"Sky Burial" and its possible origins at least 12,000 years ago to likely 30,000 years ago or older.

Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

"In archaeology and anthropology, the term excarnation (also known as defleshing) refers to the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial, leaving only the bones. Excarnation may be precipitated through natural means, involving leaving a body exposed for animals to scavenge, or it may be purposefully undertaken by butchering the corpse by hand. Practices making use of natural processes for excarnation are the Tibetan sky burial, Comanche platform burials, and traditional Zoroastrian funerals (see Tower of Silence).  Some Native American groups in the southeastern portion of North America practised deliberate excarnation in protohistoric times. Archaeologists believe that in this practice, people typically left the body exposed on a woven litter or altar." ref  

Ancient Headless Corpses Were Defleshed By Griffon Vultures

Sky burial ( Animal Worship mixed with Ancestor Worship) is a funeral practice where a human corpse is placed on a mountaintop, elevated ground, tree, or constructed perch to decompose while be eaten by scavenging animals, especially birds. This Animal Worship (or Zoolatry) rituals may go back to the  Neanderthals who seem to Sacralize birds starting around 130,000 years ago in Croatia with eagle talon jewelry and oldest confirmed burial. Or possible (Aurignacian) "Bird Worship" at  Hohle Fels cave, Germany, early totemism and small bird figurine at around 33,000 years old, which had been cited as evidence of shamanism.

As well as possible ‘Bird Worship’ (in the Pavlovian culture/Gravettian culture) part of Early Shamanism at Dolní Věstonice (Czech Republic) from around 31,000-25,000 years ago, which held the “first shaman burial.” The shamanistic Mal'ta–Buret' culture of Siberia, dating to 24,000-15,000 years ago, who connect to the indigenous peoples of the Americas show Bird Worship. The Magdalenian cultures in western Europe, dating from around 17,000-12,000 years ago have a famous artistic mural with a bird that I think could relate to reincarnation and at least bird symbolism. Likewise, there is evidence of possible ‘Bird Worship’ at  Göbekli Tepe (Turkey), dated to around 13,000/11,600-9,370 Years ago with “first human-made temple” and at Çatalhöyük (Turkey), dated to around 9,500-7,700 Years ago with “first religious designed city” both with seeming ancestor, animal, and possible goddess worship.

Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

Neanderthal jewels fashioned out of the talons of white-tailed eagles.

"Evidence seems to imply that Neanderthals wore jewels and possibly body-paint, which would point to higher levels of consciousness: jewels have communicative functions, for which abstract thought is necessary. The conscious transformation of an object which does not have an obvious use as a tool points to symbolic or aesthetic thought. That the Neandertals nursed the sick and gave burials to the dead, even to stillborns leads to a better picture of these early people. The recent discovery of their genes in the modern European genome, leaving no doubt about interbreeding with homo sapiens, gave rise to speculations that they had acquired this culture through contact with the latter, but had not developed it independently. This time-span matches many of the supposedly artistic artifacts attributed to the Neanderthals possibly transferring some ideas to us and receiving some transfer from us as well." ref  

"Neanderthal eagle tlons jewelry is dated to an age of 130,000 years in Croatia at that time there were no modern humans there yet not for tens of thousands of years. This set of eight white-tailed eagles’ talons is described as a jewel because of the consciously and purposefully added groovings and the very significant traces of wear. Four of the claws display signs of cutmarks, three of them have grooves cut in exactly the same places. And all eight show abrasion traces, and seem almost polished – such that would occur if they had been worn for a long time in the same position over the same surface. This surface could then have been a chest, or an upper-arm, the scientists surmise – they think that the talons were part of a chain, or of a bracelet. The cuts and grooves indicate the spots where they would have been tied together." ref

"White-tailed eagle talons and an associated phalanx had numerous cut marks made from by the extinct people in what is modern-day Croatia. The Krapina site, around 31 miles north of Zagreb, has yielded the world’s richest collection of Neanderthal fossils. The site containing the remains of some 80 individuals, and including the talons which may have been jewelry and therefore used for a symbolic purpose as a necklace or bracelet assemblages from at least three individual birds. Up until this many thought that early jewelry was mainly linked to anatomically modern humans—estimated to be up to 110,000 years old—and consisting of shell beads found at prehistoric sites in Israel." ref

 Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

Sky burial according to most historical accounts, involves vultures are given the whole body. Then, when only the bones remain, these are broken up with mallets, ground with tsampa (barley flour with tea and yak butter, or milk), and given to the crows (possibly expressing sacrad Sacred bull) and hawks that have waited for the vultures to depart. refref 

Art by Damien Marie AtHope   

*Around 33,000 years ago Hohles Fels Site (Germany): 

There is evidence of possible ‘Bird Worship’ at Hohles Fels cave Site, such as a small bird figurine around 33,000 years old is one of three carvings important as well as relatable to later times, which had been cited as evidence of shamanism, the belief that spirits can be influenced by priests known as shamans. A female fertility figurine ( pre-goddess Venus of Hohle Fels), a bird in addition to bird-bone flute— from a griffon vulture wing dated to around 35,000 years ago as well as around 40,000 years old mammoth-ivory flutes and the 40,000 years old the Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel. as well as “first seeming use of a Totem” as the female fertility figurine may have been worn as an amulet, along with seeming ancestor, animal, and possible pre-goddess worship. (the oldest known wooden sculpture Shigir Idol “totem pole” 17 feet high and approximately 11,500 years old and the Shigir Idol’s decoration has been thought by scholars to be similar to that of the oldest known monumental stone ruins, at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.) ref

Art by Damien Marie AtHope   

*Around 31,000-25,000 years ago Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov sites (Czech Republic): 

There is evidence of possible ‘Bird Worship’ (Birds in the Pavlovian/Gravettian culture) as a seeming part Early Shamanism around 30,000 years ago: Sungar (Russia) and Dolni Vestonice (Czech Republic) as well as “first saman burial” along with seeming ancestor, animal, and possible pre-goddess female ancestor archetype worship.

30,000 Years Ago – (Eurasia), found evidence that the earliest human burial practices varied widely, with some graves are ornate while the vast majority were fairly plain but it seems to be a more common ritual showing the further solidification of ritualizing was blooming. Overall, between 35,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago there is a wide variation in human burial customs. ref

“DolnıVestonice-Pavlov in South Moravia (dating from the Gravettian period), near Dolní VěstoniceMoravia in the Czech Republic and the other, complex Gravettian burials of Eurasia, the Předmostí u Přerova burial situation results from a combination of both ritual and natural processes. However, exposure of the dead to natural processes (‘Sky Burial’ theory) may be a kind of ritual behavior of its own, based on concepts about life and death of that time. A hypothesis may be set forth that the determining factor for the selection of the burial area at Predmostı was the remarkable Skalka rock itself, a cliff that rose directly above it. A long-term tendency to take the dead outside the actual settlement center, (i.e., ‘‘below the rock’’) may have given rise to the accumulation of human remains at a single place, with a scatter of dispersed fragments in the vicinity. At this place, bodies were more or less deliberately left to the action of redeposition, predators and additional human activities, including deposition of additional bodies.” – (PDF) The Upper Paleolithic burial area at Předmostí: ritual and taphonomy (2018): link

"Three inhabitants of Dolni Vestonice, lived 31,155 years ago (calibrated date) and to have mitochondrial haplogroup U (Possible time of origin 46,500 ± 3,300 years ago found widely distributed across Northern and Eastern EuropeCentralWestern and South Asia, as well as North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Canary Islands.), and one inhabitant mitochondrial haplogroup U8Ancient DNA classified as belonging to the U* mitochondrial haplogroup has been recovered from human skeletal remains found in Western Siberia, which have been dated to c. 45,000 years ago. Haplogroup U has also been observed among ancient Egyptian mummies excavated at the Abusir el-Meleq archaeological site in Middle Egypt, dated to the 1st millennium BC. Haplogroup U is found in 15% of Indian caste and 8% of Indian tribal populations. Haplogroup U is found in approximately 11% of native Europeans and is held as the oldest maternal haplogroup found in that region." ref, ref 

