Chinese Wu, Ritualists, and Shamans: An Ethnological Analysis

Abstract: The relationship of wu (巫) to shamanism is problematic, with virtually all mentions of historical and contemporary Chinese wu ritualists translated into English as shaman. Ethnological research is presented to illustrate cross-cultural patterns of shamans and other ritualists, providing an etic framework for empirical assessments of resemblances of Chinese ritualists to shamans. This etic framework is further validated with assessments of the relationship of the features with biogenetic bases of ritual, altered states of consciousness, innate intelligences and endogenous healing processes. Key characteristics of the various types of wu and other Chinese ritualists are reviewed and compared with ethnological models of the patterns of ritualists found cross-culturally to illustrate their similarities and contrasts. These comparisons illustrate the resemblances of pre-historic and commoner wu to shamans but additionally illustrate the resemblances of most types of wu to other ritualist types, not shamans. Across Chinese history, wu underwent transformative changes into different types of ritualists, including priests, healers, mediums and sorcerers/witches. A review of contemporary reports on alleged shamans in China also illustrates that only some correspond to the characteristics of shamans found in cross-cultural research and foraging societies. The similarities of most types of wu ritualists to other types of ritualists found cross-culturally illustrate the greater accuracy of translating wu as “ritualist” or “religious ritualist.” ref

The Shamanic Origins Of Medicine In Ancient China

“The link between medicine and shamanism in ancient China can be found in the etymology of the words used to describe the practices, as well as other ancient texts.” ref

“Wu (shaman): female shamans in ancient China, Chinese shamanism, is alternatively called “Wuism” ref

“Shamanism is China’s oldest indigenous belief system. It is still widely practiced in villages and even cities, especially during times of ritual transition and crisis. Shaman rituals are performed on mountaintops, at traditional shrines and in village homes. Ancient shaman in China likely used jade ornaments with divine markings to command mystical forces and communicate with gods and ancestors. Ancient Chinese believed that there ancestors originated with God and communicated through supernatural beings and symbols, whose images were placed on jade ornaments.” ref

Wu (shaman)

“Wu (ChinesepinyinWade–Gileswu) is a Chinese term translating to “shaman” or “sorcerer”, originally the practitioners of Chinese shamanism or “Wuism” (巫教 wū jiào). The glyph ancestral to modern  is first recorded in bronze script, where it could refer to shamans or sorcerers of either sex. Modern Mandarin wu (Cantonese mouh) continues a Middle Chinese mju or mjo. The Old Chinese reconstruction is uncertain, given as *mywo or as *myag, the presence of a final velar -g or  in Old Chinese being uncertain.” ref

“By the late Zhou Dynasty (4th to 3rd centuries BCE), wu referred mostly to female shamans or “sorceresses”, while male sorcerers were named xi 覡 “male shaman; sorcerer”, first attested in the Guoyu or Discourses of the States (4th century BCE). Other sex-differentiated shaman names include nanwu 男巫 for “male shaman; sorcerer; wizard”; and nüwu 女巫, wunü 巫女, wupo 巫婆, and wuyu 巫嫗 for “female shaman; sorceress; witch”. Wu is used in compounds like wugu 巫蠱 “sorcery; cast harmful spells”, wushen 巫神 or shenwu 神巫 (with shen “spirit; god”) “wizard; sorcerer”, and wuxian 巫仙 (with xian “immortal; alchemist”) “immortal shaman.” ref

“The word tongji 童乩 (lit. “youth diviner”) “shaman; spirit-medium” is a near-synonym of wu. Chinese uses phonetic transliteration to distinguish native wu from “Siberian shaman“: saman 薩滿 or saman 薩蠻. “Shaman” is occasionally written with Chinese Buddhist transcriptions of Shramana “wandering monk; ascetic”: shamen 沙門, sangmen 桑門, or sangmen 喪門. Joseph Needham suggests “shaman” was transliterated xianmen 羨門 in the name of Zou Yan‘s disciple Xianmen Gao 羨門高 (or Zigao 子高). He quotes the Shiji that Emperor Qin Shi Huang (r. 221–210 BCE), “wandered about on the shore of the eastern sea, and offered sacrifices to the famous mountains and the great rivers and the eight Spirits; and searched for xian “immortals”, [xianmen], and the like.” Needham compares two later Chinese terms for “shaman”: shanman 珊蛮, which described the Jurchen leader Wanyan Xiyin, and sizhu 司祝, which was used for imperial Manchu shamans during the Qing Dynasty.” ref

Shaman is the common English translation of Chinese wu, but some scholars maintain that the Siberian shaman and Chinese wu were historically and culturally different shamanic traditions. Arthur Waley defines wu as “spirit-intermediary” and says, “Indeed the functions of the Chinese wu were so like those of Siberian and Tunguz shamans that it is convenient (as has indeed been done by Far Eastern and European writers) to use shaman as a translation of wu. In contrast, Schiffeler describes the “untranslatableness” of wu, and prefers using the romanization “wu instead of its contemporary English counterparts, “witches,” “warlocks,” or “shamans”,” which have misleading connotations.” ref

