1/ Welcome to this @PalExFund Twitter takeover #HiddenHistories – the private lives of Levantine Neolithic masks. With generous support from the @PalExFund and @AIAResearch, this week I @mokersel started my research into a group of 18 Levantine Neolithic masks ~8800-6500BCE.
2/ I am an archaeologist who has worked in the region for years. I also have research interests in the buying and selling of antiquities and the public presentation of artifacts #museums #provenance #antiquitiestrade #followthepots @DePaulAnthro Photo by @achiii
3/ I use a combination of object biographies, itineraries, ethnographies (with IRB approval), and archival research to unmask the private lives and insecure provenience (archaeological findspot) and provenance (owner history) of these 18 masks. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund
4/ Of the 18 Neolithic masks known to date, 1 was recovered archaeologically from a plastered floor at the site of Basta, Jordan (H.G. Gebel pers comm). Two masks are from sifting the back dirt pile of a looted cave at Nahal Hemar. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch Nahal Hemar mask, By Hanay - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://co
5/ The remaining 15 masks have iffy origin stories, insecure findspots, or incomplete provenance histories. 3 purchased from locals. 1 discovered by a man walking through a field near Hebron in 2018. 11 are from the antiquities market. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch 2020 Auction Sale at the Archaeological Center Ltd. http://w
6/ After a pandemic research hiatus, I am in London at the #PEF poking around in the archives looking for the #HiddenHistories of the @PalExFund mask. The #PEF mask is the first (1881) documented occurrence of such an object. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch  Image by the Palestine Exploration Fund
7/ In a PEF Quarterly note (1890), Dr. Thomas Chaplin describes his adventures buying the mask. Women of the village of Er-Ram (north of Jerusalem) wanted to sell, the men who considered it a talisman with magic powers, did not. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund Image courtesy of the Palestine Exploration Fund
8/ During #MuseumsUnlocked Day 116: Masks, the @PalExFund provided a detailed backstory for The ‘Er-Ram Mask', (PEF-AO-4803). #archaeologicalhearsay #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch
9/ I looked through the PEF Minutes and other archival documents between 1876-1894 for any reference to Dr. Chaplin, his visit to Er-Ram, and his 1881 purchase. I didn’t find very much, but I am hoping that when @MichaelDPress is at the @PalExFund in May he might find something. From the PEF Minute Book 1890, Palestine Exploration Fund
10/ In the 1960s Jozef Milik purchased a mask from a Bedouin (archival description) near Hebron. Stories handed down over time, are #archaeologicalhearsay Part of this project is to gain further insights into these origin and acquisition stories. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund The mask is now at the Musée Bible et Terre Sainte in Paris
11/ In his autobiography, Living with the Bible, infamous looter and collector Moshe Dayan, recounts his acquisition of “a ritual article” (a mask) from a local farmer in the el-Hadeb area near Hebron. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch Dayan Mask at the Israel Museum https://www.imj.org.il/en/co
12/ Palestinian archaeologist Jibril Srur excavated a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site, which may be associated with the Dayan mask. Donated by Wilma and Lawrence Tisch to the Israel Museum, surely there is more to this story. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch @IlanBenZion Photo of the Israel Museum's map of origin sites (Image cred
13/The catalogue for the 2014 exhibit Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World at the Israel Museum documents details about these objects but still there are missing elements to the #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @AIAResearch
14/ The 11 masks from the antiquities market belong to collectors – Oded Golan, Shlomo Moussaieff, and Michael Steinhardt. None of these have an associated archaeological findspot - see the provenance listed for the mask in the 2012 Christie’s Auction. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund
15/ The seizure by the US and repatriation to Israel of the 9 Steinhardt masks, are complicated elements of these biographies given that most of the masks with #archaeologicalhearsay findspots may actually be from the region of Hebron. #HiddenHistories @PalExFund @IlanBenZion https://www.timesofisrael.com/looted-artifacts-seized-from-b
16/ In 2018 a mask was “found by a man walking through a field” near Pnei Hever, an Israeli settlement east of Hebron in the West Bank. The details are hazy, so there is much more to be #unmasked in this discovery story. #HiddenHistories of #NeolithicMasks @PalExFund @AIAResearch https://www.livescience.com/64199-rare-neolithic-stone-mask.
17/ We don’t know enough about these masks. Are they performance pieces used in ceremonial rites? Are they burial accessories? Archaeological context and more complete object histories will help answer these questions. #HiddenHistories of #NeolithicMasks @PalExFund @AIAResearch
fin/ If you have information on any of these masks, or if you know of other Levantine masks I’ve missed please be in touch. Together we can #unmask the #HiddenHistories of #NeolithicMasks. Please become a member of the @PalExFund to support their mission and research like this. PEF mask and 3D model courtesy of Austin (Chad) Hill @achiii

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