"In a study, all but one of the ancient modern human sequences from Europe belonged to maternal haplogroup U, thus confirming previous findings that haplogroup U was the dominant type of Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in Europe before the spread of agriculture into Europe and the presence and the spread of the Indo-Europeans in Western Europe. Haplogroup U has various subclades numbered U1 to U9. Haplogroup K is a subclade of U8. The old age has led to a wide distribution of the descendant subgroups across Western Eurasia, North Africa, and South Asia. Some subclades of haplogroup U have a more specific geographic range. Haplogroup U1 estimated to have arisen between 26,000 and 37,000 years ago. It is found at very low frequency throughout Europe. It is more often observed in eastern Europe, Anatolia and the Near East. It is also found at low frequencies in India. U1 is found in the Svanetia region of Georgia at 4.2%. Subclade U1a is found from India to Europe, but is extremely rare among the northern and Atlantic fringes of Europe including the British Isles and Scandinavia." ref, ref 

"Several examples in Tuscany have been noted. In India, U1a has been found in the Kerala region. U1b has a similar spread but is rarer than U1a. Some examples of U1b have been found among Jewish diaspora. Subclades U1a and U1b appear in equal frequency in eastern Europe. The age of U5 is estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000 years old. Approximately 11% of Europeans and 10% of European-Americans have some of haplogroup U5. U5 has been found in human remains dating from the Mesolithic in England, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, France and Spain. Neolithic skeletons (~7,000 years old) that were excavated from the Avellaner cave in Catalonia, northeastern Spain included a specimen carrying haplogroup U5. Haplogroup U5 and its subclades U5a and U5b today form the highest population concentrations in the far north, among SamiFinns, and Estonians. However, it is spread widely at lower levels throughout Europe. This distribution, and the age of the haplogroup, indicate individuals belonging to this clade were part of the initial expansion tracking the retreat of ice sheets from Europe around 10,000 years ago. Additionally, haplogroup U5 is found in small frequencies and at much lower diversity in the Near East and parts of northern Africa (areas with sizable U6 concentrations), suggesting back-migration of people from Europe toward the south. U5 was the main haplogroup of Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers. U haplogroups were present at 83% in European hunter-gatherers before an influx of Middle Eastern farmer and steppe Indo-European ancestry decreased its frequency to less than 21%." ref, ref

"In the Vestonice 13 sample, the Y chromosomal haplogroup CT (notIJK) was determined, for the Vestonice 15 sample, the Y chromosome haplogroup BT, in the Vestonice 43 sample, the Y chromosome haplogroup F. In the Vestonice 16 sample, the Y chromosomal haplogroup C1a2. Moreover, evidence at this site suggests that this was the burial site of a female shaman. This is the oldest site not only of ceramic figurines and artistic portraiture but also of evidence of female shamans. Furthermore, a female figurine was found at the site and is believed to be associated with the aged woman, because of remarkably similar facial characteristics. The woman was found to have deformities on the left side of her face. The special importance accorded with her burial, in addition to her facial deformity, makes it possible that she was a shaman in this time period, where it was “not uncommon that people with disabilities, either mental or physical, are thought to have unusual supernatural powers." ref

"Data on bird usage in the Pavlovian culture. This is the first article to report on bird remains excavated at Dolní Věstonice II and Pavlov II, and to discuss a small group of bones from Pavlov I. Although the two sites share a number of striking similarities, including the high frequency of Raven (Corvus corax), there are also some differences, e.g., in the ratio of the bird taxa. The former may be common for the whole Pavlovian culture; the latter may depend from specific usages of the sites by the Gravettian people." ref

 Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

"The Mal'ta–Buret' culture is an archaeological culture of the Upper Paleolithic (c. 24,000 to 15,000 years ago) on the upper Angara River in the area west of Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, Russian Federation. The type sites are named for the villages of Mal'ta (Мальта́), Usolsky District and Buret' (Буреть), Bokhansky District (both in Irkutsk Oblast). A boy whose remains were found near Mal'ta is usually known by the abbreviation MA-1(or MA1). The remains have been dated to 24,000 years ago. According to research published since 2013, MA-1 belonged to a population related to the genetic ancestors of Siberians, American Indians, and Bronze Age Yamnaya people of the Eurasian steppe. In particular, modern-day Native Americans, Kets, Mansi, Nganasans and Yukaghirs have been found to harbor a lot of ancestry related to MA-1." ref 

"There were two main types of art during the Upper Paleolithic: mural art, which was concentrated in Western Europe, and portable art. Portable art, typically some type of carving in ivory tusk or antler, spans the distance across Western Europe into Northern and Central Asia. Artistic remains of expertly carved bone, ivory, and antler objects depicting birds and human females are the most commonly found; these objects are, collectively, the primary source of Mal'ta's acclaim. In addition to the female statuettes there are bird sculptures depicting swans, geese, and ducks. Through ethnographic analogy comparing the ivory objects and burials at Mal'ta with objects used by 19th and 20th century Siberian shamans, it has been suggested that they are evidence of a fully developed shamanism." ref 

 Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

"The Magdalenian (also Madelenian; French: Magdalénien) cultures are later culturesof the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, dating from around 21,000/17,000 to 12,000 years ago. It is named after the type site of La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, commune of Tursac, in the Dordogne department of France. The earliest Magdalenian sites are all found in France. The Epigravettian is a similar culture appearing at the same time. Its known range extends from southeast France to the western shores of the Volga River, Russia, with a large number of sites in Italy. By the end of the Magdalenian, the lithic technology shows a pronounced trend toward increased microlithisation. The bone harpoons and points have the most distinctive chronological markers within the typological sequence. As well as flint tools, the Magdalenians are best known for their elaborate worked bone, antler, and ivory that served both functional and aesthetic purposes, including perforated batons." ref  

"Examples of Magdalenian portable art include batons, figurines, and intricately engraved projectile points, as well as items of personal adornment including sea shells, perforated carnivore teeth (presumably necklaces), and fossils. The sea shells and fossils found in Magdalenian sites may be sourced to relatively precise areas of origin, and so have been used to support hypothesis of Magdalenian hunter-gatherer seasonal ranges, and perhaps trade routes. Cave sites such as the world-famous Lascauxcontain the best known examples of Magdalenian cave art. The site of Altamira in Spain, with its extensive and varied forms of Magdalenian mobiliary art has been suggested to be an agglomeration site where many small groups of Magdalenian hunter-gatherers congregated." ref 

"The shaman the Bird and the Bison from the Lascaux cave shaft pictured above. Seems to involve a scene that includes a disembowelled bison, a man with a bird's head who appears to have been felled by the bison, a spear, and a bird on a pole. Was the man a shaman with a bird as totem? Did the painter believe that dead people became birds?" ref 

Two magdalenian fawn with birds spear-throwers and single bird spear-thrower 

"The fawn with birds spear-throwers date to around 16,000 years ago." ref  

"Single bird spear-thrower Masdazil Cave – France, with its ending sculpted in the shape of a bird becomes itself a symbolic bird which helps the soul or the mind to leave the body, in the same way the spear leaves the spear-thrower to travel longer and faster than with bear hands. The bird tells humans that they are more than just flesh and blood and that they can travel beyond their physical anchorage to the Earth. It has been purposed that this symbolic bird represents the soul of the dead which flies into the next world, as in many religions and mythologies, or even the mind of a shaman in trance travelling into another world." ref  

Cultural Continuity and Changes in South Levantine Late Chalcolithic Burial Customs and Iconographic Imagery 