“Taking wu to mean “female shaman”, Edward H. Schafer translates it as “shamaness” and “shamanka”. The transliteration-translation “wu shaman” or “wu-shaman” implies “Chinese” specifically and “shamanism” generally. Wu, concludes von Falkenhausen, “may be rendered as “shaman” or, perhaps, less controversially as “spirit medium”. Paper criticizes “the majority of scholars” who use one word shaman to translate many Chinese terms (wu 巫, xi 覡, yi 毉, xian 仙, and zhu 祝), and writes, “The general tendency to refer to all ecstatic religious functionaries as shamans blurs functional differences.” ref

“The character 巫 wu besides the meanings of “spirit medium, shaman, witch doctor” (etc.) also has served as a toponym: Wushan 巫山 (near Chongqing in Sichuan Province), Wuxi 巫溪 “Wu Stream”, Wuxia 巫峽 “Wu Gorge”. Wu is also a surname (in antiquity, the name of legendary Wu Xian 巫咸). Wuma 巫馬 (lit. “shaman horse”) is both a Chinese compound surname (for example, the Confucian disciple Wuma Shi/Qi 巫馬施/期) and a name for “horse shaman; equine veterinarian” (for example, the Zhouli official). The contemporary Chinese character  for wu combines the graphic radicals gong  “work” and ren  “person” doubled (cf. cong ). This 巫 character developed from Seal script characters that depicted dancing shamans, which descend from Bronzeware script and Oracle bone script characters that resembled a cross potent.” ref

“The first Chinese dictionary of characters, the (121 CE) Shuowen Jiezi defines wu as zhu  “sacrifice; prayer master; invoker; priest” (“祝也 女能以舞降神者也 象从工 两人舞形”) and analyzes the Seal graph, “An Invoker. A woman who can serve the Invisible, and by posturing bring down the spirits. Depicts a person with two sleeves posturing.” This Seal graph for wu is interpreted as showing “the 工 work of two dancing figures set to each other – a shamanistic dance” or “two human figures facing some central object (possibly a pole, or in a tent-like enclosure?).” ref

“This dictionary also includes a variant Great Seal script (called a guwen “ancient script”) that elaborates wu 巫. Hopkins analyzes this guwen graph as gong 廾 “two hands held upward” at the bottom (like shi 筮’s Seal graph) and two “mouths” with the “sleeves” on the sides; or “jade” because the Shuowen defines ling 靈 “spiritual; divine” as synonymous with wu and depicting 巫以玉事神, “an inspired shaman serving the Spirits with jade.” ref

“Schafer compares the Shang Dynasty oracle graphs for wu and nong  “play with; cause” (written with 玉 “jade” over 廾 “two hands”) that shows “hands (of a shaman?) elevating a piece of jade (the rain-compelling mineral) inside an enclosure, possibly a tent. The Seal and modern form 巫 may well derive from this original, the hands becoming two figures, a convergence towards the dancer-type graph.” ref

“Tu Baikui 塗白奎 suggests that the wu oracle character “was composed of two pieces of jade and originally designated a tool of divination.” Citing Li Xiaoding 李孝定 that gong 工 originally pictured a “carpenter’s square”, Allan argues that oracle inscriptions used wu 巫 interchangeably with fang  “square; side; place” for sacrifices to the sifang 四方 “four directions.” ref

“This 巫 component is semantically significant in several characters:

  • wu (with the “speech radical” 言) “deceive; slander; falsely accuse”
  • shi (with the “bamboo radical” 竹) “Achillea millefolium (used for divination)”
  • xi (with the “vision radical” 見) “male shaman; male sorcerer”
  • ling (with the “cloud radical” 雨 and three 口 “mouths” or “raindrops”) “spirit; divine; clever”
  • yi “doctor”, which is an old “shaman” variant character for yi  (with the “wine radical” )” ref

“A wide range of hypotheses for the etymology of “spirit medium; shaman” has been proposed. Laufer proposed a relation between Mongolian bügä “shaman”, Turkish bögü “shaman”, “Chinese buwu (shaman), bukpuk (to divine), and Tibetan aba (pronounced ba, sorcerer)”. Coblin puts forward a Sino-Tibetan root *mjaɣ “magician; sorcerer” for Chinese  < mju < *mjag 巫 “magician; shaman” and Written Tibetan ‘ba’-po “sorcerer” and ‘ba’-mo “sorcereress” (of the Bön religion).” ref

“Schuessler notes Chinese xian < sjän < *sen  “transcendent; immortal; alchemist” was probably borrowed as Written Tibetan gšen “shaman” and Thai [mɔɔ] < Proto-Tai *hmɔ “doctor; sorcerer”. In addition, the Mon–Khmer and Proto-Western-Austronesian *səmaŋ “shaman” may also be connected with . Schuessler lists four proposed etymologies: Firstly,  could be the same word as  誣 “to deceive”. Schuessler notes a written Tibetan semantic parallel between “magical power” and “deceive”: sprul-ba “to juggle, make phantoms; miraculous power” cognate with [pʰrul] “magical deception.” ref

