Rare, 9,000-Year-Old Stone Mask Used In Ancient Rituals Discovered By Archaeologists

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A strange-looking, ancient stone mas has been discovered by Israeli Archaeologists.

Image Credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Experts say that the mysterious stone mas, which dates back some 9,000 years, was most likely used by Neolithic people in long-lost rituals, aimed to protect a family’s prosperity.

The mask, which resembles a humanoid face was discovered in a field at the Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever in the West Bank. The West Bank is a Palestinian territory which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The mask is not the only artifact that has been discovered in the West Bank. Disputes over the ownership of ancient artifacts discovered in the West Bank are just some o the many long-running conflicts between Israel and Palestine.

Experts say that the mask is evidence that ancient humans developed complex religious rituals and ceremonies as they settled in areas for longer periods. It is believed that the stone mask was men to be worn and resemble the spirits of dead ancestors. 

Only 15 similar masks have ever been found anywhere in the world.

Only two of such masks were excavated and experts know where exactly they come from, which enables them to place them with relative confidence in the context of a period and place. The remain 13 masks “are in private collections throughout the world, which makes it more difficult to study them,” the IAA announcement said.

Speaking about the rare discovery, Ronit Lupu, an archaeologist from the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) said:

“The mask is very naturalistic in the way it was made. You can see the cheekbones, you can see a perfect nose.”

“It’s a rare mask. The last one that we know was found 35 years ago. It’s an amazing find, archaeologically speaking.”

Similar masks are thought to have been used by our ancestors in various religious and social ceremonies, and in ancient healing and magical rites.

While the recently uncovered mask is extremely well preserved, experts say that in the past, some 9,000 years ago, the object was most likely very brightly painted, but the remnants of its original color disappeared over time.

“Stone masks are linked to the agricultural revolution. The transition from an economy based on hunting and gathering to ancient agriculture and domestication of plants and animals was accompanied by a change in social structure and a sharp increase in ritual-religious activities,” explained the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) in a statement.

More details about the mask and its importance will be presented at the annual meeting of the Israel Prehistoric Society at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

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