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.
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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