The Oldest Mask in the World

UnknownPre-Pottery Neolithic B, 9000 years ago

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Jerusalem, Israel

The carved human face belongs to a very rare group of stone masks, dating back 9,000 years, found in the Judean Desert and on its outskirts. The eye sockets and gaping mouth endow the mask with its striking expression, whether dumbfounded or menacing, evoking a human skull. The holes on either side may have served to attach hair to the mask in order to give it a more human appearance, or to suspend it from a pillar, a statue, or a human face, for use in ancestor cults or in magic rituals such as divination and healing.

Credit: Gift of Laurence and Wilma Tisch, New York, purchasers of the Dayan Collection


  • Title: The Oldest Mask in the World
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, 9000 years ago
  • Location: Hirbat Duma
  • Type: Mask
  • Rights: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • External Link: Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Medium: Stone
  • Exhibition: In The Beginning: Prehistory and the Origins of Myth, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Weisbord Exhibition Pavilion, 13/07/2005 - 08/04/2006
  • Dimensions: L: 22.5 cm; W: 15.6 cm; Th: 6.6 cm
  • Curator: Hershman, Debby

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