The protruding beard on the iconic burial mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, also known as 'King Tut,' broke off and was hurriedly glued back on using epoxy, which has damaged the priceless historical artifact irreparably, according to reports.
The mask, which is housed in Cairo's Egyptian Museum, had its beard knocked off either when its case was being cleaned, or it was removed because it was loose, according to differing accounts museum officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave The Associated Press Wednesday. Conservators told AP that epoxy was used to repair the mask so that it could quickly be put back on display.
They added that as a result of the botched repair, a layer of the bonding material can now be seen between the beard and the main mask, and that scratches are visible on the mask's face, after museum workers used tools to remove epoxy that splattered onto that part of the object.
Tutankhamun's mask, which is over 3,300 years old, was discovered in 1922, along with his intact tomb, by archeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert, and is considered one of the most significant archeological discoveries of the twentieth century.
The damage to the mask is not the first incident to spark criticism of the Egyptian Museum and of the country's authorities entrusted with preserving its vast cultural heritage.
Many archaeologists and restorers say the museum is not run to professional standards, according to The Australian, and some visitors have described seeing “beautiful, amazing artifacts and antiquities... poorly displayed, unprotected, and covered with dust.”
Egypt has undergone years of political turmoil since its longtime autocratic leader, Hosni Mubarak was toppled by popular protests in 2011. During the course of the protests, the museum, which sits directly on Tahrir Square -- the epicenter of the protests -- was looted and “dozens of important pieces” are reportedly missing. However, authorities initially downplayed and denied these claims, according to the The Washington Post.