Face Off

Digs & Discoveries January/February 2021

(Photograph © The State Hermitage Museum/Photo by Vladimir Terebenin)
SHARE:

The Tashtyk culture, which existed between the first and seventh centuries A.D. in southern Siberia, is known for its elaborate burial customs, including applying layers of gypsum onto the deceased’s face to create lifelike death masks. A stunning example of this practice—the mummified remains of a man buried some 1,700 years ago wearing a painted red death mask—was discovered in the late 1960s in the Khakassia region. More than half a century later, researchers from Russia’s Hermitage Museum have finally managed to glimpse the man’s face.

Since removing the mask would damage the mummy, the researchers instead conducted a CT scan to peer beneath the facial covering. The scan revealed that the man had a nasty gash across the left side of his face, running from his eye to his ear, that had been sutured shut prior to his burial. Experts believe the wound may have been fatal, and that it was stitched up after the man died so he would not have to go to the afterlife with a disfigured appearance. The scan also showed that the man’s skull has a two-to-three-inch hole in its left temple, likely resulting from the removal of his brain during his funerary ceremony.

MORE TO DISCOVER

Letter from Nigeria

July/August 2024

A West African Kingdom's Roots

Excavations in Benin City reveal a renowned realm’s deep history

Artifacts July/August 2024

Etruscan Oil Lamp

Read Article
Etruscan Hanging Oil Lamp
(Courtesy Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona; © DeA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY)

Around the World July/August 2024

TONGA

Read Article
(Phillip Parton/ANU)

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2024

Bronze Age Beads Go Abroad

Read Article

Features July/August 2024

The Assyrian Renaissance

Archaeologists return to Nineveh in northern Iraq, one of the ancient world’s grandest imperial capitals

Read Article
(Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project)