The inner face differed slightly from the outer one, with creases around the mouth, less pronounced cheekbones and a bump on the ridge of the nose.
Egyptian Queen Nefertiti lived 1370-1330 B.C. and was the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten and mother of Tutankhamun. Considered one of the greatest finds of ancient Egypt, the bust of Nefertiti was discovered in 1912, during excavation of the studio of famous royal sculptor Thutmose.
The Nefertiti bust consists of a limestone core covered in layers of stucco of varying thickness. The bust was examined using CT for the first time in 1992, but recent advances in CT technology allowed the researchers to analyze the statue in 2007 with greater precision. “CT has changed significantly since 1992,” Dr. Huppertz said. “We can now acquire three-dimensional (3-D) images at a much higher resolution.”
Dr. Huppertz and colleagues used a 64-section spiral CT technique with submillimeter section thickness to examine the bust and assess its conservation status, gain information on its creation and provide a 3-D surface reformation of the inner limestone sculpture. The results showed that a multi-step process was used to create the sculpture. The stucco layer on the face and ears is very thin, but the rear part of the reconstructed crown contains two thick stucco layers. CT images showed several fissures and non-uniform bonding between the layers.
The inner limestone face was delicately sculpted and highly symmetric. Compared to the outer stucco face, the inner face exhibited some differences: less depth in the corners of the eyelids, creases around the corner of the mouth and cheeks, less prominent cheekbones and a slight bump on the ridge of the nose. The ears on the inner sculpture were similar to those visible on the exterior.
Thin-section CT was able to provide detailed images of the inner structure in a completely nondestructive manner and showed the limestone core to be not just a mold, but a skillfully rendered work of art. Retouching the creases in the corners of the mouth and smoothing the bump on the nose on the outer face may have been the artist’s choice and reflective of the aesthetic ideals of that era.
CT findings also may be important in preventing future damage to the bust. The findings of multiple, varying layers of stucco, as well as fissures in the shoulders, lower surface of the bust and rear of the crown, indicate vulnerable areas requiring very careful handling, and pressure on the layers of thick stucco is to be avoided”. “Noninvasive CT technology and very advanced 3-D post-processing tools allow us greater insight into the internal composition and conservation status of the sculpture,” Dr. Huppertz said. “This knowledge will greatly contribute to the preservation of this priceless antiquity.”
The Nefertiti bust is part of the collection of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin and will be moved in October 2009 to the recently restored New Museum in the historical center of Berlin. (Source Used http://www.eurekalert.org).
Here is the report as presented in the April 2009 issue of Radiology:
Nondestructive Insights into Composition of the Sculpture of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti with CT1
1 From the Imaging Science Institute (A.H., T.N., B.H.) and Department of Radiology (P.A., B.H.), Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Robert-Koch-Platz 7, D-10115 Berlin, Germany; Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Berlin, Germany (D.W.); Department of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (B.J.K.); Siemens Healthcare, Berlin, Germany (T.N.); and Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Nephrology, University Hospital Ulm, Ulm, Germany (F.M.R.). Received July 5, 2008; revision requested August 1; final revision received October 8; accepted October 17; final version accepted October 26. Address correspondence to A.H. (e-mail: Alexander.Huppertz@charite.de ).
Purpose: 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).
Materials and Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: 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.
Alexander Huppertz, MD, Dietrich Wildung, PhD, Barry J. Kemp, MA, Tanja Nentwig, Patrick Asbach, MD, Franz Maximilian Rasche, MD, and Bernd Hamm, MD