2012/08/16

Ancient Egyptian Masks

This is the most popular symbol of Egyptian civilisation. This magnificent golden funerary mask belongs to Tutankhamen. Funerary masks and other facial coverings of mummies point to the strong Egyptian beliefs on death and afterlife. Mummification was the quintessence of Egyptian religion. There were both death masks and ritual masks.

Many masks were painted with precious gold, and the labour and expense of creating these masks tell us about the status of their wearers. The designs of masks in ancient Egypt were barometers of wealth. Some masks were elaborate. 

Ancient Egyptian Masks
Ancient Egyptian Masks


The nature of the mask depended on the status of the deceased. The wealthy and the upper class had death masks made of gold. Gold was the symbol for eternity, the core concept of Egyptian religious foundation. Other masks were made from stiffened linen or papyrus.

The masks provided a 'face' to the dead spirit in the afterlife. In other words, they helped to protect the spirit which was called Ka. Death masks were used to cover the face of mummies to ensure that the spirit of the dead person was able to recognize the body.
A mask aided the transition between life and death. Death masks were made for both Egyptian men and women. The style of the masks for men featured beards in the style of the time, while the masks for women showed popular makeup styles.

Paintings and pictures show that masks were used in sacred ceremonies and rituals. Egyptian masks were used during sacred ceremonies and rituals and increased the levels of mystic and fear which surrounded their religion.

The Death rituals of the Egyptians included a priest wearing a mask of the jackal headed god Anubis. Other masks, mirroring the images of other gods and goddesses, were also used in rituals involving magic, spells and incantations.

The earliest masks used were during the First Intermediate Period. These early masks were made of wood, fashioned in two pieces. They were moulded over a wooden model or core. Masks became increasingly more sophisticated during the New Kingdom and Period. These later masks began to be moulded from precious metals like gold.

Egyptian masks show us general trends in appearance as well as the specific looks of individuals. Masks placed onto mummies often featured characteristics of the dead person. The masks give us a good idea of what some Pharaohs looked like. These beautiful masks provide us with valuable information on the life of Egyptians.

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