CT scan of a bust of Egypt's Queen Nefertiti's has helped researchers unravel hidden aspects of sculpting the priceless masterpiece.
"We acquired a lot of information on how the bust was manufactured more than 3,300 years ago by the royal sculptor," said Alexander Huppertz, director of the Imaging Science Institute (ISI) in Berlin, Germany. Huppertz is the lead author of a study about Nefertiti's bust.
Nefertiti was the co-ruler of her country in the 14th Century BC.
"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 analyse the statue in 2007 with greater precision.
Stucco or 'render' is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid.
Huppertz, a medical expert, and colleagues used a 64-section spiral CT technique to examine the bust and assess its conservation status, gain information on its creation and provide a 3-D surface reformation of the inner limestone sculpture.
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 mould but a skilfully rendered work of art, said a press release from the institute.
These findings were published in the April issue of Radiology.