Egypt museum officials called German art restoration experts to Cairo to help repair King Tutankhamen’s death mask, the Local reported Wednesday. Following a botched repair job by Egyptian museum workers -- after the ancient mask was broken more than a year ago -- it needed to be taken apart before it could be permanently fixed.
A British Egyptologist discovered the burial site of Tutankhamen, often referred to as King Tut, in 1922 in the "Valley of Kings" in Egypt. The pharaoh, who died at a young age (probably no older than 19 in 1323 B.C.), has been enshrined in his final resting place, drawing millions of tourists since the discovery of his body.
King Tut was embalmed and then buried wearing an ornate, gold "death mask," complete with a false beard and intricate decoration. The mask has been on display at the Egypt Museum in Cairo for decades, becoming arguably one of the most well-known artifacts from ancient Egypt.
Museum workers broke the death mask in August 2014 after a light bulb burst in the cabinet housing King Tut's death mask in Cairo. The museum employees successfully removed the mask and changed the bulb without any issues. As they were putting the mask back into its cabinet, however, the iconic beard snapped off.
In an attempt to fix the mask quickly, the museum workers tried to secure it back on in a rapid repair job with epoxy glue. “The problem was that they tried to fix it in half an hour and it should have taken them days," one anonymous museum employee told the Guardian following the incident.
Several German specialists flew to Cairo this week, and said they had to manually remove the glue by scraping it before they could fix the death mask. The team of specialists had not yet decided how to fix the mask, hesitating between using a set of magnets or a fitted plug adhesive. The mask may not be repaired and back on display until the end of the year.
The accident could prove useful to historians and Egyptologists, however, as it gave specialists the opportunity to closely examine the inside of the mask that has rarely been seen. Little is known with certainty about the young pharaoh’s life and death, and the mask may continue to provide clues, experts said.