Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The world’s oldest masks: 9,000-year-old stone ‘portraits of the dead’

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 27, 2015

The Israel Museum has had two of the masks in its collection for years. One was found in a cave at Nahal Hemar in the Judean Desert (pictured) and the other from Horvat Duma in the nearby Judean Hills

Nahal Hemar is an archeological cave site in Israel, on a cliff, near the Dead Sea, just northwest of Mt. Selom. The cave was excavated in 1983 by Ofer Bar-Yosef and David Alon.

The excavations here are considered to be one of the most conspicuous Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages ever found in the Levant. The Find consisted of wooden artifacts, fragments of baskets and plaster assemblages.

The objects found in the cave included: rope baskets, embroidered fabrics, nets, wooden arrow heads, bone and flint utensils, and decorated human skulls. Originally, these objects were thought be covered in asphalt form near construction projects, it was actually determined that the objects were covered in ancient glue, dated to around 8310-8110 BC.

The glue was determined to be collagen based and believed to be from animal skins. The glue that coated the objects were believed to waterproof the objects or used as an adhesive. Glue similar to this was found in Egypt, but the glue found in Nahal Hemar are two times as old as the glue in Egypt.

Nahal Hemar

The world’s oldest masks: 9,000-year-old stone ‘portraits of the dead’

Nahal Hemar cave – Ancient Hebrew Research Center

Oldest Glue Discovered – Archaeology Magazine Archive

Object Lesson: The Nahal Hemar Mask

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