February 5, 2014

Hypocephalus and the Book of Abraham

In celebration of studying the Book of Abraham from the Pearl of Great Price this year, I decided to recreate and photograph a few of the hypocephali I have created recently and in the past. The hypocephalus comes from Egypt and is a disc-shaped object used during the burial process. The hypocephalus generally was made from stuccoed linen (though some were made from metal, wood, papyrus, and clay), then painted with various designs and patterns.

The disc-shaped object was placed under the head and was believed to help protect the dead by enveloping them in light as they transitioned from the mortal to immortal-life. There are around 100 examples of hypocephali today, each one unique in their own way (click here to view an excellent collection of hypocephali found throughout the world.).

In the early LDS church history, founder Joseph Smith purchased several mummies containing papyrus scrolls and a hypocephalus, today known as Facsimile #2 (click here for a video showing a display of some of the artifacts from the Book of Abraham).

Below are several photos of the recreated hypocephali that I have created over the years. I hope to be posting a video here in a few weeks, so check back if you would like to see it.

Hypocephalus 36188 (the original is on stucco, but I placed it on papyrus)
Recreation of the Book of Abraham hypocephalus on stucco-linen
Recreated hypocephalus 37909
Recreated hypocephalus 37909 (front side)
Recreated hypocephalus 37909 (back side showing linen)
Recreated hypocephalus 37909 (showing linen and stucco)
My first recreated hypocephalus, now framed with the other facsimiles


  1. Amazing work! Did you paint the pictures by hand or did you use a printer? Any chance you could teach me how to do it?

  2. I am not quite ready to give away my secrets online as I may try to sell these on ebay. If you commit to not selling them yourself, I could email you some of the methods I used.

    1. Hey Daniel, great work! I've only done papyrus reproductions so far, but am looking to do a hypocephalus on stucco linen. Would you be willing to tell me how you make the stucco stick and not just crumble? I'm making only one for my own educational use, so your method is safe with me :)

    2. I don't mind telling others about the stucco part. For that, I used Sheetrock patching compound. To get it to stick you just have to spread it out using a plaster spatula.

  3. Have you decided to sell them? I would be interested.

    1. Yes, check back in about a month (after the holidays) and I should have another tab at the top where you can purchase them. Probably through etsy.com.

  4. Daniel, sorry I forgot to get back to you. Could you contact me at markjohnson1138 at gmail dot com? Thanks!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.