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Egyptians Face Charges for Bad Repairs to Ancient Mask

The mask of King Tutankhamun, which was found to have been damaged and glued back together, is seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Jan. 24, 2015.
The mask of King Tutankhamun, which was found to have been damaged and glued back together, is seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Jan. 24, 2015.
Egyptians Face Charges for Bad Repairs to Ancient Mask
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Eight Egyptians may go to trial for their bad repairs on the gold mask of ancient King Tutankhamun.

Known as “King Tut,” the ancient King’s famous golden burial mask was damaged by museum workers in 2014.

News reports said that Egyptian prosecutors allege the employees of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum “dealt recklessly” with the mask. The well-known object is 3,300 years old.

Reports say museum workers accidentally broke the blue and gold braided beard off the mask while fixing a light in its case. The staff then glued the piece back onto the young pharaoh’s burial mask with a lot of epoxy, a type of glue. It left a ring of glue around the edge of the beard that could be seen clearly.

When workers tried to remove the ring of glue, they made fine scratches, or marks, on the mask.

German Christian Eckmann was brought in as the lead restoration specialist. The damage to King Tut’s mask has since been repaired by Eckmann and his team. It was put back on in its place at the museum last month. Reports say the fine scratches cannot be seen by most people.

The New York Times reported “the German experts carefully removed the epoxy and restored the solid gold mask using beeswax, the adhesive used by the ancient Egyptians.”

Investigators want to know how the beard came off, and why the workers used too much epoxy.

The former museum director and former head of restoration are two of the eight people facing charges. The charges include negligence and violating professional and scientific rules.

The accused officials have been suspended from their jobs, but will not go to prison, said the New York Times. However, they could lose those jobs and have to pay large fines.

The mask and other items related to the famous pharaoh bring many tourists to Egypt and Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. The museum houses ancient Egyptian objects and mummies. The mask is one of the best-known pieces in the museum.

Monica Hanna is an archaeologist and a member of Egypt’s Heritage Task Force. She told the New York Times that the museum has become increasingly neglected in recent years.

“There’s been a shift in the people working there,” she told The New York Times. “The experience people have retired, and the new ones do not have adequate training.”

A new museum called the Grand Egyptian Museum near the famous pyramids is behind schedule for it’s opening. Another museum, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is finished, but not yet open to the public.

British archaeologists discovered King Tut’s tomb in 1922. It was a great find. Unlike many other royalty’s tombs, the burial room had not been touched since King Tut died, more than 3,000 years ago.

The discovery made King Tut famous. Objects from his tomb have traveled around the world. It gave people the chance to see the ancient pieces up close.

But in recent years, Egypt’s all-important tourism has suffered badly. It started with the unrest after President Hosni Mubark’s fall in 2011. Then, there has been more unrest in 2013 after the military took over the government.

Tourists have also been attacked by Islamist extremists. Last October a suspected bomb brought down a Russian airliner near a Red Sea resort, killing 224 people.

However, interest in ancient Egypt increased recently. British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves said he believes that tomb of Queen Nefertiti may lie behind a wall in King Tut’s tomb. Researchers are still working to find out if the famous queen was buried there, or not.

I'm Jim Tedder.

This story was based on reports from Anne Ball adapted the story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

alleged – adj. accused of having done something wrong or illegal but not yet proven guilty

recklessly – adv. not showing proper concern about the possible bad results of your actions

glue –n. a substance used to stick things tightly together

negligence –n. lack of normal care or attention

mummies –n. (plural) a dead body of a person or animal prepared for burial in the manner of the ancient Egyptians by treating it with oils and wrapping it in strips of cloth

neglected –adj. not given enough attention or care

adequate – adj. enough for some need or requirement