“Secondly, wu could be cognate with   “to dance”. Based on analysis of ancient characters, Hopkins proposed that  巫 “shaman”,   “not have; without”, and  舞 “dance”, “can all be traced back to one primitive figure of a man displaying by the gestures of his arms and legs the thaumaturgic powers of his inspired personality”. Many Western Han Dynasty tombs contained jade plaques or pottery images showing “long-sleeved dancers” performing at funerals, whom Erickson identifies as shamans, citing the Shuowen jiezi that early  characters depicted a dancer’s sleeves.” ref

“Thirdly,  could also be cognate with  母 “mother” since , as opposed to  覡, were typically female. Edward Schafer associates  shamanism with fertility rituals. Jensen cites the Japanese sinologist Shirakawa Shizuka 白川静’s hypothesis that the mother of Confucius was a . Fourthly,  could be a loanword from Iranian *maguš “magus; magician” (cf. Old Persian magušAvestan mogu), meaning an “able one; specialist in ritual”. Mair provides archaeological and linguistic evidence that Chinese  < *myag 巫 “shaman; witch, wizard; magician” was a loanword from Old Persian *maguš “magician; magus“. Mair connects the bronze script character for  巫 with the “cross potent” symbol  found in Neolithic West Asia, suggesting the loan of both the symbol and the word.” ref

Early records of wuChinese shamanism

“The oldest written records of wu are Shang Dynasty oracle inscriptions and Zhou Dynasty classical texts. Boileau notes the disparity of these sources. Concerning the historical origin of the wu, we may ask: were they a remnant of an earlier stage of the development of archaic Chinese civilization? The present state of the documentation does not allow such a conclusion for two reasons: first, the most abundant data about the wu are to be found in Eastern Zhou texts; and, second, these texts have little in common with the data originating directly from the Shang civilization; possible ancestors of the Eastern Zhou wu are the cripples and the females burned in sacrifice to bring about rain. They are mentioned in the oracular inscriptions but there is no mention of the Shang character wu. Moreover, because of the scarcity of information, many of the activities of the Zhou wu cannot be traced back to the Shang period. Consequently, trying to correlate Zhou data with Neolithic cultures appears very difficult.” ref

Wu in Shang oracular inscriptions

“Shima lists 58 occurrences of the character wu in concordance of oracle inscriptions: 32 in repeated compounds (most commonly 巫帝 “wu spirit/sacrifice” and 氐巫 “bring the wu) and 26 in miscellaneous contexts. Boileau differentiates four meanings of these oracular wu:

  1. “a spirit, wuof the north or east, to which sacrifices are offered”
  2. “a sacrifice, possibly linked to controlling the wind or meteorology”
  3. “an equivalent for shi筮, a form of divination using achilea”
  4. “a living human being, possibly the name of a person, tribe, place, or territory” ref

“Based on this ancient but limited Shang-era oracular record, it is unclear how or whether the Wu spirit, sacrifice, person, and place were related. The inscriptions about this living wu, which is later identified as “shaman”, reveal six characteristics:

  1. whether the wuis a man or a woman is not known;
  2. it could be either the name for a function or the name of a people (or an individual) coming from a definite territory or nation;
  3. the wu seems to have been in charge of some divinations, (in one instance, divination is linked to a sacrifice of appeasement);
  4. the wu is seen as offering a sacrifice of appeasement but the inscription and the fact that this kind of sacrifice was offered by other persons (the king included) suggests that the wuwas not the person of choice to conduct all the sacrifices of appeasement;
  5. there is only one inscription where a direct link between the king and the wu Nevertheless, the nature of the link is not known, because the status of the wudoes not appear clearly;
  6. he follows (being brought, presumably, to Shang territory or court) the orders of other people; he is perhaps offered to the Shang as a tribute.” ref

Wu in Zhou received texts

“Chinese wu 巫 “shaman” occurs over 300 times in the Chinese classics, which generally date from the late Zhou and early Han periods (6th-1st centuries BCE). The following examples are categorized by the common specializations of wu-shamans: men and women possessed by spirits or gods, and consequently acting as seers and soothsayers, exorcists and physicians; invokers or conjurers bringing down gods at sacrifices, and performing other sacerdotal functions, occasionally indulging also in imprecation, and in sorcery with the help of spirits.” ref

