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Tradition And Individuality In Roman Egypt

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Tradition and Individuality in Roman Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, when one passed away, on top of the mummified body a funerary mask with the likeness of the deceased was placed on top covering the head and shoulders. Funerary masks not only protected the head from any damage that may come after the body has been mummified, but Ancient Egyptians also believed that the ka or spirit of a human was able to leave the restrictions of its tomb and wander the earth. This practice of giving the deceased a face enabled the spirit to recognize the body and return to it once it was finished with its journey. Through the ages, the style in which these masks were created changed just as life in Egypt did too with its new influences from the arrival of the Romans. The Mummy Mask created in the Egyptian (Greco-Roman Period) of the last 1st century BC Ð'- Early 1st century AD and the funerary mask of Aphrodite, daughter of Didas from AD 50-70 both show how over time the representation of the deceased has changed, but still these people hold onto traditional Egyptian beliefs and incorporate the old ways with the new.

Unlike the gold mask found in Grave Circle A at Mycenae, which used the process of repoussÐ"© where the gold was hammered and beat into shape, these two funerary masks used the method of cartonnage. (Kleiner, p. 86) With this process, cheap and lightweight materials such as linen was layered and stiffened with glue or plaster. Gold leaf was then applied to the masks or painted yellow if one couldn't afford it and they were then later painted with colors such as lapis lazuli blue. It was also believed that the Gods had gold flesh and blue hair so by imitating them on these funerary masks, it may have helped bring the deceased closer to deities and move divinity to the weak. (wall label, Bowers Museum)

In the earlier piece the Mummy Mask, the maker uses a minimal number of colors over the gold leaf but the finished product still happens to be grand. The headdress is streaked with dark blue while the neck is adorned with elaborate patterns along with the band around the crown of the head. The top of the mask it is decorated with the image of a scarab beetle associating it with the sun god Re. The black and white used for the eyes offer a striking contrast to the golden body and headdress and the eyes are wide and slightly slanted. The facial features of the figure are also simplistic and the mouth and ears are hardly defined. Masks created like this one also shouldn't even be considered as a portrait as it doesn't really offer anything to depict it as a certain individual or signify what gender the deceased was. On the other hand, in the mask of Aphrodite, the daughter of Didas, there is more care and detail in making this mask. Aphrodite is adorned in shades of purples in her tunic or clavis and she holds a cluster of pink flowers in her right hand. Across the top of her veil in the front it also gives her name and age. It's easy to guess that she must have come from a wealthy family as she sport a large quantity of jewelry such as ball earrings, a rectangular shaped pendant around her neck, and an intricate snake bracelet and armlet. There are also noticeable differences in the representation of the face compared with the previous funerary mask. Now unlike past Egyptian art, all her facial features are better defined and not as flat looking. Her eyes though painted in black and white like the previous, they now seem deeper set and expressive as she

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