Last year, it came to light that the blue and gold braided beard on King Tut’s burial mask was knocked off during a botched cleaning attempt then hastily glued back on using epoxy. Now, Egypt’s decided that more than just poor Tut’s head must roll over the debacle.
First, a refresher about what happened. While it wasn’t clear exactly how the original accident happened, the subsequent repair job was clearly sub-par, as our own George Dvorsky described at the time:
What we do know... is that the curators were “ordered” from above to fix it quickly and that epoxy was used... But the story gets worse. It appears that the curators inadvertently got some of the epoxy on the face of the mask — and they used a spatula in an effort to get it off, damaging the relic even further.
An easy mistake to make with what’s arguably the most famous archaeological relic in the world. Perhaps understandable, then, that eight employees — including six restorers and two former heads of the restoration — are now being charged with “gross negligence”.
In a statement issued over the weekend, prosecutors explained that “the [museum] officials dealt recklessly with a piece of an artifact that is 3,300 years old, produced by one of the oldest civilizations in the world.”
Their testimonies, along with other evidence, will be reviewed by an expert committee, which will write and publish a report to describe its findings as well as determining the fate of the museum workers. It may have its job cut out: the Guardian reports that reports about exactly what happened to the beard remain conflicted. [CNN, The Guardian]