"The issue of the sudden emergence of the use of secondary burial in ossuaries and their particular artistic expressions. It is presumed here that the simultaneous occurrence of demographic changes and the appearance of sanctuaries, secondary burial and outburst of motifs is not coincidental. The artifacts related to cult and the motifs on the artifacts hint to certain changes in religious concepts that seem to bridge over regional diversities and indicate religious ideas that were generally common from the Galilee to the Negev desert. Moreover, it is plausible to suggest that the public ceremonies in sanctuaries and cemeteries together with widespread symbolism affected the communities and united their members as “social glue”, as suggested by Levy relating to the Gilat sanctuary. The comparison of LC burial traditions and motifs to earlier phenomena showed some similarities with certain Neolithic burial customs and designs.Consequently, it is reasonable to propose that what seem to be new burial customs and artistic expressions created in the LC could partially be explained as the renewal, highlighting and emphasizing of older traditions. Continuity and development have always acted simultaneously. Exchange of materials, objects and technological skills over large areas is well documented but the obvious and crucial cultural influences deriving from it, but also causing it, are often overlooked. These earlier cultic traditions were modified during the transition to agricultural communities reaching a peak in the Pre Pottery Neolithic B period (PPNB) (10,500– 8,200 years ago)." ref 

"Although customs, such as the skull cult, seem to have disappeared by the end of the PPN period, this suggests that certain ideas survived and continued to be expressed in the material culture through the Pottery Neolithic period into the Chalcolithic copper age period. The custom of secondary burial and the artistic expressions were chosen for this research as they are two main characteristics of the LC culture in the southern Levant, closely related to each other because the various motifs were sculpted and painted on the ossuaries. The information that derives from the archaeological finds may partially answer the second question concerning the possible origin of these phenomena. As no other Chalcolithic or earlier anthropomorphic ossuaries are known in the Ancient Near East, the motifs depicted on them were compared to motifs on other types of artifacts from Chalcolithic and Neolithic sites in Israel and in the Ancient Near East. The first question that concerns the motivation for conducting secondary burial and creating elaborate designs cannot, however, be discussed from an archaeological point of view only since archaeological material does not provide an explanation for the reasons of practicing certain customs, such as secondary burial, and creating symbolic motifs. Although the archaeological finds must be considered, the “why” question relates to religious, cosmological ideas and/or to social aspects." ref 

 Art by Damien Marie AtHope   

Art by Damien Marie AtHope 

Picture Links: ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref 

Ritualistic Bird Symbolism at Gobekli Tepe and its "Ancestor Cult" a Sacred Sky Burial Relationship between Birds and Spirits of the Dead

Myths from several regions’ associate birds with the creation of the world. Sacred ideas of birds range from a creator role, to a symbol of life as well as relating to both death and rebirth. Birds are a common totem or believed spirit and relate to renewal, transformation, and ancestors as well. In this deity, spirit or ancestor role they may be seen as Bird People (people with the characteristics of birds) a common motif in myths. Also, birds are commonly associated with or relate to fertility, longevity, and life itself. ref, ref, ref, ref 

*Around 12,000 years ago Gobekli Tepe (Turkey):

143 sculptures were found at Göbekli Tepe and 43 are human-shaped with only 9 intact. Most of the fragmented artifacts are intentional broken off heads, which seem to simulate metaphoric skull cult behavior. These heads were not discarded randomly but placed carefully in the temple often next to the abstract human T-shaped pillars when the enclosure was filled up and abandoned. The treatment of the animal-zoomorphic depictions are most often complete, lacking intentional damage, which expresses that treatment of the stone Human heads had a special role in the closing beliefs of the temple. Now the mask miniatures (1) Nevalı Çori, (2, 3, 4, & 5) Göbekli Tepe, re-enacting mythological narratives related to death at special purpose ritual sites.

There is evidence of possible ‘Bird Worship’ in the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe (Turkey), dated to around 13,000/11,600 – 9,370 Years ago – “first human-made temple” with seeming ancestor, animal, and possible goddess worship. There are many repersintations of birds here. “Gobekli Tepe is a stone temple in southeastern Turkey T-shaped pillars surrounded by rings of stones, many carved with reliefs among tens of thousands of animal bones and a statue that may depict a kneeling figure holding a human head, researchers have uncovered the remains of human skulls that were stripped of their flesh and carved with deep, straight grooves running front to back. The carvings represent the first evidence of skull decoration in the archaeological record of the region. Archaeologists expected to find human burials. Instead, they found animal bones by the tens of thousands. Mixed in were about 700 fragments of human bone, scattered throughout a loose fill of stones and gravel. “They’re distributed all over the area, in and around structures, to where archaeologists can’t put any individuals together. Three large skull fragments, each about the size of a hand. Cut marks on the bones suggest that someone removed the flesh and then carved bone with deep, straight grooves running front to back. One skull had a hole drilled into it, although only half of the hole was preserved. Heads—missing or decapitated—are also represented in the site’s stone artwork. The heads of some stone statues were deliberately removed or knocked off; archaeologists think one statue, which they dubbed the “Gift-bearer,” depicts a kneeling figure holding a human head. The attention to skulls is part of a long tradition, although it’s the first instance in Anatolia, the region in and around modern-day Turkey. And though many of the sculptures and stone reliefs at Göbekli Tepe stand out for their craftsmanship or artistry, including detailed depictions of birds, predators, and insects, the marks on the skulls seem to belong to a different, cruder class of carving. “They’re deep incisions, but not nicely done. Someone wanted to make a cut, but not in a decorative way,” Gresky says. “It could be to mark them as different, or to fix decorative elements, or to hang the skulls somewhere (skull cult/ancestor worship and to me possibly some relation to Sky Burial(Animal worship mixed with ancestor worship). ref 

"The special role of separated human heads is also visible in Göbekli Tepe´s reliefs. Immediately behind the eastern central pillar of Enclosure D the fragment of a relief was found. It shows a human head among several animals – a vulture and a hyena can be clearly identified. Another example is Pillar 43, also in Enclosure D. There, a headless ithyphallic body is depicted among several birds, snakes and a large scorpion. The interaction of animals with human heads is even clearer from several composite sculptures discovered at Göbekli Tepe. They show birds, but also quadrupeds sitting on top of human heads or carrying them away. A relation of this kind of iconography with early Neolithic death rite and cult is evident." ref 

Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

Picture Links: ref, ref 

Sculpture from Nevali Çori with a vulture on top of a net-pattern depicted on two human heads. 

"This is a sculpture  from Nevali Çori with a vulture on top of a net-pattern depicted on two human heads. Çori (early to middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B: 10,400-10,100 years ago) was an early Neolithic settlement on the middle Euphrates, in Şanlıurfa Province, Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. Some of the houses contained depositions of human skulls and incomplete skeletons. The site is known for having some of the world's oldest known communal buildings and monumental sculpture." ref, ref 

SVII.8, ‘the Vulture Shrine’, north and east walls, showing vultures feeding on headless human bodies, with a ‘hand’ pattern on their backs. 

*Around 10,000 years ago Catal Huyuk (Turkey):

There is evidence of a ‘Vulture Shrine’ in the ancient site of Catal Huyuk (Turkey), dated to around 9,500 – 7,700 Years ago – “first religious designed city” with ancestor, animal and goddess worship. Spirit Birds at Neolithic Catal Huyuk, “body part distributions suggest that for the most part feathers were more important than meat. Bird remains, mainly the feathery parts of wings, appear in a number of special deposits at Catal Huyuk. Together with artistic representations, these deposits suggest that cranes and vultures played key roles in life cycle transitions and were invoked mimetically through dance. Additionally, waterbirds, particularly in association with newborn human infants, may have mediated between human and spirit worlds. Although there is little indication that Catal Huyuk residents made much use of brightly colored feathers, bird wing deposits do attest to the importance of color symbolism at the site. Thus, bird remains offer material evidence of aspects of Neolithic cosmology and ontology, as well as social structure. Some Russian writers point to the name, which is a combination of the words for sky (“Ark-ha”) and earth (“im”).” ref  

Art by Damien Marie AtHope 

Picture Links: ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref 

9,000-8,000 years old Catalhoyuk Vulture Wall Art Reconstructions and Tightly Flexed Skeletons Which May Show Vulture Defleshing of Bodies Before Burial

Catalhoyuk sacred wall art reconstructions, starting with the top left of Shrine E VII-23 pregnant, stylized vultures with human legs devouring a headless corpse dated from the 9,000-8,000 years ago to the other top art dating to around 8,500-year-old SVII.8, ‘the Vulture Shrine’ scenes, north and east, showing vultures feeding on headless human bodies. The middle roe left depicts SVI.10 east wall, with modeled bull’s head and open breasts each containing the skull of a griffon vulture with beak protruding from the red-painted areola. On the right is a wall art reconstruction of a human figure with looped object among vultures maybe decapitating a body and possibly feeding its leg with the other arm for defleshing. On the bottom left is a wall art reconstruction dating to around 8,000-year-old pair of Cranes, one of which is missing its head by seeming intentional damage stand opposite two wild deer. Finally, the bottom right starting from the left are three tightly flexed skeletons to such a degree that it seems difficult for a fully fleshed body which could maybe express "vulture excarnation" which is the defleshing of corpses by vulture prior to burial. The last skeleton on the bottom right is headless women with a newborn child in the abdominal region. 

