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Thinking Out loud - Judean Desert Stone Age masks.

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posted on May, 9 2016 @ 05:18 AM

Thinking Out loud - Judean Desert Stone Age masks.

Masks found in the Judean desert are thought to have been made in 8000-9000 BCE. ( some articles date them to 5000-7000 BCE) About the time humans started to become stationary and farm. There are many reasons poised as to why they were made. Three of the reasons I ran into most were:

1. Made to represent the images of their ancestors it is believed. ... a way to honor the dead?
2.A religious ceremonial mask?
3.To show proof of lineage in order to stake claim to cultivated land?

These are possible reasons proposed as to why Neolithic men would need to wear/make masks. I put question marks after them because I don't believe that any of them can be/are be proven. If the reason for masks being made during the stone age time frame were known, we would only have one statement of why, not three. It is possible that all three are accurate, but also, it is possible that none of them are. When thinking about the stone age era and what humans of that time were supposedly thinking of and survival, could any of these answers really be accurate?

The masks were found in several different areas of Judea, and they were made from limestone. (some say carved out of limestone, some say plaster, some say a limestone mix). Dated back to 8000-9000 BC (some say 7000-8000BC, one said 9000 years old) they are within the timeframe of the upper Paleolithic period. The upper Paleolithic time period is from ca 40,000-10,000 years BP (BP means Before Present and 1950 is used as the "present" year this is a totally separate thread..probably a rant).

This didn't sound accurate to me. So... I looked it up. What they are really referring to is the Mesolithic ,Middle stone age, or Epipaleolithic period which is between the years of 10,000 - 8300 BC. It is called the stone age.. but it is also called the Neolithic revolution period. This is the time frame when we, as humans, started to set up permanent communities and develop agriculture. This apparently happened first in the Middle East.

This time period was the "beginning" of our modern day civilization. Not the end, not the middle, the beginning. As we have not spread this way of life across the globe, it is found only in the Middle East at this point. So, looking at all that, I asked the most prevalent and obvious questions that came to mind...

For what reason would a Neolithic man need to wear such a thing? Really, what purpose or need would a mask within that time period satisfy? If we, as humans, were focused still on survival and building permanent communities at that point, how would masks help with that? All simple questions that I'm sure someone out there has the answers to..

Through studies it is believed that the masks could've been worn, that they were not just used for display purposes. One of the masks had remnants of human hair that was attached to it by the holes on the side (One site claimed human hair was attached as moustache and beards and that the holes on the sides were to attach hair to them). Scholars believe that they may have used it in religious cult ceremonies, as religion was just starting to form around that time.

"Likewise a number of archeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies — such as that of the Neanderthals — may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship in addition to their (presumably religious) burial of the dead. Emil Bächler in particular suggests (based on archeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Neanderthal bear-cult existed.[6] Animal cults in the following Upper Paleolithic period — such as the bear cult — may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults.[7] Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic intertwined with hunting rites."

If I understand the articles I read (and they are not all full of misrepresentations) it is believed that religion was just starting to develop. Previous to this time, in middle Paleolithic period, it is thought that man worshipped animals. One theory proposed is that there was a cult of the bear. It is also suggested that towards the middle of the Paleolithic period is when humans started to bury their dead. But as of that point, there was no real development of religious behaviors. Although it can be argued that the worship of bears is a religious behavior that just evolved into modern day worship practices. But, the practice of worshipping animals has not been proven to be fact either. In some regions there was evidence that pointed to the possibility, but nothing that was conclusive.

The thought that we, as humans just developing into societies, had such a worry about religious beliefs that we stopped hunting and gathering (which we still would need to do in order to sustain food quantities until we had fully established agriculture) doesn't make much sense to me. Again, we are in the beginning of setting up modern day civilization, transitioning from hunter/gatherer to permanent communities. I would believe that religion and making masks would be the very last thing we would worry about within that transition. That we would be still focused on building up food stores in order to survive the "dry" season. Water supplies, learning about how to plant and what to plant. What animals to ranch..etc.. survival would still be number one priority. Religion, to me, would come only once we had established a strong community base and had time to explore personal thoughts and beliefs.

The part of this that would make sense is that animal worshipping during the Upper Paleolithic period intertwined with hunting rites... that they worshipped what they hunted. If the thought that they focused all their energy around the gathering of food and supplies in order to survive is accurate. At the end of the middle Paleolithic period man would've mastered the hunt. Migration patterns would've been established and followed according to the migration of the animals we hunted, and humans, in general, would've been able to incorporate some form of worship within their individual tribes/groups. The thought that a newly set up civilization would worship anything other than corn, cows, or Earth though, doesn't make sense to me. They would be more focused on transitioning from following their food supply to creating their own food supply. At that point their wouldn't be any time to devote to worship or religion.

