Item #: 3808

Date: Liao Dynasty (c. 907-1125 CE)

Medium: Gilded-brass

Size: 8 ¼” h

Testing Reports:

Description: This Liao Dynasty mask may be among the most important of its kind, simply by being made from brass. To date, our research has revealed no other Liao masks of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. Instead, most were crafted from copper, bronze, silver or gold. The identification of brass in this artifact prompted extensive additional study and examination, in order to verify the antiquity of the item. A metallographic examination and metallurgical analysis, conducted at Oxford Materials Characterization Service, has confirmed that the alloy and the nature of the internal corrosion are consistent with the proposed age.

Liao burial masks are each highly unique, reflecting the individuality of the person for whom they were made. The artifact seen here is detailed with strongly curved lips, a well-proportioned nose, sweeping brows and tiny eyelashes. One particularly interesting feature is the holes in the ears. Other masks have been recovered which retain earrings in such holes. This seemingly unimportant feature may actually be a clue to the ethnicity of the wearer. While these masks were associated with the Khitan elite, these people did not pierce their ears, considering the practice to be unclean. They did, however, intermarry with the ethnic Han people, including those of the neighboring Song Dynasty, for whom pierced ears were a common practice.

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