Female Shaman Buried in Strangely Elaborate Grave

Many others were buried nearby, but this woman was treated differently
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2016 8:30 AM CDT
Female Shaman Buried in Strangely Elaborate Grave
The burial site near Galilee, Israel.   (Hebrew University)

The 4-foot-9 woman may have been diminutive in height, but the manner in which the 40-something was buried suggests a sizeable social stature. Since researchers discovered her 12,000-year-old grave in Israel in 2005, a team has been piecing together the story behind a woman they are calling a "female shaman" given the strange array of items buried with her: nearly 90 tortoise shells, sea shells, an eagle's wing, a leopard's pelvis, the forearm of a wild boar, a human foot, and more, researchers report in the journal Current Anthropology. “A vast effort was made to bring materials to the grave," says researcher Leore Grosman of Hebrew University, per Haaretz. "There was a complex ritual based on protocol, which is not a trivial matter." Indeed, the researchers say the funeral had no fewer than six stages.

In stage one, attendants marked the bedrock of the cave floor with an oval, covered the surfaces with mud, and added limestone and other sediments, reports Live Science. Stages two and three saw the lining of the pit with limestone blocks and the addition of a variety of the artifacts detailed above. Stage four involved placing the corpse in a squatting position with tortoise shells beneath her head and pelvis, and then dozens more thrown in for good measure, likely the result of a funereal feast. In stage five, the participants cleaned up after themselves, filling the grave with garbage from the feast, while the sixth stage topped it all off with the placement of a triangular block of limestone to seal the grave. Ancient Origins reports that the event demonstrates social complexity in the Natufian period that would be amplified in the Neolithic period to follow. (Meanwhile, fear of zombies is at least as old as Ancient Greece.)

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