Monday, November 3, 2008

Shaman's Grave Is One of World's Oldest

Sketch shows locations of the female shaman's body as well as the assortment of animal parts and another human foot apparently left as offerings in the female healer's grave.

A 12,000-year-old burial site in Israel has revealed what appears to be one of the earliest known graves of a female shaman. The remains were discovered in a small cave that functioned as a burial site for at least 28 individuals. Her grave was separated from the others by a circular wall of stones.

The shaman's grave contained offerings including 50 tortoise shells, a human foot, tail vertebrae from an extinct type of cattle, skulls from two members of the weasel family, bony wing parts from a golden eagle, the forearm of a wild boar and a nearly complete pelvis from a leopard. Such healers mediate between the human and spirit worlds, often summoning the help of animal spirits along their quests, according to the researchers who unearthed the burial site.

"What was unusual was there were so many different parts of different animals, clearly put there on purpose," Natalie Munro, a zoo archaeologist at the University of Connecticut, told LiveScience.

Great pains were likely taken long ago to collect the animal remains for the grave, not to mention the long trek that must have been made from the closest domestic site at the time, about six miles away, the researchers noted. This care ~ along with the animal parts ~ points to the grave belonging to both an important member of the society and possibly a shaman, according to research published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The woman was about 45 years old when she died and stood just under five feet. Wearing of her teeth and other aging signs on the bones suggested the woman was relatively old for her time.

The human foot lying alongside the body came from an adult individual who was much larger than the women. "What's interesting is it's only the foot," Munro told LiveScience. "She hasn't been disturbed, but a part of another human body was definitely put into the grave. It could be related to the fact they were moving body parts around sometimes, but we don't know why."

The woman was part of the Natufian culture, a group of hunter-gatherers who lived from 15,000 to about 11,500 years ago in the area that now includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Click here for the LiveScience article.

The shaman's grave was separated from the other graves by a circular wall of stones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... Dolni Vestonice Czech republic is the oldest Shaman site in the world. 27000 years old and carbon date in National Geographic Magazine OCT 1988 in America.