Those of my readers who are familiar with Elizabethan costume may know that there was a fashion for women to cover their faces with black velvet masks in public.
A correspondent from one of the costuming lists that I frequent posted a link to this article, which reports on an archaeological find of such a face mask during renovation of a 16th century stone building in Northamptonshire. The article, from ArchNews, describes the find as follows:
Oval in plan at 195mm in length, 170mm in width. The eyes are lentoid in shape, at 30mm wide and 15mm high. The mouth is 48mm wide, widening in the centre to make a gap for the nose. The nose area is strengthened to stand out and form a case around the wearer's nose. The mask weighs 32.4g (although this weight is inaccurate as a true weight due to the amount of soil and straw adhering to one side). The outer fabric is black velvet. The lining is silk. The inside is strengthened by a pressed-paper inner. The three layers are stitched together by a black cotton thread. On the lining, just below the centre of the mouth, is a loose thread of white cotton. This cotton would have held the black glass bead (found in association with the mask).
The bead is 10mm in diameter and weighs 1.42g. There is some wear at the hole, which is 3mm in diameter. The black glass bead was used to hold the mask in place. With a lack of holes to allow string or elastic to be put around the head, the mask would have instead been held in place by the wearer holding the black bead in her mouth.
I commend any interested readers to follow the link to the article, which has a good picture of the mask.