Gilded Mummy Mask
Gilded Mummy Mask
Dating to the Ptolemaic Period, this mummy mask juxtaposes the continuity of the existing pharaonic civilization with new decorative motifs introduced by the ruling Greek/Macedonian culture. The mask, probably part of a collection designed to cover specific ritualistic parts of the body, is decorated using techniques that date at least to the early Old Kingdom. The gilding upon the face imitates the golden skin of the gods, while the dark blue hair mimics the locks of lapis lazuli denoting divine beings. The inventory of divine attributes is featured in a number of pharaonic texts, including the “Destruction of Mankind,” where the sun god Re is described as having skin of gold and hair of lapis lazuli. Further, Book of the Dead chapter 151 associates specific parts of the head with deities. These aspects magically transform the visage of the deceased from mortal to divine, allowing the recipient to take on the regenerative properties assigned to the gods.
As the god Osiris was mummified by Anubis, so too was the deceased mummified by priests of Anubis. The mirrored representation of the priest of Anubis, wearing the jackal headdress attending a mummy, displayed on the mask, alludes to the secret nature of the mummification procedure. Earlier Egyptian texts refer to the secrecy of the practice, and prior to the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus circa 440 B.C.E., little was recorded about the process. Instead, select vignettes intimated to initiated members of society that secret knowledge, knowledge adapted to Egypto-Greek culture.
Yale Peabody Museum
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Ikram, S., & A. Dodson. The Mummy in Ancient Egypt: Equipping the Dead for Eternity. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998.
Russmann, E.R. ”Mummy Masks.” In Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum, edited by E.R. Russmann, 204-5. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.