On 6 December 1912 a limestone bust of Nefertiti was unearthed by a German archaeological team led by Ludwig Borchardt. The archaeologists were excavating in Armana, and came upon the ancient sculptor Thutmose’s workshop. Frequently described as the most famous face from antiquity, this bust of Nefertiti is perhaps rivalled only by Tutankhamun’s death mask.
The bust of Nefertiti on display in the Neues Museum, Museumsinsel in Berlin.
Although there are no identifying inscriptions on the bust, the characteristic crown is one that is worn by Nefertiti in other identifiable representations of her. As iconic as this representation of an ancient Egyptian woman has come to be, for feminine beauty and culture in Berlin, it has not been without controversy.
The lack of any specific identification and that the bust did not appear in public until 1924 (an 11 year period from the date of its discovery for which there no records of the bust) has lead some to suggest that the bust is a modern forgery. Henri Stierlin, a Swiss art historian, and a few others think so (Is this Nefertiti – or a 100-year-old fake?).
But few specialists and Egyptologists who have worked extensively with the bust give much credence to these views. A detailed account Re-Examining Nefertiti’s Likeness and Life, by Matthias Schulz can be read on Spiegel Online.
More recent research using CT Scans shows that the sculpture has a limestone core rendered by a gypsum stucco layer. The scan revealed that the inner face was carved showing bags under the eyes, creases around the mouth and cheeks and a swelling on the nose. The painted stucco layer eradicates these natural signs of ageing producing a more perfect image.
Queen Nefertiti, is her’s the most famous face from antiquity?
Where Was the Bust of Nefertiti Found?
The bust was found in what was the workshop of Thutmose, in the ancient city of A in the because it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt. Amarna is a vast archaeological site – the ruins of the capital city that was established by the Pharaoh Akhenaten in the late Eighteenth Dynasty
Where is the Bust of Nefertiti Today?
Despite repeated requests for the repatriation of the bust since its 1924 public unveiling in Berlin (Did Germany Cheat to Get Bust of Nefertiti? Spiegel International), Nefertiti’s bust is still on display in the German capital. Thutmose’s bust of Nefertiti is part of the the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, which along other prehistoric and classical collections, is housed in the newly restored Neues Museum.
Nefertiti in an isolated glass case in a small, circular room within the Neues Museum in Berlin.
Is Thutmose’s Bust of Nefertiti on Public Display?
Yes, the bust is on display in the Neues Museum on Museuminsel in Berlin. In fact, seeing Nefertiti’s bust is high on many people’s list of things to do in Berlin, not just history geeks. Today, Nefertiti is in a small glass case in a small circular gallery, and she enjoys tight security. Photography is not permitted, and there are signs everywhere.
For those with a deep passion for ancient Egypt, you can get a 90 minute tour of the Egyptian collection on display in the Neues Museum, including Nefertiti’s bust. You get to skip-the-lines, so no waiting in long queues, and have the pleasure of a trained Egyptologist showing you the highlights of the collection. This is a private tour for up to two people – no big groups! After the tour you get to explore the museum at your leisure. For further details, and booking online, follow this link to the GetYourGuide Website.
Another private tour, offered by a professional Art Historian, gives you a 3 hour tour of the Egyptian and Mediterranean Collections. You get to choose between a morning tour, or an afternoon one; for more details and and to book online, follow this link to the Viator Website.
For more information about buying tickets for the Neues Museum, and other museums on Museuminsel – either individually or as a combination ticket, day passes and skip-the-line-ticket, see your options in our Guide to Buying Tickets for Museuminsel and Museums in Berlin.
History With Kids
So significant is the 1912 arrival of Nefertiti’s bust in Berlin, this event has been included in the city’s ‘miniature history’ at Little Big City Berlin. Understandably a great attraction with an accessible story of Berlin for children, but also an enjoyable experience for adults too.
A miniature representation of Ludwig Borchardt carrying a very recognisable bust of Nefertiti. Included in a reconstruction of a 1920s street in Berlin at Little Big City Berlin.
Visiting Berlin? If you are planning a trip to Berlin, check our List of Things to Do in Berlin.