Industry News Archive

Cleaners break Tutankhamun's burial mask - then glue it back together

European Cleaning Journal - 23 February 2015

Cleaners in Egypt have caused untold damage to the burial mask of Pharaoh Tutankhamun after knocking off the blue and gold braided beard, then gluing it back on again.

The pharaoh's 3,300-year-old mask has been left permanently damaged after the relic was hastily stuck together using epoxy glue at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered by British archeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in 1922. The discovery sparked worldwide interest both in archaeology and ancient Egypt.

Cleaners and conservators have offered conflicting accounts of the error, and have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions. According to one account the beard was knocked off by accident while the mask's case was being cleaned.

The culprits were apparently told by their superiors to fix their mistake. According to one conservator: "The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab, but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and they used this quick drying, irreversible material.

"Epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is normally used on metal or stone, but I don't think it was suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun's golden mask."

A second conservator admits that there is now a visible gap between the face and the beard. "Now you can see a layer of transparent yellow," he said.

Tutankhamun became Pharaoh of Egypt in 1337 BC at the age of just nine. 
His death mask is priceless and is made of gold inlaid with semi-precious stones.


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