Report reignites controversy over famous Nefertiti bust

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The report shows that a German archaeologist swindled an inspector in Egypt into allowing him to take the bust.

Cairo -- Egypt will demand Germany return an ancient bust of Queen Nefertiti if a document suggesting it was fraudulently spirited out of the country is authentic, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Wednesday.

British newspaper The Times reported this week that a document found in the archives of the German Oriental Institute showed that a German archaeologist had swindled an inspector in Egypt into allowing him to take the bust.

The archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt, wrapped the 3,400-year-old bust and put in a dimly lit room to fool the inspector into thinking it was a banal find.

The document, an account by the secretary of the institute of a meeting between Borchardt and Egyptian authorities in 1913, also reports that he submitted an unflattering photograph of the bust and described it as made of gypsum rather than limestone.

"After reading the article I immediately sent a letter to the German Oriental Institute demanding a copy of the document," said Hawass. "If it is authentic we will work with all out power with the German government to bring back the statue."

Hawass had previously accused the German archaeologist of caking the bust in mud to veil its real worth.

Egypt began demanding the statue in the 1930s, but successive German governments, beginning with Adolf Hitler's, have refused its request.

The statue draws roughly half a million visitors a year to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.


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