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 ...food 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 marker..lol. 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
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. 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. 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
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
edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)
edit on 9-5-2016 by blend57 because: (no reason given)