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22 March 2015
11,000-year-old shaman's mysteries are unravelled

Some fascinating findings are coming out of a study by the Smithsonian Institution (USA) into the mysteries surrounding the practices and rituals of an 11,000 year old shaman. Shaman is general term for a person who acts as a link between the natural and supernatural worlds. In Native American culture the tribal shaman was more of a priest, or healer.
     The site in question located in Central Texas (USA), at a place known as the Horn Shelter site, adjacent to the Brazos River. The site has  been investigated by archaeologists since the late 1960s, with evidence of both Clovis and Folsom cultures having been found.
     This latest discovery (actually discovered in 1970 but only just revealed) is the remains of a 40 year old man and an 11 year old young girl. It is not known if the two were related, or she was just a companion, until full DNA testing has been carried out. What is of more interest is the wealth of artefacts found with the remains.
     Study of the adult male bones shows higher than normal development of hands and forearms, which can be equated to that of a modern day drummer. More interesting though was the contents of a bundle containing the shaman's tools of his trade, including hawk talons, badgers claws (representing day & night), shells and pigments. His head was also resting on, and covered by, turtle shells, with the grave also being turtle shell shaped. In Native American cultures the turtle is often associated with the earth.
     Pegi Jodry, a researcher from the Smithsonian, is quoted as saying "What I found was beautiful in working with the medicine  bundle is how vividly it expressed how immersed people were within the natural world" She went on to add "There's a tendency sometimes to look back down the road 11,000 years ago and think people were less sophisticated in their behaviour and cosmology. It takes quite a while to walk all those ideas back. Those stereotypes are deeply rooted".

Edited from WacoTrib.com (22 February 2015)

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