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Israeli archaeologists unveil rare stone mask dating to the Neolithic
Israeli archeologist Ronit Lupu of the IAA Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit holds a rare stone mask dating to the Neolithic (new stone age) period which was found at the Pnei Hever region of southern Hebron mount, on November 28, 2018 at the Rockefeller archeological museum in Jerusalem. The mask is made of pinkish-yellow limestone, carefully shaped with stone tools to resemble a human face, 4 holes were drilled along the perimeter of the mask, probably in order to tie it to the face of a living person, or maybe to a pole or other designated artefact in order to display it. GALI TIBBON / AFP.

JERUSALEM (AFP).- The Israel Antiquities Authority on Wednesday unveiled what it said was a rare 9,000-year-old stone mask linked to the beginnings of agricultural society.

The pink and yellow sandstone object was discovered in a field at the Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said the IAA.

The artefact was handed in to authorities in early 2018.

"The mask is very naturalistic in the way it was made," said IAA archaeologist Ronit Lupu. "You can see the cheekbones, you can see a perfect nose."

"It's a rare mask," she told AFP. "The last one that we know was found 35 years ago. It's an amazing find, archaeologically speaking."

The West Bank is a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Disputes over ownership of artefacts discovered there are just part of the long-running conflict with the Palestinians over the land.

The IAA placed the mask at a pivotal period in Neolithic culture.

"Stone masks are linked to the agricultural revolution," the authority said in a statement.

"The transition from an economy based on hunting and gathering to ancient agriculture and domestication of plants and animals was accompanied by a change in social structure and a sharp increase in ritual-religious activities."

Among such activities, it said, was ancestor worship.

"It was part of the ritual and retention of family heritage that was accepted at the time," the statement said.

"Stone masks, such as the one from Pnei Hever, are similar in size to the human face, which is why scholars tend to connect them with such worship."

© Agence France-Presse

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