King Tut’s Broken Beard

While searching for recent archaeology news, I came across something that struck my attention. Recently we have learned about the famous King Tutankhamun, and unfortunately I learned a little bit too much about it. According to recent news articles, the King’s burial mask has been damaged beyond repair. It is not certain how exactly it happened, but there are plenty of stories of how the beard of the mask accidentally broke off. Much to my surprise, the beard was then glued back on! I will add a link to this post so you can see how tragic this really is.

Whoever broke off the beard (thought to be staff at the museum), attempted to “fix” the damage by using epoxy adhesive. If any of you have used epoxy, you know it has a very strong bond. Initially you would think, “Good, it won’t fall off again,” however, for an archaeologist, this is horrible. The mask is now not in its original condition and has deteriorated value. The glue is clearly visible because the person, who took the initiative to glue it back together, applied too much. Not only is there a significant gap now between the chin and the beard, but there are also rumors that the glue has dripped down the beard and dried. Imagine that! The damage does not stop there, though. After the glue died and left a significant trace, the perpetrator attempted to clean it up by scraping it off, thus leaving scratches on the gold. Such improper handling of the situation is barbaric. The beard should not have been glued back on, it should have been sent to a specialist to be restored, or just left alone completely. In my opinion, the glue itself is the worst outcome, showing carelessness.

This is such a tragic situation because the mask is a high valued artifact. The sheer fact that the museum was supposed to keep it safe, but failed, is disappointing to the community. In attempt to minimize the obviousness of the incident, the museum placed the mask in dim lighting. They should have done that originally because one rumor of how it was knocked off was that a staff member was changing a light bulb over the mask, when the beard fell off. Had this mask been properly protected, it wouldn’t have suffered such a severe injury. Now, the once highly valued artifact of a young king’s funeral is ruined.

Visible damage from the incident

One thought on “King Tut’s Broken Beard

  1. While reading your post, I was shocked at the carelessness used to handle such a precious ancient artifact! Museums are supposed to protect and preserve artifacts, not damage and then alter them beyond repair. Glue is something you would use to fix a broken leg on a table, not something used to repair and item as valuable as King Tut’s burial mask. If only the perpetrator had come forward and been honest about their mistake. Perhaps then the mask could have been properly repaired so that the damage would not have been noticeable, instead of using the Epoxy to make it worse. I almost wonder if it would have been better to just leave the mask broken and display the two pieces separately. It might not look as good, but at least it would have been spared damage from the dried glue and the attempts to scrape it off.
    I understand that accidents happen and that obviously the museum deeply regrets what has happened to the mask, but their attempt to cover up the damage and just fix it themselves is ridiculous. Did they really think that with some bad lighting no one would notice the harm? I also find it really strange that no one knows exactly how the damage occurred. I feel as though something as precious as King Tut’s mask would be highly controlled and monitored. The museum may be trying to cover up their mistake, but I think it’s only fair for the public to know what really happened here. The whole incident just goes to show all that can go wrong when dealing with such valuable artifacts and the amount of caution that is needed when handling them.

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