Detail View: The AMICA Library: Mummy Head Cover

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Creator Name: 
Creator Nationality: 
African; North African; Egyptian
Creator Dates/Places: 
Ancient Egypt Africa,North Africa,Egypt
Creator Name-CRT: 
Mummy Head Cover
Title Type: 
full view
Creation Date: 
Roman Period, 1st century B.C.
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Cartonnage (gum, linen, and papyrus), gold leaf, pigment
Classification Term: 
Mummy Goods
Subject Description: 
This covering for the head of a mummy represents a highly idealized image of a woman wearing a heavy wig. The front sections of her hair are braided and ornamented with golden beads and rosettes. The fringe of the woman's own hair appears as curls along her forehead. She wears a locketlike ornament in the form of the hieroglyph for 'heart.' Her chest is covered with the representatiopn of a wide collar made of rows of floral and geometric ornaments. This lower margin is decorated with a scene of Osirisseated on his throne, flanked by a pair of protective deities, and an image of the deceased (shown kneeling) followed by the so-called four sons of Horus, who were associated with the protection of the vital organs of the mummy. Isis and Nephthys, the divine sisters of Osiris who act as mourners for the deceased, appear on the shoulders. These head coverings provide a substitute for the vital facilities of the head, but the gilt-covered surface of the mask also served to identify the deceased with the sun god Re, whom the Egyptians described as having skin of gold.
Creation Place: 
Africa,North Africa,Egypt
H.: 46 cm (18-1/8 in.); W>: 33.3 cm (13-1/8 in.); Depth: 28 cm (11 in.)
AMICA Contributor: 
The Art Institute of Chicago
Owner Location: 
Chicago, Illinois, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
The Art Institute of Chicago, William M. Willner Fund
In the Ptolemaic Period (332 B.C.-30 B.C.), the head, feet, and chest of wrapped mummies were often covered with cartonnage, which was thought to ensure the function of those parts of the body in the afterlife even if the mortal remains wre decayed or destroyed. Such cartonnage headpieces are direct descendants of helmet-style masks like the famous gold covering of Tutankhamun (c. 1334 B.C.).
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