January 20, 2019

Does this Ancient Neolithic Mask Belong to Israel or Palestine?

“One of the world’s oldest masks, dating to the dawn of the agricultural revolution thousands of years ago, was recently discovered in the West Bank. The mask’s vacant eyes, bared teeth and enigmatic purpose have led Israeli archaeologists to hail it as a unique and rare find.

The particulars surrounding the mask’s discovery and its examination by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) were presented at a conference Nov. 29 at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The artifact, from the Neolithic period, is a relic of a bygone spiritual belief system prevalent in the region around 9,000 years ago.

“This stone mask is part of the spiritual world of the Neolithic at that time,” said IAA archaeologist Ronit Lupu, adding that it was likely used in ancestor worship.

Speaking to the Israel Prehistoric Society, Lupu told the audience that an Israeli man had found the artifact in early 2018 while hiking through a field south of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever, southwest of Hebron. After discussions with Israeli authorities, the man agreed to hand it over to the IAA’s theft prevention department.

The IAA has declined to provide further details about the discovery of the mask, which is currently being studied by the authority and the Geological Survey of Israel.”

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