King Tut's Iconic Mask Breaks, 'Fix' Is Even Worse

Beard reportedly knocked off in cleaning mishap is shoddily reset with epoxy
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2015 11:38 AM CST
King Tut's Iconic Mask Breaks, 'Fix' Is Even Worse
This July 1996 photo shows the mask of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.   (AP Photo/Mohamed El-Dakhakhny)

What do you do if someone accidentally damages one of the world's most famous artifacts under your charge at the Egyptian Museum? Do you a) report it to the nation's antiquities ministry to ensure it's properly repaired by specialists, or b) frantically call your husband so he can sloppily glue the broken piece back into place? That latter option is what's said to have happened to the iconic mask of King Tut, according to CairoScene, which translated Arabic website al-Araby al-Jadeed's assertion that the monarch's beard was knocked off during an ill-fated cleaning in October. The head of the renovations team apparently panicked and called her husband—also on the team—who then used so much epoxy that it ran over and dried on the mask's left-hand side. To cover that snafu, workers tried to scrape it off and ended up scratching up the 3,300-year-old mask.

The AP notes it reached three of the Cairo museum's conservators by phone, and they're all giving different stories: They don't seem to agree on when the Epoxy Incident happened, and one says the beard was loose and purposely removed. What they do agree on—and all sources spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal—is that someone on high ordered a quick fix, and that the adhesive used was more damaging than helpful. "Unfortunately, he used a very irreversible material," one of the conservators said. "Epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone, but ... it wasn't suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun's golden mask." According to al-Araby al-Jadeed, lights have been kept low where the mask is on display. An investigation is supposedly underway, per the AP. (See a cringe-inducing side profile of the "fixed" mask.)

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