In this article, we are going to discuss Egypt’s five most wanted artifacts that have been missing since colonial intrusion. We will get to learn how the likes of Germany, France, and Britain got hold of some of these antiquities and, to date, have been reluctant to return them.
The Bust of Nefertiti
This painted limestone bust of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s wife Nefertiti was discovered over a century ago in Amarna, Egypt, by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt and is considered one of the best examples of ancient Egyptian sculpture. Because of the unusual crown that she was known to wear, it was identified as a portrayal of the fabled beauty.
Aside from her beauty, Nefertiti is known to have had a major impact on her day’s culture and religion, and some experts believe she may have reigned for a time following her husband’s death. Her bust, which is currently on exhibit at Berlin’s Neues Museum, was buried in a German salt mine during World War II; the US forces discovered the valuable treasure in 1945 and eventually returned it to West Berlin. Despite several demands, Germany has refused to return the bust, claiming that it was obtained legitimately and may be too delicate to relocate.
The Rosetta Stone/ a language learning tool
A French soldier discovered a black basalt block etched with ancient writing in the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria, in July 1799, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian expedition. The irregularly shaped stone held portions written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotic.
The artifact contained the key to unlocking the puzzle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been dead for nearly 2,000 years because the ancient Greek document specified that all three passages had a similar meaning. When the British vanquished Napoleon in 1801, they took the Rosetta Stone with them. It has stayed in London’s British Museum ever since, with the exception of a brief period during World War I when museum officials relocated it to a different underground location to preserve it from bombardment.
The Zodiac of Dendera
Vivant Denon, a French artist, made a picture of an exquisite bas-relief that graced the ceiling of an Osiris chapel in the Hathor Temple at Dendera in the late 18th century. The intricately carved sandstone slab depicts a map of the sky with the signs of the zodiac as well as symbols symbolizing the 360 days of the ancient Egyptian calendar.
With permission from Egyptian ruler Mohamed Ali Pasha, French archaeologists disassembled the chapel’s roof and sent it to Paris for further research in 1820. Debate raged over the artifact’s date and value until Jean-Francois Champollion, the same classical scholar who decoded Egyptian hieroglyphics with the Rosetta Stone, detected ideographs dating it to the first century B.C. It is now housed at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where it continues to dazzle and fascinate historians, Egyptologists, and astrologers.
This life-size statue depicts Hemiunu, the Egyptian vizier who is thought to have overseen the construction of the Great Pyramid 4,500 years ago. The limestone relic was discovered within his tomb by German researchers in 1912 and was moved to the Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, where it remains to this day. The intricately carved seated figure sits on a column adorned with painted hieroglyphs. Many art historians consider it to be one of the best Old Kingdom portraits.
This bust of the prince and vizier Ankhhaf, who served his nephew, Pharaoh Khafre, during Egypt’s fourth dynasty, is made of painted limestone. Ankhhaf, like Hemiunu, is thought to have built pyramids and other buildings, maybe including the Sphinx.
His bust, discovered in Ankhhaf’s tomb at Giza, is notable for its accurate depiction of an elderly model at a time when other portraits were highly stylized. The item was donated as a gift by Egypt’s antiquities director to Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which had supported an expedition that found the statue and a trove of other rare antiquities in the 1920s. Since then, it has been on display in the Museum of Fine Arts.
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