CAIRO – 7 December 2020: Today marks the 108th anniversary of the discovery of the head statue of the Pharaonic Queen Nefertiti, the wife of King Akhenaten, precisely on December 7, 1912 by the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchard.
The head statue of Nefertiti was discovered in Tell el-Amarna, specifically in the house of the sculptor Thutmose, who was in the service of Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Nefertiti is the wife of Akhenaten, one of the famous pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The name Nefertiti means (The Beauty Came). She is considered one of the strongest and most famous women in ancient Egypt.
She was of high status during the reign of her husband Akhenaten. She lived in the fourteenth century BC, and belonged to the eighteenth Pharaonic family.
It is a painted limestone bust that is more than 3,300 years old. It was sculpted by the Egyptian sculptor Thutmose in about 1345 BC, for Queen Nefertiti, wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten.
This statue made Nefertiti one of the most famous women in the ancient world, and a symbol of female beauty.
According to the renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass: The story began on January 20, 1913, when a meeting between Ludwig Borchart and the director of the Middle Egypt Antiquities Inspection, Gustav Lefevre was held, to discuss the division of archaeological discoveries found in 1912 AD, between Germany and Egypt, as the division of the discoveries according to the antiquities law at the time was "equal shares" between Egypt and the excavation mission through a joint committee headed by the representative of the Antiquities Authority of the Egyptian government.
After Lefevre signed the division, this was approved by the director of the Antiquities Authority at the time, Gaston Maspero, and then shipped directly to Berlin. The statue arrived in Germany in the same year 1913.
The statue was then presented to Henry James Simon, who was originally a Jewish horse merchant, then worked in the antiquities trade and was the financier for the Borchard excavations in Tell el-Amarna, and other artifacts found in the excavations of Tell el-Amarna to the Berlin Museum.
After that, the statue remained hidden until it was first shown to the public in German galleries and museums in 1923. The controversy began over Egypt's recovery of it, according to Zahi Hawass, the former Minister of Antiquities, that the statue of Nefertiti is Egyptian property that was illegally smuggled out of Egypt, and therefore it should be returned, and that the Egyptian authorities were misled about the possession of Nefertiti’s head statue in 1912, and he demanded Germany to prove the legal validity of its possession of the statue in 2005.
Egypt submitted several requests for the return of the statue. A letter was formally sent for the return of the Nefertiti head statue in 2010. This was the first official letter sent to Germany, as there was a request from one of the Egyptian governments in the past century, but it was not completed.
The German ambassador in Cairo, Julius George Lowe, said on the sidelines of a meeting he held with former Egyptian Minister of Tourism Yahya Rashid, in February 2017, that the minister was unable to convince him of his view on the return of Nefertiti's head statue, stating: "Nefertiti's head is very popular in Germany."
Regarding the possibility of Egypt's retrieval of the statue, Brigitte Goebzel, the press and media officer at the Cultural Heritage Foundation responsible for the affairs of government museums in Berlin, said in statements reported by Al-Ain News: “Egypt has not submitted any official request to restore Nefertiti's head for decades. Therefore, there are no current negotiations with Egypt to return the statue," she said, adding, "We are always open to consultations with Egypt, but the statue belongs to the new museum in Berlin."