User Login    
 + Register
TV Banner
News : Ancient Masks Go On Display In Jerusalem
Posted by Randy on 2014/3/11 10:29:54 (164 reads) News by the same author

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The oldest known masks in the world went on display in Jerusalem on Tuesday in the largest-ever exhibit of the ghoulish faces, believed to have been created in the Holy Land thousands of years before the time of the Bible.
Click to see original Image in a new window

The 11 stone masks, said to have been discovered in the Judean desert and hills near Jerusalem, date back 9,000 years and offer a rare glimpse at some of civilization's first communal rituals.

"It's quite exciting," said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, which is hosting the seven-month exhibit. "When you go back to objects that are this old, that are so much before the theology that becomes Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, to feel that there is a kind of a connection, that this is all part of a continuous story, is something that is pretty thrilling."

The masks are thought to have been fashioned to look like skulls, and each one has its own personality. Some have round cartoonlike holes for eyes, others flash a grin of tiny teeth. One elongated mask bears a resemblance to that of Hollywood villain Hannibal Lecter of "Silence of the Lambs."

The masks have long been an enigma. Most of the artifacts had made their way into the hands of private collectors over the past several decades, so it took 10 years of carbon-14 testing and comparison to similar masks discovered in documented Israeli excavations for experts to determine their authenticity and origin.

Iain Morley, a professor of paleoanthropology at Oxford University, said the items are believed to be the oldest of their kind. "I don't think there's anything that early from other parts of the world that you can say is a mask," said Morley, who isn't involved in the exhibit.

In the past few weeks, researchers say they have resolved one of the masks' mysteries. Computer simulation tests conducted at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have led experts to conclude that many of the masks may have been worn on people's faces, not tied to structures at ritual sites as was previously thought.

The masks date to the Neolithic period, before the invention of writing. But the tradition of mask wearing is apparently even older.

Cave drawings dating back 25,000 years depict people wearing animal masks, said exhibit curator Debby Hershman. But actual masks from this time have not been found, possibly because they were made of biodegradable materials that disintegrated over time.

The stone masks were fashioned at a critical turning point in the history of civilization, when humans in the Fertile Crescent abandoned the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and became farmers, Hershman said. The Jerusalem region was one of the main centers of the agricultural revolution.

"It's the most important revolution that ever happened," Hershman said. The people who fashioned the masks, she said, "are actually the founders of civilization."

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.

How these 11 stone masks were brought together for this exhibit is something of a detective story.

The Israel Museum owns two of them - one discovered in an Israeli excavation, and another from the personal collection of the iconic general and politician Moshe Dayan, an antiquities enthusiast who autographed his name on the back of the mask. Dayan died in 1981.

Hershman, the museum's prehistory curator, said she was rummaging through the Israel Museum archives when she stumbled upon three photos of other Neolithic stone masks she had not recognized, labeled as belonging to an anonymous private collection. Hershman said Snyder, the museum's director, began to inquire with collectors around the world to try to track down the masks.

That search led to Judy and Michael Steinhardt, prominent New York collectors of Judaica and antiquities, who said they owned a hoard of similar masks and agreed to loan them to the museum for research and display.

"The masks represent a near eternal visage, their stone substance both powerful and quiet," said Judy Steinhardt in comments that appear in the exhibition catalog. "Michael and I have lived with these masks for the past 25 years and we love spending quiet hours in our library together surrounded by these evocative works."

According to Hershman, there is one other mask of this age on display in the world, at the Bible et Terre Sainte museum in Paris. Hershman said that mask features color pigment that is too brittle for the mask to have been shipped for display in Jerusalem.

In the Israel Museum exhibit, the masks are mounted in slender glass cases and at eye level for visitors to peer through the masks, as if they were wearing them.

The museum is encouraging visitors to photograph "selfie" snapshots with the masks.

Printer Friendly Page Send this Story to a Friend Create a PDF from the article


Other articles
2014/8/30 0:20:00 - Lexington Runs Over Trenton, 34-6
2014/8/29 16:07:54 - "Kaleidoscope Run" To Start Homecoming Week At THS
2014/8/29 15:51:13 - Trenton, In Return To Class 2, To Host District 16 Softball Tournament
2014/8/29 15:36:48 - Trenton Golfers Take Fifth Place At Lafayette Tournament
2014/8/29 15:32:52 - Drive One For Your School Event To Raise Money For Three Area School Districts
2014/8/29 15:27:34 - Princeton Chamber To Meet Concerning Cow Palace Repairs
2014/8/29 15:23:47 - NFL Suspends Former Mizzou Standout Aldon Smith For Nine Games
2014/8/29 15:21:23 - KC Chiefs Lose Preseason Finale, 34-14 At Green Bay
2014/8/29 15:00:00 - KC Royals Claim Veteran Jayson Nix Off Waivers
2014/8/29 10:05:43 - Lawson Softball Tips Chillicothe, 3-2
2014/8/29 9:51:45 - Truman State Hoops Coach Leaves For Pro Job
2014/8/29 9:50:00 - CHS Lady Hornet Volleyball Opens Season With Sweep Of Trenton
2014/8/29 9:40:04 - Softball Scoreboard : Gallatin Tips Milan 2-1
2014/8/29 9:22:50 - Savannah Tennis Beats Trenton, 8-1
2014/8/29 7:28:34 - Amber And Jim Shippen Latest Contributors To WMH Foundation
2014/8/29 6:20:30 - Hamilton Resident Life Flighted After Accident South Of Cameron
2014/8/29 5:21:37 - Trenton Downtown Improvement Association Approves Loans For Building Projects
2014/8/29 4:35:36 - Crews In Hazmat Suits Search Springfield Home For Ricin
2014/8/29 4:27:55 - Suspect In 6-Year-Old's Death Charged With First-Degree Murder
2014/8/29 4:23:52 - Missouri Unveils Aid Effort To Ferguson Businesses
2014/8/29 4:19:11 - Cat-Astrophic Revelation Purr-Turbs Hello Kitty Fans
2014/8/29 4:15:39 - 4-Year-Old Expelled Over His Mother's Facebook Post
2014/8/29 4:10:25 - Date Set For Local Recount On "Right To Farm" Issue
2014/8/29 4:03:50 - One Injury In Accident West Of Trenton
2014/8/28 15:01:25 - KC Royals Turning Back Clock To 1974
2014/8/28 14:50:00 - Milan Coaches Shows For Thursday, 8/28/14
2014/8/28 12:50:00 - Chillicothe Hornets Have Dominant Tennis, Golf Performances
2014/8/28 12:32:42 - KC Royals Urge Fans To "Wear Blue" For Rare Sunday Night Game
2014/8/28 12:27:24 - KC Royals Place Top Prospect Starling In Arizona Fall League
2014/8/28 12:21:45 - Brookfield Wins Extra-Inning Showdown With Penney, 3-2



Bookmark this article at these sites

                   

Listen to KTTN-FM