The Palestine Exploration Fund

Search the PEF

Forthcoming events

The er-Ram stone mask in context: Pre-Pottery Neolithic masks, fiction and facts

Yuval Goren, Tel Aviv University

4pm, 9th April  2015, BP Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, British Museum. To book, contact the British Museum Box Office:  020 7323 8181 or

Lecture Poster April 9th 2015.pdf


In Association with the British Museum Department of Middle East

Supported by the Wellcome Trust and Maney Publishing



PEF-AO-4803 - the er-Ram mask

Photo: The er-Ram Mask in the PEF Collections


A rare group of enigmatic stone masks, which were created in the Judean Hills and the Judean Desert and are the oldest human portraits known to us, sketch the cultural and spiritual world of the people who lived in our region during the Neolithic Period, 9,000 years ago. Between 2006 and 2013, this assortment of stone masks was subjected to scientific laboratory examinations. This included nine masks, together with a mask-like item hewn in stone, from a private collection.  For comparison, three presumably contemporaneous masks in the Israel Museum, one of an assumed provenance and two that were found in a legally recorded excavation, were also examined. The results of this study enabled for the first time the examination of yet another mask, known since 1881 and reportedly from er-Ram north of Jerusalem, which has been housed since the turn of the twentieth century in the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), London. The purpose of the study was twofold: to verify the authenticity of the unprovenanced masks, and, if they were deemed authentic – to investigate their possible provenances through detailed analysis of the patina (also called rock coating or crust) and sediments attached to them, which may be presumed to derive from their sites of discovery and dating.

The Palestine Exploration Fund, 2 Hinde Mews, Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2AA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 5379 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7486 7438 | Email:
Registered company: 13606 | Registered charity: 212538