My ARCHAEO-Crush of August is one of the most beautiful ancient Egyptian sculptures… one that is somewhat controversial. Isn’t it always the case with Nefertiti?
THE BUST OF NEFERTITI
Type: artefact (painted sculptor’s model)
Civilisation: Ancient Egypt
Date: New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of King Akhenaten (14th century BCE)
ARCHAEO-Crush: It goes without saying that this is one of the most beautiful and most well-known sculpture from ancient Egypt. This spectacular bust represents Queen Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, whose name means the beautiful one has come. The statue is carved from limestone and augmented with plaster and beautifully painted in polychrome. It was discovered in 1912 by Ludwig Borchardt of the German mission excavating at El-Amarna–the city founded by Akhenaten. The statue of Nefertiti wasn’t discovered in a tomb (we still haven’t found the queen’s tomb despite rumours you may have heard recently) but in the studio of a sculptor named Thutmose at Amarna. Early in the 20th century, the Egyptian Antiquities Service would share the archaeological discoveries excavated by foreign missions working in Egypt–this is called ‘partage’ (from the French word meaning ‘to share’) and it seems that Borchardt may not have presented this particular discovery looking its best so that it would be given to Germany rather than kept in Cairo. The bust is now at the Ägyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum) in Berlin, which is located in the Neues Museum on Museum Island. Some scholars have also grumbled about its authenticity, thinking that it was actually made in 1912 and that the bust is in fact modern! The beautiful Nefertiti–a real ancient women of whose origins and death we know very little–will undoubtedly remain mysterious for a little while longer… and so will her now-famous and incredibly beautiful bust.
Bucket list status: I have actually seen this sculpture twice: the first time in its old home at Charlottenburg and more recently when the Neues Museum reopened. One should drop by the Egyptian Museum just to see her… she’s the Mona Lisa of Berlin! It’s worth the brouhaha.
Additional information: There are loads of books that have been written about Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten or the so-called Amarna Period…