Berlin marks 100 years since Nefertiti find with major expo

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The limestone and plaster bust, dramatically displayed at the end of a long corridor under a dim spotlight, is stunning for its almond-shaped eyes -- the right of which is missing the iris, aquiline nose, high cheekbones, sensuous lips and lofty blue crown with a band of red, grey and gold.

Its chipped ears are, remarkably, the only significant sign of damage exacted over the centuries.

The sculpture is at the top of a “wish list” of five major artifacts exhibited abroad that Egypt wants returned.

The campaign, spearheaded by former antiquities chief Zahi Hawass, has waned since the Arab Spring as Egypt grapples with more existential issues.

But officials in Berlin indicated the dispute rumbled on behind the scenes, despite what it said were documents proving the bust was bought legally by the former Prussian state.

“To head off any questions, let me say there is no doubt that Nefertiti rightfully belongs to the Berlin state cultural heritage foundation,” Neumann said.

He said endlessly competing ownership claims would only lead to “chaos” and insisted that Berlin took seriously its responsibility to preserve the bust for eternity.

“The real question of to whom Nefertiti belongs is easily answered -- to us all,” he said.

The director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, housed in the New Museum, Friederike Seyfried, said the Arab Spring’s upheaval had prevented scholarly cooperation with Egypt on the show and said she wished this could resume soon.

“I hope the political situation stabilizes there and doesn't go in a direction we would regret,” she said.

Amarna refers to the ruins of an ancient city founded by Akhenaton, where Borchardt and his team excavated more than 7,000 archaeological objects, about 5,500 of which made their way to Berlin.

The Berlin show will run until April 13 and features more than 1,000 of these objects including floor tiles from the royal palace featuring elaborate floral garlands, jewelry and ceramics.

A bust of Akhenaton restored especially for the exhibition is another keenly awaited highlight.

The show covers theology as well as art of the era, including discoveries from the sculpture workshop of Thutmose, believed to have crafted Nefertiti, and the daily life of Amarna’s citizens.

And it sheds new light on the work of James Simon, Borchardt’s Jewish benefactor, whose contributions were largely rubbed out of the historical record under the Nazis.

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