"The finding of " goddess " figurines along with raptor bones relates to the contemporary symbolism in the Çatalhöyük shrines, where vulture crania were found inside breast-shaped clay protuberances on the walls. This has been referred to as a " curious combination of simultaneously nutritious and lethal symbolism; more recently the feminine power to transform dead flesh to nutrition was read in these evocative finds. The raptors can also be related to the secondary burial in the building, which is the only one found at Sha'ar Hagolan  situated at the foot of the Golan Heights in the Jordan Valley area of north-eastern Israel an 8,000-year-old village and artifacts that include the first pottery cooking pots found in the Land of Israel.  Sha'ar HaGolan it is part of the Yarmukian culture exhibiting pre-historic Neolithic findings discovered along the banks of the Yarmuk River." ref, ref   

Cultural Continuity and Changes in South Levantine Late Chalcolithic Burial Customs and Iconographic Imagery

"Since its discovery, Çatalhöyük's iconography has provoked interpretative comment. In a series of writings, Hodder critiqued earlier interpretations of the Çatalhöyük corpus, arguing for asymmetrical gender relations of an enduring and particular type in the European past. While recent research at Çatalhöyük appears to have tempered some of Hodder's interpretative oppositions and scope, it is worthwhile to propose an alternate contextual approach to his original oppositions. This begins with the multiple examples of small carnivores' heads encysted in what may be clay effigies of human breasts and reads the same corpus as involving gender not solely with danger or death, but also with food and fleshly transformation. In this interpretation, the roles and essences of wild and domestic animals, women and men, food and death, are more complex, interpenetrating and mutable. Building on recent work at the site, it is possible to propose the existence of zones of transformation within households." ref 

Çatalhöyük Ancient Headless Corpses Were Defleshed By Griffon Vultures 

"Archaeologists have long wondered about the presence of griffon vulture symbols throughout the settlement and about a series of headless skeletons buried under house floors. A study seeks to connect these two phenomena in a process called "vulture excarnation" - defleshing of corpses by vulture prior to burial. Burials at Çatalhöyük were made intramurally -- that is, underneath the floors, usually in the central room of the family's house. Skeletons of men, women, and children are found on their sides in a tightly flexed, fetal-like position, which suggests the bodies were wrapped or bound before burial. This is normal for Neolithic burials in ancient Anatolia, but at Çatalhöyük, archaeologists found 14 headless bodies. Only one of them had cutmarks suggesting the body was probably defleshed by humans -- the rest were a mystery. Researchers have long considered the possibility, though, that vultures, which figure prominently into the murals and sculptures at the site, were involved in defleshing the body prior to burial." ref  

"In archaeology and anthropology, the term excarnation (also known as defleshing) refers to the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial, leaving only the bones. Practices making use of natural processes for excarnation are the Tibetan sky burial, Comanche platform burials, and traditional Zoroastrian funerals (see Tower of Silence). Archaeologists believe that in this practice, people typically left the body exposed on a woven litter or altar. When the excarnation was complete, the litter with its remains would be removed from the site. Since metatarsals, finger bones and toe bones are very small, they would easily fall through gaps in the woven structure or roll off the side during this removal. Thus, a site in which only small bones are found is suggestive of ritual excarnation." ref 

"Some Native American groups in the southeastern portion of North America practiced deliberate excarnation in protohistoric times. There have been numerous solar concentrators installed in Mumbai to incinerate the body as an alternative way to naturally break it down to bare bones in just 3 days. These practices are changing due to a shortage of vultures in India, and has caused the practice to evolve in order to still serve the same purpose. From the pattern of marks on some human bones at prehistoric sites, researchers have inferred that members of the community removed the flesh from the bones as part of its burial practices. Neolithic farmers living in Tavoliere, Italy, over 7000 years ago practiced ritual defleshing of the dead. Light cut marks suggest that the bones were defleshed up to a year after death. The bones were deposited in Scaloria Cave and, when excavated, were mixed with animal bones, broken pottery and stone tools." ref 

"By placing the deceased on the rooftops of the houses, the people of Çatalhöyük would have made the bodies immediately attractive to the griffon vulture and would have kept the bodies away from terrestrial carnivores. The vultures would have eaten the muscles and left the tendons, allowing the people of Çatalhöyük to wrap the corpse in a tight bundle and then bury the deceased underneath the house floor. The most likely explanation, then, for these headless burials "based on current forensic experimental work, [is] that the people of Çatalhöyük may have employed vulture excarnation prior to interment," the archaeologists conclude in their publication. While defleshing by carrion birds is not uncommon -- a similar form known as "sky burial" has long been practiced in parts of China, Tibet, Nepal, India, and Mongolia -- this potential evidence of vulture excarnation from Çatalhöyük makes the site one of the earliest in the world known to engage in this burial practice." ref 

"Although direct evidence of vulture predation on the human remains from Çatalhöyük is not yet available, Pilloud and colleagues add up a series of facts to create a strong circumstantial case for it:

  1. The tightly flexed burials at Çatalhöyük mean some sort of pre-processing of the corpse was done prior to burial.  At the very least, because of rigor mortis (which would have prevented people from flexing the deceased's limbs), bodies were likely kept somewhere for a day or more.
  2. Vultures are very good at removing flesh and keeping ligaments and tendons intact.  This would explain the fact that the skeletons at Çatalhöyük were connected anatomically rather than being just a pile of bones. 
  3. Vulture excarnation would have reduced the odor of decay, which is important when burying the dead in a small, enclosed space under a house floor, such was common at the site.
  4. Wall paintings at Çatalhöyük include representations of vultures attacking headless bodies, and there are skulls of griffon vultures embedded in plaster walls in some of the houses. Other ancient Anatolian sites also appear to have vulture iconography.  This strongly suggests some sort of symbolic relationship between the ancient culture and the vultures." ref 

"While there is a strong symbolic presence of the vulture at Çatalhöyük, there is scant osteological evidence. In addition to the skulls reported, only one griffon vulture scapula has been recovered from a midden deposit on site. While the bones of vultures are rare on site, the griffon vulture was present in the area during the Neolithic. Old World vultures are first seen in the fossil record during the Miocene and are still present in Anatolia today. Furthermore, the griffon vulture in this part of the world is mostly resident, with little seasonal migration and could have been present in the region year-round. The vulture iconography at the site suggests some type of symbolic relationship with this carrion feeder. In fact, the lack of vulture remains on site is consistent with it being a symbolic/totemic symbol, similar to the lack of other wild animal remains found on site, despite their frequent depiction in the art at Çatalhöyük (e.g. bear and leopard). Some argue that vultures or other birds of prey may have been associated with death, and this is seen throughout the Neolithic in Turkey. In Göbekli Tepe (Turkey), a site that could predate Çatalhöyük by as much as 1000 years, the same type of iconography has been recovered. Stone reliefs have been recovered depicting bird figures with curved beaks, as well as a stone figurine of a vulture head." ref 

