A mixture of wax and plaster was poured over Napoleon Bonaparte's face once he took his last breath.
Masks have always been an essential part of different cultures. People have worn them for various purposes such as in rituals, sacred ceremonies, death, while committing a sin, murder, etc. The people of ancient Egypt used to cover the faces of the dead pharaohs with intricate gold masks. Moreover, it is not just Egyptians that used to cover the faces of the dead; the Javanese masks of the 10th century were also used for similar purposes.
The Javanese masks were also known as the ‘funerary’ mask.
Here are eight ancient masks that are quite popular and have been used by various cultures in the past:
Tutankhamun’s Gold mask, Egypt:
The mask of King Tut is a gold mask of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. King Tut reigned for a limited number of years and passed at the age of 19. His mask was discovered by Howard Carter when he found his burial chamber in 1925. The mask is decorated with semi-precious stones. An ancient spell is inscribed in hieroglyphs on the mask’s shoulders; a spell that speaks of death and despair.
Neolithic spirit masks:
The Neolithic spirit masks are approximately 9000 years old. They belonged to the people who lived in the Judean desert. Only fifteen masks have been discovered from the area surrounding the southern Judean desert, Israel. The masks share various characteristics of the others found to date. These include a human-size face of soft, carved limestone with large openings for eyes and mouth. The masks were meant to be tied to the face as they have two holes on each side.
Tashtyk death masks:
The Tashtyk death masks recreate a look of the people who lived around the Yenesei River. The masks were discovered from the Shestakovo-3 tomb, where the bodies were cremated, leaving only large bones. The remnants of the deceased were put inside dummy bodies made up of some sort of fabric after cremation.
Javanese gold masks:
The funerary or Javanese gold masks belonged to the people of Indonesia and the Philippines. They were discovered from the ancient burial sites. The gold buried with the body guaranteed status and wealth in the afterlife.
Mask of Agamemnon:
The mask of Agamemnon is a gold funeral mask discovered from the ancient Greek site of Mycenae. It is believed that the mask belonged to the Mycenaean king Agamemnon, leader of the Achaeans in Homer’s epic of the Trojan War. However, the experts and modern-day archaeologists suggest that the mask dates back to 1600 BC, predating the period of the Trojan War by 400 years.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask:
During the era of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was mandatory to cast a death mask of a remarkable leader who had recently departed for the afterlife. Hence, a mixture of wax and plaster was poured over Napoleon Bonaparte’s face once he took his last breath. The mask was removed after the form had hardened. Multiple copies were made from the original impression of his face.
Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec god of fire:
Xiuhtecuhtli was known as the Turquoise lord or the lord of fire in Aztec mythology. His masks were built around 1400 – 1521 CE. He was also known as the lord of volcanoes, the representation of life after death. Moreover, Xiuhtecuhtli is usually portrayed as a young deity. However, he was considered as the father of the Gods, who dwelled in the turquoise ring in the centre of the earth.
The mask of Sitdjehuti, the queen consort of King Djehuti:
Sitdjehuti was a princess and queen of the 17th dynasty of Egypt. She married her brother, Seqenenre Tao, to keep her dynasty undiluted and pure. Moreover, she was the daughter of Pharaoh Senakhtenre Ahmose and Queen Tetisheri. Her remnants were discovered in 1820, along with her coffin, golden mask, and a heart scarab.
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