Some 2,000 years ago, elite Roman families stuffed their closets with wax masks made in the likeness of their male ancestors so that during funeral processions actors could fill in for the missing links of the genealogical line.
Scholars know about the strange practice from ancient sources, such as the Greek historian Polybius, though none of the masks themselves survive.
[A] team of researchers at Cornell University made life-cast molds of their own faces to recreate these imagines maiorum, and they found that the wax masks were indeed uncannily lifelike.
In Roman times, the masks would have been constantly discolored and degraded by candle flames and smoke as well as the occasional handling during funeral processions and the copying process. (New households forged by marriage needed their own sets of ancestor masks.)
By Megan Gannon via LiveScience.