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Wed 26 Jan 2011 11:27 AM

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Berlin refuses to return priceless artifact to Egypt

Arab country says 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nerfertiti was taken by deceit by Germany

Berlin refuses to return priceless artifact to Egypt
DIPLOMATIC ROW: A diplomatic row has reignited between Egypt and Germany over rights to a priceless 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti (Getty Images)

A diplomatic row has reignited between Egypt and Germany over rights to a priceless 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti that has been held by a Berlin museum for decades.

The world-renowned artifact, which draws a reported one million visitors a year to Neues Museum, tops Egypt’s wishlist of pharaonic treasures removed from the Arab country during the colonial period and afterward.

Egypt claims Berlin obtained the bust by deceit and has been lobbying for its return for more than half a century.

“We ask that this unique treasure be returned to the possession of its rightful owners, the Egyptian people,” Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in a statement this week.

Berlin has flatly refused to return the artifact, claiming it is in Germany legally and too fragile to move.

“The foundation's position on the return of Nefertiti remains unchanged," Professor Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which runs Neues Museaum, said in a statement. "She is and remains the ambassador of Egypt in Berlin."

The bust has been on display in Berlin since 1923, following its discovery more than a decade earlier by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt at Amarna

Egypt contends fraudulent documents were used to spirit it out of the country in 1912.

Basel A-Shaban 8 years ago

Egyptian gov should take legal action in German courts against the Neues Museaum, that should bring justice and return of the 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti back to Egypt. Last time I checked, no Egyptian Dynasties ever existed in Germany.

Jebel Ali Baba 8 years ago

I think, Egypt has more important problems to solve at the moment. Without the presentation of ancient Egyptian relics in Europe, the main income of Egypt (tourism) would be much less. And without a stable government and calm society the tourist will never come back to Egypt.

Saudi Engineer 8 years ago

Basel, I tend to agree with your view, however the headline and the mention of a "diplomatic row" would seem to indicate that this has been discussed officially. A court case is always a good idea, especially in countries where the judiciary is independant of the government, but I would be curious to know what the outcome would be. Germany has returned countless "stolen nazi" treasures to their "rightful owners", but I wonder if they would do the same if the rightful owners were arabs.

Ali Baba, regardless of whether or not presenting aritifacts in Europe helps Egyptian tourism or not, if it belongs to Egypt then they should have the final say in what to do with it or where to put it. I would imagine the supreme council of antiquities could still display the bust in Germany (or any other country) if the museum was willing to pay an agreed upon price. Until then, it's just stealing.