How King Tut Got His Beard Back

king tut beard tut tut

King Tut’s beard didn’t get glued on until 1941 – 19 years after it was first excavated.

If you think getting bubblegum in your hair is bad enough, then what about getting epoxy resin all up in King Tut’s beard? Whether it’s losing your trowel, giving people an insulting gift, or even confusing the leftovers of a small house fire for evidence of a massive mammoth-obliterating cosmic impact, well… we all make mistakes.

But if you’re an archaeologist working with one of the world’s most priceless artefacts, you can be sure that when someone spots it, the entire world is going to hear about your mistake. And that’s exactly what happened when a panicked curator accidentally knocked the beard off King Tut’s mask, damaging it in their haste to stick it back on. Tut, tut, tut indeed.

Except all this happened back in August 2014 and the outside world only got wind of it when some eagle-eyed Egyptologist spotted something awry in a picture that was posted online 6 months later in January 2015.

But funnily enough, it turns out the beard wasn’t even fixed to the mask when it was first excavated in 1922. In fact, it was brought to the Egyptian Museum with its beard still unattached in 1924 and it wasn’t glued back on until 1941.

It seems that over the next 70-odd years, the glue deteriorated making the accident in August 2014 more likely. Thankfully, despite the initial media storm, Christian Eckhart, a German conservator who flew out to Cairo to examine the mask in January 2015, concluded that the damage caused this time around is reversible. Phew.

Update: Eight officials, including a former director of the museum and a former head of restoration, have been accused of “gross negligence and blatant violation of scientific and professional rules.”

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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