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Mon, 01/21/2013

In the Light of Amarna

On 6 December 2012, exactly 100 years to the day after the discovery of the Nefertiti bust in Tell-el Amarna, the exhibition 'In the Light of Amarna - 100 Years of the Nefertiti Discovery' was officially opened at the Neues Museum on the Museumsinsel Berlin.

The exhibition immediately drew a big interest from Berliners and visitors. They are queuing outside the museum at the box office booth which is set up in the impressive court yard lined by the Neues Museum (New Museum) on the one side the National Gallerie (National Gallery) on the other and columns separating the yard from the street on the southern side. The fourth side ist open and allows a view on the river Spree and the buildings on the other bank.

Patiently people are waiting to get there ticket even when it is raining or snowing. The museum is building a new entrance at its backside but it has only just started. But there is another way to get a ticket without queuing – not even at the actual entrance of the museum. One can get a ticket for the exhibition – in fact for almost all Berlin museums – via the official website, which is in several languages. One can choose for a certain time to visit an exhibition, shows up within that time window and just enters the building.

But for “In the Light of Amarna” the exhibition is worth the effort to get in. In the basement - where the shop is too – one can find the story behind the excavation efforts in Egypt. Who financed what, who got what out of the excavated treasures and what eventually happened to them. The famous Nefertiti bust originally came in the hands of James Simon, who started funding Ludwig Borchardt's excavations in 1912. Thanks to Simon's patronage and Borchardt's perseverance, the excavations resulted in the discovery of Nefertiti 100 years ago. As a consequence of the division of finds, some 5500 objects from the Amarna period came into the possession of James Simon, who later donated them to the Royal, now National Museums in Berlin (the Staatliche Museen). While the bust was in Simon's possession it was sitting above the fire place in his living room where other artefacts had a home too. There actually is a photo showing this, which – for today's eyes – looks somehow odd.

On the second floor just in the rooms situated before the round room which is solely dedicated to Nefertiti's bust, the visitor finds artefacts and descriptions about the time when Nefertiti and her husband Echnaton, the Pharaoh of Egypt, lived. Echnaton founded his own sun cult which had only one God: Aten. For him – and himself – Echnaton build a new city called Akhetaten (the horizon of Aten). Nefertiti was the strong woman on Echnaton's side. Without her he could not have build this new empire. After his death the cult and the city died.

The exhibition is open until April 13, 2013. The day ticket costs 14 Euro, reduced 7 Euro.