In Brief

Someone Broke King Tut’s Mask and Glued It Back Together, Badly

Tutankhamun's gold funeral mask, pre-breakage (photo by the Laird of Oldham/Flickr)
Tutankhamun’s gold funeral mask, pre-breakage (photo by the Laird of Oldham/Flickr)

What would you do if you accidentally broke one of the world’s most valuable relics?

Glue it back together? Quickly? Before anyone noticed?

Well, yes, that might be what you would do, because you don’t work in a museum and you’re not a conservator. (Unless you do and are, in which case, sorry.) But someone who works in a museum would know better. Someone who works in a museum would take the relic to the conservation department, where people who are specifically trained to care for works of art and artifacts would figure out how to fix the damage … right?

Unfortunately, when faced with this exact situation, someone who works at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo opted for plan A — hasty gluing — and now the over-3,300-year-old gold funeral mask of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, which is pretty much the image representing Egyptian pharaohs and an entire ancient epoch in the Western popular imagination, sports a crusty-looking wedge of epoxy connecting its beard to its face.

(via @alaraby_ar/Twitter)
(via @alaraby_ar/Twitter)

The incident occurred last year but was only just reported today and, quite unsurprisingly, no one has been able to say who’s responsible. The AP story that broke the news is full of shadowy passive voice, an unidentified “he,” and conservators who’ll only speak on condition of anonymity. It’s not even clear “whether the beard was knocked off by accident while the mask’s case was being cleaned, or was removed because it was loose” — which seems, I dunno, like kind of an important distinction.

Oh, also: “Another museum conservator, who was present at the time of the repair, said that epoxy had dried on the face of the boy king’s mask and that a colleague used a spatula to remove it, leaving scratches.”

Wait, wait — a conservator was there when all this was going down?


I don’t know, folks, the curse of the pharaohs may yet prove real. Or maybe we’re just trying to find excuses for being idiot humans.

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