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German expert restores King Tut mask after botched glue job

October 21, 2015

The beard of King Tut's priceless golden mask fell off by accident. The employees of the Egyptian Museum hastily used epoxy to repair it; specialist Christian Eckmann says he now needs two months to restore it properly.

Ägypten Christian Eckmann Restauration Totenmaske Tutanchamun
Image: Getty Images/AFP/K. Desouki

The 3,300-year-old solid gold funerary mask is one of the most famous archeological treasures of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

While repairing the relic's lighting in August 2014, a museum employee knocked its beard off. Employees tried to quickly fix the beard and used epoxy glue - and a crust of the chemical showed up on the mask.

Now a German-Egyptian team of experts, led by restoration specialist Christian Eckmann, need to carefully scrape off the glue and remove the beard. A joint scientific committee will then determine the best way to reattach it.

"We have not yet taken off the beard," said Eckmann during a press conference at the museum on Tuesday (21.10.2015). The restoration work is being done manually, using thin "wooden sticks" to remove the crust of dried glue, he explained.

As the restoration experts do not know how deep the glue went inside the beard, they can't say exactly how long it will take to remove it. The work should take a month or two, estimated Eckmann.

The restoration of the damaged mask at least offers the opportunity to study its materials and production techniques in detail. "We are using this chance to gain new information," said Eckmann.

King Tutankhamun died at the age of 19 in 1324 BC, after a reign of nine years. The pharaoh became legendary through the discovery of his burial chamber in the temple city of Luxor in 1922. Such tombs were usually plundered over the years, but his still contained over 5,000 intact artifacts and treasures.

eg/kbm (AP, AFP)