Replica Stone Mask, Nahal Hemar Cave, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period
|Archaeologists||Ofer Bar-Yosef, David Alon|
The excavations here are considered to be one of the most conspicuous Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages ever found in the Levant. The Find consisted of wooden artifacts, fragments of baskets and plaster assemblages. The objects found in the cave included: rope baskets, embroidered fabrics, nets, wooden arrow heads, bone and flint utensils, and decorated human skulls. Originally, these objects were thought be covered in asphalt form near construction projects, it was actually determined that the objects were covered in ancient glue, dated to around 8310-8110 B.C.E.. The glue was determined to be collagen based and believed to be from animal skins. The glue that coated the objects were believed to waterproof the objects or used as an adhesive. Glue similar to this was found in Egypt, but the glue found in Nahal Hemar are two times as old as the glue in Egypt.
This group of beads, basketry, and statue fragments is believed to have been used for ritual purposes. This lime plaster was one of the first intentionally made chemical alterations where the makers had complete control over the properties. The presence of the plaster has been deemed of great importance because of the efforts applied to the process of making and applying the plaster.
The beads found in this assemblage are believed to have been used on garments designed for specific events. Due to this discovery and other artifacts (masks, decorated skulls, animal figurines, and knives) found in the cave archaeologists believe this site served as a principally magical site.
The Method of Examining the Plaster Assemblages
The examination of the Nahal Hemar artifacts included: 1. All the plaster statue fragments and plaster beads were examined under a Wild M-8 stereoscopic microscope under oblique illumination. This was used in order to roughly define the homogeneity of the samples. 2. Tiny lumps of plaster were removed from the items on several locations using a diamonds saw, spatulas, and fine drills bits. Chips with the film casting pigments were sampled in several cases for chemical analyses of straining materials. They used broken artifacts in most cases to prevent further damage to the remaining artifacts. 3. Bulk samples were subjected to Thin-Section Petrographic Analysis (TSPA). 4. Mineralogical analyses of the non calcareous components were carried out to more samples, in which the admixture of clay was observed by the TSPA analysis. The samples were powdered and soaked in 3% HCl to remove the carbonate ingredients and the clay mineralogy was determined by X-Ray Diffraction (XRD). 5. Chemical analyses were done on most samples using Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometry (ICP-AES). The benefit of this method is that it has high accuracy with low limits of detection. 6. Small lumps that were coated with yellow, green, red, or dark pigments were removed from the plaster statue and beads and used for X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis, which provided a chemical definition of the pigment materials.
The results of the study: Beads: All but one bead was produced from a mixture of burnt lime and calcite crystals. The one bead without this mixture had anhydrite crystal also appear within the burnt lime (this was indicated by both TSPA and ICP-AES analyses). The most important trait is that all the beads are dense contents of calcite crystals. It can be concluded that the beads were likely all made in the same place and for the same reason and all had the same use. All of the beads were made by the same technique, which can be seen in their mineralogy and chemistry. Because the beads were all so closely related, it seems likely that they were all made for the same purpose. It is assumed that the beads were used as parts of garments or costumes for a specific event. Statues: The statues have opposite homogeneity as compared to the beads and baskets. The statues vary greatly in their technology and compositions. The statues can be broken up into seemingly four different categories of statues based on their composition. This hints to the fact they were likely built in different locations and were brought to Nahal Hemar in their present state. There was more than likely little done to the statues once they got into Nehal Hemar. It is thought that the statues were used for ceremonies or ritual activities and the different statues had different symbols.
It has been discussed that this site is one where magic was performed, and the archaeology can help prove it. One of the reasons that it is believed to be a site where magic occurred was because it was one that hosted a small group of people. Things such as the masks and decorated skulls are inferred to represent and represent ancestors and daily used artifacts help imitate magic. In formative societies, there is no real separation between mythology/magic and what is sacred. It is not a stretch that these statues were symbols that were used to in ceremonies, along with the beads and skulls. In hunting and gathering societies, the culture is based a lot around trying to manipulate and dominate their surroundings. Societies practice ways to enrich fertility and control rain. They often look to ancestors to help them with this and the masks that were of ancestors are a big part in the ritual. Another aspect to magic is the power of healing. Formative societies look to magic to help heal the sick. These cultures look to the supernatural while healing and often dress during the rituals. Even though seeing that this site may be used for magical purposes, it is not that far of a stretch.
- (reference to dead sea scrolls link)magazine article published 8 April 1985 retrieved 20:02 14.October 2011
- map location of this place : retrieved 20:51 14 October 2011
- webpage copyrighted to © ex oriente e.V. retrieved 20:45 14.10.11
- Goren Y., I. Segal, and Ofer Bar-Yosef. Plaster Artifacts and the Interpretation of the Nahal Hemar Cave. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society. 25 (1993) 120-131.