"There have also been a few griffon vulture bones recovered on site. Nevalı Çori (Turkey) also has limestone sculptures of vultures. Jerf el Ahmar (Syria) has figurines and pictographs of vultures. Moreover, at Jerf el Ahmar there is a greater presence of griffon vulture remains, to include an overabundance of the distal segments of the upper and lower limbs. Such an assemblage suggests the bird was exploited for its feet and feathers. Conclusions The burial practices at Çatalhöyük (i.e., removal of cephalic extremity, limb removal, tight flexion) as observed in the archaeological record are often consistent with some manner of flesh removal prior to interment. It seems possible based on current forensic experimental work that the people of Çatalhöyük may have employed vulture excarnation prior to interment. Based on human studies, vultures are unlikely to leave marks on the bone that would be visible 9000 years later." ref 

"However, some studies on vulture taphonomy of faunal remains have found more characteristic markings on the bone that were indicative of vulture activity. Additionally, it has been found that vultures are very efficient at removing carrion and can leave tendons and ligaments intact, which could lead to the articulation that is visible at Çatalhöyük, especially of smaller elements of the hands and the feet. Flesh removal and only a few days of decomposition would have greatly facilitated the removal of body parts prior to interment and would have allowed the tight flexion seen in the burial positions. There may also have been a practical need to remove soft tissue from a body before interment beneath house floors. Finally, the extensive iconography of vultures during the Neolithic throughout Anatolia suggests a relationship with these birds. At this time, it is difficult to apply the taphonomic signature that has been described in the literature to the human remains at Çatalhöyük due to preservation and post-depositional processes (bioturbation, trampling, historic and prehistoric disturbances). However, as more work is published on the skeletal damage to human remains by vultures, a well-defined taphonomic signature of vulture defleshing may be outlined. Once this work is achieved, a more systematic data-driven review of the skeletal assemblage at Çatalhöyük can be attempted (e.g., microscopic analyses)." ref 

A bioarchaeological and forensic re-assessment of vulture defleshing and mortuary practices at Neolithic Çatalhöyük  

"During the Neolithic, mortuary practices in the Near East sometimes involved intramural burial and often some type of removal or caching of the bony elements of the head. Reports of defleshing are described in the literature, but there is little published evidence for other surface modifications of human remains. In his 1960s publications on the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, James Mellaart proposed that individuals were defleshed by vultures prior to intramural interment. This hypothesis was predominantly based on the discovery of wall paintings of large raptorial birds hovering over headless bodies, coupled with the various states of disarticulation of many of the human remains excavated on site, including ‘headless’ bodies (those missing the cranium and mandible), as well as isolated crania and other skeletal elements. Despite these observations, subsequent osteological analysis has failed to show definitive taphonomic evidence of such practices." ref 

"However, current forensic work on human decomposition has shed new light on the effects of vulture defleshing on human remains. Initial results indicate that vultures are adept at soft tissue removal, defleshing a body in a matter of hours over the course of several visits. Moreover, the skeleton can be left largely articulated (at least initially) and display limited skeletal marks from the defleshing process. In light of these recent taphonomic studies, the possibility of vulture defleshing at Çatalhöyük is re-visited here. In many subfloor burials, body position, skeletal articulation, and skeletal completeness are consistent with a taphonomic signature of defleshing prior to interment. Furthermore, defleshing would have facilitated body part removal and may have been necessary for intramural interments. This re-assessment of mortuary treatments at Çatalhöyük may provide a new way of evaluating the skeletal assemblage at the site and can serve as a model for the interpretation of vulture iconography in the ancient Near East." ref 

"Neolithic mortuary practices in the Near East demonstrate an intimate association between the dead and the living. These practices typically involved intramural interment and sometimes included removal and re-deposition of skeletal elements, especially of the cephalic extremity (i.e., cranium, mandible, cervical vertebrae).1 In the Levant, these practices may have originated in the Natufian period, but they are seen to intensify during the Neolithic. For example, in the Neolithic levels at Jericho (Palestine) a building containing a cache of approximately 52 ‘skulls’ (likely only crania) was unearthed, and researchers at ‘Ain Ghazal (Jordan) recovered several plaster casts that are similar to those that adorn’ plastered skulls'." ref

"Similar burial practices have been observed in Anatolia during this period. The site of Çayönü in eastern Turkey contains both intramural and extramural burials in the early occupation phases, as well as a building containing roughly 70 human skulls (or perhaps crania) in the later phase of occupation. The Neolithic site of Nevalı Çori in southeastern Turkey also has intramural burials; and, the nearby site of Cafer Höyük contains two burials, each found extramurally and without crania and mandibles, which researchers believe is evidence of a ‘skull cult’. At Neolithic Köşk Höyük in central Anatolia, 13 plastered skulls (crania and mandibles) were recovered. The removal, curation, and re-deposition of elements of the cephalic extremity and other infra-cranial skeletal elements are common  features of Near Eastern Neolithic mortuary practices; however, it is not always clear how these elements were removed." ref 

"Elements could have been removed manually from a fleshed body with cutting implements prior to interment, or removed at some point after burial, via either targeted re-opening of the grave with the express purpose of retrieving skeletal elements, or opportunistically during subsequent interments in the same locations. There are reports of defleshing in Europe during the Neolithic, and into the Mesolithi, as well as for secondary burial. However, in the Near East, there are limited reports of such practices. At Abu Hureyra, on the south side of the Euphrates valley, a mid-shaft fragment of a humerus was found with extensive cutmarks on it that appear to have been made with a flint tool suggestive of a systematic program of defleshing. Additionally, Erdal describes cutmarks on human remains at Körtik Tepe, a Neolithic site in southeast Turkey, which he interpreted as defleshing as a means of purifying the corpse." ref 

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Burial and identity in the Late Neolithic and Copper Age of south-east Europe  

"Indeed, it seems that the major mortuary practice of the period preceding the period of study, the Early and Middle Neolithic, may have involved excarnation. Certainly, the majority of the dead from this period have left no archaeological traces.  All known Early and Middle Neolithic (around 8,500–6,900 years ago) burials from the Lower Danube and Black Sea Coast region have been found in settlement contexts, either within houses or between them. That this is a reflection of research patterns seems unlikely; while no systematic surveys have been carried out outside known settlements neither have there been any chance finds of extramural burials. A brief glance at the number of burials that have been discovered demonstrates that intramural burial cannot have been the sole, or even main, mode of disposal of the dead in this period." ref 

"Only a few individuals were buried within any single settlement, while on some sites none have been found at all has suggested that the known burials represent only 1% of the living population, although such palaeodemographic estimations are fraught with issues. Irrespective of the statistics it seems indisputable that the majority of individuals were disposed of outside settlement areas in ways which have left no archaeological trace. This seems most likely to have been a form of excarnation, such as has been proposed for a similar problem in LBK burials ( The Linearbandkeramik Culture also called Bandkeramik or Linear Pottery Ceramic Culture or simply abbreviated LBK). On what basis those individuals who were buried within settlements were chosen is not clear. There appears to have been a general preference for the intramural burial of children and infants, and female intramural burials are more common than male. However, this is not a trend seen across all Early and Middle Neolithic settlements, and cannot be considered as an overarching regional tradition." ref 

"There can be no doubt that the use of cemeteries for burial demonstrates a change in the relationship between the living and the dead in south-east Europe in the Late Neolithic. It seems that the recently dead became more important. Instead of being disposed of by some form of excarnation (as the lack of evidence for preceding burials points to) the dead were carefully placed. The way that they were displayed in their graves, wearing and surrounded by objects, indicates that the burial was a public occasion, one where connections and relationships with the dead could be clearly expressed. The contradiction between the equality of the settlement and the inequality of the burials is striking. It seems that the mortuary realm was being used for social differentiation and competition." ref 

