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Photos: The World's Oldest Masks

Stone Age Masks

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

A 2014 exhibition at the Israel Museum brings together a collection of Stone Age masks from the region.

Horvat Duma Mask

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

Researchers think these masks could have been worn comfortably on the face during ancient rituals. This mask comes from the site of Horvat Duma in the Judean Hills.

Nahal Hemar Mask

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

This 9,000-year-old mask was found at Nahal Hemar cave in the Judean Desert.

Stone Face

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

This mask is on loan from a private collection. Though archaeologists don't know exactly where it came from, researchers think it was created in the Judean hills or Judean foothills around 9,000 years ago.

Judean Masks

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

Holes at the edges of the stone artifact may have been threaded with hair or strung with cords to attach the mask to the face or hang it up on a building.

Stone-faced Spirits

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

Researchers think the masks represented the spirits of dead ancestors and may have been worn during Stone Age ceremonies and rituals.

Neolithic Masks

(Image credit: Elie Posner | Israel Museum)

The masks date back to the Neolithic period, when humans started giving up nomadic lifestyles in favor of permanent settlements.