Update March 15, 2016: After this investigation was reported by multiple news outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Instapundit, The Daily Dot, Kotaku, Digital Trends, Fusion, Gizmodo, Hyperallergic, Mentalfloss, BoingBoing, and ARTFIXdaily, on March 10, 2016 The New York Times published a follow-up story: Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts. -CW
The New York Times’ March 1, 2016 story “Swiping a Priceless Antiquity … With a Scanner and a 3-D Printer” by Charly Wilder tells how two German artists made a surreptitious, unauthorized 3D scan of the iconic bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
The artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, make a case for repatriating artifacts to their native countries and use Nefertiti as their focal point. They also point out that the Neues Museum has made its own high-quality 3D scan of the bust, and that the museum should share that data with the public. As a protest, they released their own scan to the public, and the quality of their scan is extraordinary.
The story has received a great deal of attention and Al-badri and Nelles have earned much praise for their efforts to digitally repatriate important cultural artifacts. Unfortunately, there are serious problems with their story and The Times’ account.