the mask of agamemnon
Shaft Grave V, Grave Circle A, Mycenae. 1600-1500 BC.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Gold death-mask known as the "Mask of Agamemnon". This mask depicts the imposing face of a bearded noble man. It is made of a gold sheet with repoussé details. Two holes near the ears indicate that the mask was held in place of the deceased's face with twine.
Once part of a large cemetery outside the acropolis walls, Grave Circle A was discovered within the Mycenaean citadel by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 under the supervision of the Greek Ephor of Antiquities Panagiotis Stamatakis.
The tombs in Grave Circle A contained a total of nineteen burials: nine males, eight females and two infants. With the exception of Grave II, which contained a single burial, all of the other graves contained between two and five inhumations.
The amazing wealth of the grave gifts reveals both the high social rank and the martial spirit of the deceased: gold jewelry and vases, a large number of decorated swords and other bronze objects, and artefacts made of imported materials, such as amber, lapis lazuli, faience and ostrich eggs. All of these, together with a small but characteristic group of pottery vessels, confirm Mycenae's importance during this period, and justify Homer's designation of Mycenae as 'rich in gold.'
Shaft Grave V contained three male burials. Two of the deceased wore gold death-masks, one of which is known as the "Mask of Agamemnon". The grave gifts included gold breastplates, elaborate bronze swords and daggers, gold and silver vessels, an ostrich egg rhyton and a wooden pyxis. There was less gold jewelry that in the female graves, but a great number of amber beads.