With the 100 anniversary of the discovery of the famous Nefertiti bust coming up in the near future, it seems very appropriate that the topic of repatriation be discussed. When German archaeologists dug up this ancient piece of work at Amarna, Egyptian Queen Nefertiti soon found herself far from home in Berlin. There have been many years of debate on the topic of returning the Queen back to Egypt, her rightful home, but others feel that she belongs in Berlin, the land of her discoverers. Issues of repatriation are found all throughout archaeology and questions of “the rightful owner” are debated worldwide.
Like the bust of Nefertiti, Egypt has lost many archaeological artifacts to museums and private collectors all over the planet. The statue of Rameses II and the Rosetta Stone have also been removed from their homeland and now reside in the British museum along with other Egyptian relics of their time. But Egypt isn’t the only one effected by the relocation of ancient artifacts. The British Museum is also the home of the famous Parthenon Frieze of ancient Athens and the Roman Bronze head of Augustus, for example. Museums in London, Berlin, Cairo, Paris, etc all feature archaeological finds from every corner of the world.
Though these institutions are more than qualified to take proper care of these ancient artifacts, who’s hands should the really be in? Do they belong to their native lands? Or does “finders-keepers” stay in effect after the age of five? Though the German’s did find the bust of Nefertiti, many Egyptians feel that she belongs back home. The Neues Museum in Berlin will have an exhibition honoring the Egyptian Queen in December entitled “In the Light of Amarna – 100 Years of the Find of Nefertiti.” Though Cairo seems to be happy about the event, I can’t help but think after 100 years, Nefertiti should be returned home to Egypt and be celebrated among her people.