Transcript of Disc II, Chapter I: Oldest Shamans
© 2013 Max Dashu

A lion-shaman, carved out of mammoth ivory some 40,000 years ago, was discovered in Stadel cave in southwestern Germany, along with ivory beads, an arctic fox incisor, and a decorated deer tooth.

Lowenfrau, side
Its lion-formed body stood upright like a human, on human feet, and bore six stripes on its left arm. It became known as the “Lion-man”

Lowenfrau, pubic crease
As more ivory fragments were discovered, a crease highlighting a female pubic triangle emerged. A controversy over its sex erupted,

Lowenfrau 4
as archaeologist Elisabeth Schmidt challenged the assumption that the Löwenmensch was male. Of course no one knows, but this was heresy. [The statue is being reconstructed, with newfound neck pieces increasing its height from the 12 inch assemblage.]

Galgenberg dancer
At Galgenberg, Austria, a dancing woman with upraised arm is unequivocally female. She dates to more than 30,000 years ago. (The front view is shown at right).

Another dancer from Geissenklosterle can’t be sexed, but the markings on its reverse look like the menstrual, lunar, calendrical marks on some other Paleolithic pieces.

Abri Blanchard
An engraved bone from Abri Blanchard in south France shows two invoking women with tattoos, and bison.

Dolni Vestonice head
Around 26,000 bce, a female shaman was buried at Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic, covered in ochre.  The bones of an arctic fox lay beside one of her hands, its teeth in the other.

Dolni Vestonice 2
This ivory head depicts the woman herself, with the same torqued facial anomaly as the diminutive skeleton.

Dolni Vestonice 3
The carving is the oldest documented instance of portraiture, representing a medicine woman and elder in her 40s, who lived apart from other villagers.

Dolni Vestonice 4
Her distinctive burial had a pair of mammoth bones covering her body. She was the world’s first ceramicist, using the deep oven in her large hut to fire thousands of clay figurines

Dolni Vestonice Cow
The shaman fashioned cattle and other animals, some of which indicate ritual use.

This panther head with a purposely inflicted wound suggests that the shaman was doing hunting magic.

Dolni Vestonice Black Goddess
Most impressive of all, the artist-shaman of Dolni Vestonice created this ceramic female icon, the only paleolithic goddess made from clay.  [sometimes called the Black Venus]

Weaving Impressions
And she made cloth impressions on other pieces, proving that weaving was already being done in the Ice Age.

Kimberley murals
On the other side of the world, ancient Australians were paintings ceremonies, Dreamings that the Nyarinyin call Gwion Gwion. [also known as Gwon Gwon, Giro Giro, Bramba Bramba, or Allarwho.]

Kimberley murals 2
In many paintings dancers wear ritual ties on their arms, plumes on their heads and hair, tassels, and back aprons, an ancient form of female dress here and in South Africa.

Kimberley murals 3
Other figures wear string skirts, indicating that Australian women’s ceremonial dress is tens of thousands of years old.

Kimberley women's ceremony
Traditions say that ancestral Beings traveled the land forming the landscape, then disappeared into the rock--leaving their shadows in the paintings. [The pigment is in fact fused into the stone.]

La Palma, Baja
Some 7000 years ago, invoking or blessing figures were painted on the rock in the Sierra de San Francisco in Baja California. At La Palma, the woman at center is painted half red, half black.

Sierra de San Francisco
In another beautiful ochre mural, an invoking woman is shown in a feather headdress.

Medicine Lodge, Wyoming
So much ancient rock art is gender ambiguous, as here at Medicine Lodge, Wyoming. The presumption that they must all be masculine has to be dislodged.

Messak Setaffet
There’s a strong tendency to presume that a male figure with horns or animal attributes is a shaman, while passing over female figures like the horned Lady of Messak Setaffet in Libya. [and with double vulture heads.]

Predynastic Kemetic
A lot more remains to be discovered about early shamanic culture in Africa; the invocational petroglyphs in Egypt are part of this picture.

Koudiate Mouneb
So are the engraved rocks of the Sahara, like these Moroccan petroglyphs at Koudiate Mouneb, and more in Libya, Chad, and Niger.

Bad Dürrenberg
Such a horned female shaman was buried at Bad Dürrenburg, Germany, around 7000 bce. She was reverently covered with a 30 cm thick layer of red ochre. She probably limped due to an irregularity in her first vertebra.

Bad Dürrenberg regalia
Here’s her regalia: a headdress with two deer antlers, several boar-tusk plaques, 16 deer incisors, 3 turtle shells, 2 crane bones, and a variety of shells, needles, knives, and microblades. [120 freshwater mussels; and bone needles, flint knives, antler hoe, and a crane-bone container with 31 microliths.

Bad Dürrenberg 3
But a dry material inventory barely touches the sacred valence of all this – or its meaning.

Las Caldas
At Las Caldas, Spain, over 13,000 years ago, a bone wand was carved in the form of an ibex woman.

Las Caldas 2
She has the head of a female mountain goat—with straight horns, not curved like the male—and a human body, with incised vulva—but cloven hooves.

Las Caldas 3
This drawing shows the baton from all angles [it’s also incised with an eye and other markings.]

Gaban, north Italy
At Gaban in the Trentino Alps, a carved neolithic figurine shows a woman surmounted by a large bird, perching on her shoulders like a guardian spirit.

Hilazon Tachtit
12,000 years ago, a Natufian woman shaman was buried in the cave of Hilazon Tachtit, in the Galilee. Her stone-lined burial was covered by a golden eagle wing.

Hilazon Tachtit 2
The shaman was surrounded by a leopard pelvis, cow tailbone, two marten skulls, a boar bone, scores of tortoise shells—and a severed foot. She was about 45 years old, with a severe limp,

Disabled shamans
making her our third very ancient shaman with unusual bone formations.

Ekven tomb
In northeast Asia, permafrost preserved the stone-lined grave of an old woman shaman of the Old Bering Sea culture, 2000 years ago. [Pacific coast of Siberia]

Ekven woman by Balueva
Here’s a reconstruction of what she might have looked like. Among her rich grave goods were drum handles, wooden dance goggles,

Pottery paddles
a walrus ivory chain, ulu knives, harpoons, and other tools of ivory, wood, shell, stone, and bone, including these pottery paddles.

Ekven Mask
Most impressive of all, this magnificent wooden mask was placed between the shaman’s knees.

Old Bering Sea
The Old Bering Sea people also carved small ivory masks, with finely incised tattoos.

Jomon Mask
Further south in Japan, the ancient Jomon culture created stone and ceramic masks,

Masked figurines, Japan
and they also put masks on figurines and figures sculpted on pottery vessels.

First Shaman a Woman:

Some cultures remember the first shaman as a woman [text follows]

Udekaw (Puyuma, Taiwan)

Takutsi Nakawé (who is also Earth and Grandmother Browth)
(Huichol, western Mexico)

Rasdi, in a Hungarian tradition

Mili Jide and Mupu Shaode (Jinuo, Yunnan)

A Buryat shepherd girl (Baikal, south Siberia)

Bari Gongju (Korea)

Ame-no-Uzume (Japan)


Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu

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