Tuesday, February 10, 2015


IN an exclusive interview, a German museum conservator says the damage to King Tutankhamun's beard during a botched restoration "can be reversed even though it used an irreversible resin."

Three months ago, curators at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo broke off King Tut's beard ... and glued it on crooked ... scratching off some gold plating ... allowing epoxy-resin glue residue to ooze out of the crack ... permanently desecrating this irreplaceable treasure. 

It happened in October and curators tried to hush it up ... even dimming the lights to make it harder to discern the damage.

But the truth has come out ... a tale of panic and subterfuge worthy of any Ancient Egyptian palace intrigue.

Once the brouhaha over the improper restoration of Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask had died down, AL-AHRAM WEEKLY sat down with German restorer Christian Eckmann for an interview. The subject: how best to repair the mask.

Since he was already working on a project at the museum, officials asked him to inspect the damage.

"It was only a preliminary inspection," he said. But as soon as he saw the mask, he knew that glue had been improperly used and had created a gap between the beard and the chin.

"It was definitely not the optimal way of executing such a restoration," Eckerman said, adding that the mask should be properly restored, he said, since its current condition is not satisfactory.

The epoxy resin used in the most-recent restoration should be removed using a combination of solvents and by removing it layer by layer, until the original surface of the beard and mask has been reached.

"I think this is the best method," Eckman said. "Although it is possible to remove the epoxy, it is a very delicate operation as it has to be done without scratching the gold of the mask."

Epoxy is a "debatable material" for restoration purposes, he said. 

"We must differentiate between irreversible materials and irreversible measures." 

While epoxy is considered to be an irreversible material, as it is not soluble in normal solvents, there are means to remove it. 

"In the case of Tutankhamun’s mask, the improper restoration can be reversed even though it used an irreversible resin."

Eckmann said he will recommend steps to take and would be willing to accept the task, if the Egyptian government asks him to do so.

Since the news broke over the improper restoration of the mask, a rumour has spread that the mask on display at the Egyptian Museum is a replica and the original one has been smuggled abroad. 

Eckmann dismissed the rumour, asking, "If this was so, why all that fuss over what is a replica object?"

Eckmann was previously involved in the restoration of statues of Pepi I and his son Menenre. He is now working on the conservation of parts of Tutankhamun’s chariot that were discovered last year inside a box in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

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