Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts

  • 2016-04-12
  • New York TImes

BERLIN — Experts have raised questions about assertions by two German artists that they used a concealed mobile device to scan the bust of Queen Nefertiti at the Neues Museum in Berlin, and then released the resulting data online in a project meant to question museum policies and notions of cultural ownership.

The artists, Nora al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, said they scanned the 3,000-year-old bust during a visit to the museum in October, using a modified version of a Kinect, a consumer-grade motion sensor. In December they released online what they said was the resulting data, allowing anyone to make a copy of the bust with a 3-D printer. Ms. Badri and Mr. Nelles also released a video that they said showed them scanning the bust at the museum and made two of their own copies, which they delivered to Egypt.

The project, called “The Other Nefertiti,” attracted wide attention, with many praising the artists’ message of openness, their guerrilla tactics and their clever use of scanning technology.

But as the story spread, some 3-D scanning experts began asserting that the data the artists released was of too high a quality to have come from a Kinect, which was developed by Microsoft for the Xbox 360. They suggested that the artists had somehow acquired the museum’s own scan of the bust, scanned a high-quality copy or produced the scan by some other means.