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, 105 (46), 17665-9

A 12,000-year-old Shaman Burial From the Southern Levant (Israel)

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A 12,000-year-old Shaman Burial From the Southern Levant (Israel)

Leore Grosman et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

The Natufians of the southern Levant (15,000-11,500 cal BP) underwent pronounced socioeconomic changes associated with the onset of sedentism and the shift from a foraging to farming lifestyle. Excavations at the 12,000-year-old Natufian cave site, Hilazon Tachtit (Israel), have revealed a grave that provides a rare opportunity to investigate the ideological shifts that must have accompanied these socioeconomic changes. The grave was constructed and specifically arranged for a petite, elderly, and disabled woman, who was accompanied by exceptional grave offerings. The grave goods comprised 50 complete tortoise shells and select body-parts of a wild boar, an eagle, a cow, a leopard, and two martens, as well as a complete human foot. The interment rituals and the method used to construct and seal the grave suggest that this is the burial of a shaman, one of the earliest known from the archaeological record. Several attributes of this burial later become central in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The location of the site of Hilazon Tachtit Cave and other sites with cemeteries in the Natufian core area.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Plan and features of Hilazon Tachtit Cave. (A) Plan of the cave indicating the excavation area. (B) The Natufian features at Hilazon Tachtit Cave including the burial pits (pit I, II, and III), Structure A, and Structure B. The burial was located in structure A (Photograph by N. Hilger, Tel Aviv, Israel).
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
X-ray of the fragmented right and left pubis, body, and spine of a lumbar vertebra showing lipping and osteophytes (Photographs by M. Lavi, Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel).
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
An artistic reconstruction of the Shaman grave. (Illustration by P. Groszman, Jerusalem, Israel, drawn to scale.)
Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.
The animal body-parts present in the Shaman grave. The location of the body-part represented is indicated on the animal illustration with a red dot. (A) Caudal vertebrae from an auroch's tail (Bos primigenius); (B) complete marten (Martes foina) skull; (C) carapace of a spur-thighed Mediterranean tortoise (Testudo graeca) and examples of the anterior plastron which was repeatedly broken in the same location; (D) carpometacarpus and first phalanx of digit II from the wing tip of a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); and (E) articulated forearm (radius and ulna) of a wild boar (Sus scrofa). (Photographs by G. Hartman, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Illustrations by P. Groszman.)

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