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> Nefertiti: Whose culture is it, anyway? <
Published on 7/18/2007 By Ben Morales-Correa
The Discovery of the Bust of Nefertiti
  Ever since the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti, this beautiful limestone portrait has been regarded as one of the greatest art masterpieces in the world. It was found in the atelier of the famed ancient Egyptian sculptor Thutmose at Tel el Amarna, by the German expedition of 1912. Chief archaeologist Ludwig Borchard was so awed by its stunning beauty, that he devised a scheme to smuggle the piece out of Egypt.

Every archaeological discovery had in those days to be brought before the Egyptian Antiquities Authority for inventory and distribution between Egypt and the archaeological expedition. This committee supervised the split between the objects that stayed in Egypt and those that were allowed to leave the country. Borchard did not clean the bust and intentionally covered it in gypsum to make it look of lesser worth when he presented it to the Egyptian authorities for the partition.

The painted limestone bust was put on exhibit in Berlin's Egyptian Museum in 1923, eleven years after its discovery. The Egyptian government has since made attempts to have the bust returned, but Germany has so far refused. Even Hitler felt in love with the non arian Egyptian lady, and announced that it would remain in Germany forever.

Nefertiti has been in Germany for nine decades. Visitors come from all over the world to the Berlin Museum to admire her eternal beauty. Hopefully, in the near future, she will return to her homeland and the new Grand Egyptian Museum. Almost a century after the amazing discovery of the bust of Nefertiti, the meaning of her name still holds the promise of her return: "The Beautiful One has Come".
Whose culture is it, anyway?
Finders keepers? What do you think?

When you visit museums in the principal cities around the world, you see all sorts of artifacts from many cultures and epochs. A sizable portion of these objects were taken out of their original context by legal and not so legal means. Early archaeology involved looting national treasures as a result of imperial military expeditions, principally by european powers that today boast these objects as a matter of national pride.

The time has come for the legitimacy of posession of objects pillaged from their original countries to be put into question.

Egypt has made a formal request for the return of five objects it considers essential to its national heritage. The objects in question are the Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum in London, the bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, the statue of Great Pyramid architect Hemiunnu in the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum in Hilesheim, the Dendera Temple Zodiac in the Louvre in Paris, and the bust of Kephren pyramid builder Ankhaf in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The question of the return of stolen and looted art to their original countries is not an easy one. On the one hand, museums in places like London, Paris and New York are regarded as better equipped to preserve these ancient artifacts. They also promote scientific research and contribute greatly to the value of these objects by allowing millions of visitors to see them every year. In fact, economic considerations weigh heavily against the return of an object of immense touristic attraction like the Bust of Nefertiti. Another point to consider is that many of these archaeological treasures belong to extinct civilizations not represented by the people or government presently occupying that location.

Egypt has made strong advances toward the conservation of its national treasures, including state-of-the-art technology and modern structural facilities. The country can raise enormous resources to improve its archaeological site research and restoration efforts by the boost in tourism these highly cherished treasures will assuredly signify to the egyptian economy. A possible compromise is to declare these cultural artifacts the patrimony of its country of origin, but to keep them on loan at museums in Europe and the United States.
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