A team of archeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found a 12,000 year old skeleton of a female shaman near Galilee in north Israel. The small corpse, sealed in a limestone enclosure by a rock slab, was buried along with pieces of animal bone, an eagle wing, a cowtail, a human foot, and fifty tortoise shells arranged around the body. The skeleton suggests that the woman was 45 when she died, an advanced age for the era. The grave is thought to be of Natufian origin, a nomadic culture that existed in the east Mediterranean 9,500-13,000 BC. According to Harvard anthropologist Ofer Bar-Yosef, the unusual arrangement of the shells could be a "sign of elite emerging among hunter-gatherers". This find offers a unique insight into the transitional period towards sedentary societies, prior to the development of writing."What we see [with the Natufian burial rites] is the beginning of a tribal system," says Bar-Yosef.
November 21, 2008
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