"One of the central debates among scholars about the LBK is whether the people were migrant farmers from the Near East or local hunter-gatherers who adopted the new techniques. Agriculture, animal and plant domestication both, originated in the Near East and Anatolia. The earliest farmers were the Natufians and Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups. Were the LBK people direct descendants of the Natufians or were they others who were taught about the agriculture? Genetic studies suggest that the LBK were genetically separate from the Mesolithic people, arguing for a migration of the LBK people into Europe, at least originally. The earliest LBK sites are located in the modern Balkan states about 7,700 years ago. Over the next few centuries, the sites are found in Austria, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and eastern France." ref 

"Domesticated crops used by the LBK culture include emmer and einkorn wheat, crab apple, peas, lentils, flax, linseed, poppies, and barley. Domestic animals include cattle, sheep and goats, and occasionally a pig or two. There seems to be considerable evidence that relationships between the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in Europe and the LBK migrants were not entirely peaceful. Evidence for violence exists at many LBK village sites. Massacres of whole villages and portions of villages appear to be in evidence at sites such as Talheim, Schletz-Asparn, Herxheim, and Vaihingen. Mutilated remains have been noted at Eilsleben and Ober-Hogern. The westernmost area appears to have the most evidence for violence, with about one-third of the burials showing evidence of traumatic injuries." ref 

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Let the Sunshine In: The Issue of Neolithic Longhouse Orientation 

"The deliberate orientation of longhouses observed within the wide area of the Linear Pottery culture (LBK) and succeeding cultures (post-LBK). Spatial analysis is based on the assemblage of 1546 buildings, whose purpose it was to attempt to cover the whole area of longhouse distribution. Despite variability, which considerably increased over time, the alignment of house entrances towards the south or south-east was observed. The widely accepted theory of house alignment towards the ‘ancestral homeland’ is therefore challenged by a new hypothesis, which sees orientation governed by the celestial path of the sun. The tendency of aligning longhouse entrances towards the east, which emerged during the LBK expansion westwards, is considered to be a regionally limited pattern, as no analogical shift was observed in the eastern areas of longhouse distribution." ref 

Picture Link: ref 

Mysteries of the Chalcolithic Age

"Consisting of four concentric stone walls surrounding a large heap of stones, the megalithic complex of Rogem Hiri in the Golan has long puzzled archaeologists. Some have speculated that the complex originally functioned as an ancient astronomical observatory, while others have suggested it served as a sanctuary or funerary site for the populations of the Golan during the Chalcolithic Age (6,500–5,3500 years ago)." ref 

"In “Excarnation: Food for Vultures,”author Rami Arav argues that Rogem Hiri was a special type of sanctuary, built specifically for the purpose of ritual excarnation—that is, purposefully exposing the bodies of the dead to vultures and other birds of prey in order to divest them of their flesh. As Arav explains, excarnation was widely practiced in cultures and civilizations that for one reason or another were interested in saving the bones of the deceased and not their flesh." ref 

"Chalcolithic or Copper Age also known as the Eneolithic a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. The Copper Age in the Ancient Near East began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC." ref 

"Archaeology shows that the Chalcolithic peoples of the southern Levant were very interested in preserving the bones of the dead. Peoples of the Chalcolithic Age throughout Syria and Palestine interred the bones of their deceased in fancifully decorated clay boxes, or ossuaries, which were often decorated with stylized facial features, including eyes, noses and mouths. Chalcolithic Age ossuaries also often have a boxy or “house-like” appearance, with a large opening in the front through which the bones of the dead were inserted.
But how exactly did the peoples of the Chalcolithic Age manage to reduce their deceased loved ones to neat piles of dry bones that fit easily into such bone boxes?" ref 

"Rogem Hiri is one of a number of round, high-walled structures from the Chalcolithic Age that Arav has identified in the Golan. He believes such structures were used primarily for excarnation. At Rogem Hiri, the body of the deceased would have been carried into the center of the structure and laid out on a large stone slab, left exposed to the elements. After the living had departed, vultures and other birds of prey, perched atop Rogem Hiri’s high walls, would descend on the corpse, completely divesting the body of its flesh within a matter of hours. Once the excarnation was completed, the living would return to Rogem Hiri to collect the bones and place them in their carefully crafted ossuaries." ref 

"But in “Excarnation: Food for Vultures,” Arav asks another important question: Why were the bones of these Chalcolithic people placed in ossuaries instead of simply buried? Arav believes the ossuaries were seen as magic boxes that had the power to revive, resurrect and bring back to life the dry bones deposited within them. In the Chalcolithic mind, he argues, ossuaries were thought of as symbolic granaries. Similar to the dry and seemingly dead grain stored in granaries that revives and comes back to life when sown, so was the wish to see the bones in the ossuary “granaries” revived and resurrected." ref 

Cultural Continuity and Changes in South Levantine Late Chalcolithic Burial Customs and Iconographic Imagery 

"The issue of the sudden emergence of the use of secondary burial in ossuaries and their particular artistic expressions. It is presumed here that the simultaneous occurrence of demographic changes and the appearance of sanctuaries, secondary burial and outburst of motifs is not coincidental. The artifacts related to cult and the motifs on the artifacts hint to certain changes in religious concepts that seem to bridge over regional diversities and indicate religious ideas that were generally common from the Galilee to the Negev desert. Moreover, it is plausible to suggest that the public ceremonies in sanctuaries and cemeteries together with widespread symbolism affected the communities and united their members as “social glue”, as suggested by Levy relating to the Gilat sanctuary. The comparison of LC burial traditions and motifs to earlier phenomena showed some similarities with certain Neolithic burial customs and designs.Consequently, it is reasonable to propose that what seem to be new burial customs and artistic expressions created in the LC could partially be explained as the renewal, highlighting and emphasizing of older traditions. Continuity and development have always acted simultaneously. Exchange of materials, objects and technological skills over large areas is well documented but the obvious and crucial cultural influences deriving from it, but also causing it, are often overlooked. These earlier cultic traditions were modified during the transition to agricultural communities reaching a peak in the Pre Pottery Neolithic B period (PPNB) (10,500– 8,200 years ago)." ref 

"Although customs, such as the skull cult, seem to have disappeared by the end of the PPN period, this suggests that certain ideas survived and continued to be expressed in the material culture through the Pottery Neolithic period into the Chalcolithic copper age period. The custom of secondary burial and the artistic expressions were chosen for this research as they are two main characteristics of the LC culture in the southern Levant, closely related to each other because the various motifs were sculpted and painted on the ossuaries. The information that derives from the archaeological finds may partially answer the second question concerning the possible origin of these phenomena. As no other Chalcolithic or earlier anthropomorphic ossuaries are known in the Ancient Near East, the motifs depicted on them were compared to motifs on other types of artifacts from Chalcolithic and Neolithic sites in Israel and in the Ancient Near East. The first question that concerns the motivation for conducting secondary burial and creating elaborate designs cannot, however, be discussed from an archaeological point of view only since archaeological material does not provide an explanation for the reasons of practicing certain customs, such as secondary burial, and creating symbolic motifs. Although the archaeological finds must be considered, the “why” question relates to religious, cosmological ideas and/or to social aspects." ref  

Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

*Around 5,000 years ago Stonehenge (Britain):    

Stonehenge: Paganistic Burial and Astrological Ritual Complex, England. Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases, 1 (5,100 years ago), 2 (5,000 years ago), 3 I (4,600 years ago), 3 II (4,600-4,400 years ago), 3 III (2400-4,280 years ago), 3 IV (4,280-3,930 years ago), & 3 V (3,930-3,600 years ago). Anatolian/Turkish-farmers built Britain's famous Stonehenge, as well as current males of Britain, 60-65% have Turkish genetics. Almost as the same as in Ireland where 85 percent of Irish men are descended from farming people that arrived 6,000 years ago. At or around Stonehenge 5,000-4,400 years ago, there were two separate burial rites, either letting the birds feed on bodies or cremation. And a 4,000-year-old burial pit for elite contains 14 females and only 9 males, as well as a chieftain’s grave held several items including the depicted 4,000-year-old dagger. And a 4,000-year-old child's grave held the depicted Folkton drums. As well as items from 4,600-3,600 involved gold beads, necklaces, ear-rings, pendants and other jewelry shows sophisticated burial culture. ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, & ref 

