December 6 – Discovery of an Artifact, a Sculpture, an Icon

Posted on December 6, 2018

What do a German bank cellar, a German salt mine, and various museums in Germany all have in common?

The obvious answer: they are all in Germany, of course!

But the answer I'm going for is that they are all places where the famous Nefertiti Bust have been kept since its discovery on this date in 1912.

You probably already know that that discovery was NOT in Germany - of course not! - but in Egypt. Specifically, this statue was discovered in the ruins of the workshop of a sculptor named Thutmose in the archaeological site of the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna.

Which leads to the question:

Why has the world-famous Nefertiti bust been stored and / or displayed all over Germany instead of in Egypt?

Why indeed!

The archaeological team that discovered the bust was German, and when they discovered this gorgeous ancient art piece, they took it back to Germany. Every since then, Egypt has demanded its return - but to no avail!

Nefertiti currently is on display in a museum in Berlin.

Here are some tidbits about the piece, and about Nefertiti:

  • Nefertiti was the Queen of Egypt, married to the pharaoh Akhenaten. This was a wealthy time in Ancient Egypt - one of the wealthiest! But it was also an interesting time  because Akhenaten and Nefertiti were bold and innovative. They moved the capital from Thebes to a new city, Akhetaten (now Amarna), they helped to shape new styles in art, and they did away with all the old gods and goddesses and started a new religion - a monotheistic (just one god, Aten) religion! 
Akhenaten and Nefertiti, plus their daughters.

Notice that the babies and children are drawn like miniature adults
rather than having babyish and childish proportions!

    • With all of this new-new-new stuff, women - including Nefertiti and her daughters - had more power than women generally had in the ancient world.

      Actually, all of this new-new-new stuff may have been BECAUSE women - including Nefertiti and her daughters - had more voice and influence! 
    • Either Nefertiti or one of her daughters served as a co-ruler with Akhenaten, during the latter part of his rule, and then ruled Egypt as the female pharaoh Neferneferuaten.

    • One of Nefertiti's daughters became Queen by marrying the young pharaoh Tutankhamun. (You know, King Tut!)

    • Not long after Pharaoh Akhenaten's death, his monuments were taken down, hidden, or destroyed. He was considered a heretic, which basically means a believer in a false religion. His name was left off of lists of pharaohs, and in histories he was referred to as "the enemy" or "that criminal" rather than as King Akhenaten! Traditional religion was restored, the capital was moved back to Thebes, and many art styles and fashions associated with Akhenaten were abandoned.

    It's possible that Nefertiti tried to do damage control when she saw the backlash. Many scholars think it was Nefertiti's influence that started the new religion, but she may also have been the one to reinstall the traditional gods and religious practices, the one to bring back the Amun priests, the one to raise King Tut in the old ways.

    • Because of the bust of Nefertiti, she is one of the best known women of Ancient Egypt. She is also considered an icon of female beauty. Very symmetrical, very delicate neck and features - although who knows what the real woman really looked like!

    Check out some modern artworks that depict Nefertiti:

    By Elena Zhilina

    By Jean-Paul Martin

    By Kai Hansen

    By KamilaSharipova

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