Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Queen NefertitiA Swiss author, Henri Stierlin, says the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti is a 1912 fake. He says it was ordered by the archaeologist who supposedly discovered the treasure to test the colors of ancient pigments. The bust was said to be found during excavations at the old settlement of Amarna, 90 miles south of Cairo. It was later transported to Germany, where it was admired by a visiting Prussian prince when he saw it in 1912. Rather than embarrass the prince by telling him the bust was not ancient, the archaeologist (according to Steirlin) did not explain its history. The bust was later given to a Berlin museum and has been considered a great treasure. It will soon be displayed in a special newly built room. Stierlin says no archaeologists at the dig ever mentioned the bust, her deliberate lack of a left eye would have been considered an insult in ancient Eygpt, her shoulders were shaped differently than those on busts by Egyptian artists, and her facial features are based on twentieth-century ideas of beauty rather than on those of ancient Egypt. I always thought Queen Nefertiti looked amazingly modern, with a spectacular long neck and high cheekbones. Has anyone else noticed that in proper makeup Audrey Hepburn could look like her sister? Scientific tests haven't helped much in dating the bust because the stone is covered with plaster and the pigments are really 3,400 years old. To make the puzzle more complicated, since 1923 the Egyptian government has demanded the return of the bust, which it claims was smuggled out of the country.


tim said...


This is a great public relations stunt by the art historian who is probably getting ready to release a book on the heals of the opening in October of Berlin's Neues museum in which the bust will be the museums star exhibit.

Do not believe for a minute the bust is fake but rather this bust( who the attribution is the Kings wife Nefertiti is only a guess) fits perfectly in with the conventions of the "Amarna" period from the middle of the 14th century bc.

Anonymous said...

Stierlin is an art historian and author, his goal is to sell his books. He has written about virtually every ancient culture ... but that does not make him an expert ... it makes him an accomplished writer. The bust is well fitted to the Amarna style and the "imperfections" are easily understood in light of this being a "student's copy" that was discarded in the trash pit of the original workshop of Thutmose. If the plaster and paint are ancient - and they seem to be - then thr original story of the bust is most likely sound. When respected and academic Egyptologists begin to voice questions of authenticity, then we should pay attention. When a writer advances a theory (like Chariots of the Gods), we should nod and be polite.

Anonymous said...

I was at the museum in Berlin in 1959 and purchased a copy of the bust. Does anyone know what the copy of the bust is worth to a collector? Mine is a copy but a real copy, purchased and cared for by me. I thought it/the bust beautiful then (fake or not) and it is beautiful now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I just don't buy it.
The bust was discovered by Borchardt's 1912 expedition to Amarna. In his journal, written at the time, Borchardt documents the discovery, not only of the bust, but several other so-called "death masks" found at the workshop of the sculptor, Thutmose. The lack of the eye has been explained sufficiently in my opinion. It is an example of Amarna art. Her likeness, very similar to the bust, is in several wall carvings
The bust was a "working model", used to show students various techniques, in particular the way to insert eye inlay--therefore, the missing eye. There is absolutely no evidence of an inlay ever being in the socket. The orginial bust was covered with plaster, and a "face-lift" was applied--smoothing out wrinkles and showing how the features would appear in a finished statue or carving.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see ancient artifacts go to the British Musuem. They have whole walls of buildings there. I think all artifacts should go back to their homeland.