King Tut’s Cleaning Crew Caused an International PR Problem

Think about King Tut's famous face without the braided beard

King Tutankhamun
Credit: AP/Mohamed El-Dakhakhny, 1996
Credit:

On January 3, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter began digging around in in Egypt’s Valley of Kings searching for Amon-Ra knows what.

Two years later, he stumbled upon a stone sarcophagus and found a solid gold coffin holding the mythical boy king Tutankhamun.

Three centuries ago, his baby face, almond eyes, and that blue-and-gold braided beard was ensconced in gold. Today, conservators at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo are discussing that beard…and all the epoxy glue found on it.

Epoxy wasn’t an ancient Egyptian invention, so something smelled fishy…

As it turns out, the gruff actually broke off King Tut’s chin thanks to an overly aggressive cleaning crew. Apparently, someone on the overnight shift knew their job was in jeopardy, so they quickly grabbed a bottle of Elmer’s and pasted Tut’s wrapped Vandyke back in place in rapid fashion:

“Unfortunately [the cleaning crew person in question] used a very irreversible material — epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun’s golden mask,” one conservator said.

Global appraisers have highlighted the ensuing PR debacle: King Tut is easily one of the world’s top museum exhibits, what with his burial shrouds and his innards captured in bedazzled jars — but this damage is permanent:

“The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material.”

History professors and museum curators alike can’t imagine the PR bruise caused by this incident. Maybe that’s why it took so long for the story to get out in the first place.

Poor Tut: boy coulda’ won a Grammy, buried in his jammies…

We’ll let this young comedian tell you the rest of the story: