Ancient Egyptians believed that death was merely a transition to another life, states David Silverman in his book "Ancient Egypt." Consequently, it was important to be buried with everything they needed for the afterlife, including an elaborately decorated death mask that would allow their spirit to recognise its new body.
According to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, most ancient Egyptian death masks were made of cartonnage, a papyrus and old linen mixture similar to paper mache. The mask was then coated with a glue-like primer called gesso before being painted primarily gold, with the hair and facial features coloured to look like the person. An example of a cartonnage mask is the mask of Irtw-irw from around 305 B.C.
Psusennes I, a pharoah during the Third Intermediate Period, had a death mask of solid gold, which was discovered by archaeologist Pierre Montet in 1940, according to the Akhet Egyptology website. Usually only a royal person could afford the intricate solid gold masks, though imported silver was more expensive during ancient Egyptian times.
Glass and Semi-precious Stones
Glass and stones were also materials used in death masks, as evidenced by King Tutankhamun's striking gold and blue death mask. According to "National Geographic," King Tutankhamun's mask was discovered in 1922. The mask was made of solid gold and decorated with coloured glass and semi-precious stones.
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- Akhet Egyptology: Psusennes
- "Ancient Egypt"; David Silverman; 2003
- "National Geographic"; King Tut's DNA: Unlocking Family Secrets; Zahi Hawass; September 2010
- The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago: Highlights From the Collection: Mummies
- The University of Memphis: Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology