Adhesives restore burial mask of Egyptian pharaoh

Although we often think of adhesives as a common household product which can help with chores around the house or menial office-related tasks, the potential of these products extends well beyond the mundane into the realm of ancient antiquities. Recently, a specially configured adhesive product has proven integral to the restoration tasks being undertaken with the 3,000 burial mask of Tutankhamen, arguably the most famous of all of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.


The restoration services being undertaken currently are occurring as a result of a botched restorative procedure which had occurred earlier. During this faulty operation, the beard on the burial mask had been fixed to the larger mask frame using a glue which, had it been left unattended to, could have damaged the mask further at a later point. This epoxy-based adhesive has since been removed by Henkel, a leading adhesives specialist, who is now supervising this second round of repairs.


Dr. Rainer Schonfeld, supervisor of the current project, discussed the operations being undertaken by his team, stating, “‘the beard had been incorrectly glued to the mask using an epoxy…We have a great deal of expertise about epoxy technologies, and we also know how to remove this kind of adhesive. Knowing that the former glue would have to be removed in order to properly prepare the mask for the second round of adhesives. Schonfeld and his team quickly set to work, created a novel new method by which the former epoxy could be removed from the mask without leaving a residue.


The topic of residue is quite important in this situation, as it is essential that the new adhesive be capable of successfully adhering the broken beard back on the mask while simultaneously being capable of residue-free removal at any point in the future. According to Dirk Kasper, a member of Schonfelds team who specialises in high-melt adhesives, It is our daily business to design high-tech glue, but this project was extremely exciting for the whole team, continued Kasper. We are all extremely proud that a high-tech hotmelt adhesive from Henkel is now holding together the world famous mask of Tutankhamen.


For those who may have underestimated the power of todays adhesives, it is hoped that this unique and fascinating story will encourage them to rethink all that is possible in this rather understated industry. Now that the mask of Tutankhamen has been fully restored thanks to these adhesives, the world will yet again be able to revel in the glory of this fascinating artefact.