Funerary Masks and the Geopolitical Use of Classical Archaeology in Nationalist Disputes


  • Jessica Clementi University of Ferrara



Funerary mask, ancient Macedonia, nationalist disputes


Funerary masks are a trans-cultural phenomenon that involves, in different ways and times, the whole ancient Mediterranean due to their particular power to showcase individuality, as concentrated in the face and head. The discussion on the origin of this custom in Ancient Macedonia during the Archaic Period has been strongly influenced by the identity narratives based on different national archaeologies. Previous and current interpretations are, indeed, deeply influenced by the quest for identifying the ethnicity of ancient Macedonians and their relationship to present nation states. Transformed into material evidence of ethnic identity, masks are involved in complex exegeses. On the one hand, Greek archaeology emphasizes an approach based on continuity theses, which can be summarized in the formula “memories of Mycenaean funerary customs” to emphasize a direct link between the Archaic and Mycenaean periods. On the other hand, masks played a key role in the construction of the modern Macedonian national myth and narrative, as proofs for Macedonian identity descended from the most distant past.