The Egyptian government on Monday said it has sent an official petition to German authorities asking for the return of the 3,300-year-old limestone bust of the ancient Queen Nefertiti.
Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the council had sent a letter requesting the bust to Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The bust currently sits in Berlin's Neues Museum.
The Nefertiti bust was uncovered at the ancient site of Amarna by the German archeologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1912. Egypt claims Borchardt took the bust to Germany using fraudulent documentation, according to Deutsche Welle.
Along with the Rosetta Stone, which is housed in the British Museum, Nefertiti's bust is one of several high-profile antiquities that Egypt is trying to recover from abroad in order to raise the profile of its tourist industry. Tourism accounts for 13 percent of jobs and is one of the country's main sources of foreign currency, bringing in $10.8 billion in 2009, according to the Tourism Ministry.
Egypt maintains that the diary of the archaeologist who discovered the bust shows he misled authorities when it was transferred abroad. The council says that Ludwig Borchardt, who found the head in 1912, knew that the limestone bust was of Nefertiti and instead listed it as a "painted plaster bust of a princess."
German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann has said that his country's procurement of the bust was lawful and that Egypt had no grounds to demand its return. Germany refused to lend the statue in 2007, citing its fragility, Bloomberg says.