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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Archaeologists discover 12,000 year-old grave of witch doctor

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:19 PM on 04th November 2008

Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an ancient grave of an elderly woman believed to have been a magical healer 12,000 years ago.

The grave was found in a burial ground for at least 28 people in a small cave in the lower Galilee region of present-day Israel.

Enlarge archaeologists
The excavation is at the mouth of a cave in the Galilee region of northern Israel

It dates back to the Natufian people who were the first society to adopt a sedentary lifestyle.

At the time of burial, more than 10 large stones were placed directly on the head, pelvis, and arms of the woman whose body was laid on its side. The legs were spread apart and folded inward at the knee.

The special treatment of the body and use of stones to keep it in a certain position suggests the woman held a unique position in the community.

Enlarge tortoise shells

Enlarge imprints

50 tortoise shells were found at the site along with the pelvis of a leopard and a human foot

It is likely she was viewed as a magical healer or witch doctor, archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said.

Enlarge excavation at the mouth of a cave

The grave of a 12,000-year-old prehistoric shaman, or witch doctor, was found by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

'It seems that the woman in the Natufian burial was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits,' the team wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Israeli team led by Leore Grosman found the human bones in a small cave in the lower Galilee region of present-day Israel. The grave also contained 50 tortoise shells, and body parts from animals including a wild boar, eagle, cow, leopard and marten.

'The burial of the unlike any burial found in the Natufian or the preceding Palaeolithic periods,' Grosman's team wrote.

'We argue that this burial is consistent with expectations for a shaman's grave.

'Tortoises, cow tails, eagle wings, and fur-bearing animals continue to play important symbolic and shamanistic roles in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide today.'