“A single text can describe many roles for wu-shamans. For instance, the Guoyu idealizes their origins in a Golden Age. It contains a story about King Zhao of Chu (r. 515-489 BCE) reading in the Shujing that the sage ruler Shun “commissioned Chong and Li to cut the communication between heaven and earth”. He asks his minister to explain and is told: Anciently, men and spirits did not intermingle. At that time there were certain persons who were so perspicacious, single-minded, and reverential that their understanding enabled them to make meaningful collation of what lies above and below, and their insight to illumine what is distant and profound. Therefore the spirits would descend upon them. The possessors of such powers were, if men, called xi (shamans), and, if women, wu (shamanesses). It is they who supervised the positions of the spirits at the ceremonies, sacrificed to them, and otherwise handled religious matters. As a consequence, the spheres of the divine and the profane were kept distinct. The spirits sent down blessings on the people, and accepted from them their offerings. There were no natural calamities.” ref

“In the degenerate time of [Shaohao] (traditionally put at the twenty-sixth century BCE), however, the Nine Li threw virtue into disorder. Men and spirits became intermingled, with each household indiscriminately performing for itself the religious observances which had hitherto been conducted by the shamans. As a consequence, men lost their reverence for the spirits, the spirits violated the rules of men, and natural calamities arose. Hence the successor of [Shaohao], [Zhuanxu] …, charged [Chong], Governor of the South, to handle the affairs of heaven in order to determine the proper place of the spirits, and Li, Governor of Fire, to handle the affairs of Earth, in order to determine the proper place of men. And such is what is meant by cutting the communication between Heaven and Earth.” ref

Wu-shamans as healers

“The belief that demonic possession caused disease and sickness is well documented in many cultures, including ancient China. The early practitioners of Chinese medicine historically changed from wu 巫 “spirit-mediums; shamans” who used divination, exorcism, and prayer to yi 毉 or 醫 “doctors; physicians” who used herbal medicine, moxibustion, and acupuncture. As mentioned above, wu 巫 “shaman” was depicted in the ancient 毉 variant character for yi 醫 “healer; doctor”. This archaic yi 毉, writes Carr, “ideographically depicted a shaman-doctor in the act of exorcistical healing with (矢 ‘arrows’ in) a 医 ‘quiver’, a 殳 ‘hand holding a lance’, and a wu 巫 ‘shaman’.” Unschuld believes this 毉 character depicts the type of wu practitioner described in the Liji.” ref

“Several times a year, and also during certain special occasions, such as the funeral of a prince, hordes of exorcists would race shrieking through the city streets, enter the courtyards and homes, thrusting their spears into the air, in an attempt to expel the evil creatures. Prisoners were dismembered outside all gates to the city, to serve both as a deterrent to the demons and as an indication of their fate should they be captured. Replacing the exorcistical 巫 “shaman” in 毉 with medicinal 酒 “wine” in yi 醫 “healer; doctor” signified, writes Schiffeler, “the practice of medicine was not any longer confined to the incantations of the wu, but that it had been taken over (from an official standpoint) by the “priest-physicians,” who administered elixirs or wines as treatments for their patients.” ref

“Wu and yi are compounded in the word wuyi 巫醫 “shaman-doctor; shamans and doctors”, translated “exorcising physician”, “sorcerer-physician”, or “physician-shaman”. Confucius quotes a “Southern Saying” that a good wuyi must have heng  “constancy; ancient tradition; continuation; perseverance; regularity; proper name (e.g., Yijing Hexagram 32)”. The (ca. 5th century BCE) Lunyu “Confucian Analects” and the (ca. 1st century BCE) Liji “Record of Rites” give different versions of the Southern Saying.” ref

“First, the Lunyu quotes Confucius to mention the saying and refer to the Heng Hexagram: The Master said, The men of the south have a saying, Without stability a man will not even make a good shaman or witch-doctor. Well said! Of the maxim; if you do not stabilize an act of te 德, you will get evil by it (instead of good), the Master said, They (i.e. soothsayers) do not simply read the omens. Confucius refers to a Yijing line interpretation of the Heng “Duration” Hexagram: “Nine in the third place means: He who does not give duration to his character meets with disgrace.” In Waley’s earlier article about the Yijing, he translated “If you do not stabilize your “virtue,” Disgrace will overtake you”, and quoted the Lunyu.” ref

“The people of the south have a saying, ‘It takes heng to make even a soothsayer or medicine-man.’ It’s quite true. ‘If you do not stabilize your virtue, disgrace will overtake you’.” Confucius adds 不占而已矣, which has completely baffled his interpreters. Surely the meaning is ‘It is not enough merely to get an omen,’ one must also heng ‘stabilize it’. And if such a rule applies even to inferior arts like those of the diviner and medicine-man, Confucius asks, how much the more does it apply to the seeker after [de] in the moral sense? Surely he too must ‘make constant’ his initial striving! Second, the Liji quotes Confucius to elaborate upon the Southern Saying.” ref

