World's oldest masks go on display in Israel

Indo Asian News Service

London, March 6 (IANS) A rare collection of 9,000-year-old masks -- considered among the most ancient human portraits from Stone Age -- is set to be on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The exhibition titled 'Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World' runs March 11-Sep 13 at the Israel Museum.

The 12 neolithic masks, originated from the Judean Hills and nearby Judean desert in Israel, have the same striking features resembling the spirits of dead ancestors.

"It is extraordinary to be able to present this rare group of ancient stone masks, all originating from the same region in the ancient Land of Israel," James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, was quoted as saying.

Stone Age people who carved the masks were among the first humans to abandon nomadic life and set up home in permanent settlements, said a report in the Times of Israel.

It is thought the masks were used in religious and social ceremonies and in rites of healing and magic.

They have the same large eyes and gaping mouths but are all different to represent the individual spirits of ancestors.

Each carved limestone mask weights one or two kg and would likely have been painted.

"Given their origins in the region, their display carries special meaning, underscoring their place in the unfolding history of religion and art," Snyder added.