Head of Nefertiti emboiled in controversy over German court ruling on Egyptian artifacts

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 29 May 2011

A German court ruling that the University of Leipzig must hand its ancient Egyptian artifacts to the Jewish Claims Conference triggers controversy in Germany and Egypt

the museum

A German court ruled that the University of Leipzig must hand over its 150 ancient Egyptian artefacts to the Jewish Claims Conference (JCC) as compensation for Holocaust victims and their descendants.

This collection came into the possession of the museum of the University of Leipzig in 1936 when the late Jewish professor Georg Steindorff, who held Leipzig’s Egyptology chair, sold it to the museum.  Steindorff possessed this collection since 1915 when he excavated the site located to the west of King Khufu’s necropolis in the Giza plateau in a German mission. In accordance with Egyptian law at the time, he received 50 per cent of the discovered artefacts.

The court said Steindorff had been forced to sell his collection under Nazi rule for a price far below its actual value.

Leipzig residents are angry the museum would be losing its valuable collection, and under public pressure the Leipzig University promised to appeal the court ruling.

For his part Zahi Hawass Minister of State for Antiquities sent an official letter to the JCC demanding restitution of these objects, and threatened to file a lawsuit against it before German and international courts if the JCC did not comply.

The collection spans more than five millennia, since the pre-dynastic era to the Late Intermediate period. Among the most distinguished objects in this collection are the Ebers Papyrus, a medical papyrus purchased by George Ebers, and a small limestone head of the beautiful queen Nefertiti, wife of the monotheistic king Akhnaten.



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