A 12,000-year-old Shaman burial from the southern Levant (Israel)

Leore Grosman*, Natalie D. Munro, Anna Belfer-Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)17665-17669
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - 18 Nov 2008


  • Hilazon Tachtit Cave
  • Mortuary practices
  • Natufian
  • Origins of agriculture


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