Have you ever been to Hamburg in Germany? I must say it is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
For me, the importance of Hamburg lies in the fact that its university is home to the most important Egyptology department not only in Germany, but in the whole of Europe. Many Egyptian archaeologists graduated from that prestigious department. Great Egyptologists from that department have made enormous contributions to Egyptology as a science such as Hartwig Altenmuller. The department of Egyptology at the University of Hamburg has made major contributions to the science of Egyptology, the most famous of which is the Lexicon of Egyptology, which is the most notable archaeological encyclopaedia that serves as a fundamental reference for archaeologists all over the world.
The residents of Hamburg love ancient Egypt and the Pharoah charm to the extent that they organized an exhibition of King Tutankhamen’s artefacts without having a single original item on show. The exhibition contains replicas of Tutankhamen’s celebrated artefacts. It is possible to view the burial chamber in which the boy king’s mummy and sarcophagus were found. There is also the famous treasure chamber in which Anubis was discovered together with the foetuses that we examined during the recent study that we conducted. It emerged that the foetuses were those of the Golden Pharaoh’s daughters.
The exhibition holds famous replicas of the Golden Pharaoh’s artefacts including the stunning golden mask, the throne and the war chariot. The average visitor would not know that these artefacts are replicas unless s/he had studied Egyptology. I was surprised to find that the entrance fee was 22 Euros. Around 200,000 people visited the exhibition over four months. Following the implementation of the new antiquities law, we will ask the Germans to either close down this exhibition or pay a percentage [of its revenues] to the [Egyptian] Supreme Council of Antiquities under the Intellectual Property Protection Act.
I was saddened to learn that the University of Hamburg decided to shut down its Egyptology department due to the economic difficulties the city was facing; difficulties that compelled the university to close down some of its institutes and departments, and it felt that there was no other department it could close except the Egyptology department. The officials of the city or university never thought that the residents of Hamburg would protest the decision and put together a petition [against the closure]. The campaign organizers collected 66,000 signatures against the closure of the Egyptology department so it was decided that the issue would be settled through the voting system. If the majority vote against the closure of the Egyptology department at the University of Hamburg then it will remain open.
I believe that the Egyptology department, which has become the main topic of discussion at restaurants, cafes and gatherings, will remain open. This is a testimony to the greatness of the ancient Egyptians who managed to capture the hearts of the German people. At the same time, the Germans are saying that the bust of Nefertiti belongs to Egypt and that it should return to its homeland.
The German school in Egyptology is one of the most celebrated schools in that field and numerous German Egyptologists have made their mark in this field such as Karl Richard Lepsius who recorded all of Egypt’s existing monuments from Nubia all the way to Alexandria. Another unforgettable Egyptologist is Ludwig Borchardt who led the expedition that discovered the bust of Nefertiti in Amarna and managed to deceive everyone and smuggle the bust out of Egypt by devising the most elaborate scheme in the history of archaeology. Despite that, Egyptology as a science will remain forever indebted to German archaeologists.
I believe that the residents of Hamburg will ultimately win the battle and that the Department of Egyptology at the University of Hamburg will not be closed down.