User Login    
 + Register
TV Banner
News : Ancient Masks Go On Display In Jerusalem
Posted by Randy on 2014/3/11 10:29:54 (168 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
2014/9/16 15:10:00 - Injury-Ravaged Chiefs Fight Hard, Fall Short At Denver
2014/9/16 14:20:00 - Tri-County Coaches Shows For Tuesday, 9/16/14
2014/9/16 11:40:00 - Milan Wildcats Remain Just Outside Class 1 Football Poll
2014/9/16 11:30:00 - Gilman City (Pattonsburg) Coaches Show For Tuesday, 9/16/14
2014/9/16 10:50:00 - TMS Softball Dominates Hamilton Tournament
2014/9/16 10:46:27 - Winston Redbirds Rampage To HDC Tournament Title
2014/9/16 10:31:05 - Mizzou Dominates Second Half, In 38-10 Blasting Of UCF
2014/9/16 10:26:47 - Mizzou At South Carolina Chosen For 6:00 PM Kickoff
2014/9/16 10:10:10 - Calamity Jane Days Topic Of Open Line
2014/9/16 10:10:00 - Trenton Softball Overwhelms Plattsburg, 10-0
2014/9/16 10:06:29 - Falls Risk Coalition Topic Of Open Line
2014/9/16 9:54:51 - Trenton Volleyball Fails To Reach Bracket Round At Lathrop Tournament
2014/9/16 9:50:00 - Lady Midgets Edge Trenton In Girls Golf
2014/9/16 9:48:45 - Trenton Tennis Struggles At Tough Marshall Tournament
2014/9/16 9:26:30 - Trenton High School Announces "Pink Out" For Kirksville FB Game
2014/9/16 9:24:32 - Trenton Volleyball Loses Heartbreaker To Kirksville
2014/9/16 9:19:28 - Cameron Doubles Up Trenton In Tennis Duel
2014/9/16 7:34:29 - Pattonsburg Woman Injured In Daviess County Accident
2014/9/16 4:37:56 - Kirksville Man Charged With Stabbing Pit Bull
2014/9/16 4:35:14 - Missouri's Education Commissioner To Resign
2014/9/16 4:27:24 - Missouri Offers Grants To Help Cities Fix Streets
2014/9/16 4:22:53 - Yes, Coca-Cola Is Actually Bringing Surge Back
2014/9/16 4:16:56 - Australia: Pet Goldfish Has Brain Surgery
2014/9/16 4:13:27 - Funeral Home Offers Drive-Thru Visitation
2014/9/16 4:10:02 - Trump Plaza: 4th Atlantic City Casino To Shutdown
2014/9/16 4:06:57 - Street Gangs Tone Down Colors, Tattoos
2014/9/16 4:03:17 - Stella Missouri Man Sentenced To 13 Years For Transporting Minor For Sex
2014/9/15 13:35:39 - Mercer Cardinal Coaches Shows For Monday, 9/15/14
2014/9/15 11:10:47 - Registered Sex Offender Arrested In Caldwell County On Livingston County Warrant
2014/9/15 10:54:33 - Additional Charge Filed Against Joshua Harding Of Trenton



Bookmark this article at these sites

                   

Listen to KTTN-FM