A shaman from the time of the mammoth hunters was in pain, they created a dummy of him in the museum

The shaman, who was buried 26,000 years ago, was well-built, but suffered from a chronic bone disease, where very painful inflammations formed in various parts of his body. It probably also affected his mental state and became the cause of his shamanic path, full of mysterious natural forces, spirits and souls with which it was important to negotiate for the sake of the community.

According to a more than 130-year-old archaeological find, the statue of a man was reconstructed by anthropologist Eva Vaníčková and sculptor Ondřej Bílek.

“The latest genetic studies show that people in the Gravettian period had a dark skin color, scientific findings thus change long-held stereotypes about the appearance of our ancient ancestors. And it is also a strong argument against the announcers of the exclusivity of the ‘white race'”, Vaníčková emphasizes the reason why they chose a darker skin color.

The anthropologist also managed to find out the approximate height of the figure. However, the reconstructed face, which was not preserved on the skull, was covered by strings with connected bones. These are typical for shamans, apparently they helped induce a trance state, just like drumming, alcohol, mushrooms or smoke.

Thanks to genetic analysis, the team could further determine, for example, the color of eyes or hair. “However, with such an old find, there is a high probability that the genome will not be complete and we will not be able to find out everything we would like,” Vaníčková points out.

The discovery of the shaman in 1891 was more of an accident then. Workers came across the grave while repairing the sewer. “We know relatively little about the placement of the skeleton and the grave goods, as a significant part of the inventory was removed by the workers from the excavation: bones and teeth of a rhinoceros, long mammoth tusks and red-colored smaller bones, among which rested a few bone and stone plates. Most of these objects found temporary shelter in the construction building,” says Martin Oliva from the museum.

The shaman’s face was trampled by a worker

Alexandr Makowský, professor of German technology in Brno, who, among other things, was involved in loess research, was called to the construction site. He had a pit dug at the site of the find and came across a mammoth shoulder blade and tusk, next to which lay an intact human skull.

“Unfortunately, part of her face was stepped on by one of the workers and the fragments were thrown away. It’s a terrifying thought today. The remains of long bones, discs made of various materials and also a cluster of bones of large animals were also stored in the grave, for example the entire skull of a rhinoceros, metre-long ribs and tusks, but many of them were not preserved not only because of the workmen’s actions,” lamented Oliva.

All the alms in the grave have mystical symbolism. Chest jewelry and a polished piece of reindeer antler, which probably served as a mallet for an unpreserved drum. However, the most important were the fragments of mammoth tissue, which managed to be glued into the form of a male idol in the form of a puppet, which is still the only one of its kind and has no parallels in finds from the European Paleolithic.

“The figurines, when held by a shaman, can represent ancestral spirits. Other times, shamans trap the spirits of diseases or the souls of people and animals in them, so they become props for various ceremonies,” explains Oliva.

Starting next week, the shaman will be part of the upcoming exhibition The Oldest Jewelry and Body Ornaments. The original finds from the shaman’s grave, which are usually only seen in reconstructed form, will be unique to the exhibition. Two of the museum’s rarest originals – the Věstonic Venus and the aforementioned Shaman’s puppet – will also be on display for at least the next three months.

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