In what may be the worst (or second worst) restoration fumble of all time, conservators at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum admitted to the press that sometime last year King Tut’s famous, 3,000-year-old mask was irreversibly damaged, in the process of removing and reattaching his beard. There are differing accounts from conservators of why Tut’s beard was removed: It was either an accident or part of a restoration effort, but the real faux pas was in how they reattached the beard: with hyper-adhesive epoxy. Why glue? Museum management reportedly ordered the conservationists to reaffix the beard as quickly as possible so the artifact could continue to be shown.
One conservator described it as a “very irreversible material–epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun’s golden mask.” A layer of what appears to be epoxy is now visible between the beard and the mask, the conservator added. Another conservator said that the epoxy that was dried on the mask’s face was scraped off with a spatula, leaving scratches. All of the conservators spoke anonymously, fearful of professional repercussions if they identified themselves. What a mess.