Monday, December 14, 2015


Since the golden burial mask of King Tutankhamun was unearthed nearly a century ago, visitors from around the world have flocked to the Egyptian museum to view the famed relic. An icon of ancient Egypt, it has become one of the world's most famous works of art.

So in August 2014, when the beard attached to the 3,300-year-old mask was knocked off while being returned to its display case after workers replaced a burned out light, panic set. In a hasty attempt in the early morning hours, workers glued the beard back on with insoluble epoxy resin. That proved to be a major error.

"They did not attach it in its original position, the beard was slightly bent to the left side," Christian Eckmann, the archaeologist tasked with restoring the artifact, said in an interview in the garden of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
"They also put some glue onto the chin and beard, so it was visible. It was not adequately done, and then in January 2015 the press found out, and the whole case was a scandal somehow," Eckmann explains. He is a renowned restorer from the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Archaeological research institute in Mainz.

It was feared irreversible damage to Egypt's prized artifact had been done, but Eckmann was called in and said it could be fixed. Now, as he and a German-Egyptian team of specialists work to repair the mask, what could have been a disaster has turned into an unparalleled opportunity to carry out an extensive study of the mask that could help unlock some of ancient Egypt's oldest mysteries.

When Howard Carter discovered the mask in 1922, the beard was already broken "The beard didn't break, it was already broken when Howard Carter found the mask," said Eckmann, taking a break from his workshop inside Cairo's Egyptian Museum. "After excavation, when they brought the mask to the museum, they never reattached the beard until 1946."


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