Archaeological committee to inspect 'glued' Tutankhamun's gold mask and beard

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 22 Jan 2015

Did the protruding beard of the iconic golden mask of the boy king Tutankhamun break off only to be glued back on with epoxy?

In this Aug. 12, 2014, photo provided by Jacqueline Rodriguez, a man glues the beard part of King Tutankhamun's mask back on at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. The blue and gold braided beard on the burial mask of famed pharaoh Tutankhamun was hastily glued back on with epoxy, damaging the relic after it was knocked during cleaning, conservators at the museum in Cairo said Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Today, the golden mask of the boy king Tutankhamun caught the headlines of newspapers worldwide. It was reported that the blue and gold beard of the mask was broken during a cleaning process at the Egyptian Museum and that conservators hurriedly glued the beard back on with epoxy resin, damaging the artefact.

A museum conservator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Ahram Online that the mask fell during a cleaning process for the mask’s showcase last year and that the beard broke off by accident. The conservator continued that the beard was fixed back in place quickly with epoxy.

“The epoxy was not a proper material to use to restore the mask, although it is a conservation material with a very high strength for attaching metal and stone,” the conservator said.

Regretfully, he added, the epoxy dried, leaving a gap between the face and the beard, which was previously attached directly.

Egyptian Museum General Director Mahmoud El-Halwagi dismissed all accusations and told Ahram Online in a telephone interview that the mask is safe and sound and nothing happened to it since he took office last October.

He explained further that the beard is in its original position on the mask, and is as it has been since the mask was discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

“An archaeological committee was assigned to inspect the mask and beard in order to write a detailed report on the mask’s condition,” El-Halwagi said.

He added that the mask is periodically subject to cleaning and conservation and that if any gap had been found the museum’s conservators would have noticed it and repaired it.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that what has been reported in newspapers is unfounded. He explained that the beard has a fixed location on the mask and cannot be misplaced. 

The mask’s face has a hole on the chin where the pin of the beard entered. To hold the beard in place strongly, Eldamaty said, a conservation material is used and then removed after drying, and that was what had happened last year during periodical restoration carried out on the mask.

Within two days, the assigned archaeological committee is to send back its final detailed report on the mask.

Tutankhamun's mask on display at the Egyptian museum

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