Uncannily Lifelike Roman Masks Recreated in Wax
2014-01-07 0:00

By Megan Gannon | YahooNews

Some 2,000 years ago, elite Roman families stuffed their closets with wax masks made in the likeness of their male ancestors so that during funeral processions actors could fill in for the missing links of the genealogical line.

Scholars know about the strange practice from ancient sources, such as the Greek historian Polybius, though none of the masks themselves survive.

Recently, however, a team of researchers at Cornell University made life-cast molds of their own faces to recreate these imagines maiorum, and they found that the wax masks were indeed uncannily lifelike.

The groupís work was presented here at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America this past weekend.

Melting faces

"I will tell you that I felt awful ó simply awful ó watching my friendís face melting in the Crock-Pot," said doctoral student Katherine Jarriel.

With a limited wax supply, Jarriel had to melt down a botched mask she made of her colleague Carrie Fultonís face, she explained to LiveScience. Her visceral reaction brought home the idea that Romans might have felt very emotionally attached to these ancestor masks, which would have been cast while the men were still living.

"After all, these were potentially masks of people they had known being brought back to life through re-enactment in funeral processions," Jarriel wrote in an email.

Funeral procession or zombie walk?

As the experimenters can attest, wax is a rather sensitive and unstable material. The mockup masks, which were made with a modern recreation of ancient beeswax, have been sitting inside a protected display case at Cornell. But even after a short time, the surface of the skin appears to have tiny pits and holes, Jarriel said.

In Roman times, the masks would have been constantly discolored and degraded by candle flames and smoke as well as the occasional handling during funeral processions and the copying process. (New households forged by marriage needed their own sets of ancestor masks.)


Wax also has quite lifelike properties, and in some ways could be a stand-in for the human body, Alexandridis noted. In ancient times it was used to close wounds and archaeologists have at least one example of a wax sculpture of a manís head used to replace his decapitated one in his tomb.

Read the full article at: news.yahoo.com

READ: Black Death: Did the plague help finish off the Romans?

AND: Oldest Roman Hairstyle Recreated for First Time

Related Articles
5 reasons you should switch to beeswax candles
Need a filling? Stone Age dentists knew their beeswax
Napoleon death mask blocked from export
Legacy of the African Mask
The Venetian Mask Maker
Scary mystery figure in cloak and mask haunts Swiss woods
2,000-year-old ancient skeleton mask discovered in Turkey
Canadian íMask baní bill nears final stage : Disguise Yourself, Get 10 Years Prison
Mysterious Greenstone Mask Discovered inside Pyramid of the Sun
Man passes security, boards plane, in silicone-mask disguise
Is It Legal? Viking Funerals
"A Will for the Woods" and Eco-friendly funerals
The Mystery of 97 Dead Roman Babies

Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden to give over 8 million euros to Turkey for "refugee deal" - Europe to give three billion euros total
2015-12-01 1:44
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on Sunday that Sweden would contribute to a joint action plan agreed by nine EU nations designed to limit the number of refugees arriving in Europe via Turkey. The deal came after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a surprise summit in Brussels involving the leaders of nine countries including Sweden, France and the UK. The European ...
Swedish woman raped by "refugee" refuses to report it because she feels sorry for him
2015-12-01 0:12
Victim sympathized with rapist's "difficult situation" A Swedish woman who was raped by an Iraqi ‚Äúrefugee‚ÄĚ on a train initially refused to report the incident to police because she ‚Äėfelt sorry‚Äô for her attacker. The incident occurred on a night train between Ume√• and Sundsvall back in October. The Iraqi refugee was traveling back to Sweden because he was unhappy with the ...
ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: "Raqqa's Rockefellers," Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection
2015-11-30 21:56
"Effectively, we have been financially discriminated against for a long time. By early 2014, when we did not receive the budget, we decided we need to start thinking about independent oil sales‚ÄĚ --  Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan‚Äôs minister for natural resources In June of 2014, the SCF Altai (an oil tanker) arrived at Ashkelon port. Hours later, the first shipment of Kurdish ...
Prosecutors ban Soros Foundation as 'threat to Russian national security'
2015-11-30 21:04
The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has recognized George Soros’s Open Society Institute and another affiliated organization as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects. In a statement released on Monday, prosecutors said the activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation were a threat to the foundations of Russia’s ...
Israeli Colonel Caught with Islamic State (IS) Pants Down
2015-11-30 21:11
This was definitely not supposed to happen. It seems that an Israeli military man with the rank of colonel was ‚Äúcaught with IS pants down.‚ÄĚ By that I mean he was captured amid a gaggle of so-called IS‚Äďor Islamic State or ISIS or DAESH depending on your preference‚Äďterrorists, by soldiers of the Iraqi army. Under interrogation by the Iraqi intelligence ...
More News »