Rare 9,000 year old stone mask discovered in Hebron hills

November 29, 2018 by Mara Vigevani - TPS
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A rare stone mask dating back some 9,000 years was discovered several months ago by a hiker in the Hebron Hills area, the Israel Antiquities authorities report.

Photo by Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The mask is to be presented today at the Israel Prehistoric Society annual meeting.

The  Neolithic (new stone age) piece was found by chance several months ago in the Ma’ale Hever region in the eastern Hebron hills by a rambler and is made of pinkish-yellow limestone, carefully shaped with stone tools probably to resemble a human face. Holes were drilled along the perimeter of the mask; archaeologists believe the holes were used to wear the mask or for display purposes.

“We received information about a man who found the mask at the beginning of 2018 which led to the recovery of the impressive stone mask,”  Amir Ganor, Director of the Robbery Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority told TPS. “An investigation revealed the probable archaeological site in which the mask was originally found,” he said

Ronit Lupu, also of the of the IAA Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit, said:  “the fact that we have information regarding the specific place in which it was discovered, makes the  piece more important than most other masks from this period that we currently know of.”

There are fifteen known masks in the world that date from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period;  most of them belongs to private collections and is not clear where they were found.

This is the second mask of this kind that has been found in eastern Har Hevron which strengthens the assumption that the area was a center for producing stone masks, and most likely also for ancestor worship rituals activities in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period.

“Ancestor worship was part of the ritual and retention of family heritage that was accepted at the time,” says Lupu. “For example, we find skulls buried under the floors of domestic houses, as well as various methods of shaping and caring for the skulls of the dead. This led to plastering skulls, shaping facial features, and even inserting shells for eyes. Stone masks, such as the one from Ma’ale Hever, are similar in size to the human face, which is why scholars tend to connect them with such worship.”

According to Lupu, the techniques used to create the mask also make the finding unique. “Discovering a mask made of stone, at such a high level of finish, is very exciting,” she said. “The stone has been completely smoothed over and the features are perfect and symmetrical, even delineating cheekbones. It has an impressive nose and a mouth with distinct teeth.”

Dr. Omry Barzilai, head of the IAA Archaeological Research Department, added that stone masks are typical of 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. Ritual findings from that period include humanly shaped figurines, plastered skulls, and stone masks,” he said.


One Response to “Rare 9,000 year old stone mask discovered in Hebron hills”
  1. Avraham YIizchak says:

    “Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.” – Numbers 13:22

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