| Measure of the dead [ukur mas]

Balinese people
Bali, Indonesia

Measure of the dead [ukur mas] 19th century
gold, cotton
164.8 (h) x 31.5 (w) x 1.4 (d) cm
Purchased 2010
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 2010.347


Balinese religion is based on worship of gods and ancestors, combining Hindu and ancient animist beliefs and practice. On Bali cremation rites free the soul or spirit from its temporary earthly house and facilitate the journey to its next existence. Since cremations are large and expensive festivals, the body may be temporarily buried until the family can afford the cremation.

After death a human template such as this may be placed lengthwise on the corpse. The 'measure' ensures that, after rebirth, the bones of the deceased will be reassembled in the correct order and dimensions. Usually formed from strings of Chinese coins, the depiction of the face and elegant headdress in this rare example cut from sheets of gold suggests that it was created for a Balinese aristocrat.

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