Thursday, January 22, 2015

Egypt's Most Iconic Object Irreparably Damaged in a Botched Cleaning and Restoration Effort

King Tut's Gold Mask, Egypt's most iconic object, has been irreparably damaged in a botched cleaning and restoration effort. This horrible news is part of a pattern.  Just recently, allegations also surfaced that an unqualified contracting firm had also botched the restoration of the Step Pyramid. 

All this raises a simple question.  Is this really time to help legitimize the Egyptian Military Dictatorship with a MOU that will in effect recognize its rights to exclusive control over every artifact deemed "Egyptian?"


John H said...

Surely, the Egyptian's have the inalienable right to trash their antiquities through their own ineptitude? It's their property and heritage after all.

However, the silence from Mrs Clooney and the undistinguished Mr Barford of Warsaw, is deafening. It all goes to show that archaeology ain't all it's cracked up to be.

In wider context, judging from this debacle, archaeology is not best served by 'state' archaeology....had this mask been in a private collection, I suggest, this damage would never have happened?

Best wishes

John Howland

Duncan Finch said...

This is actually an astoundingly horrible story and has tremendous implications. The Tutankhamun gold mask is a world class work of art of the very greatest importance and the idea that such a cleaning/restoration disaster could occur with it is beyond belief. There is no way an equivalent conservation failure could occur in any of the world's great museums: The Getty, NY, Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Ankara, Nicosia or Jerusalem just to mention a few. When confronted by such an iconic object restorers elsewhere would probably spend weeks, months or even years doing non-intrusive tests and making observations prior to taking any kind of serious work. That is why proper restorations can take a great deal of time to complete. So what happened in Egypt? No one should dare to suggest that the Egyptians do not have world class conservators: they do, trained at many of the world's great institutes. Could it be that due to the political and economic crises in Egypt all the really good Egyptian conservation specialists are working abroad, in Europe, the USA or in the Gulf? And that the people responsible for the destruction in Egypt were appointed more for their political reliability than anything else? The idea of using epoxy (!!!) to fix such an iconic object is beyond belief. The mask is an object that belongs in Egypt and is one of that country's greatest treasures - if this is the way they take care it, well, what can one say?

Cultural Property Observer said...

I suspect it may have to do with the climate of fear from living under a military dictatorship as much as anything else and the view that this iconic object cannot be removed from display for any extended period.