Monday, April 16, 2007

Egypt, German row over Nefertiti deepens

Source: IOL

Cairo - Egypt on Sunday threatened to ban future displays of its ancient artifacts in Germany if Berlin refuses to return a 3 400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti for a temporary exhibition.

"(Egypt) will never again organise antiquities exhibitions in Germany if it refuses a request, to be issued next week, to allow the bust of Nefertiti to be displayed in Egypt for three months," antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass told parliament, according to the official MENA news agency.

His comments came after German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann refused to allow the bust of Nefertiti - renowned as one of history's great beauties - to be exhibited in Egypt because it was too delicate to be transported.

"Experts have reservations about taking Nefertiti on a long trip, which we have to take seriously," Neumann said in reaction to a campaign launched in Germany under the title "Nefertiti travels" to loan the bust to Egypt for a limited period.

Cairo and Berlin have frequently crossed swords over the limestone bust, which was unearthed by German archaeologists in an artist's studio on the banks of the Nile and taken to Germany under a 1913 agreement.

It was described by Adolf Hitler as "a true treasure".

A row broke out in 2003 when the Berlin museum allowed artists to temporarily attach the bust to a bronze statue of a naked woman.

Nefertiti was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, remembered for having switched his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton.

Hawass has made it his mission to retrieve Egypt's widely scattered antiquities that can be found in museums around the world.

But the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for Berlin's art treasures, also ruled out a return to Egypt, saying: "After 3 000 the lady is travel weary." - Sapa-AFP

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