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Golden Cups & Masks of Mystery

Updated: May 18, 2022

Gold kylix with hammered image of running houds, ca. 15th-early 14th century BCE. 2108. Benaki Museum. On display in the Gods, Myths & Mortals exhibition at the Hellenic Museum, Melbourne.

Golden Kylix in the Hellenic Museum collections

This magnificent kylix cup from the 15th to early 14th century BCE is made of gold. You can visit the Hellenic Museum and see it for yourself! The kylix’s glowing gold colour makes it look like a ray of sun.

The kylix features aristocratic symbolism of running dogs (used for royal hunting sports) all around the cup.

Historians and archaeologists who have studied this golden kylix are still arguing about whether it is real or a fake. This makes it all the more mysterious!

Gold death mask known as the 'Mask of Agamemnon', ca. 1550-1500 BCE. National Archaeological Museum. Photo: Xuan Che

Death Mask of a Mycenaean King or Wanax

Ancient Mycenaean kings would have used golden kylix cups to drink wine. These kings ruled over settlements across mainland Greece from 1,600 to 1,100 BCE. The Mycenean kings were called wanaxes.

Above is a gold death or funeral mask found at the site of Mycenae – an ancient Greek palace state. Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found this mask in 1876. Schliemann believed that this mask belonged to the legendary king, or wanax, Agamemnon. Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks against the Trojans, in the epic Trojan War in modern day Turkey.

Modern archaeologists do not think that this is the mask of Agamemnon. Instead, they explain that it is a mask of a king who ruled many years before Agamemnon.

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