nefertiti bust joins digital age after secret 3D scans are finally revealed

nefertiti bust joins digital age after secret 3D scans are finally revealed

3D scans of a 3,000-year-old sculpture of queen nefertiti have finally been released to the public after a 3-year campaign by multimedia artist cosmo wenman. it follows a ‘hoax heist’ and a legal battle over the data’s release which includes full-color interactive images of the ancient bust.


in 2016, berlin-based artist duo nora al-badri and jan nikolai nelles revealed the result of an alleged digital heist claiming to have snuck into the museum with a modified kinect scanner and using it to create a digital 3D model of the artifact. wenman criticized the artists’ story claiming that the scan was simply too high quality.



in response, al-badri told hyperallergic: ‘maybe it was a server hack, a copy scan, an inside job, the cleaner, a hoax. it can be all of this, it can be everything. we are not revealing details. we are standing by the fact that we actually scanned it, but we don’t want to dismiss the other options at the same time.’



the high-resolution 3D scan captures every single last detail of the sculpture which was created in 1345 BC. from nefertiti’s delicate neck to her colorful headdress, the high set cheekbones, and sharply drawn eyeliner.



nefertiti lived from 1370 to 1336 BC and was the wife of pharaoh akhenaten. the bust was carved in limestone by the court sculptor thutmos in 1340 BC experts have determined. it shows the queen as ‘a grown woman with a harmonic and balanced beauty,’ according to a description on the museum’s website.



the ancient bust was originally scanned by the egyptian museum and papyrus collection in berlin, who kept the digital files guarded for fear of compromising gift shop sales. representatives claimed that it would interfere with the museum’s sales of nefertiti bust replicas in its gift shop, according to wenman said.



the prussian cultural heritage foundation — the organization that oversees state museums in berlin — initially denied wenman’s request. eventually, the agency granted his request, sending him a USB drive with the files.



the museum has also virtually ‘stamped’ the underside of the 3D model with a creative commons license, making it free for anyone to copy, adapt or transform for noncommercial use. wenman has since placed the files on thingiverse, a site for viewing and printing 3D objects.

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