World's oldest known masks on display in Jerusalem give glimpse at ancient rituals

The Associated Press

In this Monday, March 10, 2014 photo, 9,000 year-old masks are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The exhibition called "Face To Face" shows eleven stone masks, said to have been discovered in the Judean desert and hills near Jerusalem, which date back 9,000 years and offer a rare glimpse at some of civilization’s first communal rituals. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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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 catalogue. "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.

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