Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Nefertiti and the sly archeologist

February 22, 2009 |  9:31 am

Her05 What more does one need for a tale of intrigue and desire than a sly German archeologist and the sublime bust of an ancient queen?

Egypt has been pestering Germany for years to return the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti. As with many battles over artifacts and history, this one, which crossed deserts, borders and seas, is unresolved. But a recently discovered 1924 paper suggests that cunning and sleight of hand cost Egypt one of its masterpieces.

The existence of the document, reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel, indicates that German archeologist Ludwig Borchardt disguised the bust of the woman with stellar makeup, perfect lips and a headdress that was all the rage in the time of the pyramids.

Egypt’s Al Ahram Weekly picked up on the story, reporting that Borchardt had covered the artwork “with a layer of gypsum to ensure that the committee charged with supervising the distribution of new discoveries between Egypt and foreign mission would not see how beautiful the bust was or realize that it was actually made of exquisitely painted limestone.”

Check out “how deceit won a beautiful woman” and decades worth of hard feelings between two nations.

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: Queen Nefertiti. Credit: Al Ahram Weekly