CAIRO – 6 October 2020: Renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said that he is currently forming a team of Egyptian and international thinkers and intellectuals to sign an official letter on the necessity of the return of Nefertiti's head statue to be sent to Germany away from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
According to Hawass, there is a global awakening in the world that Europe and America stole the antiquities of Africa, and therefore these circumstances should be taken advantage of in order to retrieve the stolen head statue.
The beginning is when archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt discovered Nefertiti's head statue in 1912 in Tell el-Amarna. The head statue was discovered in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose, along with many other antiquities of Nefertiti.
Borchardt described the discovery in his memoirs, “Suddenly, we have in our hands the best surviving Egyptian work of art. This cannot be described in words, you must see it.”
Here, the great archaeologist Zahi Hawass says, “The story began on January 20, 1913, when a meeting was held between Ludwig Borchardt and the director of the Middle Egypt Antiquities Inspection, Gustav Lefevre, to discuss the division of archaeological discoveries found in 1912 between Germany and Egypt."
The division of the discoveries took place in accordance with the antiquities law at the time, "equal shares" between Egypt and the excavation mission of the Eastern German Company through a joint committee headed by the representative of the Antiquities Authority of the Egyptian government.
Hawass added that during that time Lefevre said that the statue is made of gypsum, but it was truly made of fine limestone. Egyptian law at that time prohibited transferring any piece made of limestone outside the country, according to Hawass.
Hawass further pointed out that lying about the true material of the head statue was not the only trick. He explained that Borchardt had prepared the findings in two separate boxes and presented them to Lefevre along with two lists containing images of the antiquities each box contained.
One of the boxes contained the head statue of Nefertiti, while the other included a color painting of Akhenaten and his family, which depicts the royal couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti with three of his children.
According to Hawass, Borchardt knew that the painting was one of Lefevre's beloved antiquities, hence Lefevre chose the list containing the painting of Akhenaten and his family, and it was later transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
After Lefevre signed the division, this was approved by Gaston Maspero, the director of the Antiquities Service at the time, and then shipped directly to Berlin. The statue arrived in Germany in 1913.
Moreover, Hawass explained that the smuggled antiquities, including Nefertiti’s head statue, were presented to Henry James Simon, who was originally a Jewish horse dealer, who then worked in the antiquities trade and was the financier of Borchardt’s excavations in Tell el-Amarna.
“This is why I am currently forming an Egyptian team of Egyptian and international thinkers and intellectuals, to sign an official letter, which will be sent to Germany away from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, stressing the necessity of the return of Nefertiti’s head statue,” concluded Hawass.