There is evidence of possible ‘Bird Worship’ Stonehenge may have been built was as a giant bird perch (for pre-cremation ‘sky burial’!) “Whatever, a question we might consider is why single skulls, parts of skulls and single large bones are found scattered about sites. Even when graves are excavated, complete skeletons are, throughout the 5,500 years in question, very rare, perhaps unknown. Stonehenge, as a sacred area, is far older than initially thought. For instance, postholes were found and the wood was pine, not a common local timber at that time; they were erected, perhaps carved, as totem poles, in 10,820 to – 9,730 years ago, around 5,000 years earlier than the sarsen circle. Stonehenge began as this stone circle, around 5,000 – 4,920 years ago, comprising of 56 bluestones sitting on cremated remains and built almost 500 years before the sarsen circle was created. Some of the bodies were women and children and if these were double or triple funerals, as it were, it may be that precisely 56 inhumations (ancestor worship funerals) took place under the 56 bluestones. The remains were originally placed beneath each stone, and crushed into the chalk that formed the socket. The burials took place over 200 years, from 5,000 to 4,800 years ago. The only grave goods found were one mace head, which may imply a warrior/chieftain and an ‘incense burner’, which implied a religious leader or shaman. But the presence of women and children’s bones seem to be denied the circle as a warrior or religious burial area.” ref

“Findings of an extensive study utilizing remote sensing technologies and geophysical surveys to uncover a hidden landscape of mysterious ritual structures surrounding Stonehenge. Amongst the new finds announced was a long barrow burial mound that predates Stonehenge. The people who constructed this house of the dead are believed to have carried out complex burial rituals. “The rituals included exposure of the dead bodies and defleshing, the evidence suggests that such techniques were once widespread. By the late Neolithic, or Chalcolithic Age, immediately prior to the rise of the Bronze Age excarnation seems to have been the chosen means of disposing of the dead and may have been associated with ancestor worshipper, indicated by the frequent removal of, and separate treatment of the heads. At archaeological sites, the discovery of metatarsals, the bones of the fingers and toes, in isolation, are considered an indicator of excarnation. It is thought likely that the dead were laid on a woven litter or placed on an altar and that these bones, given their small size, could easily be overlooked, having fallen or rolled away during the excarnation process leaving a tell-tale sign of disposal via exposure to nature. Once all the flesh had been removed from the skeleton, the bones were often collected and stored in ossuaries. Ossuaries take numerous forms, from being relatively portable, in the form of boxes or vessels, to pits or the large burial mounds which became a recognisable feature of the human landscape, like the barrow house near Stonehenge or the West Kennet Long Barrow near Avebury, constructed around 5,650 years ago, which held a jumble of bones representing the incomplete remains of 46 individual.” ref

Moreover, “Arkaim is a henge archaeological site in Russia, situated in the steppe of the Southern Ural, attributed to the early Indo-Europeans of the Sintashta culture, which some scholars believe represents the proto-Indo-Iranians before their split into different groups and migration to Central Asia and from there to Persia and India and other parts of Eurasia (see Indo-Aryan migration theory). It looks as though Arkaim served simultaneously as a fortress, dwelling, temple and social center. The site was occupied for about 200 years and then was suddenly deserted. Arkaim pre-dates Troy by around 500 years, and was a flourishing city at the time the pyramids were being built. The site of strange burials, Scythian-style cave paintings, and heaps of folklore, it’s still up for debate as to exactly who these people were. And Arkaim wasn’t the only one of these settlements found. All told, more than 20 of the circular settlements have now been found throughout the southern Urals and northern Kazakhstan, suggesting a widespread civilization with a very set plan for constructing townships. Many bodies were uncovered that had been buried in the fetal position, and some were uniquely posed. One grave contained the body of a man embracing a woman while she held a battle axe over his head. Ritual spirals of stones made by Rodnovers in the areas around Arkaim. The site is generally dated to the 2,170 years ago. Earlier dates, up to the 2,200 years ago, have been proposed. It was a settlement of the Sintashta culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, dated to the period 4,100 to 3,800 year ago. Arkaim is similar in form but much better preserved than neighboring Sintashta, where the earliest chariot was unearthed. The site was protected by two circular walls. There was a central square, surrounded by two circles of dwellings separated by a street. Genetic relationship between peoples of Corded Ware culture and Sintashta culture, which “suggests similar genetic sources of the two,” and may imply that “the Sintashta derives directly from an eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples.” Sintashta individuals and Corded Ware individuals both had a relatively higher ancestry proportion derived from the early farmers of Central Europe, and both differed markedly in such ancestry from the population of the Yamnaya Culture/Yamna culture (Yamnaya, Light Skinned, Brown Eyed….Ancestors???) and most individuals of the Poltavka Culture that preceded Sintashta in the same geographic region. Scientists now believe that this ghost population has been identified as the Yamnaya and that they began a mass migration in different directions, including Europe, about 5,000 years ago.  Along with their light skin and brown eyes, they brought along with them their gene(s) for lactose tolerance. It also explains how people from Germany, for example, are showing small percentages of Native American ancestry.  Their common ancestors were indeed from central Asia, thousands of years ago, and we can still see vestiges of that population today in both groups of people. So, if the Yamnaya people are the ghost people, the ANE, Ancient Northern Europeans, who are they? The Yamna culture was primarily nomadic and was found in Russia in the Ural Region, the Pontic Steppe, dating to the 5,600-4,300 years ago.  It is also known as the Pit-Grave culture, the Ochre Grave Culture and feeds into the Corded Ware culture. Europeans are the descendants of at least three major migrations of prehistoric people. First, a group of hunter-gatherers arrived in Europe about 37,000 years ago. Then, farmers began migrating from Anatolia (a region including present-day Turkey) into Europe 9000 years ago, but they initially didn’t intermingle much with the local hunter-gatherers because they brought their own families with them. Finally, 5000 to 4800 years ago, nomadic herders known as the Yamnaya swept into Europe. They were an early Bronze Age culture that came from the grasslands, or steppes, of modern-day Russia and Ukraine, bringing with them metallurgy and animal herding skills and, possibly, Proto-Indo-European, the mysterious ancestral tongue from which all of today’s 400 Indo-European languages spring. They immediately interbred with local Europeans, who were descendants of both the farmers and hunter-gatherers. Within a few hundred years, the Yamnaya contributed to at least half of central Europeans’ genetic ancestry. Using a statistical method population geneticists calculated that there were perhaps 10 men for every woman in the migration of Yamnaya men to Europe (with a range of five to 14 migrating men for every woman). That ratio is “extreme”—even more lopsided than the mostly male wave of Spanish conquistadores who came by ship to the Americas in the late 1500s, Goldberg says. Such a skewed ratio raises red flags for some researchers, who warn it is notoriously difficult to estimate the ratio of men to women accurately in ancient populations. But if confirmed, one explanation is that the Yamnaya men were warriors who swept into Europe on horses or drove horse-drawn wagons; horses had been recently domesticated in the steppe and the wheel was a recent invention. They may have been “more focused on warfare, with faster dispersal because of technological inventions” says population geneticist Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, who is not part of the study. But warfare isn’t the only explanation. The Yamnaya men could have been more attractive mates than European farmers because they had horses and new technologies, such as copper hammers that gave them an advantage, and findings show that Yamnaya men migrated for many generations.” ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