There is the possibility that the Elders of the group were the ones focused on development of religious/ceremonial ceremonies. As they would be too old to help much in the community, they might have had the time and resources to explore the more spiritual aspect of being human. If religious aspects started to develop in the middle Paleolithic period, it would also be a natural transition/carry over/ continuance into the upper or Mesolithic period.


edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)

edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 05:24 AM

The one theory that would make sense is honoring the dead. If, for instance, they were grateful to the original founders of their society... the ones who decided to stop wandering and start farming. The fifteen original settlers. I could see this being a valid reason for the masks being made. But still, there are some reasons as to why we wouldn't do this. If, as they say, we were already practicing the ritual of burying our dead before this period, I would not think that they would unbury them just to make limestone masks of their faces. Also, if this was the case, and they were stationary, there would be evidence of a stone age cemetery somewhere close by. They would've been the first to establish such a thing. Maybe there is and it just isn't "newsworthy" enough now a days to mention, I am unsure. But in all my searches, I have not come across any mention of such a thing.

Also, it is said one website that these masks were pieced together, which would mean that they were not made by forming them to the faces of the men that they were supposed to represent. That the eye holes were wide enough and the proportions were accurate enough that they could've been worn. The evidence of human hair on one of them suggests that they were worn.. but that is found only on one. What I could see is these masks being worn by the "hunters" of the group. When they went out to supplement their food supplies. Or to teach the children through stories or reenactments how to hunt.

It would be important for them to maintain their hunting knowledge of the past. To not let the knowledge of how to hunt for survival and sustenance fade. I would imagine at times they would still need to do so in order to supplement their food supply, especially in the beginning stages of establishing a community. I could see them being used as the African tribes did/do. Being placed upon the face as part of their hunting garb before they go on a hunt. A symbol that they are part of the hunting clan...that they are unique within the tribe/community.

Also, I could see them using the masks as a way to teach the children how to hunt. Show them how to track and capture prey, where to strike their prey at, how to clean it, etc.. To give them the knowledge they would need for when they are old enough to go hunting themselves. To prepare them for when they will become an active contributor/member of the community.

This is what makes sense to me over all other theories postulated. A way to ensure survival, a way to retain the knowledge of their ancestors, a way to establish and recognize the men of a hunting group/party.

As the title states, I am just kind of "thinking out loud". Trying to sort through the pages of information I read and figure out what makes sense to me. But if anyone cares to add their thoughts or offer more information or alternate viewpoints, I would be more than happy to listen.

Thanks for reading... I know it was a long thread.



National Geographic
Live ScienceHaaretz
DiscoveryTimes of Israel
edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)

edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 05:47 AM
a reply to: blend57

Perhaps they were trying to avoid detection by facial recognition software?

But seriously, the masks would not comfortably fit a human face.

The eyes on a normal human face occur around the midline of the head. Stock photo for comparison

In these masks, the eyes are far too close to the top of the head (except for the middle image).

Fascinating, none the less. Starred & flagged.

edit on 9/5/2016 by chr0naut because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 06:07 AM
a reply to: blend57
Of course those three main theories are speculation, but they may be based on the way masks have been used in the "primitive" societies observed by modern anthropologists.
I see no reason why they should not be combined together. Images of the ancestors, used as masks in religious ceremonies (self-identification with the ancestors), acting out a claim to possession of the land based on descent from previous inhabitants.

They would be more focused on transitioning from following their food supply to creating their own food supply. At that point their wouldn't be any time to devote to worship or religion.

On the contrary, if the food-supply is dependent on non-human powers of some kind, as pre-scientific societies tend to believe, then it would be absolutely essential EITHER to try to control them (which gives you magic) OR to be on good terms with them (which gives you religion).
That is why "cultus", or religion, is derived from the word meaning "a plough". Religion is what farmers do because they want their crops to grow.

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 08:01 AM
a reply to: blend57

These are possible reasons proposed as to why Neolithic men would need to wear/make masks. I put question marks after them because I don't believe that any of them can be/are be proven.

Me neither. People wear masks to hide their true identity, scare people and control them. Teeth bared, featureless faces, holes for bulging eyes, adorned at night around firelight in dances of threatening posture. If people still resisted whatever order was imposed upon them they got a night visit from the stone cold masks.

Politics and terror are old as stone apparently.

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 08:38 AM
a reply to: blend57

I would suggest a possibility that they were used in ritual storytelling. They were "characters" and the person wearing it would dance/act out the story while the story-song was recited.

Something along those lines. Just a guess though.

- AB

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 11:26 AM
a reply to: chr0naut

I think the mouth and nose did not need to line up.
Just the eyes needed to be the right distance apart.
But without seeing what the iinsides look like, its impossibble to know if they could be worn... comfortably. Is there an indentation for the nose?

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 01:03 PM
Masks hide fear. Fear spreads like wildfire once it sets in.
Hunting parties that scatter go hungry and some probably get eaten themselves.

Simple logical utilitarian reasons.

After a successful hunt they probably danced around the fire with them on telling the story of the hunt to the young and the old.

posted on May, 9 2016 @ 09:21 PM
My guess is they were used for Eyes Wide Shut style anonymous sex orgies.

Maybe not but its not a bad mental picture

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