“The Master said, ‘The people of the south have a saying that “A man without constancy cannot be a diviner either with the tortoise-shell or the stalks.” This was probably a saying handed down from antiquity. If such a man cannot know the tortoise-shell and stalks, how much less can he know other men? It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, v, ode 1, 3) “Our tortoise-shells are wearied out, And will not tell us anything about the plans.” The Charge to [Yue] says ([Shujing], IV, VIII, sect. 2, 5, 11), “Dignities should not be conferred on men of evil practices. (If they be), how can the people set themselves to correct their ways? If this be sought merely by sacrifices, it will be disrespectful (to the spirits). When affairs come to be troublesome, there ensues disorder; when the spirits are served so, difficulties ensue.” ‘It is said in the [Yijing], “When one does not continuously maintain his virtue, some will impute it to him as a disgrace; (in the position indicated in the Hexagram.) ‘When one does maintain his virtue continuously (in the other position indicated), this will be fortunate in a wife, but in a husband evil.” ref

“This Liji version makes five changes from the Lunyu. (1) It writes bushi 卜筮 “diviner” instead of wuyi 巫醫 “shaman-doctor”, compounding bu “divine by bone or shell, scapulimancy or plastromancy” and shi (also with “shaman”) “divine by milfoil stalks, cleromancy or sortilege”. (2) Instead of quoting Confucius to remark “well said!”; he describes the southern proverb as “probably a saying handed down from antiquity” and rhetorically questions the efficacy of divination. (3) The Liji correctly quotes the Shijing criticizing royal diviners: “Our tortoises are (satiated =) weary, they do not tell us the (proper) plans.” (4) It quotes the “Charge to Yue” 說命 (traditionally attributed to Shang king Wu Ding) differently from the fabricated Guwen “Old Texts” Shujing “Classic of History” chapter with this name.” ref

“Dignities may not be conferred on man of evil practices, but only on men of worth. Anxious thought about what will be good should precede your movements. Your movements also should have respect to the time for them. … Officiousness in sacrifices is called irreverence; ceremonies when burdensome lead to disorder. To serve the spirits in this way is difficult. (5) It cites an additional Yijing Hexagram 32 line that gender determines the auspiciousness of heng. “Six in the fifth place means: Giving duration to one’s character through perseverance. This is good fortune for a woman, misfortune for a man.” ref

“The mytho-geography Shanhaijing “Classic of Mountains and Seas” associates wu-shamans with medicinal herbs. East of the Openbright there are Shaman Robust, Shaman Pushaway, Shaman Sunny, Shaman Shoe, Shaman Every, and Shaman Aide. They are all on each side of the corpse of Notch Flaw and they hold the neverdie drug to ward off decay. There is Mount Divinepower. This is where Shaman Whole, Shaman Reach, Shaman Share, Shaman Robust, Shaman Motherinlaw, Shaman Real, Shaman Rite, Shaman Pushaway, ShamanTakeleave, and Shaman Birdnet ascend to the sky and come down from Mount Divinepower. This is where the hundred drugs are to be found.” ref

“Shaman Whole” translates Wu Xian 巫咸 below. Boileau contrasts Siberian and Chinese shamanic medicines. Concerning healing, a comparison of the wu and the Siberian shaman shows a big difference: in Siberia, the shaman is also in charge of cures and healing, but he does this by identifying the spirit responsible for the disease and negotiates the proper way to appease him (or her), for example by offering a sacrifice or food on a regular basis. In archaic China, this role is performed through sacrifice: exorcism by the wu does not seem to result in a sacrifice but is aimed purely and simply at expelling the evil spirit.” ref

Wu-shamans as rainmakers

“Wu anciently served as intermediaries with nature spirits believed to control rainfall and flooding. During a droughtwu-shamans would perform the yu  “sacrificial rain dance ceremony”. If that failed, both wu and wang  “cripple; lame person; emaciated person” engaged in “ritual exposure” rainmaking techniques based upon homeopathic or sympathetic magic. As Unschuld explains, “Shamans had to carry out an exhausting dance within a ring of fire until, sweating profusely, the falling drops of perspirations produced the desired rain.” These wu and wang procedures were called pu / “expose to open air/sun”, fen  “burn; set on fire”, and pulu 暴露 “reveal; lay bare; expose to open air/sun.” ref

“For the year 639 BCE, the Chunqiu records, “In summer, there was a great drought” in Lu, and the Zuozhuan notes a discussion about fen wu wang 焚巫尪: The duke (Xi) wanted to burn a wu and a cripple at the stake. Zang Wenzhong 臧文仲 said: this is no preparation for the drought. Repair the city walls, limit your food, be economic in your consumption, be parsimonious and advise (people) to share (the food), this is what must be done. What use would be wu and cripple? If Heaven wanted to have them killed, why were they born at all? If they (the cripple and the wu) could produce drought, burning them would augment very much (the disaster). The duke followed this advice, and subsequently “scarcity was not very great.” ref

