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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Egyptian mummy mask

Egyptian mummy mask

Height: 36.500 cm

EA 51146

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.