The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Basic Funeral Equipment
Gold Death Mask of Tutankhamun
This mask of solid gold, beaten and burnished, was placed over the head and shoulders of Tutankhamun's mummy, outside the linen bandages in which the whole body was wrapped. It weighs about twenty - four pounds. Although it is difficult to judge how closely the face represents a true likeness of the king, it is at least an approximation. The rather narrow eyes, the shape of the nose, the fleshy lips, and the cast of the chin are all in agreement with the features visible in his mummy, and the whole countenance is unmistakably youthful. Perhaps it is slightly idealized, but essentially it seems to be a faithful portrait.
The stripes of the nemes headdress are made of blue glass in imitation of lapis lazuli, and the same material has been used for the inlay of the plaited false beard. The vulture's head upon the brow, symbolizing sovereignty over Upper Egypt, is also made of solid gold, apart from the beak, which is made of horn-colored glass, and the inlay of the eyes, which is missing. By its side is the cobra, symbolizing sovereignty over Lower Egypt, its body made of solid gold, its head of dark blue faience, its eyes of gold cloisonne inlaid with translucent quartz backed with a red pigment, and its hood inlaid with carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise-colored glass, and quartz. The eyebrows, eyelids, and kohl marks extending sideways from the eyes are made of lapis lazuli and the eyes of quartz and obsidian. Caruncles (small red patches) are shown on the inner and outer canthi of the eyes - a frequent mistake in Egyptian reproductions of the human eye, which in nature shows a caruncle on the inner canthus only. The lobes of the ears are pierced for earrings, but when the mask was found the holes were covered with disks of gold foil. A triple-string necklace of gold and faience disk beads has also been removed from the mask in order to reveal the neck. On the chest, extending from shoulder to shoulder, is a broad collar encrusted with segments of lapis lazuli, quartz, and green feldspar with a lotus-bud border of colored-glass cloisonne work. At each end of the collar is a terminal in the form of a falcon's head of gold encrusted with obsidian and colored glass.
The inscription engraved on the shoulders and on the back of the mask is a spell that first appears on masks of the Middle Kingdom, some five hundred years before the time of Tutankhamun. It was later incorporated in the Book of the Dead (Chapter 151 B). Intended for the protection of the mask, it identifies its various parts with the corresponding physical members of different gods, addressing them individually:
"...Your right eye is the night bark [of the sun god], your left eye is the day bark, your eyebrows are [those of] the Ennead of the Gods, your forehead is [that of] Anubis, the nape of your neck is [that of] Horus, your locks of hair are [those of] Ptah-Soker. [You are] in front of the Osiris [Tutankhamun], he sees thanks to you, you guide him to the goodly ways, you smite for him the confederates of Seth so that he may overthrow your enemies before the Ennead of the Gods in the great Castle of the Prince, which is in Heliopolis...the Osiris, the king of Upper Egypt Nebkheperura, deceased, given life like Ra."