“The Liji uses the words puwang 暴尪 and puwu 暴巫 to describe a similar rainmaking ritual during the reign (407-375 BCE) of Duke Mu 穆公 of Lu. There was a drought during the year. Duke Mu called on Xianzi and asked him about the reason for this. He said: ‘Heaven has not (given us) rain in a long time. I want to expose to the sun a cripple and what about that?’ (Xianzi) said: ‘Heaven has not (given us) rain in a long time but to expose to the sun the crippled son of somebody, that would be cruel. No, this cannot be allowed.’ (the duke said): ‘Well, then I want to expose to the sun a wu and what about that?’ (Xianzi) answered: ‘Heaven has not (given us) rain in a long time but to put one’s hope on an ignorant woman and offer her to pray (for rain), no, this is too far (from reason).” ref

“Commentators interpret the wu as a female shaman and the wang as a male cripple. De Groot connects the Zuozhuan and Liji stories about ritually burning wu. These two narratives evidently are different readings of one, and may both be inventions; nevertheless they have their value as sketches of ancient idea and custom. Those ‘infirm or unsound’ wang were non-descript individuals, evidently placed somewhat on a line with the wu; perhaps they were queer hags or beldams, deformed beings, idiotic or crazy, or nervously affected to a very high degree, whose strange demeanour was ascribed to possession.” ref

Wu-shamans as oneiromancers

Oneiromancy or dream interpretation was one type of divination performed by wu 巫. The Zuozhuan records two stories about wu interpreting the guilty dreams of murderers. First, in 581 BCE the lord of Jin, who had slain two officers from the Zhao (趙) family, had a nightmare about their ancestral spirit, and called upon an unnamed wu “shaman” from Sangtian 桑田 and a yi “doctor” named Huan 緩 from Qin. The marquis of [Jin] saw in a dream a great demon with disheveled hair reaching to the ground, which beat its breast, and leaped up, saying: “You have slain my descendants unrighteously, and I have presented my request to the High God in consequence.” It then broke the great gate (of the palace), advanced to the gate of the State chamber, and entered. The duke was afraid and went into a side-chamber, the door of which it also broke. The duke then awoke, and called the witch of [Sangtian], who told him everything which he had dreamt. “What will be the issue?” asked the duke. “You will not taste the new wheat,” she replied.” ref

“After this, the duke became very ill, and asked the services of a physician from [Qin], the earl of which sent the physician [Huan] to do what he could for him. Before he came, the duke dreamt that his disease turned into two boys, who said, “That is a skilful physician; it is to be feared he will hurt us; how shall we get out of his way?” Then one of them said: “If we take our place above the heart and below the throat, what can he do to us?” When the physician arrived, he said, “Nothing can be done for this disease. Its seat is above the heart and below the throat. If I assail it (with medicine), it will be of no use; if I attempt to puncture it, it cannot be reached. Nothing can be done for it.” The duke said, “He is a skilful physician”, gave him large gifts, and send him back to [Qin].” ref

“In the sixth month, on the day [bingwu], the marquis wished to taste the new wheat, and made the superintendent of his fields present some. While the baker was getting it ready, [the marquis] called the witch of [Sangtian], showed her the wheat and put her to death. As the marquis was about to taste the wheat, he felt it necessary to go to the privy, into which he fell, and so died. One of the servants that waited on him had dreamt in the morning that he carried the marquis on his back up to heaven. The same at mid-day carried him on his back out from the privy, and was afterwards buried alive with him.” ref

“Commentators have attempted to explain why the wu merely interpreted the duke’s dream but did not perform a healing ritual or exorcism, and why the duke waited until the prediction had failed before ordering the execution. Boileau suggests the wu was executed in presumed responsibility for the Zhao ancestral spirit’s attack. Second, in 552 BCE a wu named Gao 皋 both appears in and divines about a dream of Zhongxing Xianzi. After conspiring in the murder of Duke Li of Jin, Zhongxing dreams that the duke’s spirit gets revenge.” ref

“In autumn, the marquis of [Jin] invaded our northern border. [Zhongxing Xianzi] prepared to invade [Qi]. (Just then), he dreamt that he was maintaining a suit with duke [Li], in which the case was going against him, when the duke struck him with a [ge] on his head, which fell down before him. He took his head up, put it on his shoulders, and ran off, when he saw the wizard [Gao] of [Gengyang]. A day or two after, it happened that he did see this [Gao] on the road, and told him his dream, and the wizard, who had had the same dream, said to him: “Your death is to happen about this time; but if you have business in the east, you will there be successful [first]”. Xianzi accepted this interpretation.” ref

“Boileau questions: why wasn’t the wu asked by Zhongxin to expel the spirit of the duke? Perhaps because the spirit went through him to curse the officer. Could it be that the wu was involved (his involvement is extremely strong in this affair) in a kind of deal, or is it simply that the wu was aware of two different matters concerning the officer, only one connected to the dream? According to these two stories, wu were feared and considered dangerous. This attitude is also evident in a Zhuangzi story about the shenwu 神巫 “spirit/god shaman” Jixian 季咸 from Zheng. In [Zheng], there was a shaman of the gods named [Jixian]. He could tell whether men would live or die, survive or perish, be fortunate or unfortunate, live a long time or die young, and he would predict the year, month, week, and day as though he were a god himself. When the people of [Zheng] saw him, they all ran out of his way. “As soothsayers.” writes de Groot, “the wu in ancient China no doubt held a place of great importance.” ref

