Mask of Psusennes I
In this gold mask, Psusennes I appears with the royal headdress surmounted by the uraeus, or royal cobra. He wears a divine plaited false beard. The mask is made of two pieces of beaten gold, soldered and joined together by five nails that can be seen from the back. The king wears the royal nemes headdress, usually made of linen, surmounted by the sacred uraeus, the royal cobra.
This protected the king against his opponents and enemies in life and after death. The king wears a divine plaited false beard, which is the symbol of dignity. He also wears a broad usekh or wesekh broad collar incised with floral decorations. The inlays of the eyelids and eyebrows and the straps fixing the beard are of glass paste. The eyes are made of black and white stone.
Psusennes I was one of three late period kings (21st-22nd Dynasties) whose burials were found more or less intact at the site of the ancient city of Tanis to the north-east of Egypt’s Delta region. The country was divided during these reigns and the burials were nowhere near as rich as the more famous ‘intact’ burial of Tutankhamun, but nonetheless yielded some spectacular finds.
The silver coffin of Psusennes I is especially remarkable (silver being considered rare than gold in Egypt) and bears the likeness of the King, as does the stunning gold mask found within placed on the mummy (which did not survive beyond mere bones), and the closest compatible example to the more famous mask of Tutankhamun (though it differs in not being adorned with inlay apart from the eyes).
Psusennes I along with his successor Amenemope were buried in chambers beneath the paving of the temple of Amun in Tanis, where they lay forgotten until their rediscovery by Pierre Montet in 1939. Montet’s discovery was the greatest find in Egypt since Tutankhamun, but its excavation on the eve of war in 1939-40 meant the find never received the attention it deserved.
Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty, reign of Psusennes I, ca. 1047-1001 BC. From tomb NRT III, Tanis. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 85913