The dry climate of Middle and Upper Egypt helped to preserve countless numbers of antique pieces. Examples are the funerary masks, which were found in good condition, in locations such as Hermopolis Magna (Tuna el-Gebel) and Antinopolis (Al-Sheikh Ibadah).
There are some differences between the gypsum masks and the Faiyum portraits. Unlike the Faiyum portraits, no production centers for the masks have been found. The portraits illustrate the upper part of the deceased as the head, the neck, the shoulders, the chest and sometimes the hands, while the gypsum masks illustrate only the head and the neck. In addition, while the Faiyum portraits were placed on the mummies in a horizontal or vertical position, the masks were usually placed independently on the reclining mummies.
The masks were made by casting gypsum in molds, and the finger prints of the artisan are often found on the backs of the masks. After the gypsum dried, it was painted with various colors; for example, coal was used to color the hair black, gold was used to paint jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces and headbands. There are several examples in which the mask is completely painted in gold. The masks were usually given the hairstyles favored by the imperial court; therefore matching portraits of the ruling family with the masks can give us approximate dates.
Although cremation violated Egyptian beliefs, some of the Greeks who lived in Egypt cremated the corpses of their dead. Funerary urns, or what were known as "hydria," were used to hold the ashes of the deceased. Hydrias were distinguished by their colors; they were painted in crimson, red and black; the bodies and necks of the urns were usually decorated with geometrical or floral patterns; sometimes with animals, birds or legendary themes. The neck of the urn was sometimes decorated with an artificial flower garland and gilded leaves.
Inscriptions on the hydria gave information about the deceased person, for instance his name and his occupation. The urns were sealed with white gypsum that bore the seal of the factory that produced it. The hydrias are dated from the beginning of the Ptolemaic period and up to the end of the first century BC.