Archaeologists found the 9,000-year-old item near Jerusalem
By Diego Flammini
Israeli archaeologists have found a rare item that could be linked to the beginnings of an ag society.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently unveiled a 9,000-year-old stone mask that researchers discovered at a site in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, about 30 km (18 mi) south of Jerusalem.
The pink and yellow sandstone mask resembles a human face. The mask is connected with the Neolithic period, giving the item important cultural significance.
“Stone masks are linked to the agricultural revolution,” Dr. Omry Barzilai, head of the IAA’s archaeological research department, said in a Nov. 28 statement. “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 sharp increase in ritual-religious activities.
“Ritual findings from that period include human-shaped figurines, plastered skulls and stone masks.”
Details from the mask’s construction provide insight into its use.
“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,” Ronit Lupu, an IAA archaeologist, said in the statement.
This recent discovery brings the total number of recovered masks from the Neolithic period to 16.
In 2014, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem hosted an exhibition displaying the other 15 masks, which also had connections to agriculture.
“These people had no writing,” Debby Hershman, curator of the museum’s Prehistoric Cultures department, told National Geographic in June 2014. “Their only connection to the land was through genealogy—your grandfather and great-grandfather lived here, and what means the land is yours.”