Inlay in the form of a human mask
The inlay most probably represents the hr-face in hieroglyphic inscriptions. The eyes have been cut out and the brows incised to take insets of a different material, probably glass. The right ear is damaged. The sign would have been completed by separate hair of different material. The scalloped configuration of the top edge conforms to the contours of the hair in the hr-sign. No exact parallel for such a specimen seems to exist, though inlaid hieroglyphs of this quality are known from royal coffins of Dynasty XVIII, and front the reigns of the last native Egyptian kings (Dynasty XXX), to which latter period this piece has been assigned.
Stone and glass inlays in the form of hieroglyphic signs were a luxurious substitute for funerary texts, which on less expensive objects, usually coffins, would be carved or simply painted. The hr sign in Egyptian means face and sight, as well as serving as a preposition meaning at, in, upon, etc. For a good example of the use of fine inlays on a coffin, see Yoyotte (1968: 206), and for an overview of various inlays, see Cooney (1976: 73-88).
Cyril Aldred & Geoffrey T. Martin, 1997
Entry taken from Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection 3 volume catalogue, edited by Steven Hooper (Yale University Press, 1997).
Formerly in the possession of Captain K. A. Webster.
Gift from K. J. Hewett to Lisa Sainsbury in 1952.
Donated to the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia in 1973 as part of the original gift.
Title/Description: Inlay in the form of a human mask
Born: 0350 c. BC
Object Type: Mask
Measurements: h. 25 x w. 30 x d. 5 mm
Accession Number: 307
Historic Period: Late Period (c. 350 BC), 4th century BC
Credit Line: Donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, 1973