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Museum staff to face hearing over damaged King Tut mask

Several former employees of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo will face a disciplinary hearing over a botched restoration of one of the institution's most prized relics.

Eight Egyptian Museum workers were remanded to a disciplinary court on Sunday for the bungled restoration of the world famous burial mask of King Tutankhamun. The funeral mask for the young pharaoh, which is over 3,300 years old, is one of Egypt's most renowned national treasures.

The first damage occurred in August 2014, when a museum staff member knocked off the mask's beard while temporarily removing it from its display case. In a rush to fix what is the biggest draw to the Egyptian Museum, the eight workers hurriedly applied too much epoxy glue, leaving a obvious crust on the priceless antiquity.

They "handled the mask with extreme recklessness," said Mohamed Samir, spokesman for the prosecution. The eight workers are to be tried for "gross negligence and blatant violation of scientific and professional" rules include the museum's former director, ex-head of restoration, four other restoration experts and two assistants.

The solid gold mask, encrusted with lapis lazuli and semi-precious stones, has since been

restored to its former glory

by slowly warming it to remove the epoxy, and then reattaching the beard with beeswax, a technique used by the Ancient Egyptians themselves.

Tutankhamun died over three millennia ago at the age of 19. His nearly intact tomb was discovered by English archeologist Howard Carter in 1922, and many of its treasures have become the crown jewels of the Egyptian Museum.

On December 16, the fully restored mask was put back on display at the museum near Cairo's famous Tahrir Square.

es/jlw (AP, AFP)

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