How Were Ancient Greek Theater Masks Made?

Ancient Greek theater masks, used for the main characters in a play, were crafted by mask makers from organic, perishable materials like leather or linen, using a marble or stone face as a mold. Each mask had an attached wig to cover the ears and back of the head.

Archaeologists think the mask makers started by molding the mask base to a marble or stone face. After the mask face was ready, the mask maker attached it to a hood that covered the rest of the actor's head, concealing the hood beneath hair. The masks were painted to resemble real faces, and a tiny hole was cut in the eyes to allow the actor to see. Another tiny hole was cut in the mouth to allow for speech, but no additional allowance seems to have been made for hearing.

Greek theater masks were used to help actors blend into the parts they were playing. Each mask used exaggerated facial expressions and was often highly symbolic to ensure the audience could easily identify the character. Because the masks were made of perishable materials and sacrificed to Dionysus after the play's completion, there are no remaining examples. Historical information about Greek theater masks has been derived primarily from painted pottery, where they are often depicted as full heads.