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The Israel Museum hosted “Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World,” which arrived just in time for Purim.

Located in Jerusalem, the Israel Museum, founded in 1965, is the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel and is ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums. The museum hosted an exhibit, which has since closed, that arrived just in time for Purim, the festive Jewish holiday when adults and youngsters alike dress up in costumes.

The display “Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World,” the museum’s website explained, included 12 extremely rare stone masks that all originated in the Land of Israel – in the region of the Judean Hills and the Judean Desert; they are considered among the most ancient human portraits.

“The exhibition concludes a decade of investigative work and marks the first time that this enigmatic group will be displayed together in their birthplace,” the site explained.

“This is an amazing collection, because the masks represent the first attempt of man to fashion with his hands other physical material,” said James Snyder, the museum’s director, at a preview.

“Indeed, the large eye-holes and gaping mouths of the limestone masks create the expression of a human skull,” noted the Jerusalem Post, which covered the event.

“The faces show the moment of transition between life and afterlife,” said Debby Hershman, the Museum’s Curator of Prehistoric Cultures, according to the Post. “Our interpretation is that the masks represent the skulls of the ones who passed away. They are symbols of the ancestors.”

“Luckily the masks were made of stone, otherwise they [wouldn’t be] left for us,” she added.

Archaeologists, the Post continued, “explored the masks’ geographical origins, and made use of the computerized archaeology laboratory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to conduct 3-D analyses that shed light on their comparative features and functions.”

The exhibit was on display for six months prior to ending its run.

By: United with Israel Staff

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