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Sunday, March 10, 2013


I call it the $390 million lunch. It was held alfresco on the banks of the Nile, late morning, Monday, January 20, 1913. The host of this cannibal's soiree was the "tactless and brusque” archeologist Ludwig Borchardt (above), 50 year old special attache of the German Embassy in Cairo and director of the German Oriental Society, which had just finished its sixth season of excavations of Akanaten. Borchardt had spent two years cataloging the Egyptian Museum, and was the first to realize the Great Pyramids of Giza were not merely tombs, but a necropolis complex. He had even studied the best forgers in the Cairo market. No one knew ancient Egypt better than Ludwig Borchardt, and he was hungry for more. His main course this day was Gustave Lefebvre, a 33 year old Frenchman fluent in classical Greek, who had studied in Athens, was an expert in Ancient Greek and Egyptian literature and had been working in Egypt since 1902. Lefebvre was no slouch. Nevertheless, Borchardt was about to him eat him for lunch.
The meal began with a feast, the best that could be supplied to distinguished Europeans in the age of imperialism, complete with copious quantities of good French wine. And after the calf had been fatted, Bourchardt led his victim first into the hot office tent to read the carefully inventoried list of finds, and then into the larger darker tent where the finds were laid out in open boxes, as dictated under the Egyptian “Partage” law. For 30 years every foreign expedition had been required to divide its finds "√† moiti√© exacte" – into two financially equal shares - from which the Egyptian Museum would take their choice. In 1912 the law was strengthened to also allow the Museum to retain any particular item from the expedition's share. It was all an attempt to stem the wholesale European theft of Egyptian heritage.
Except the new law said the division was supposed to be held at the museum on Wasim Hasan street in downtown Cairo, not in the field. And there were no Egyptians in authority at the Egyptian Museum, there had never been. No Egyptians were qualified. Since the French invaded in 1798, and the British replaced them in the 1882, Egyptian history had been yet another resource to be exploited by the patriarchal European colonialist. Their excuse was they meant well. But even with the best of intentions, the most valuable bits and pieces of Egyptian history ended up being owned by Germans, the English, French and Italians. If they could have boxed up the pyramids and shipped them home, they would have. What was about to happen here at Arkanaten would be a good example.
Just after lunch on December 6, 1912 Ludwig Borchardt received a note from Ahmed al-Sabussi, one of his Egyptian foremen, informing him that a “flesh-colored neck with red bands painted into it” had been uncovered at a building then identified as P47.2, room 19. Later it would be determined to have been the studio of Thutmose, when an ivory horse blinker was found in a courtyard rubbish pit inscribed with his name and his occupation - “sculptor”. Ludwig, sensing something, important, raced to the site and was presented with the now completely uncovered bust. The instant he looked at it, Borchardt knew it was Nefertiti because of her flat topped crown, and he knew it was extraordinary. He wrote in his diary, “You cannot describe it with words. You must see it....Colors as if just applied. Work is outstanding.” They even took the time to take photographs.
Borchardt noted that the bust was missing its left eye, and offered a reward of £5 if it could be found. (It would not be) Then, because it was getting dark, he ordered Professor Herman Ranke (above, left) to guard it overnight.  Ranke later boasted, that night he slept next to the beautiful Nefertiti. In the morning Borchardt had the queen moved to his own tent, and he kept her there, out of sight, until Gustave Lefebvre arrived in January to oversee the division of spoils – er, artifacts.
In the office tent Lefebvre noted that atop the left hand column of the inventory were listed ten stone artifacts, including a rare limestone colored “folding alter” a sort of  TV tray (above),  a duplicate of one currently the prize of a Berlin museum. Midway down the right hand column of 25 plaster busts, was listed “a colored gypsum bust of a princess of the royal family”. In fact it was Nefertiti. In addition, the Frenchman was shown a photograph of each artifact, although Bruno Guterbock, secretary of the Society, who was present, admitted the photo of Nefertiti was “not exactly the most advantageous.” Borchardt himself later confessed the picture was composed so as hide her beauty, but also“ to refute, if necessary, any later talk...about concealment.” And it worked. The affable Lefebvre accepted the Germans had divided the finds into “approximate equivalency”. In fact, it seemed more than fair. The Egyptians got all the stone artifact while the Germans were keeping only the cheaper plaster ones.
Then they went into the larger, darker storage tent, where all the boxes were sitting, open, available for inspection. Guterbock was now very nervous. He had warned Borchardt about his “"obfuscation of the material.” The box containing Nefertiti was in a back row, open as all the crates were, her blue crown hidden beneath a black wig. But if Lefebvre should bother to lift the two and a half foot tall statue he would know immediately it was far too heavy to be made of plaster. Borchardt assured his secretary that if caught he would simply say it was all a mistake. But, as the German had anticipated, after a “superficial examination” of the artifacts, Lefebvre approved of the German division of the spoils, thanked his host, and headed back to Cairo.
Within hours the lady began a 2,000 mile journey to Berlin, Germany. There she was presented to the man who had paid for her excavation, the cotton importer and clothing exporter, Henri James Simon (above). He was the sixth richest man in Germany, a self described Prussian Jew, known as the only collector who brought more objects out of Egypt than Napoleon. And he donated them all to German museums. The bust of Nefertiti was so beautiful however that Simon held onto her for a year, in part at the urging of Borchardt. Even after the rest of the expedition's hoard went on public display in the Berlin Museum in 1914, the lady was kept hidden. At the end of June that year the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were gunned down in Sarajevo, Serbia. Within a month all of Europe was sucked into war, and for four years archeology became an unaffordable luxury.
The war ruined Simon.. The British blockade cut him off from his cotton and his customers. In 1917 he donated everything he still held to the Berlin Museum. And in 1924 “she who comes in beauty” went on public display, even though Borchardt strongly advised against it. The queen of the Nile was an instant hit, producing headlines around the world, and long lines to gaze upon her face. The Europeans running the Egyptian Museum were offended and demanded the lady back. When it was clear there was no legal option, they canceled all German Egyptian digs in 1925. They later relented on that, but they never stopped asking that the Nefertiti be returned.
For a long time there had been doubts about the authenticity of the limestone folding table top or altar which Borchardt had used to entice and distract Gustave Lefebvre. The hieroglyphic for truth (Maat) was misspelled in four separate places on the panel, and in the carvings Akhenaten is shown as left-handed, unlike every other depiction of him (above). And then in 2008 Italian scientists examined the the panel under ultraviolet light, and apparently what had looked like a patina of 3,000 years of weathering was merely a darker base color of paint. Even though the actual paper was never released for peer review, respected Egyptologist Rudolf Krauss, a curator at the Berlin Museum from 1982 to 2007, declared publicly that the altar was a fake perpetrated by Borchardt. Fellow Berlin curator, Dietrich Wildung, called the altar rubbish, and Christian Loeben, director of the Egyptian collection at the August Kestner Museum in Hanover Germany called it an absolute forgery. But without the full paper, detailing methodology and results, it is impossible to speak with certainty.
If Borchardt was enough of a scoundrel to have faked the altar, can we trust he did not also fake the bust of Queen Nefertiti? The insurance companies have decided to avoid difficult questions like that, and merely set a price on the head of a Queen of the Nile. That figure is now at $390 million.
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  11. See:

