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27 January 2017
6,000 year old clay fragment identified as part of a face mask

6,000 years ago during the Neolithic Period in what is now southern Germany, people lived in lake dwellings built on stilts. They bred cattle, farmed the land, and foraged. Their lives had largely become sedentary.
     Archaeologists in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg have revealed a fragment of brown clay to be one of the most important finds from this period.
     Their reconstruction shows that the 6,000 year old fired clay fragment formed part of the right hand side of a face mask. This is the first mask found not only in the lake settlements which existed all around the Alps, but anywhere in central Europe. Only two other Neolithic clay masks have been found anywhere in Europe - one in Hungary, and one in Romania.
     The fragment was discovered in the 1960s, yet after many failed efforts to class it as a piece of pottery, it remained unidentified until recently, when one archaeologist held broken edge of the fragment up to a mirror, and suddenly saw what it was.
     And this is no death mask, but a ritual object worn by the living - the section which goes over the nose had been very carefully made smooth. The piece also has holes on the side for attaching some kind of cord which could have kept in place on the wearer's head.

Edited from DW (22 December 2016)

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