How glue delayed the restoration of Tutankhamun's beard

'Unfortunately they used epoxy' – restorers speak about the task of fixing the 3,300-year-old gold burial mask 

Carl Anka
Wednesday 21 October 2015 11:14
Tutankhamen’s tomb has been re-created and awaits installation
Tutankhamen’s tomb has been re-created and awaits installation

A year on from the accident which knocked off King Tutankhamun’s beard before it was hastily glued back on, restorers have been explaining why they plan to remove the appendage yet again.

The world famous burial mask was damaged in August 2014 by a museum employee who knocked off its beard during work on the relic’s lighting. The beard was quickly reattached with epoxy glue, with no one noticing the error for several months.

Now, a German-Egyptian team of restoration experts has been tasked with scraping the epoxy off the beard, before deciding on the best manner to reattach it again.

At a news conference in Cairo, lead restoration specialist Christian Eckmann described the difficult nature of the restoration process.

“We have some uncertainties now, we don’t know how deep the glue went inside the beard, and so we don’t know how long it will take to remove the beard," he said.

It is believed the full restoration could take a month or two, depending on how long it takes to remove the glue.

“We try to make all the work by mechanical means … we use wooden sticks which work quite well at the moment, then there is another strategy we could implement, slightly warming up the glue,” he said.

“It’s unfortunately epoxy resin which is not soluble.”

Despite the daunting task of restoring the 3,300-year-old relic, Mr Eckmann remained positive about the learning opportunities the process will offer historians.

“We are using this chance to gain new information about the manufacture,” he said, adding that research will be done into how the golden mask and beard were originally made and joined.

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