    Fake: 100 years of lies. Part 1

    Fake: 100 years of lies. Part 2


  12. The Fake. Hundred years of deception. Part III.

    ( )

    Two color busts of Nefertiti are in front of us: the anniversary model stored in the Berlin Museum is on the left, and another is from Kaiser Wilhelm II’s house, which was given to Emperor of Germany by a collector, a philanthropist and a textile magnate James Simon in October or December 1913. Present Egyptologists and historians have an opinion, that the right bust is a copy of the left. It is difficult to believe that, at least for two reasons. First of all, it is discredited that collector could not give copy artifact in to the monarch palace, keeping the original at his dust room for 10 years, that in accordance with the custom totally was conflict. Secondary, deep research of the shape and material of the busts strongly evinces the absolutely different relation between both figures. In particular, both of busts were made from one template.
    Indeed, basic forms of both busts are almost identical, but the artisan emphatically separated them in details. Let look at the eyes, the ears, colors and crowns of sculptures. The secret of connection between busts, or in other words their physical belonging will open in third part of our film. For that we don’t need some special knowledge, or well hidden historical facts. It is enough to have common sense. Let me start analysis are watching at the fragment of the film "Nefertiti's Odyssey" (National Geographic / BBC, 2007).

  13. Regardless of the opinion of Dietrich Vildunga, the director of the Berlin Museum, the computed tomography does not demonstrate that the figure was hewed limestone, as Ludwig Borchard declared. There is the molten form; it was not hewn from naturally occurring stone. Everyone knows how looks roughly processed stone; a lot of examples surround us. The technology of large or small chips has not changed since pyramids were constructed. Let us point out some of the details of the figure, which were shown in the film. It confirms that there was clear evidence that using of casting in a pre-made form in advance.

    It is not difficult to note the drop lane. These droplets (initially, of course, liquid, and then frozen) flew in an arc and went on round the neck. Such trace could not leave the tool that sculptor and stonemason used to work with, regardless of an epoch.

