Mask of Agamemnon

Whilst on the topic of supposed mysteries, the Mask of Agamemnon is an artefact discovered in Mycenae in 1876 by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. It is a funeral mask made of gold and found over the face of a dead body in an ancient burial place at Mycenae. Although Schliemann thought the body and mask to belong to the legendary King Agamemnon modern archaeologists realised there is a significant discrepancy in dates. Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks during the Trojan War which has been reliably dated to circa 1190 BC, yet the mask precedes that date by more than 350 years.

The death mask of Epaphus incorrectly named the Mask of Agamemnon

The practise of making gold death masks was not something traditionally associated with the Ancient Greeks yet it was common practise in Egypt. This is the clue needed to positively identify the owner of the Mycenaean Mask.


Before going any further it should be pointed out there are many contradictory dates proposed by various sources, some of which on the flimsiest of assumptions. There is very little difficulty in tying up the dates here with those of different historians but that said even with the possible discrepancy of a decade here and there, the dates are too close to ignore.


The Hyksos Dynasty of Kings of Egypt appeared around 1650 BC and were termed 'rulers from foreign lands'. They were eventually forced out of Egypt around 1550 BC, the last Hyksos king being Khamudi successor of Apepi / Apophis. Egyptologist Kim Ryholt has proposed that Khamudi's reign must have been short, amounting to no more than a year. This would explain the body of Apophis being transported with the fleeing Hyksos people to somewhere it wouldn't be desecrated.


So why Mycenae? Egyptologist David Rohl identifies the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis with Epaphus from Greek mythology.


In Greek mythology, Epaphus (Apophis), also called Apis (Apepi), was a king of Egypt. Purportedly the son of Zeus and Io, although he was more likely the result of an illicit affair on the part of Io (one source mentions an uncle). Io was the sister of Phoroneus, the offspring of Inachus king of Argos which incorporated Mycenae. Io likely fled Argos in disgrace and ended up on the banks of the Nile where Epaphus was born.


This would all look a little tenuous were it not for the dates. Apophis reigned from approximately 1595 BC to 1550 BC. Phoroneus the brother of Io, was stated as ruling Argos (and Mycenae) for 60 summers and winters from 1650 BC. If Apophis ruled lower Egypt from 1595 BC his estimated date of birth could be around 1620 BC.


It is almost certain the 'invading' Hyksos rulers were evacuees from the conflagration caused by the Thera eruption of 1650 BC. There are many other details that give further support to the theory of Epaphus being the owner of the death mask through the likes of Belus and Agenor, then subsequently Cadmus, Europa and Minos. These however are only deemed 'plausibles' and are dealt with in Aegeara: Part 2 in the Story of Io and also the genealogy at the end of the section.


Epaphus is regarded in the myths as the founder of Memphis, named for his wife and he had one daughter, Libya. Other accounts added another one who bore the name Lysianassa. From these daughters he had grandsons, Belus and Agenor. In other versions of the myth, Epaphus was also called father of Thebe, mother of Aegyptus and Heracles by Zeus.


This golden mask exhibit is currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. In spite of all the doubts, this distinguished mask of gold which is about 12 inches in height is still known as the Mask of Agamemnon and is one of the most prized discoveries from the ancient Mycenaean ages. Help me give the mask its true name.....


The Mask of Epaphus