Nefertiti a Bust? October Checklist Update

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Egypt in the News

Nefertiti_berlinWe have a status report on the effort to repatriate Nefertiti, thanks to an interview with Dr. Zahi Hawass published in Spiegel Online International this morning.  The prognosis looks dim.  In fact, the goal seems to have moved somewhat.  When asked if he really wanted to remove Nefertiti from her new home, Dr. Hawass replied “Not by any means.”

What could this portent for our October Checklist?  With eleven days to go, maybe it’s time we reviewed.

bor-tagWhen I interviewed Dr. Hawass back in early August, 2009, for Heritage Key, I asked him when he intended to reveal the evidence that Ludwig Borchardt had used “unethical tactics” to bring the bust of Nefertiti to Germany.  At that time he replied that the evidence was still being gathered and would be revealed in October when he wrote to the Germans to request her return.  So I added this disclosure of evidence to a short checklist I put together, just for fun, of accomplish-ments promised, implied, or hinted at for October. 

To be certain, Dr. Hawass has been anything but idle!  Although some of the details and timing are, in this writer’s opinion, a little hazy, Dr. Hawass did demand and secure the return of a set of four, er, make that five stelae from the Louvre.  I didn’t foresee that when coming up with the checklist.

cleo-tabSomething else that I missed was the search for the tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, which Dr. Hawass told Ria Novosti would resume in October.  With Spiegel Online he was even more specific.  “The final excavations,” he states, “which had to be postponed for months, will continue next Sunday.”  Final excavations?  Sounds like he is pretty certain he has found the famous star-crossed lovers.  By the way, any rumors out there about Dr. Hawass’ collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Martinez on a book about Cleopatra?  The timing couldn’t be better…

But as for the checklist, with eleven days of October to go, it’s looking pretty tight. 

dna-tabFirst we have Tutankhamun’s paternity tests, a key factor in the genetic mapping of the Eighteenth Dynasty.  According to a September 20, 2009, article on the Sacramento Bee website, the results of the DNA testing done on a fetus discovered by Howard Carter in Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 were to be announced in “the next few weeks.”  As of today, we are at four weeks and counting.  But there is still time.

dedtut-tabThen there is the cause of Tutankhamun’s death, which way back in August was promised to be revealed “in one month.”  In all fairness, as has been speculated in the comments section of the Checklist, Dr. Hawass is due to speak in November at the opening of the restored Carter House, which would really be a more appropriate time and place to reveal this news.  So if he has decided to renege on this particular promise, as he obviously has, then I can see giving him a pass, but hopefully he will indeed break this news next month.

zahtv-tabWhat about Z-TV?  The History Channel was rumored to be planning a sort of reality show featuring Dr. Hawass and a team of student archaeologists that was to begin filming “roughly October 2009.”  As best as I can tell, this seems to be possibly related to projects on the Past Preservers website, although Dr. Hawass is not specifically mentioned.  As the casting call is still out, I would presume filming will probably not begin in the next eleven days.  But to be honest, this entry on the Checklist was even more for fun than the rest, so if work really does begin this month on the Mark Antony and Cleopatra site, we’ll swap that for this and call it even.

kv64-tabOn a much more serious note is KV64.  In a lecture delivered at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis, the very night I interviewed him, in fact, Dr. Hawass proclaimed that a new tomb would hopefully be revealed by the all-Egyptian team in October.  There has been much speculation about whose tomb this might be—Ramesses VIII?  Nefertiti?  The mysterious “Great Wife” mentioned on an ostracon found in the hotbed of activity around the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs?  Again, there is still time, but we aren’t seeing the sort of buildup that normally precedes a major announcement from Dr. Hawass.

And then there is Nefertiti. 

nefshadow-tabThe checklist did not specify she had to be returned, but simply that the catalogue of Herr Borchardt’s crimes and misdeeds would be revealed when Dr. Hawass wrote to Berlin to demand her return, which was to occur in October.  But it would seem that the evidence is still “being gathered.”  On one hand, he states that the issue will be put to rest when he has clear evidence that the bust was acquired legally, but on the other he says he has evidence that she did indeed leave Egypt illegally.  He doesn’t want to “jump to any premature conclusions,” even though Berlin’s failure to cooperate “seems suspicious.”

Add to that Dr. Hawass’ statement that he is “not by any means” seeking to take Nefertiti from her new home, which would just be “wishful thinking,” it seems that some clarity is not likely to come in October.  Again, there is still time, but as the goal moves from demands of repatriation to an artifact swap sometime in the future, or a temporary loan ten years from now, it seems the spirit of Ludwig Borchardt may continue to rest in peace.

One good bit of news from the interview is Dr. Hawass’ statement that he has no plans to evoke the nuclear option of suspending relations with Berlin.  Although this move apparently worked with the Louvre, in the end it is not the curators, the ministers, or other “deciders” who suffer from such strategies.  It is the researcher in the field who has his or her work suspended, and that hurts all of us.


Copyright by Keith Payne, 2009.  All rights reserved.

Photographs ”Nefertiti berlin.jpg” by Zserghei, ”DSC093719.JPG” by E. Michael Smith, and “Rubble being cleared” by drewnoakes are provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons  and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of those files under the conditions that you appropriately attribute them, and that you distribute them only under a license identical to this one. Official license 



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Egypt in the News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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