Egyptologist and former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass called for the return of a bust of Nefertiti from Germany to Egypt, during his lecture in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, organized by the Egyptian Embassy in Brazil.
“Nefertiti’s head came out of [Egypt] illegally, and I call for its return to be seen by Egyptians at the inauguration of the Great Egyptian Museum,” he said.
Nefertiti’s story dates back to 1912, when a German archeological mission headed by Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt visited Cairo and signed a contract with the Egyptian government, giving it the right to acquire some of the artifacts found in the area of Tell el-Amarna, which was built by Akhenaten, and became the capital instead of Thebes.
Among the artifacts transferred by the mission outside Egypt was Nefertiti’s head.
The Nefertiti bust became a cultural symbol of Berlin, and sparked a heated debate between Egypt and Germany over Egypt’s request to return it among smuggled artifacts, according to Youm7.
Nefertiti lived in the 14th century BC, and was the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, one of the kings of the 18th Dynasty in ancient Egypt who ruled Egypt from 1352 BC to 1336 BC. Together, they heralded a religious revolution, based on the worship of the sun, or “Aton”.
From the unveiling of the statue at the Berlin Museum in 1925 to this day, there has been widespread debate about the restoration of the statue.
In 1925, the Egyptian government declared a ban on German missions, until the head of the Pharaonic queen was returned to Egypt. During the reign of Adolf Hitler, he rejected any plan to return the bust to Egypt.
Some European countries, including Germany, have passed a law that considered any artifact that has been admitted on its territories for 25 years a national treasure, which formed a political and legal crisis regarding the Nefertiti statue.
Hawass argued that the Nefertiti statue was illegally exported from Egypt and should therefore be returned. He called in 2005 on Germany to prove that it legally obtained the statue.