Lonely Planet Writer

Artists 3D scan Nefertiti’s bust and release it online

Two artists have made the contested bust of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti available to anyone with a 3D printer, after sneaking 3D scanners into a German museum.

A 3D print of Nefertiti's bust.
A 3D print of Nefertiti’s bust. Image by Nefertiti Hack

The bust of the queen is more than 3000 years old and is currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin. The bust was first discovered in 1912 in an ancient Egyptian sculptor’s workshop, reports Smithsonian.com, and has since caused a dispute between Egypt and Germany over its rightful ownership. The German museum will not return or loan the piece to Egyptian museums, reports ArtNet.

Now, the artists have scanned the bust and released the 3D data set online under creative commons, so anyone can download and print a copy using a 3D printer.

The data is posted to a website called Nefertiti Hack. The two German artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, write on the site that they “scanned the head of Nefertiti clandestinely in the Neues Museum Berlin without permission of the Museum and they hereby announce the release of the 3D data of Nefertiti’s head under a Creative Commons Licence”.

The bust of Nefertiti, Ägyptisches Museum Berlin.
The bust of Nefertiti, Ägyptisches Museum Berlin. Image by Oskari / CC BY 2.0

The artists will also bring a print of the artefact back to Egypt.

“The artists’ 3D-Print exhibited in Cairo is the most precise scan ever made public of the original head of Nefertiti. With regard to the notion of belonging and possession of objects of other cultures, the artists’ intention is to make cultural objects publicly accessible”.

The release of the data is intended to spark a conversation on the repatriation of artefacts and to “overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany”.

According to the Telegraph, it is unclear whether the artists have committed a criminal offense.

Read more: Tutankhamun back on display in Egypt after beard fell off