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Eight Egyptian Museum Employees Face Trial For Damaging King Tut Mask

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Mystery and misfortune had enshrouded the death and life of King Tutankhamun -- the Egyptian pharaoh whose nearly intact tomb was discovered in 1922 -- and it appears as if it still does now.

Colloquially known as King Tut, the pharaoh had sparked a worldwide and renewed public interest in ancient Egypt since its first press coverage. The artifacts from the pharaoh's tomb have been toured all over the world.

One of these artifacts is King Tut's mask, which remains the most popular symbol for the pharaoh. The 3,300-year-old mask is under the care of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Unfortunately, though, the museum is currently at the forefront of an untimely situation. Eight of the museum's employees are now facing trial for reportedly damaging King Tut's mask. They have been charged with gross negligence and were referred to disciplinary action.

What Happened?

According to allegations, "clumsy" curators accidentally knocked over King Tut's solid gold mask in 2014, dislodging and scratching the blue-and-gold beard from the ancient artifact.

Somehow, the beard was stuck back to the face with glue. Employees supposed that this transpired during routine maintenance of the showcase where the mask was kept.

"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," claimed one museum official.

The museum official said the curators tried to fix the broken mask overnight with the wrong material. It still wasn't fixed in the right way. The next day, the curators tried to fix the mask again.

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

Prosecutors who opened an investigation in 2015 said the curators haphazardly used epoxy to glue the piece back together.

"In an attempt to cover up the damage they inflicted, they used sharp instruments such as scalpels and metal tools to remove traces of adhesive on the mask, causing damage and scratches that remain," said the prosecutors.

Perhaps The Beard Might Be Close To Falling Off?

In January last year, former Egyptian Museum director Mahmoud el-Halwagy and the museum's conservation department head Elham Abdelrahman had denied the allegations.

Halwagy said the mask's beard never fell off, and that there is no doubt that nothing has happened to the mask since he was appointed director in October 2014.

Halwagy and Abdelrahman said the true issue is that well before the new museum director was appointed, conservators were already concerned that at some point in the future, the beard might become loose.

So they applied an adhesive that was sanctioned and provided by the antiquities ministry which unfortunately, turned out to be conspicuous.

"This is the problem. It's too visible," said Halwagy.

The museum had hired an expert committee led by Christian Eckmann to fix the mask in October 2015. Unfortunately, the epoxy resin that the team used was not effective.

Eight employees will be charged and are now referred for dismissal. Prosecutors said the employees did not stick to proper protocol when they attempted to restore the mask.

"The 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," said the prosecution.

The date of the trial is still unknown.

Photo : Mark Fischer | Flickr

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