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

Also check out: Sky Burials: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, and Paganism?

The following are my conjectures the inference evidence avalable.

Sky burial (Animal worship mixed with ancestor worship) is a funeral practice in which a human corpse is placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposed to the elements or to be eaten by scavenging animals, especially carrion birds. And, Animal worship (or zoolatry) refers to rituals involving animals, such as the glorification of animal deities or animal sacrifice. According to most accounts of the Sky burial practice, 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

Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago

*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

*Around 26,000 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 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, which spanned roughly 27,000 to 20,000) near Dolní VěstoniceMoravia in the Czech Republic and the other, complex Gravettian burials of Eurasia, the Predmostı 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-Meleqarchaeological 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. In a 2013 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.[14] 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. 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” (Pringle 2010). 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

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

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. “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

*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

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

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

If you are a religious believer, may I remind you that faith in the acquisition of knowledge is not a valid method worth believing in. Because, what proof is “faith”, of anything religion claims by faith, as many people have different faith even in the same religion?

Pre-Animism (at least 300,000 years ago)

Animism (beginning around 100,000 years ago)

Totemism (beginning around 50,000 years ago)

Shamanism (beginning around 30,000 years ago)

Paganism (beginning around 12,000 years ago)

Pogressed Organized Religion (beginning around 5,000 years ago)

Time of Current World Religion (beginning after 4,000 years ago)

Religious Sexism

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