Sunday, December 21, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Oldest Masks In The World Go On Display In Jerusalem

By Oulimata Ba | Mar 11, 2014 03:03 PM EDT

World's Oldest Known Masks Go On Display
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem will house a small collection of masks that are believed to be the oldest in the world. (Photo : Twitter)

For the next seven months, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem will be home to a small collection of the oldest known masks in the world, the Associated Press reported.

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The skull-looking masks were discovered in the Judean desert and hills not far from Jerusalem. The 11 masks are estimated to have been made 9,000 years ago, a thousand years before the Bible's time period, the AP reported.

"It's quite exciting," museum director James Snyder told the AP.

"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 connection, that this is all part of a continuous story, is something that is pretty thrilling," Snyder told the AP.

The masks, which date back to the Neolithic period, were made before humans created handwriting. At one time researchers thought the masks were tied to structures for the purpose of conducting rituals.

However, Jerusalem's Hebrew University experts used computer simulation tests to conclude that the masks were worn on the face, the AP reported. Researchers believe the masks, made from stone, were made to resemble dead ancestors' skulls and used to carry out ritualistic ceremonies, the AP reported.

It was also difficult to determine how old the masks were. They were spread out and owned by different collectors all over the world. Carbon-14 dating confirmed the masks ages.

"I don't think there's anything that early from other parts of the world that you can say is a mask," Iain Morley, an Oxford University paleoanthropology professor who was not a part of the exhibit, told the AP.

Several of the masks came from Judy and Michael Steinhardt, two collectors of antiquities in New York.  

"The masks represent a near eternal visage, their stone substance both powerful and quiet," said Judy Steinhardt on a catalog for the exhibit, the AP reported. "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."

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