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Stone masks from 9000 years ago put on display recently

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Group of Masks, Provenance unknown, Judean hills or Judean foothills, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, 9,000 years old. (photo credit: Elie Posner/Israel Museum, Jerusalem)
limestone masks, 9kya/Elie Posner, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

at the Israel Museum:

The people who created this artwork were among the first humans to abandon nomadic life and establish permanent settlements. Because the masks predate writing by at least 3,500 years, there is no record of their usage. Based on years of attribute analysis of their iconography, however, Hershman believes that the carved limestone masks were used as part of an ancestor cult, and that shamans or tribal chiefs wore the masks during a ritual masquerade honoring the deceased.

“They are the first glimmerings of existential reflection,” said James Snyder, the museum’s director. He noted that the masks possessed a “striking connection” to 20th century artwork, saying they looked like something Picasso might have created.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG

Yeh, like they say. Everything new is old again.

So we actually don’t know for certain that they are cult objects, it’s just that if people went to a lot of trouble to make them, and they aren’t weapons or gear, we tend to assume that they weren’t just decor either.

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The masks seem to be unprovenanced. I wonder how stone can be carbon dated. I understand that biofilms on precolumbian artifacts resulted in inaccurate dating.
Agricultural communities needed to reinforce their societal bonds to maintain their connection to the land and each other, so they began performing ritualistic rites, researchers believe. The stone masks are thought to have been made to look like the skulls of dead ancestors, used in civilization’s first public ceremonies.
LOL. Skulls have a nasal cavity, not a nose as shown in the masks. This is another example of pseudo-scientific mythology. Considering the effort put into creating masks from stone rather than wood or clay, I'd instead assume that these masks were worn to protect the face in battle. Finally, microscopic analysis could be used to determine whether the stone masks were carved or cast. Check this out: http://www.livescience.com/1554-surprising-truth-great-pyramids-built.html -Q Querius
There is no empirical evidence that these objects are designed. Mung
Well, they have the holes on the sides for strings so they can be worn. So masquerade is a reasonable guess. Wooden and feather masks are of course MUCH older. The real question is why anyone would make a mask out of limestone when clay would be so much easier to make. But LONG before humans agreed to living in villages while the beer brewed, tribal shamans around the world, from southern Africa to Tiera del Fuego, believed that: 1) the earth and the heavens were made by the Creator, 2) that the Creator made humans, 3) that in the early days all humans could see the Creator and talk to the Creator directly, 4) that "something happened" (the details vary between tribes) after which only the shamans could talk with the Creator, 5) that all humans have an immortal spirit and their spirits go to heaven when the body dies. This is the oldest piece of Human Culture, and it must have been known and accepted at least 100,000 years ago, when the first groups spread out from East Africa to colonize the world. And so there is every reason to assume/guess/theorize that the very first humans 1 million years ago or more also believed this. mahuna

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