    Now let us scan the neck, but on another side. What is the strange rectangle on the swan neck? It is clear that it had been put with intention to add thickening of the neck when the material was still quite soft. There was no point specifically to carve step. It was caused from natural occasion of the neck hardening. In opposite, according to logic of making a round neck, the author should have smoothed the step. But sculptor did not do that because he knew that this rough patch would hide the plaster.

    The turquoise marker indicates the rectangular. Yellow ellipses and arrows spot failures with rounded edges, had been leaved liquid solution. The red ellipse comprises the most curious track, which was left thick solution on the right ear. There is a large circular hole, looks like damage, imitating a mechanical shock. However, the shape of the hole is such unusual form for damage that there is not a bit doubt about molten provenance. Obviously, the sculptor-forger tried to imitate the crack in the ear. Instead of the crack got the hole that he had to close down of the separate pieces of plaster and abundantly pour glue outside.

  14. There is the next counter-argument. Natural limestone, existing in the area of Amarna is a homogeneous substance, which does not contain foreign matter, even in very big volumes. Filling material of small Nefertiti bust was very heterogeneous in composition in such tiny scope. On each side of the bust, encircled by two green ovals, plaster solution includes light impurity, perhaps air bubbles (dark spots; white pointer inclusions these impurity).

    In general, the workpiece was molded from a material denser than plaster solution, so it looks lighter than the sides of the bust. The central part (red ellipse) is a more or less homogeneous mass. There is a purple ellipse below the small red ellipse, which contain material of high density. There is a light blue ellipse above the red ellipse and slightly to the right, which covered a large dark spot which is an area with low density, but not much higher than the density of the gypsum.

    Finally, there are large grains that diametrically opposed to the density a in the blue area which was marked by two stars. Dark tags are grains of low density of, light tags are grains of high density.

    Such heterogeneity piece tells us that the sculptor took almost rubbish that was lying at his feet for his workpiece. He did not mix original mixture, because of in any case; good cementing agent provides sufficient strength.

    We can see a similar picture on x-ray so-called swan neck colored bust of Nefertiti. There is a fine-grained mass near far to the ground of bust (red zone). There are major factions both high and low density in the blue area with a white star in the center.

  15. Now we are ready to say the close physical connection between the two busts. Our brief analysis of the anniversary figure demonstrated that the forger has hastily molded it, very casually. For example, let see the difference of the structure of the left and right shoulder. This inaccuracy could not be reflected in the final form of the finished forgery. All of us, who have carefully looked at the queen’s bust, could notice the asymmetry of the hat. The crown sits askew on the Nefertiti’s head. The left edge of the crown (red pointer) under the broken left ear is wider than the corresponding right side (green pointer). Sidelines of the truncated cone of the crown were tilted at different angles. Right line (it turquoise) is steeper than the left line (it red).

    Crown asymmetry creates problems for photographers. They should slightly expand the bust to create the appearance of symmetry. We can see this reversal on the location of the tail on top of the crown Urey (red pointer AA"), as well as range of the bust foundation (purple lines D and D' are not parallel).

    The truncated cone of the crown significantly was distorted. If we focus on the left slope of the generating line, we get the green isosceles triangle VV'B. "If we focus on the right form of the cone, we get the blue isosceles triangle CC'C". The summit of two triangles B" and C" are not the same, it also indicates violation of the symmetry.

    The asymmetry of the left and right shoulder also signifies (see yellow lines). The width of the left shoulder (XX') is less than the width of the right (YY'). The clipping plane of the right shoulder (Y) is sloped to the vertical plane (Z).

    To put it differently, this asymmetry did not relate the little curve of bust concerning the plane of the photo. Conversely, this curve allows concealing the unpleasant effect from the asymmetry of the whole sculpture.

    The asymmetry of the bust that is stored in the house of Kaiser Wilhelm II, has the exactly same character as the asymmetry of the anniversary bust, stored in the Berlin Museum. The crown set askew and awry. The left edge, with the red pointer, peeks out behind the ear on a larger amount than the right side, which indicates the green arrow. The truncated cone crown is an irregular shape too. The side, marked red arrow, is less flexuous than the side, with was indicated by the light blue arrow. Finally, the width of the left shoulder of Nefertiti (XX') is less than the width of her right shoulder (YY'). As can be seen the forger used the same form for casting for the two busts. Manufacturing those fake deceivers diversified the basic form by different parts: unlike ears, different eyes and Urey (snake on the crown), and colors.

    If the sculptor had wanted to exactly repeat the basic configuration of the bust, he would not have done that because of the very complex asymmetry, which could happen only accidently. Nevertheless those same distortions easily can be reproduced by casting using the same form.


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