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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tomb raider digs up witch: 12,000-year-old she-shaman, talismans unearthed in Israel

Ratner/Reuters

Archeologist Leore Grosman of Hebrew University displays tortoise shells and other bounty dating to 10,000 years before Jesus was alive that her team unearthed in Galilee region of northern Israel.


JERUSALEM - Archeologists have discovered the remains of a 12,000-year-old witch in a tomb in northern Israel.

The tomb is believed to be a witch or she-shaman from the prehistoric Natufian civilization, an ancient community that lived in the area 10,000 years before Jesus.

Scientists from the Hebrew University said the burial site at Hilazon Tachtit, in the western Galilee near Carmiel, contained a vast number of unusual grave offerings.

Among them were 50 complete tortoise shells, the pelvis of a leopard, the wing tip of a golden eagle, the tail of a cow, two marten skulls, the forearm of a wild boar and a human foot.

Dr. Leore Grosman and her team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University found the witch was 45 years old, petite and had an unnatural, asymmetrical appearance due to a spinal disability that would have affected her gait, causing her to limp or drag her foot.

Grosman believes the special method of burial indicated the woman's special standing in the community. She said it was the first time the grave of an ancient witch had been discovered in the area.

She said the body was buried on its side with the spinal column, pelvis and right femur resting against the curved southern wall of the oval-shaped grave.

The legs were spread apart and folded inward at the knees.

Grosman said 10 large stones were placed directly on the head, pelvis and arms of the woman as she was buried, which could have been designed to protect the body from being eaten by wild animals.

Another theory is that they may have been placed there because the community was trying to keep the shaman and her spirit inside the grave.

The discovery was published in this week's edition of the scientific journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"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," Grosman wrote.

"It seems that the woman in the Natufian burial was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits."

The Natufian civilization, dated from about 15,000 to 11,500 years ago, is believed to be the first human society to move from foraging to organized farming. It was the first civilization known to live in one place all year-round.

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