By Culturekiosque Staff
NEW YORK, 1 April 2009 - Using CT imaging to
study a priceless bust of Nefertiti, researchers have uncovered
a delicately carved face in the limestone inner core and gained
new insights into methods used to create the ancient
masterpiece and information pertinent to its conservation,
according to a study published in the April issue of
"We acquired a lot of information on how the bust was
manufactured more than 3,300 years ago by the royal sculptor,"
said the study's lead author Alexander Huppertz, M.D., director
of the Imaging Science Institute in Berlin, Germany. "We
learned that the sculpture has two slightly different faces,
and we derived from interpretation of the CT images how to
prevent damage of this extremely precious art object."
Nefertiti, the wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, was the
most renowned Great Royal Wife of all 31 Egyptian dynasties.
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
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
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.
Special Report in April 2009 issue of
Insights into Composition of the Sculpture of Egyptian Queen
Nefertiti with CT. Collaborating with Dr.
Alexander Huppertz were Dietrich Wildung, Ph.D., Barry Kemp,
Tanja Nentwig, Patrick Asbach, M.D., Franz Maximilian Rasche,
M.D., and Bernd Hamm, M..D
Radiology is edited by Herbert Y. Kressel, M.D.,
Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., and owned and published
by the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. (RSNA.org/radiologyjnl)
Title photo: Image of bust taken at the Old
Museum, Berlin, Germany. In the exhibition, a carefully
adjusted illumination technique is used to put facial features
more in evidence.
Photo courtesy of Radiology
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