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The Death Mask of King Tutankhamen

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The Death Mask of King Tutankhamen

Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death and they had extreme burial rituals for one to pass to the eternal afterlife. Death was not the end but rather the next step to eternity. In order to attain eternal life after death, all possessions need to be buried with the deceased. A death mask was made in the likeness of the deceased and placed with the mummified body to help the soul recognize it's body as it entered the afterlife. This was the case with the Mask of King Tutankhamen.

The tomb of King Tutankhamen, of the 18th Dynasty, ca. 1332-1323 BC, was found almost intact.This period of time in Egyptian history is also known as the New Kingdom. Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb in 1922, which was located in the Valley of the Kings. The discovery was unparalleled to any other known find and public interest in ancient Egypt was once again revisited.

The mask was found in the third innermost mummy case of the pharaoh's tomb. It had been placed directly on the face of the young pharaoh, commonly referred to as King Tut. Measuring 21inches high, 15 inches wide and weighing 24 pounds , the mask was made of gold. The workmanship excelled and the value is beyond measure. The golden mask was adorned with inlays consisting of crushed colored glass and semi precious stones.

There are two emblems on the forehead of the mask, a cobra and a vulture. The vulture, Nekhbet, was considered to be a goddess of heaven. The cobra, Wadjet, was worshipped by the Egyptians as a protecter. A cobra was to spit fire at enemies that came towards the Pharaoh. By placing these symbols upon the forehead of the mask, the young king would have continued protection in afterlife.

Gold, for the use of the artifacts, was not just a sign of wealth. The properties of gold, that of a long lasting metal and one of magical beliefs, made this the ideal choice for construction of the King's death mask. Egyptian beliefs included that the pharaohs were living gods. Gold was considered the "Flesh of Gods" therefore explaining use of gold verses another type of metal.

In conclusion, I can appreciate the importance that the Egyptians placed on the preparations for an external afterlife. The detail of this mask, produced by these ancient artisans, is truly amazing. We, as a modern culture seek answers as to why past civilizations had such believes. Artifacts from the past give us a insight to those who came before us



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