Here’s a question. What’s the earth’s strongest biological material? If you answered ‘spider silk’ you are not alone. Until recently that was considered an accurate answer, not any more! Now the teeth of the humble limpet are being heralded as nature’s super strong material that surpasses any other for pound for pound strength. Most people don’t even realise limpets have teeth, they appear to have a sucker underneath, if you have ever been able to scrape them off a rock to see.
Professor Asa Barber, with a team from the University of Portsmouth, has spent 10 years studying the teeth. He has recently completed calculations that show that a strand of limpet material, known as Goethite, the diameter of a piece of spaghetti, can bear the weight of a hippopotamus. He is now hoping to recreate the structure of the limpets teeth to try to develop an ultra strong, lightweight, synthetic material with all it’s possibilities.
No one has suggested that it was done on purpose but whoever knocked the beard off Tutankhamen’s priceless funeral mask must be regarded as a little bit careless.
It has been suggested that an over-zealous cleaner broke it off, even that it was removed intentionally because it had become loose. Well how did that happen? No matter what the truth, one thing’s for sure, the manner in which it has been repaired is a tragedy that may prove particularly difficult to rectify.
Instead of seeking the help of a professional restorer it appears that the staff at the Cairo museum felt the need to quickly fix the beard themselves, perhaps hoping nobody would notice that their most popular treasure had been damaged at all. They were out of luck, as a group of tourists watched in horror as the curators squeezed what one described as ‘whitish splodgy glue’ onto the beard and held it against King Tut’s chin to set. In the process they managed to also splash what is thought to be epoxy resin onto the face of the mask.
The result is a monumental calamity with an unsightly cement band clearly visible at the chin of the mask together with scratches where a curator has tried in vain to remove the excess off the mask.
If only the curators had consulted Itac, we would have advised that epoxy resin was entirely the wrong product for this repair. After tests, we would have recommended a suitable adhesive to achieve a perfect invisible bond, either from our existing range of ITS branded adhesives or by creating a bespoke formulation specifically for the task. We would have concluded with application advice.
We provide unusual as well as more mundane problem solving information every day to our customers. It may seem odd but during our long history, we have never once been asked to help refix a kings beard. But at Itac we thrive on challenge and we ask all our readers with any similar problems to please get in touch.