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Radiology. 2009 Apr;251(1):233-40. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2511081175.

Nondestructive insights into composition of the sculpture of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti with CT.

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  • 1Imaging Science Institute, Charit√©-Universit√§tsmedizin Berlin, Robert-Koch-Platz 7, D-10115 Berlin, Germany.



To assess the conservation status of, to gain information on the creation of, and to provide surface reformations of the core and the surface of the bust of the pharaoh-queen Nefertiti, considered to be one of the greatest treasures of ancient Egyptian art, with computed tomography (CT).


Multisection CT was performed with 0.6-mm section thickness. Two- and three-dimensional reformations were made to depict the core and the surface separately.


The stucco layer on the face and the ears was very thin, a maximum of 1-2 mm thick. The rear part of the reconstructed crown showed two thick stucco layers of different attenuation values, indicating that a multistep process was used to create the sculpture. Within the stucco, a great number of air-equivalent hypoattenuating areas, filamentous fissures parallel to the surface, and an inhomogeneous bonding between the layers were delineated. Nefertiti's inner face was not anonymous, but rather delicately sculpted by the royal sculptor Thutmose. The comparison to the outer face revealed differences, including the angles of the eyelids, creases around the corners of the mouth on the limestone surface, and a slight bump on the ridge of the nose. According to the beauty ideals of the Amarna period, the differences had positive and negative effects and can be read as signs of individualization of the sculpture. The potential material-related weaknesses of the sculpture that were revealed at imaging necessitate careful handling, with the avoidance of any focal pressure and shearing forces in the crown and the shoulders.


CT imaging revealed construction techniques in Nefertiti's bust that had implications for conservation, as well as for an understanding of the artistic methods used in the creation of this masterpiece of art of the 18th dynasty.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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