Israel unveils 9,000-year-old mask from the West Bank


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A 9,000-year-old stone mask has been revealed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), one of only 15 in the world.

The artefact has been traced back to the area around Hebron in the south of the occupied West Bank.

Online newspaper the Times of Israel reports that authorities recovered the mask from thieves earlier in the year, although details remain unclear.

Made from pink and yellow sandstone, it was made in the Neolithic era.

“The mask is very naturalistic in the way it was made,” IAA archaeologist Ronit Lupu told news agency AFP. “You can see the cheekbones, you can see a perfect nose.”

Ms Lupu speculates the mask could have been worn as part of ritualistic ancestor worship.

Holes drilled into the sides of the mask suggest it could have also been hung up for display.

In a statement, the IAA said it dated back to the point when hunter-gatherers were beginning early agriculture and domestication of animals, “accompanied by a change in social structure and a sharp increase in ritual-religious activities”.

The mask is one of only 15 in the world. Thirteen are in private collections, making it harder to study them, the IAA statement said.

Results from an initial study will be presented on Thursday at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum.

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