Eight Egyptians face trial over botched restoration of Tutankhamun mask

German archaeologist Christian Eckmann during his work on the restoration process of the golden mask of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 20, 2015. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

German archaeologist Christian Eckmann during his work on the restoration process of the golden mask of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 20, 2015. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

Prosecutors referred for trial eight Egyptians involved in a botched repair of the famed golden burial mask of King Tutankhamun for “gross negligence.”

“The officials dealt recklessly with a piece of an artefact that is 3,300 years old, produced by one of the oldest civilisations in the world,” a statement by the Egyptian Administrative Prosecution read.

The eight include two restorers, four restoration specialists, and two former heads of the restoration section at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where the Tutankhamun collection is displayed.

The employees are being tried on charges of negligence and violation of the professional rules of the workplace, the statement read, as they face fines and disciplinary measures including dismissal.

“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,” the statement said, citing an investigation.

In an incident that garnered international headlines, the mask’s beard became detached during work on the lighting of the display in August 2014 and was then hastily reattached with epoxy.

In a press conference in January 2015 held by Egypt’s antiquities ministry, restoration specialist Christian Eckmann said the epoxy could be removed and the mask properly restored. Eckmann said the beard had likely loosened over the years and has been detached previously, according to Al-Ahram.

The 3,300-year-old burial pharaonic mask was discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb along with other artefacts by British archaeologists in 1922, sparking worldwide interest in archaeology and ancient Egypt.

The mask was put back on display last month after a German-Egyptian team of specialists removed the epoxy and reattached the beard using beeswax, which is often used as an adhesive for antiquities. The mask is arguably the best-known piece in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which houses artefacts from ancient Egypt.

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