Sunday, November 21, 2010

Were the Natufians Nilotes?

Alice C. Linsley

The Natufians populated an area that includes parts of Western Egypt (Fayoum Oasis), Palestine (especially around Mount Carmel), Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon between 15,000 and 9,000 years ago.The British archaeologist Dorothy Gerrod coined the term "Natufian" because she was studying remains from the Shuqba cave at Wadi an-Natuf in Palestine. The term is derived from the place, but Natufian ceramics and stone work has been found in other locations as well.

The evidence indicates that the Natufians may have originated along the Nile. They practiced the removal of teeth as an initiation rite, a trait of Nilotic peoples. Among the Nilotic Luo tribe initiation involves the removal of six front teeth. They are removed using the tip of a spear. This practice, called nak, persists in some Luo clans and Africanized Churches in Luoland, such as the Legio Maria sect.

Consider what these experts have to say:

Graeme Barker: "the similarities in the respective archaeological records of the Natufian culture of the Levant and of contemporary foragers in coastal North Africa across the late Pleistocene and early Holocene boundary".[1]

Ofer Bar-Yosef cites the microburin technique and “microlithic forms such as arched backed bladelets and La Mouillah points" as well as the parthenocarpic figs found in Natufian territory originated in the Sudan. [2]

Christopher Ehret noted that the intensive use of plants among the Natufians was first found in Africa, as a precursor to the development of farming in the Fertile Crescent. [3]

That the Natufians were a Nilotic people is confirmed by the fact that Natufian physiology indicates a Mediterranean type with negroid affinities. (See Marcellin Boule, Henri Vallois, and René Verneau, Les Grottes Palaeolithiques de Beni Séghoual, pp. 212—214.) [4]

Correspondence between Natufian settlements and Horite territory
Natufian territory

Natufians lived in the areas in Palestine that became Horite territories. The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of Horus and his mother Hathor-Meri. The oldest known Horite shrine city is Nekhen in Sudan and dates to about 3400 BC. The votive offerings there are ten times larger than those found elsewhere, attesting to the prestige of the shrine.

The prominence of the Horites is attested in Genesis 36 which gives the ruling line of Seir the Horite. These people have been recognized as Abraham's kin, and the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horites of Seir is identical to the pattern of Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors.

Rebecca, Isaac's cousin bride was a descendant of Nahor, and his half-sister bride (living in Beersheba) was a descendant of Sheba. Jacob also married Horite brides in Rachel and Leah, both descendants of Na-Hor. Genesis 36 tells us that Esau married a Horite bride in Oholibamah. Ohol means tent and bama or bema means exalted, lifted up, or on a high place. (Barack Obama's father was Luo of the Alego clan of Kenya.)

When the Natufians lived in this area it received sufficient precipitation to sustain crops and orchards. Shrine priests managed the plantations and received the first fruits of the harvests. During the Holocene period, the whole region from the Nile to the Jordan was wet and there were abundant wadis, salt marshes and swamps. This explains the abundance of tortoise shells at the Natufian burial sites. Decorated ostrich-egg vessels and ostrich shell beads also have been found at Natufian sites and burial grounds. In ancient Kush, painted ostrich eggs were placed in the graves of children, symbolizing the hope of life after death.

It is not far-fetched to state that the Natufians are probably the biblical Horites, whose religious beliefs and practices can be traced to the Upper Nile. The principal religious office of the Horites was that of the priest, so it is curious that archaeologists working at Hilazon Tachtit, near the Sea of Galilee, insist that this burial site suggests shamanic practices. Here is the pertinent section of their report:

The goods accompanying the burial are also typical of shaman burials. Tortoises, cow tails, eagle wings, and fur-bearing animals continue to play important symbolic and shamanistic roles in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide today [e.g., (28)]. It seems that the woman in the Natufian burial was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits. Shamans are universally recorded cross-culturally, in hunter gatherer groups and small-scale agricultural societies (25). Nevertheless, they have rarely been documented in the archaeological record [but see (29)], and none have been reported from the Paleolithic of Southwest Asia. Perhaps, it is not surprising if clear evidence for a shaman comes from the Natufian, as the profound social and economic changes associated with the transition to agriculture [the Neolithization process (6)] surfaced during the Natufian and undoubtedly entailed equally substantial ideological changes (30, 31, 32). Whether the changes in the spiritual outlook preceded and triggered the economic changes (33) or vice versa, an inseparable interplay is clearly observed between ideological and socioeconomic change across the forager-to-farmer transition. The unique grave at Hilazon Tachtit Cave provides us with rare concrete evidence for those processes in their initial stages at the termination of the Paleolithic on the eve of the Neolithic transformation. (From here.)

The report assumes that one of the buried women was a shaman, something that can't be ascertained from the evidence. Note that the report makes no specific connections between the supposed female shaman and observed shamanic practices. This is pure conjecture!  It is highly unlikely that these people had both priests and shamans since the two offices represent distinct and contradictory worldviews. Shamanic practice involves traces in which the shaman mediates between the spirits of dead ancestors and the community. Such a practice was forbidden to priests, whose role was to mediate between the community and the Creator God.

The Natufians were more likely to have had priests since that office originates in the Nile region. Further, the animals buried with the woman are mentioned in the book of Job and the genealogical information in the Bible reveals that Job was a Horite.

This woman's burial clearly indicates that she was of high rank among her people. However, we should not assume that she was a shaman when the symbolism of the animals found in her grave is easily explained in the context of the religious beliefs of the Upper Nile. These animals were sacred to the ancient Nubians and Kushites who had priests, not shamans. The two birds, which appear to be released from the woman's hand, likely represent the binary worldview of Abraham's ancestors and remind us of the two birds released by Noah. The leopard’s skin designated royalty and was worn over the shoulders by Kushite and Nilo-Saharan ruler-priests, with the paws crossed over the breast. The cow was the totem of the Kushite celestial mother who was called Hathor-Meri, the mother of Horus. Her veneration spread throughout the ancient world.

Related reading: Why Cows Were Sacred in the Ancient World; The Bull's Head in Antiquity; Abraham's People Had "Easter" EggsWho Were the Kushites?Abraham's Kushite AncestorsThe Christ in Nilotic Mythology


1. Barker G, Transitions to farming and pastoralism in North Africa, in Bellwood P, Renfrew C (2002), Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis, pp 151–161.

2. Bar-Yosef  O., Pleistocene connections between Africa and South West Asia: an archaeological perspective. The African Archaeological Review; Chapter 5, pg 29-38; Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O, Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley. Nature 312:1372–1374.

3. Ehret (2002) The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia
4. The French School of Anthropology developed under the influence of Paul Broca. Boule studied the Peking Man fossils, Henri Vallois served as Chair of the Museum of Natural History in Paris from 1960 to 1967, and René Verneau studied paleolithic rock paintings in North Africa.

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