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Borchardt, Ludwig

Date born: 1863

Place Born: Berlin, Germany

Date died: 1938

Place died: Paris, France

Egyptian archaeologist; discoverer of the Nefertiti bust and expert and Old Kingdom temples. Borchardt was the son of a Jewish Berlin merchant, Hermann Borchardt (1830-1890) and Bertha Levin (Borchardt) (1835-1910). He studied architecture in Berlin between 1883-1887, intent on becoming an architect. He switched to Egyptology, training under the renowned Egyptologist Adolf Erman (1854-1937). In 1895 he joined the department of Egyptian art at the Berlin Museum. Under the auspices of the Prussian Academy of Sciences he traveled to Egypt, excavating Aswan. His findings allowed him to revise the interpretation of Egyptian building. Borchardt's interest was in pyramids. He excavated a number of these publishing monographs on their development. Between 1896 and 1899 he was an official of the French-led the Egyptian Antiquities Service, where as an employee of the Egyptian Museum (Ägyptisches Museum), he helped write the general catalog of antiquities for the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, (Catalogue général des antiquitiés egyptiennes du Musée du Caire) with Gaston Maspero, beginning in 1897 (his entries appeared in 1911). Borchardt worked as a scientific attaché at the German Consulate General of Egyptology in Cairo in 1899. There he bought a house in Cairo in 1903 from Henry Charles Barwick Hopkinson (1867-1946), Captain of the British Army and Commander of police in Alexandria. The same year he married Emilie "Mimi" Cohen (1877-1948), a wealthy Frankfurt woman in Frankfurt. In 1907 Borchardt founded the German Institute for Ancient Egyptian Archaeology (Deutsches Institut für Ägyptische Altertumskunde) in Cairo, acting as its first director. He purchased he house next door in 1909, to be the Institut. He directed the archaeological mission in Amarna, a concession of and financed by the German Oriental Society in Berlin (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). He excavated at Tell el-Amarna where Akhenation (Amenophis IV, 1379-1362 B.C.) had lived, exhuming the workshop studio of the court sculptor Thutmose, and discovering many carved portraits. One of these, found late in 1912, is the now-famous bust of Queen Nefertiti (today Neues Museum in Berlin). Borchardt was named Geheimer Regierungsrat (privy councilor) in recognition of his work in Egypt in 1913. Excavation was interrupted in 1914 by World War I and he returned to Germany. Following the war and Germany's defeat he resumed the Amarna excavation as part of the Egypt Exploration Society, based in London. Borchardt took up his duties as director of the Institute in Cairo again after 1923, recording monuments and working on publications, but participating in no more excavations. After living with the Nefertiti bust in his home for eleven years--and never publishing it, Borchardt moved the bust to the Berlin Museum in 1924. By this time Borchardt had become fascinated with searching for the lost city of Atlantis, which he suggested was most likely Bahr Atala (Schott el Jerid), a south Tunisian site in the Sahara, submerged about 1250 B. C. (Paris Atlantidean Society conference, 1926). A recently enacted retirement law for German institutions required Borchardt to step down from the Institute in January 1929 at age 65. Borchardt created of his own "Ludwig Borchardt-Institute" in 1931 as a Swiss foundation precipitating the Institute to move from the building to Sh. Kamel Mohamed in 1931. After the assumption of the Nazis to power in Germany, Borchardt's Egyptian finds were less valued (the Nazis favored the Roman Empire as their model). Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring offered the bust as a present to King Fuad I (1868-1936) of Egypt in 1933 to commemorate his Jubilee, but was forced to cancel the offer when Hitler learned of the gift. Borchardt and his wife maintained residency in Switzerland, resigning all association with the Reich the same year. While en route to London, Borchardt died in Paris. Borchardt’s younger brother was the writer Georg Hermann Borchardt (1871-1943), who wrote under the name Georg Hermann and perished at Auschwitz.

As an Egyptologist, Borchardt was the first to conclude that the pyramid formed part of the overall temple area (Kahane). His study of Egyptian column types led him to an accurate archaeological history of the temple at Thebes. In the twenty-first century, new challenges arose as to how honest Borchardt had been in exporting the Nefertiti head to Germany. Borchardt had an agreement with the Egyptian government to divide half of the finds the financing mission/holder of concession (Germany) and half with the Egyptian Antiquities Authorities. Recent repatriation researchers accuse Borchardt of hiding the identification of the bust to customs officials in order to export it. In 2009, several other authors maintained the Nefertiti bust is actually a modern fake (Ercivan, Stierlin). LS

Home Country: Germany/Switzerland

Sources: Ricke, Herbert. "Borchardt, [¶ 2] Ludwig." Neue Deutsche Biographie 2 1953: 455; Schweizer Lexikon 1 1991: 232; Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie 2 1995: 28; Kahane, Penuel P. "Borchardt, Ludwig." Encyclopedia Judaica 4. 2nd ed.: 80-81; Voß, Susanne, and von Pilgrim, Cornelius. "Ludwig Borchardt und die deutschen Interessen am Nil." in, Charlotte Trümpler, ed. Das Grosse Spiel: Archäologie und Politik zur Zeit des Kolonialismus (1860–1940). [exhibition catalog] Ruhr Museum Essen. Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag, 2008, pp. 295–305; Bloom, Julie. "Seeking Bust's Return, Egypt Cites Diary Entry." New York Times December 21, 2009, p. C2; Edrogan, Ercivan. Missing Link der Archäologie: verheimlichte Funde, gefälschte Museumsexponate und als Betrüger entlarvte Archäologen. Rottenburg: Kopp, 2009; Stierlin, Henri. Le buste de Néfertiti: une imposture de l'égyptologie? Gollion, Switzerland: Infolio, 2009; Fiechter, Jean-Jacques. Egyptian Fakes: Masterpieces that Duped the Art World and the Experts Who Uncovered Them. Paris: Flammarion, 2009; [obituary:] Steindorf, L. G. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 24 (1938): 248.

Bibliography: Die aegyptische Pflanzensaüle: ein Kapitel zur Geschichte des Pflanzenornaments. Berlin: E. Wasmuth, 1897; Statuen und Statuetten von Königen und Privatleuten im Museum von Kairo, Nr. 1-1294. 5 vols. Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1911, 1936, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire Nos. 1-1294, vols. 53, 77, 88, 94, 96; [English abstract of Mitteilungen der deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft zu Berlin, no. 55 (December 1914): 1-45, in:] Excavations at Tell el-Amarna, Egypt, in 1913-1914. Smithsonian Institution Publication 2399. Washington, DC: Govt. Print. Office, 1921; Porträts der Königin Nofret-ete aus den Grabungen 1912/13 in Tell el-Amarna. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1923; Die Entstehung der Pyramide an der Baugeschichte der Pyramide bei Meidum Nachgewiesen. Berlin: J. Springer, 1928; Die Entstehung des Generalkatalogs und seine Entwicklung in den Jahren 1897-1899. Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1937, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire, vol. 44.

Subject's name: Ludwig Borchardt