Mask: linen cartonage, gilded, with eyes inlaid in obsidian and alabaster and blue glass, broad collar inlaid with carnelian and glass
New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, reigns of Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III (1428-1351 BC)
Provenance: Deir el-Medina, from the Tomb of Kha, Schiaparelli excavations, 1906
Inv. Nrs. S. 8471, 8473
The Museo Egizio owes much of its renown to the well-equipped tomb of the architect Kha. The quantity and quality of the material is sufficient to establish a museum on its own. A tomb of this magnitude would have taken years to prepare, a process that Kha certainly oversaw during his lifetime. Unexpectedly predeceased by his wife Merit, the mourning widower Kha gave his own coffin to his wife. This was too big for Merit’s mummy, so that he was forced to pack linens, monogrammed for him, around her. The magnificent gilded cartonnage (a kind of papier maché, here made with linen) mask was inlaid with different coloured stones indicating the whites and pupils of the eyes and with blue glass for the elegant eyebrows and cosmetic stripes. The broad collar was similarly inlaid with glass and carnelian and the whole was richly gilded, a process that was surely longer in the making than the 70 days required for the mummification of Merit before her burial. The opulence of the mask, and the fact that Kha had none for his own burial, suggests that he was unexpectedly predeceased by his wife Merit, and that he provided her with much of the funerary equipment intended for himself.