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Tutankhamun's beard 'snapped off and stuck back on'

A picture taken on January 23, 2015 shows the burial mask of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt from 1334 to 1325 BC, at the Cairo museum in the Egyptian capital. An Egyptian conservation group said it would sue the antiquities minister over a 'botched' repair of the mask of Tutankhamun that left a crust of dried glue on the priceless relic.
A picture taken on January 23, 2015 shows the burial mask of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt from 1334 to 1325 BC, at the Cairo museum in the Egyptian capital. An Egyptian conservation group said it would sue the antiquities minister over a 'botched' repair of the mask of Tutankhamun that left a crust of dried glue on the priceless relic. AFP PHOTO / Mohamed El-Shahed

IT'S unlikely to be one that dramatically alters the course of ancient history, but yet another question mark hangs low and heavy under mysterious Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Was his beard snapped off by curators in Cairo last year? And did they then attempt to stick it back on using the wrong glue?

The Egyptian Museum is currently investigating employees' claims that the monarch's famed gold facial hair was broken during a routine clean of the showcase the mask, first discovered in 1922, is kept in.

"What happened is that one night they wanted to fix the lighting in the showcase, and when they did that they held the mask in the wrong way and broke the beard," a museum official, who asked to remain anonymous, alleged to the Guardian.

In a desperate attempt to cover up the error, he claims, the perpetrators crept in overnight to fix it, but bungled their attempt, using the wrong adhesive and attaching it incorrectly. So they sneaked back into the museum in the early hours of the following day to have another go at it.

"The problem was that they tried to fix it in half an hour and it should have taken them days," he added.

Mahmoud el-Halwagy, the director of the museum, and Elham Abdelrahman, head of the conservation department, went to great lengths to deny the claims during a joint interview earlier this week.

"If it was broken, it would have been a big problem, and we would have written a report about it," Abdelrahman said.

Chris Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society, says of the apparent photographic evidence of the damaged artifact: "I've not heard of the beard being removed before - the death mask is incomparably important and valuable and would normally be handled with the utmost care.

"If these are genuine photos, it does look like something happened there. I just couldn't believe it when I saw it.

"It just looks too bad to believe."

Topics:  editors picks egypt



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