S. support of it's Dictator!

Undoubtedly the greatest crime of the past decade was at the hands of another Xian fundamentalist, none other than the leader of the free world, the Decider George Bush! This racist bigot who openly admitted to his religious zealotry, actually saying that God wanted him to; be President, go and fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus "I trust that God speaks through me. Without that I couldn't do my job."

Seems to me as if ol' boy Chicken George was trying to copy the Pharonic model which you disparage. His messianic vision has served as a pogrom against the peoples and cultures of those lands. It has led to skyrocketing energy prices, a Zimbabwe like currency and a debt that would earn the pity of the Wiemar Republic. The list goes on.

If any of you smugly think this Xian Crusade is just about black gold, please take the time and think again. It was always about Power for Powers sake alone!

Again why do you assault Woman's rights in Ancient Kemet? What I wonder do you even mean by your designation? Said was a kingdom that lasted over 2000 years. There were high points and low points all of which eventually came to an end. That said, this very thread is in homage to one of her greatest Queens. I won't bore you with the details of her other Queens since you ostensibly have little interest in Maat. I only need ask, how many female presidents has the U.S. had? How long have women in general even enjoyed equal rights in the West?

You speak of slaves in Kemet. Are you yourself free? There is no greater slave than the one who thinks them self free. If you are like 95% of the people in the developed world than you live in a generous poverty! The current global economic disparity between the top 5% and the rest of the world is greater than at any other time in the history of mankind! We are slaves indeed!
03:01 January 29, 2011 by LecteurX
FRENEMY, I had written a 4,000 letter post and was forced to remove 1,000 from it in order to be able to post. In those I removed what I had said about energy and stuff. Thing is, not every fundamentalist Muslim ruler is an enemy of the West, as we can see about Saudi Arabia. There's much more to it than this manicheic approach. But of course if the Islamists were to take control of Egypt after the fall of Mubarak, maybe they'd have higher chances to oppose the West, which had so staunchly supported the old tyrant.

HANNIBAL-BARCA, man you raise interesting points, but let me point a to couple of things:

- Gays are murdered in Uganda, not merely "outed", it's on the links I've posted. So if you think people being murdered as "insignificant", well there's not much I can do for you

- No it doesn't affect me personally in any way, I just wanted to show that this very day, Christian fundamentalism is plainly as evil as Muslim fundamentalism. Just because I talk about women's right doesn't make me a woman, just because I talk about gay rights doesn't say anything about myself. Is this a taboo for you? FYI The Guardian is one of the most-read British newspapers, this week they wrote articles about this and I just read them. If this topic is beneath you then just disregard it but keep your ludicrous assumptions to yourself.

- I haven't read about which governments support which despots in Africa lately, but it's not only Western countries supporting evil regimes. Have you heard about Gaddafi's remarks on Ben Ali's overthrow from Tunisia? And in Sudan, who are Bashir's best pals around the world?

- What's all this about G. W. Bush now? Aren't we a little bit off-topic? This was my answer to a ridiculously bigoted post, now I don't want to be dragged into any so-called "debate" about "Christian Crusades" thank you, we were just talking about Nefertiti staying in Berlin or not.

- Please state WHERE exactly I ever "assaulted" women's rights anywhere? I just pointed out to Wenddiver's prejudices when systematically slagging muslims as a whole despite.

- Bangladesh has had a female PM; Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto twice as a PM, however you'd be a fool to say that for this reason women enjoy better rights in Pakistan than in the US, simple.

- I'm black and my ancestors were slaves in the Caribbean. They had no say on their lives, no rights, they were "owned" by people, etc. I don't need to say more on this, sorry. Your rant about "we are slaves" is pretty pathetic with regards to the real plight endured by slaves yesterday (and still today, as there are many slaves in the world still now)

If you want to restore Pharaohs in power, well now's your window of opportunity it seems, for Mubarak won't hold to power much longer.

As for me, I've had enough of this thread.
16:40 February 14, 2011 by DoubleDTown
Wow, the timing on that request for the objects in Germany was ironic. Just before the protests started, and only days before the break-in that showed Cairo is no better for antiquities than Berlin.
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