Nefertiti bust

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Nefertiti bust

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maj 7, 2009, 3:45pm

As followers of the "history in the news" threads in the Ancient History forum may have seen, there's been some interesting news lately on the famous Berlin Head - the exquisite bust of Nefertiti found at Amarna in 1912.

First they did CT scans and discovered another bust underneath:

And now there are allegations that it's a fake:

And here's another account, including the bust's place in early 20th ce politics:

What do you think of all this?

maj 7, 2009, 10:50pm

the "fake" allegations are dubious.

IIRC the bust was discovered at a sculptor's workshop in Akhetaten. That would explain the missing eye - it was either not quite finished or was under repair.

the bust is similar to other amarna art. thus Borchardt would have needed to fake other artworks and scatter them around egypt, to be found later.

the explanation for carbon-14 dates is naive. i don't know exactly what kind of paint was used on the statue, but the pigments themselves will mostly be undatable because they don't contain any carbon. you would fnd carbon in blacks (carbon black), the plaster (maybe, if it had enough lime in it), and the limestone itself (calcium carbonate). However, both the plaster and limestone will be inorganic carbon, and thus infinitely old as far as C14 dating is concerned. if the black pigment shows an ancient carbon date, Borchardt (or Hitler) would have needed to use ancient carbon to make it in order for the date to come out right. that implies Borchardt or Hitler's sculptors scrounging around looking for 3300 year old would to make into carbon black, on the assumption that sometime in the future it would be possible to date it. it should also be possible to fake a carbon date by mixing modern and ancient organic compounds in the correct proportion; if, for example, you took olive oil (pressed last year) and motor oil (probably Cretaceous, but at least infinitely old as far as carbon is concerned), thoroughly mixed them (i recommend against doing this in the kitchen blender), burned the result, collected the soot and made it into carbon black, you should be able to make carbon of any date you desire. once again, i find the idea of either borchardt or the third reich doing this untenable.

maj 21, 2009, 10:35am


The latest issue of KMT has an article bearing on this, suggesting not that the bust is fake, but that the stela that was given to the Egyptian Museum as a substitute was. At the time, finds were supposed to be split 50:50 between the archaeologists and the Egyptian museum. The museum inspector that oversaw the division apparently never bothered to even look at the bust, instead going by the written description of objects. The stela was described as the second most impressive find, so the museum took that.

Interestingly, Borchardt was known to do some practical joke type fakery, once foisting a cuneiform table of logarithims of on a colleague.

maj 21, 2009, 10:53am

That is interesting! I'll have to pick up KMT.

maj 21, 2009, 10:58am

> 2: Also Stierlin - the author who claims it's a fake - has something of a reputation for jumping to conclusions.

okt 19, 2010, 12:37am

The paint in Egypt was grounded up granite rocks mainly.