Archaeologists still haven’t found the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, the Egyptian monarch who reigned from 1353 to 1336 BCE alongside her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten. However, she became one of history’s most recognizable monarchs after German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt discovered a bust of her visage in an ancient Egyptian sculptor’s workshop in 1912. Now, thanks to an artist duo that 3D scanned Nefertiti’s bust at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany, you can print a replica of the sculpture for your own home.
Last October, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles concealed Microsoft Kinect scanners underneath their jackets and scarves, and snuck the device into the Neues Museum, Gizmodo and Popular Science report. There, they managed to make a precise copy of the heavily guarded limestone and stucco statue. Because 3D scans of the bust reportedly remain under the museum’s control, Al-Badri and Nelles recently released the collected dataset online for anyone to download, print, or manipulate as they’d like.
Hyperallergic also writes that the two used the scan to create a 3D-printed, one-to-one polymer resin model that's reportedly the most precise copy of the bust ever made. It’s now on permanent display at the American University of Cairo, a rival museum of the Neues Museum.
Al-Badri and Nelles’s project, called “The Other Nefertiti," is an artistic—and political—statement. According to Reuters, Egypt and Germany disagree over which country holds true claim to Nefertiti’s bust. In past years, German officials have refused to return the statue to its homeland, arguing that their country legally acquired the work in 1913. Meanwhile, Egyptian antiquities experts claim that Borchardt downplayed its significance to claim it for Germany. Al-Badri and Nelles hope that their stunt will make us reassess who truly “owns” these iconic works.
“For the first time since the sculpture was excavated and stolen over 100 years ago, the iconic artifact will be shown in Cairo ... With the data leak as a part of this counter narrative we want to activate the artifact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany,” the artists write on their website, Nefertiti Hack.
Watch a video of Al-Badri and Nelles scanning Nefertiti’s bust above, or download your own copy online.