Cartonnage Mask of Shep en-Mut

The ancient Egyptian mummy, coffin and cartonnage mask of Shep en-Mut were donated to the museum in 1897. The decoration and inscriptions show she was a married woman, and the daughter of NesAmenempit, who is described as a ‘carrier of the milk-jar’.

Cartonnage masks were an integral part of ancient Egyptian funerary practices. These masks were made from layers of linen or papyrus soaked in plaster or glue, forming a stiff material known as cartonnage. They were typically used to cover the face of a mummy, providing a lifelike representation of the deceased.

Cartonnage mask of Shep en-Mut
Cartonnage mask of Shep en-Mut

The primary purpose of cartonnage masks was to ensure the preservation and recognition of the deceased in the afterlife. The masks were often intricately decorated with painted designs, including images of deities, symbols, and protective spells. These decorations aimed to provide spiritual guidance and protection for the deceased on their journey to the afterlife.

Cartonnage masks were also believed to serve as a means of transformation and identification. It was believed that the mask would allow the deceased to assume a new identity and take on the appearance of a specific deity or ancestor. This transformation was crucial for the deceased to navigate the complex realm of the afterlife successfully.

Additionally, cartonnage masks were sometimes used to depict the idealized image of the deceased. They would often portray the individual with youthful features, emphasizing beauty and vitality. This idealized representation aimed to ensure a favorable and eternal existence in the afterlife.

Third Intermediate Period, about 800 BC. Wood, plaster and pigment. Now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, Devon, 1897/11/3/2