State minister for antiquities Zahi Hawass said this week a letter would be sent to Germany to demand the return of the Nefertiti bust, nearly a century after it was uncovered on the banks of the Nile.
“A formal request will be sent through the Egyptian foreign ministry next week, attached with all the evidence that shows the 3,400-year-old statue was smuggled out of the country illegally,” Hawass said.
Hawass had already sent a request to Germany in January in his capacity as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, one day before the launch of anti-regime protests that led to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.
The German government has denied repeated Egyptian requests to have the bust back, insisting there is nothing illegal about its acquisition.
“The German government’s position has not changed. Nefertiti will remain in Berlin,” said a culture ministry spokesman.
Germany says the bust – unearthed in 1912 by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt – 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.
The bust is at the top of a “wish list” of five major artefacts exhibited abroad that Egypt wants returned as part of its cultural heritage.