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Egyptian mummy mask

 

Height: 36.500 cm

EA 51146

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Egyptian mummy mask

    Late 1st century BC-early 1st century AD
    From Abydos, Egypt (Greco-Roman Period)

    The ancient Egyptians performed mumification to transform the bodies of the dead into dwellings for the ba (spirit) in the afterlife. The seventy-day process purged the corpse of fluids that cause decay and endowed it with the attributes of gods such as Osiris and Ra, who had the power to renew human life eternally.

    An important part of the mummy was a helmet-like mask, which was placed over the head of the linen-wrapped body. Its youthful features were not intended as a likeness of the deceased, but projected an idealized image for their existence in the afterlife.

    This example has many of the typical features of these masks. It is made of cartonnage, a lightweight material formed from layers of linen coated with plaster. The gilded skin and the wig symbolize the wearer's divine status - the gods had flesh of gold and hair of the blue mineral lapis lazuli. The ornamental collar and the gilded winged scarab beetle on the top of the head promoted the resurrection of the deceased. Lastly, a spell from the Coffin Texts linked the mask's anatomy to that of powerful gods: 'Your forehead is that of Anubis, the nape of your neck is that of Horus, your locks of hair are those of Ptah-Sokar....' The mask also provided physical protection and could act as a substitute should the mummy's head lost or damaged.

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