The Grave of the Priestess

LiveScience is calling her a “shaman,” but since the 12,000-year-old grave is in Israel, not Siberia, that’s probably not exactly the right term. But whatever you want to call her, they’re pretty sure this ancient woman talked to the spirits:

The woman was about 45 years old when she died and based on measurements of the skull and long bone, she stood at about 4.9 feet (1.5 meters). Wearing of her teeth and other aging signs on the bones suggested the woman was relatively old for her time. And she likely had a limp or dragged her foot, the researchers speculate, due to the fusion of the coccyx and sacrum along with deformations of the pelvis and lower vertebrae.

Scattered around the body and beneath it were tortoise shells. Before arranging the shells inside the grave during the burial ritual, humans cracked open the tortoise shells along the reptiles’ bellies (so as not to crack the back part of the shell) and sucked out the meat, possibly for food.

The woman was part of the Natufian culture, a group of hunter-gatherers who lived from 15,000 to about 11,500 years ago in the area that now includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

There’s a kind of beautiful diagram of the body with the offerings (which also may have included a severed human foot) at the link.