Curious Neolithic stone masks collected for the first time in an exhibition at the Israel Museum

Curious Neolithic stone masks collected for the first time in an exhibition at the Israel Museum

The Israel Museum has assembled for the first time a strange group of stone masks from antiquity. The exhibition, a pioneer in its area, opened in March and will run until September 13 this year. After almost a decade of research, it has been possible to collect and display twelve Neolithic masks originating from ancient Israel.

Each mask has striking features such as eye holes and gaping mouths, which create human expressions. The perforations in the periphery could have been used to fix the hair, which would have even given the masks a more human appearance. It is also believed that it could be to suspend the masks of pillars or other constructions.

Due to the similarity to other ancestor cult masks found in villages of the same era, the masks are thought to represent spirits of dead ancestors. Used in social and religious ceremonies and in magical rites.

Early Neolithic agricultural societies could recreate humans for worship purposes with the intention of expressing their growing mastery of the natural world.

Israel Museum Director Jerome Fisher is delighted with the idea for the mask set exhibit: “It is extraordinary to be able to present one next to this rare group of ancient stone masks, all originating from the same region in the ancient Land of Israel."Said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher director of the Israel Museum.

«That we have been able to gather so many is a tribute to the collections that were so cooperative in making these treasures available to us and, given their origins in the region and context, provided by the adjacent environment of our Wing Archeology, their display in our museum in Jerusalem has a special meaning, underlining its place in the history of development of religion and art”.

For many years, the Israel Museum It only had two Neolithic stone masks in its collections. One from a cave in the Judean desert and the other from Horvat Duma, near the Judean hills.

Dr. Debby Hersman accidentally discovered photographs of similar masks and began to investigate the matter. Hersman, together with Professor Yuval Goren, an expert in microarcheology, began inquiries about the geographical origins of the masks and analyzed the characteristics and comparison functions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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