In Ancient Egypt, masks were an extremely important aspect of the burials and spiritual rituals in the transition from life to death. These elaborate masks, usually made of gold and inlaid with precious stones, were believed to not only provide the dead with a face in the afterlife and protect the “Ka” or spirit, but it was it also believed that it enabled the spirit to recognize the body. They often contained inscriptions, and many of these masks included written spells that were meant to protect the spirit of the deceased.
The masks were meant to provide a face for the dead spirit as it went through its travels. They helped to protect the “Ka,” or spirit. Masks were an important part of making sure that the Ka could safely complete its journey into the afterlife. Masks afforded the spirit protection, so, to the Egyptian people, mask were sacred ceremonial items. The style of the masks for men featured beards in the style of the time, while the masks for women showed popular makeup styles. Much of what we know about representations of gender during this era comes from mask designs.
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They portrayed both how people really looked and how people wanted to look. Vanity doesn’t belong solely to today’s generation. Egyptian masks show us general trends in appearance as well as the specific looks of individuals. Masks placed onto mummies often featured characteristics of the dead person. The masks give us a good idea of what some Pharaohs looked like. However, the sculptors who created the masks were often told to create masks that flattered the features of the model.
For this reason, many masks from this time tell us more about Egyptian standards of beauty than about what the Pharaohs really looked like. However, Egyptian masks still provide us with a lot of valuable information and insight into these great men. Many masks were painted with precious gold, and the labor and expense that went into many creating these masks tells us about the status of their wearers. The design of masks in ancient Egypt were barometers of wealth.
They offered spiritual protection, so the fact that masks were a status symbol for the Egyptian people as well, raises some unique ethical issues. The implications that Egyptian masks have about money and power are complex. But, whatever masks from those times may signify about wealth and spirituality, the masks are surely stunning treasures. The masks of ancient Egypt are very beautiful, even by modern standards. The majesty of the masks created in ancient Egyptian times cannot be denied.