The 12000 Year old Natufian Priestess

(Dr. Leore Grosman heading a team of archeologists of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem excavating a small cave near Carmiel in the Galilee had discovered the skeleton of a woman shaman, who lived some 12,000 years ago in the Natufian of Middle Stone Age. Rare artifacts of grave offerings were found alongside the bones, including tortoise shells, the skeletal pelvis of a leopard, the winged tip of a golden eagle, two marten skulls and the bones of a human foot. ) 

The Land of Israel, a small strip of territory, on the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea, was known as the Holy Land, the Promised Land, Zion, Palestine etc… Many civilizations and armies put claim to the land. The legitimate government of Israel governs most of the territory; yet today the Palestinians put claim to a small portion of the land. The British army under General Allenby during his campaign during the World War One wrestled control over the land from the Ottoman Turks who ruled for over four centuries, and established British Mandate rule till 1948. 

Looking backwards into the pages of history there was a succession of conquerors that fought for control of the Land – The Arab Conquest under the banner of Saladin drove the Crusaders under the Christian Banner from the Holy Land. The Israelite people entered the Promised Land and settled among the Canaanites who eventually integrated with the Israelites. In turn the People of Israel fought to keep their heritage against the Hittites, Babylonian, Persians, Philistines, and Ancient Greeks, but the might of the Roman legions drove the Jews into exile during their revolt against the might of Rome. 

As we look further back into history of early civilization that dominated the Land of Israel we find during the Middle Bronze Age the Egyptian armies of the Pharaoh, conquering the land followed by Hyskos people who crossed the sea Anatolia and settled into the territory. Yet in the Early Bronze Age the Yarmukians, a Neolithic culture brought the early segments of organized farming and settlement. 

Yet there was an earlier civilization that brought their culture to that strip of land. They were the Natufians, a Middle Stone Age people  who live from 11,500 to 15,000 years ago occupying an area what is know today as Lebanon and Israel. The question one would ask – who were the Natufians? 

What is known of the Natufian culture that they were Stone Age people who existed in the Mediterranean region of the Levant. It was a Mesolithic culture, but unusual in that it built stone architecture before the introduction of agriculture. They were gatherers, foraging for food such as emmer wheat, wild grains of barley; they were also hunters hunting gazelle, wild boar and cattle and other wild game. Through archeological evidence indicates that the Natufian people may have cultivated barley and wheat or tending wild crops of grain.. 

Archeologists have found that the settlements of the Natufian people areas are marked by the absence of permanent structures, by implements for the preparation for plant food, and art objects. Their equipment is that of hunters and gatherers. Agricultural tools have been found such as primitive sickle blades set in straight stone handles for harvesting the wild wheat and stone mortars and pestles for grinding the grain. The existence of these tools indicates a new approach in the gathering and use of wild plant foods. 

Evidence showed that some groups lived in caves; others occupied roughly hewn stone or clay houses in some sort of villages. They buried their dead with their personal ornaments in cemeteries, probably with some sort of ceremony. Carved bone and stone artwork have been found within these graves. 

The Natufian communities are possibly the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. The direct descendants, the pre-pottery Neolithic were among the earliest farmers on the planet. 


1) The Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Leore Grosman who headed the dig at the cave site, said the elaborate nature of the burial rituals and the method to construct the grave and the placing of rituals artifacts suggest the woman shaman had a high standard in her Naufian community. Analysis of the bones indicates the women was roughly forty five years old, quite small in stature, and had a spinal disability causing her to limp. 

2) The changing destinies of the Land of Israel from the prehistoric era to the present day raise the question to which people or culture is the rightful inheritors of the Land of Israel. The Bible holds the answer – ‘The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Raise your eyes and look into the distance where you are, north and south, east and west. All the land you can see I will give to you and to your descendants for ever…” (Genesis 13: 14-18)