A 1st century Roman theatrical mask found in Ciudad Real

A team of archaeologists has found a theatrical mask from the 1st century in the ancient Roman city of «Laminium», the current Alhambra (Ciudad Real), which today has just a thousand inhabitants. The piece, made of terracotta, in perfect condition, has been found in the «puticulum» or Roman landfill of this town where the population at that time threw household goods, construction remains, dead animals and all kinds of useless elements for recycling.

According to archaeologist José Luis Fuentes, who has been conducting excavations at this site since 2017, “it is a piece of exceptional value” of which the lower left area of ​​the face is preserved and in it you can still see part of the curl of the hair, the operculum to introduce the rope that would fix the mask to the actor’s head, the lower left eye area, the entire left cheekbone, the left half of the nose and the upper left half of the mouth.

Tragic mask

«The first investigations indicate that it is a female stage mask of a tragic type belonging to the New Greek Comedy. The expression of the piece shows a female character in a serious attitude who will announce news or represent a tragic character ”, adds this archaeologist who dates the mask between 50 and 65 after Christ. This finding makes it possible to ensure the existence of theatrical performances in the old “Laminum” and it is not ruled out that it even had a theater as an architectural ensemble. The archaeologists who work at this site believe that the mask could have belonged to a company of actors who moved from one nucleus to another performing in theaters or squares.

Taking into account that the Roman typology in the New Greek Comedy had 44 comic characters and 25 tragic characters, of which 17 corresponded to male characters and 8 to female characters, the mask found would belong to the latter group. Specifically, it would serve for the representation of the character of the “young woman with wavy hair” although there is no lack of reasons to rule out that it was the “old fat woman” since the bulging cheekbones tinted black and red -the colors are preserved- could refer to that grotesque character. The red color reflected the cunning of the female sex and the black to old age or experience in life.


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