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Gilded mummy mask
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Ancient egyptians used mummy masks to protect the face of the deceased and act as a substitute for the mummified head, should it be damaged or lost. Egyptians believed that the spirit (ba) survived death and could leave the tomb but needed to recognize its host in order to return. It is perhaps odd therefore that mummy masks are rarely realistic portraits but usually have idealized features, such as on this example.

The mask was created from layers of linen with a thin outer coating of plaster (cartonnage) which could then be painted or gilded. The use of gold was connected to the belief that the sun god Re, with whom the mummy hoped to be united, had flesh of pure gold. The headband on this example is inscribed with a funerary text and the top of the mask is decorated with a winged scarab beetle to associate it with the sun god.

Gilded mummy mask


From Egypt, late 1st century BC-early 1st century AD
Ht 44 cm




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