Inappropriate epoxy glue is now holding together the long, narrow, blue and gold beard on the famous mask of King Tutankhamun, according a report in the Arabic news site Al Araby Al Jadeed.
Braided like a pigtail with the end jutting forward, the beard was reportedly detached from the over 3,300-year-old mask during a cleaning incident last October at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the artifact is one of the top attractions.
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A museum employee, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals, told Al Araby Al Jadeed that the beard was unintentionally severed from the chin during ordinary dusting.
Three of the museum’s conservators confirmed the incident to the Associated Press, although they gave different accounts as to whether the beard was knocked off during cleaning or was removed because it was loose.
They all agreed that the beard was glued back on improperly.
Rather than following the regular procedures reporting the damage to the Ministry of Antiquities and send the priceless artifact to the restoration lab, someone opted for a DIY procedure, Al Araby Al Jadeed wrote.
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The beard was fixed with quick drying epoxy that cannot unstuck given its very high adhesive property. Indeed, the material is used for attaching on metal or stone.
Moreover, the glue was used abundantly, causing it to dramatically flow along the beard and chin.
According to the Arabic news site, which has published a picture to show “the presence of a foreign substance between the mask and chin,” it was then decided to remove the residue adhesive with a spatula, only doing more damaging as scratches are now visible.
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The incident, according to the news site, is the reason why the room housing the priceless golden mask is dimmer than the rest of the museum.
“Instructions were given in order to avoid showing the face and the damage in the chin area,” Al Araby Al Jadeed wrote.
The Egyptian museum has not yet confirmed the reports.
Image: King Tut mask at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo before the alleged incident. Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons.