Rare 9,000-year-old Stone Mask Discovered

A rare stone mask dating to New Stone age period was discovered several months ago in the southern Hebron hills region reinforcing the theory that there was a stone-mask production center in this region.

Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Its characteristics, in addition to other findings reveal that the mask is 9,000 years old and since, unlike other masks that have been uncovered, this mas was discovered in a specific place it is extremely revealing. The mask is made of pinkish-yellow limestone, carefully shaped with stone tools to resemble a human face. Four holes were drilled along the perimeter of the mask, probably in order to tie it – possibly to the face of a living person, or maybe to a pole or other designated artifact in order to display it.

According to Ronit Lupu of the IAA Antiquities Authority, “Discovering a mask made of stone, at such a high level of finish, is very exciting. The stone has been completely smoothed over and the features are perfect and symmetrical, even delineating cheek bones. It has an impressive nose and a mouth with distinct teeth.”

The concept of stone masks are connected with the transition from a hunting economy to an economy that is based on agriculture and the domestication of plants and animals. The change in social structures prompted an increase in ritual and religious activities and other findings from that period include figures with human resemblance.
Worship during that period was based on family heritage and many items from that period were also discovered underneath the floors of homes from that period. Because stone masks are similar to the size of human face, many scholars connect them to this period of ancestor worship.

There are only fifteen masks in the world which currently date from this period. Of these, only two have been found as a result of archaeology which means scholars are able to study them and know exactly where they came from.

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