Wu-shamans as officials

“Sinological controversies have arisen over the political importance of wu 巫 in ancient China. Some scholars believe Chinese wu used “techniques of ecstasy” like shamans elsewhere; others believe wu were “ritual bureaucrats” or “moral metaphysicians” who did not engage in shamanistic practices. Chen Mengjia wrote a seminal article that proposed Shang kings were wu-shamans.” ref

“In the oracle bone inscriptions are often encountered inscriptions stating that the king divined or that the king inquired in connections with wind- or rain-storms, rituals, conquests, or hunts. There are also statements that “the king made the prognostication that …,” pertaining to weather, the border regions, or misfortunes and diseases; the only prognosticator ever recorded in the oracle bone inscriptions was the king … There are, in addition, inscriptions describing the king dancing to pray for rain and the king prognosticating about a dream. All of these were activities of both king and shaman, which means in effect that the king was a shaman.” ref

“Chen’s shaman-king hypothesis was supported by Kwang-chih Chang who cited the Guoyu story about Shao Hao severing heaven-earth communication (above). This myth is the most important textual reference to shamanism in ancient China, and it provides the crucial clue to understanding the central role of shamanism in ancient Chinese politics. Heaven is where all the wisdom of human affairs lies. … Access to that wisdom was, of course, requisite for political authority. In the past, everybody had had that access through the shamans. Since heaven had been severed from earth, only those who controlled that access had the wisdom – hence the authority – to rule. Shamans, therefore, were a crucial part of every state court; in fact, scholars of ancient China agree that the king himself was actually head shaman.” ref

“Some modern scholars disagree. For instance, Boileau calls Chen’s hypothesis “somewhat antiquated being based more on an a priori approach than on history” and says, In the case of the relationship between wu and wang [king], Chen Mengjia did not pay sufficient attention to what the king was able to do as a king, that is to say, to the parts of the king’s activities in which the wu was not involved, for example, political leadership as such, or warfare. The process of recognition must also be taken into account: it is probable that the wu was chosen or acknowledged as such according to different criteria to those adopted for the king. Chen’s concept of the king as the head wu was influenced by Frazer‘s theories about the origin of political power: for Frazer the king was originally a powerful sorcerer.” ref

“The Shujing “Classic of History” lists Wu Xian 巫咸 and Wu Xian 巫賢 as capable administrators of the Shang royal household. The Duke of Zhou tells Prince Shao 召 that: I have heard that of ancient time, when King Tang had received the favoring decree, he had with him Yi Yin, making his virtue like that of great Heaven. Tai Jia, again, had Bao Heng. Tai Wu had Yi Zhi and Chen Hu, through whom his virtue was made to affect God; he had also [巫咸] Wu Xian, who regulated the royal house; Zu Yi had [巫賢] Wu Xian. Wu Ding had Gan Pan. These ministers carried out their principles and effected their arrangements, preserving and regulating the empire of [Shang], so that, while its ceremonies lasted, those sovereigns, though deceased, were assessors to Heaven, while it extended over many years.” ref

“According to Boileau, In some texts, Wu Xian senior is described as being in charge of the divination using [shi 筮] achilea. He was apparently made a high god in the kingdom of Qin 秦 during the Warring States period. The Tang subcommentary interprets the character wu of Wu Xian father and son as being a cognomen, the name of the clan from which the two Xian came. It is possible that in fact the text referred to two Shang ministers, father and son, coming from the same eponymous territory wu. Perhaps, later, the name (wu 巫) of these two ministers has been confused with the character wu (巫) as employed in other received texts.” ref

“Wu-shamans participated in court scandals and dynastic rivalries under Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141-87 BCE), particularly regarding the crime of wugu 巫蠱 (with gu “venom-based poison”) “sorcery; casting harmful spells”. In 130 BCE, Empress Chen Jiao was convicted of using shamans from Yue to conduct wugu magic. She “was dismissed from her position and a total of 300 persons who were involved in the case were executed”, their heads were cut off and exposed on stakes. In 91 BCE, an attempted coup against crown prince Liu Ju involved accusations of practicing wugu, and subsequently “no less than nine long months of bloody terrorism, ending in a tremendous slaughter, cost some tens of thousands their lives!.” ref

