You might have expected archaeologists in Israel, of all places, to get this one right

Archaeologists in Israel announced yesterday their “one of a kind” discovery of a “2,000-year-old bronze mask larger than a human head.” According to the archaeologists, the mask depicts Pan, the ancient god of shepherds, who is half man, half goat (or in China, half man, half goat-or-sheep.). Here’s how they could tell:

Archaeologists first identified Pan, also known as Faunus or Satyr, by the horns poking out from his hair. A closer inspection revealed “further goat-like characteristics,” including a beard.

Allow me to be forthright: I have no formal archaeological training. I don’t even have informal archaeological training. That said, I think the experts here should at least be open to the possibility that this is a classic case of mistaken identity. The archaeologists turned up the mask while using a metal detector to search for coins. Had they continued to search, perhaps they’d have found a different metallic object: Occam’s razor. After all, wouldn’t the more obvious identity of a bearded mask adorned with horns discovered in the land of Israel be that it depicts just about any old Hebrew? (see above)


4 thoughts on “You might have expected archaeologists in Israel, of all places, to get this one right”

  1. The way archeology works is all about the context. The mask has been found in a Roman settlement, and viewed in the context of its origin, the other finds in the area and in compatible sites, knowing what we know about similar objects, the archeologists conclude it is probably Pan or one of his other identities. Hebrews ususally avoided making masks and such due to the idol-worshiping being forbidden by Judaism.


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