9,000-Year-Old Limestone Mask Up For Auction, Expected To Fetch $400K To $600K

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By Howard Koplowitz | May 24, 2012 6:57 AM EST

A 9,000-year-old limestone mask is expected to fetch between $400,000 and $600,000 when it goes up for auction in New York City next month.

The 9,000-year-old Judean Desert limestone mask, estimated to be from around the 7th millenium B.C., is about 9 inches long and resembles a human skull, according to the listing on the website of auction house Christie's. A photo of the mask can be viewed here.

"Fashioned to resemble a human skull, oval in form with thick walls, the reverse concave, the cut-out eyes with narrow ridges extending up from their outer corners over the temples, raised cheekbones below with a ridge extending back, the slender triangular nose with two grooves for the nostrils, the lipless oval mouth open, revealing teeth, with five biconical drill holes along the perimeter," reads a description of the 9,000-year-old mask on Christie's website.

The limestone mask goes on sale June 8.

Molly Morse Limmer, head of the auction house's Antiquities department, told Reuters that the 9,000-year-old mask is extremely rare and is one of the earliest sculptures to be preserved from its time period. She said conditions of the Judean desert aided in the preservation of the mask.

Limmer said it's unclear whether the mask had a practical use but speculated the 9,000-year-old mask may have had a religious purpose to ancient man.

"No doubt they represent one of the earliest human attempts to connect with the spiritual world," Limmer told Reuters. "Given the skeletal representation, it would be logical that they relate to death rituals or ancestor worship."

Along with the 9,000-year-old mask, other antiquities up for auction at the June 8 sale are this Greek Bronze mirror, which is expected to be sold for between $600,000 and $900,000, and this Greek marble portrait head of Ptolemy II from around 260 B.C., which Christie's expects to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000 .

Should you be wealthy enough to acquire the 9,000-year-old mask, the sale gets underway 10 a.m. on June 8 if you're interested in bidding. 

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