“The greatest mistake we can make is to see Stonehenge as just a single feature, and not realize that it dominates an expansive ritual area with varied uses. There are three related types of Neolithic earthwork that are all sometimes loosely called henges. The essential characteristic of all three types is that they feature a ring bank and ditch, but with the ditch inside the bank rather than outside. Henges are usually associated with the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, and especially with the pottery of this period: Grooved Ware, Impressed Wares (formerly known as Peterborough Ware), and Beakers. Sites such as Stonehenge also provide evidence of activity from the later Bronze Age Wessex culture. Henges often contain evidence of a variety of internal features, including timber or stone circles, pits, or burials, which may pre- or post-date the henge enclosure. Henges are mainly found in Britain, and began as a circular outer bank with an inner ditch enclosing a ‘ritual’ space. That is the opposite design of the defensive hillforts, with an inner bank and outside ditch, all of which were built much later than Stonehenge. The building of the present Stonehenge dates to around 4,500 years ago. The earlier henges had been built of soil or pebbles, and only later did they erect stones as part of the henge. Other than at Stonehenge, no other henge was built with dressed stone. At first, in 6,000 years ago, the same period in which cattle first appeared in Britain, it was focussed on building large chambered tombs, then, in 5,700 years ago, they built causewayed enclosures, which are usually banked and ditched circles broken by paths, or causeways, leading inside. No pattern exists and one causeway or perhaps up to five, broke the circle. Finally, the people moved on to building stone circles in around 5,000 years ago. Henges sometimes formed part of a ritual landscape or complex, with other Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments inside and outside the henge. Earlier monuments associated with a later henge might include Neolithic monuments such as a cursus (e.g., at Thornborough Henges the central henge overlies the cursus), or a long barrow such as the West Kennet Long Barrow at Avebury, Wiltshire, or even, as in the case of Stonehenge, Mesolithic post holes.”ref, ref

“Stonehenge may have been a burial site for Stone Age elite, Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, with more than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form. The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that. The latest theory is based on the first analysis of more than 50,000 fragments of cremated human remains from one of the Aubrey holes, a ring of pits from the earliest phase of the monument, which some have believed held wooden posts. Crushed chalk in the bottom of the pit was also revealed, suggesting it once supported the weight of one of the bluestones. Dating the bones has pushed back the date of the earliest stone circle at the site from 4,500 to 5,000 years ago.” ref

“There is some evidence for the beginning of construction at sites with a ritual or astronomical significance, including Stonehenge, with a short row of large post holes aligned east-west, and a possible “lunar calendar” at Warren Field in Scotland, with pits of post holes of varying sizes, thought to reflect the lunar phases. Both are dated to around 10,000 years ago.” ref

Let’s not forget around 12,000 years old Gobekli Tepe in Turkey that involves a circle of monolithic pillered stones. “A stone circle is a monument of stones arranged in a circle or ellipse. Such monuments have been constructed in many parts of the world throughout history for many different reasons. The best known tradition of stone circle construction occurred across the British Isles and Brittany in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, with over 1000 surviving examples, including Avebury, the Ring of Brodgar and Stonehenge. Another prehistoric tradition occurred in southern Scandinavia during the Iron Age, where stone circles were built to be mortuary monuments to the dead. Outside Europe, examples of stone circles include the 8,300~8,900 years ado Atlit Yam in Israel and 5,000 to 6.000 years ago Gilgal Refaim nearby, and the Bronze Age monuments in Hong Kong. Stone circles also exist in a megalithic tradition located in Senegal and the Gambia. This is an incomplete photographic list of these stone circles.” ref

Ancient DNA evidence shows hunter-gatherers and farmers were intimately linked

“A study in (2017) shows that such contacts between hunter-gatherers and farmers went beyond the exchange of food and artefacts. As data from different regions accumulate, we see a gradient across Europe, with increasing mixing of hunter-gatherers and farmers as we go east and north. Whilst we still do not know the drivers of this gradient, we can speculate that, as farmers encountered more challenging climatic conditions, they started interacting more with local hunter-gatherers. These increased contacts, which are also evident in the archaeological record, led to genetic mixing, implying a high level of integration between very different people. The findings are a reminder that the relationships within and among people in different places and at different times aren’t simple. It’s often said that farmers moved in and outcompeted hunter-gatherers with little interaction between the two. But the truth is surely much richer and more varied than that. In some places, as the new evidence shows, incoming farmers and local hunter-gatherers interacted and mixed to a great extent. They lived together, despite large cultural differences.” ref 

17 structures arranged across a five-square-mile area, with the Stonehenge monument at its heart. 

"The most spectacular revelation of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is the discovery of a massive religious monument made of 60 stones and located two miles northeast from the famous site. It has long been thought that Stonehenge stands alone. The underground scanning suggests that the stones of this newly discovered monument are at least three meters long by 1.5 meters wide and positioned horizontally, not vertically, within its earthen matrix. Some of the stones remain under the ground. The monument is believed to have surrounded Durrington Walls, a neolithic settlement thought to have housed some 4,000 people. It is thought to be Britain’s largest prehistoric henge, roughly 12 times the size of Stonehenge itself. The four-year-long digital mapping project has further revealed a staggering 17 structures arranged across a five-square-mile area, with the Stonehenge monument at its heart." ref 

"Dozens of burial mounds were scanned in detail by the team, including a long barrow dating to before 4,500 years ago. Within this 33-meter-long barrow the archaeologists found a large wooden structure. Evidence suggests it was the setting of complex rituals involving the dead, including the removal of flesh and limbs. Although the area was a key religious site in its time, a group of domestic or livestock enclosures have also been discovered, suggesting that housing settlements developed along processional ways or pilgrimage routes in Stonehenge’s sacred landscape." ref 

"SKY BURIAL ISN’T A BURIAL at all, of anything. It’s the act of leaving a corpse exposed to the elements, often in an elevated location, and only a few different cultures do it, for different reasons and in different ways. The Vajrāyana Buddhist bya gtor practice of sky burial is primarily found in Tibet —and less so in China and Mongolia. Bya gtor literally translates to “alms for the birds” in Tibetan, and if your body is just a shell for your spirit, which will be reincarnated anyway, and if your spirit has left it and it could nourish another creature . The corpse is placed face-down on the stones, its hair removed, and the ropyagas begin to chop up the limbs with axes or sledgehammers, sometimes flaying meat from bones and throwing it to the waiting vultures.  The Zoroastrians’ reasons for sky burial differed greatly from the Vajrāyana Buddhists. Zoroastrianism considers a dead body as unclean and impure, as well as liable to be rife with demons. To bury a body is to risk defiling the water supply via putrefaction, and cremating one could contaminate the air." ref 

 "In northern Australia, a ritual was practiced mostly in the north by various Aboriginal tribes wherein the bodies of the departed were placed on raised platforms and covered with foliage. After several months, when all of the flesh had been depleted, the bones were retrieved and painted red with ochre. Then they could be carried around by the deceased’s relatives, or placed in a cave until they degraded into dust, or stashed inside a hollow log, or just plain abandoned. The concept was to avoid ghosts. These particular tribes believed that the human soul has two sections, and that one of them — the ego — is what returns as a ghost to haunt the tribe. Whereas, The Sioux, Crow Nation, and Lakota tribes of North America historically buried their dead, but practices varied among tribes and situations and sometimes included air burial, which utilized wooden scaffolds, or even the limbs of trees, in order to offer a corpse to the sky. The scaffolds were approximately eight feet tall and were traditionally constructed by women." ref  

"This air burial was typically used for the bodies of warriors who fell in battle, and the favorite horse of the dead would often be killed and tied to the scaffold or tree by its tail. Bodies were wrapped tightly in blankets and with weapons and other valuables, and they could be left aloft for up to two years before being retrieved and buried, although this didn’t happen universally. The motive was not solely to encourage the dead person’s spirit to depart into the sky: Sioux and Lakota people feared the dead as well as the diseases they can spread, so it was also an attempt to minimize contact with the body. Some tribes within Sac and Fox Nation of the midwestern United States would also place bodies in trees, and not necessarily the bodies of warriors, and sometimes there would be several “burials” per tree. Some tribes would often leave a slain warrior at the site of the battle that killed him, to decompose naturally, believing he would rise into the sky on his own (a different kind of sky burial, perhaps)." ref 

Art by Damien Marie AtHope  

“Understanding Religion Evolution: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, Paganism & Progressed organized religion”

Understanding Religion Evolution:

“An Archaeological/Anthropological Understanding of Religion Evolution” 

Art by Damien Marie AtHope 

Art by Damien Marie AtHope 

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