Tutankhamun’s Death Mask
The golden funerary mask, not part of this exhibition, is one of the most famous objects discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb. It is a very popular object that travelled as part of the 1970s Tutankhamun exhibition, and one which many people have fond memories of.
The mask is currently at its home at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and is not part of the Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition in London. Because it is such an iconic world treasure, the Egyptian government has decided it will never travel again so that it can remain for posterity. The mask will be displayed with the entire Tutankhamun collection at the forthcoming Grand Egyptian Museum.
About the funerary mask:
The mask presents an idealised portrait of the king, or as described by historian Dan Snow “His Instagram Face”. The mask would allow the ba (soul) to recognise the mummy after its wanderings during the day. If something happened to the body, the mask would give it a place to reside. Gold, the never-tarnishing metal of which the bodies of gods were made, would last forever.
The artefact is about 54cm tall, 39cm wide and weighs 11 kilograms. Artisans created it in the form of the king wearing the nemes headdress with stripes inlaid with deep blue glass to imitate lapis lazuli. Inlays of semiprecious stones and glass paste form the broad collar, which ends in falcon heads. The curving beard on his chin, made of dark blue glass set into a framework of gold, signals his divine status, and the Two Ladies—the vulture and cobra goddess on his forehead—indicate his status as lord of the Two Lands, all of Egypt.
The face of the mask was finished with a thin layer of gold with a high silver content, giving it a distinctive radiance. Pieces of genuine lapis lazuli form the cosmetic lines of his eyes. When Carter found the object, gold foil covered large holes in the ears. On the back text associates parts of the mask and the body with various divinities.
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