The most famous archaeological relic in the world has been damaged during a botched cleaning attempt. After being knocked off, the blue and gold braided beard on King Tut's burial mask was "hastily" glued back on with an inappropriate adhesive, damaging the item even further.
Above: King Tut's burial mask before the incident. (Egyptian Museum in Cairo)
Brace yourselves, folks. This story is all kinds of messed up. As The Associated Press is reporting, it appears that the beard was quickly glued back on by curators at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with epoxy, an "irreversible material" that's completely unsuitable for a restoration effort of this importance. Conservators at the museum revealed the incident yesterday.
Frustratingly, the story isn't entirely clear because three of the museum's curators are offering conflicting accounts. It's not known when the incident happened, or whether the iconic beard was accidentally knocked off or removed because it was loose. What we do know, however, is that the curators were "ordered" from above to fix it quickly and that epoxy was used. All three curators refused to give their names for fear of professional reprisals. From the AP report:
"The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material," the conservator added.
The conservator said that the mask now shows a gap between the face and the beard, whereas before it was directly attached: "Now you can see a layer of transparent yellow."
But the story gets worse. It appears that the curators inadvertently got some of the epoxy on the face of the mask — and they used a spatula in an effort to get it off, damaging the relic even further:
Another museum conservator, who was present at the time of the repair, said that epoxy had dried on the face of the boy king's mask and that a colleague used a spatula to remove it, leaving scratches. The first conservator, who inspects the artifact regularly, confirmed the scratches and said it was clear that they had been made by a tool used to scrape off the epoxy.
Egypt's Antiquities Ministry and the museum administration are not responding to media requests, but one of the conservators said an investigation is currently underway.
[ Telegraph/AP ]