Egypt to hold talks over Nefertiti bust
Thu Dec 3, 2009 6:19am
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By Marwa Awad
CAIRO, Dec 2 (Reuters Life!) – Egypt, in a diplomatic tug-of-war with Germany over the bust of Queen Nefertiti, will hold talks this month to try to recover the 3,400-year-old pharaonic treasure Egypt says was smuggled out of the country.
Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told Reuters he will meet the director of the Egyptian Papyrus Collection at Berlin’s Neues Museum, where the bust is on display, on December 20 to resolve the row over Nefertiti, the mother-in-law of boy king Tutankhamun.
With almond-shaped eyes and a swan-like neck, Nefertiti has caused a rift between the two countries, each intent on having the bust that attracts millions of visitors worldwide.
“The only thing we are going to discuss is whether the director has any legal papers to show that the bust of Nefertiti left Egypt legally,” Hawass said. “All evidence that I collected till now shows the bust of Nefertiti left Egypt illegally.”
Hawass’ efforts to repatriate Nefertiti are among the priorities of a campaign for the return of pharaonic treasures including the Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum, that Egypt says were plundered by a succession of foreign powers.
Hawass said the German museum official, Friederike Seyfried, was expected to present evidence that the bust was acquired legally. Egypt will show how the bust was taken from the country after being passed off as a less significant find, he said.
The German officials could not be reached for comment.
The bust of Nefertiti was found in Egypt in 1912 at Tell el-Amarna, the short-lived capital of the realm of Nefertiti’s husband, the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaten.
The bust later turned up in Germany.
WILLING TO NEGOTIATE
Egypt would be willing to negotiate a deal to give Germany other Egyptian artefacts in return for Nefertiti, Hawass said, although he did not say which pieces might be on offer.
He said successive German governments have rebuffed Egypt’s demand for the return of the queen, one of the world’s most reproduced images.
“I can negotiate. I am not against museums or having artefacts be shown to the public,” Hawass said. “I can send them artefacts in return.”
Hawass said Berlin has been reluctant to lend the bust to Egypt for display in its homeland, partly over concerns that Egypt lacked the facilities to house the valuable artefact.
But Hawass said Egypt now had ample museums fit for unique artefacts, adding that he wanted to display Nefertiti in a newly completed museum in Minya in southern Egypt.
Hawass vowed to campaign for other important artefacts he said were illegally taken from Egypt.
Hawass said he would continue to push for the return of other artefacts including the Rosetta Stone, which carries an inscription in three scripts including Egyptian hieroglyphics and was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian in the early 19th century.
Egypt is also seeking a statue of Great Pyramid architect Hemiunu from the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany; the Dendera Temple Zodiac from the Louvre in Paris; and Khafre Pyramid-builder Ankhaf’s bust from Boston’s Museum of Fine Art.
“If I have proof that this statue or painting is stolen from Egypt, I have the right to it,” Hawass said.