“Ever since Emperor Wu of Han established Confucianism as the state religion, the ruling classes have shown increasing prejudice against shamanism. Some modern writers view the traditional Confucianist disdain for female shamans as sexism. Schafer wrote: In the opinion of the writer, the Chou ruling class was particularly hostile to women in government, and regarded the ancient fertility rites as impure. This anti-female tendency was even more marked in the state of Lu, where Confucius approved of the official rain-ceremony in which men alone participated. There was, within ancient China, a heterogeneity of culture areas, with female shamans favored in some, males in others. The “licentiousness” of the ceremonies of such a state as Cheng (doubtless preserving the ancient Shang traditions and customs) was a byword among Confucian moralists. Confucius’ state seems on the other hand to have taken the “respectable” attitude that the sexes should not mingle in the dance, and that men were the legitimate performers of the fertility rites. The general practice of the later Chou period, or at least the semi-idealized picture given of the rites of that time in such books as the Chou li, apparently prescribed a division of magical functions between men and women. The former generally play the role of exorcists, the latter of petitioners. This is probably related to the metaphysical belief that women, embodying the principle yin, were akin to the spirits, whereas men, exemplifying the element yang, were naturally hostile to them.” ref

“Accepting the tradition that Chinese shamans were women (i.e., wu 巫 “shamaness” as opposed to xi 覡 “shaman”), Kagan believes: One of the main themes in Chinese history is the unsuccessful attempt by the male Confucian orthodoxy to strip women of their public and sacred powers and to limit them to a role of service … Confucianists reasserted daily their claim to power and authority through the promotion of the phallic ancestor cult which denied women religious representation and excluded them from the governmental examination system which was the path to office, prestige, and status. In addition, Unschuld refers to a “Confucian medicine” based upon systematic correspondences and the idea that illnesses are caused by excesses (rather than demons).” ref

“The Zhouli provides detailed information about the roles of wu-shamans. It lists, “Spirit Mediums as officials on the payroll of the Zhou Ministry of Rites (Liguan 禮官, or Ministry of Spring, Chun guan 春官).” This text differentiates three offices: the Siwu 司巫 “Manager/Director of Shamans”, Nanwu 男巫 “Male Shamans”, and Nüwu 女巫 “Female Shamans”. The managerial Siwu, who was of Shi 士 “Gentleman; Yeoman” feudal rank, yet was not a wu, supervised “the many wu.” ref

“The Managers of the Spirit Mediums are in charge of the policies and orders issued to the many Spirit Mediums. When the country suffers a great drought, they lead the Spirit Mediums in dancing the rain-making ritual (yu 雩). When the country suffers a great calamity, they lead the Spirit Mediums in enacting the long-standing practices of Spirit Mediums (wuheng 巫恆). At official sacrifices, they [handle] the ancestral tablets in their receptacles, the cloth on which the spirits walk, and the box containing the reeds [for presenting the sacrificial foodstuffs]. In all official sacrificial services, they guard the place where the offerings are buried. In all funerary services, they are in charge of the rituals by which the Spirit Mediums make [the spirits] descend (jiang 降).” ref

“The Nanwu and Nüwu have different shamanic specializations, especially regarding inauspicious events like sickness, death, and natural disaster. The Male Spirit Mediums are in charge of the si 祀 and yan 衍 Sacrifices to the Deities of the Mountains and Rivers. They receive the honorific titles [of the deities], which they proclaim into the [four] directions, holding reeds. In the winter, in the great temple hall, they offer [or: shoot arrows] without a fixed direction and without counting the number. In the spring, they make proclamations and issue bans so as to remove sickness and disease. When the king offers condolence, they together with the invocators precede him.” ref

“The Female Mediums are in charge of anointing and ablutions at the exorcisms that are held at regular times throughout the year. When there is a drought or scorching heat, they dance in the rain-making ritual (yu). When the queen offers condolence, they together with the invocators precede her. In all great calamities of the state, they pray, singing and wailing. (part 26)” ref

“Von Falkenhausen concludes: If we are to generalize from the above enumeration, we find that the Spirit Mediums’ principal functions are tied up with averting evil and pollution. They are especially active under circumstances of inauspiciousness and distress. In case of droughts and calamities, they directly address the supernatural powers of Heaven and Earth. Moreover, they are experts in dealing with frightful, dangerous ghosts (the ghosts of the defunct at the time of the funeral, the evil spirits at the exorcism, and the spirits of disease) and harmful substances (unburied dead bodies during visits of condolence and all manner of impure things at the lustration festival).” ref

Chu CiChu Ci

“The poetry anthology Chu Ci, especially its older pieces, is largely characterized by its shamanic content and style, as explicated to some extent by sinologist David Hawkespassim]]). Among other points of interest are the intersection of Shamanic traditions and mythology/folk religion in the earlier textual material, such as Tianwen (possibly based on even more ancient shamanic temple murals), the whole question of the interpretation of the 11 verses of the Jiu Ge (Nine Songs) as the libretto of a shamanic dramatic performance, the motif of shamanic spirit flight from Li Sao through subsequent pieces, the evidence of possible regional variations in wu shamanism between ChuWeiQi, and other states (or shamanic colleges associated with those regions), and the suggestion that some of the newer textual material was modified to please Han Wudi, by Liu An, the Prince of Huainan, or his circle. The Chu Ci contents have traditionally been chronologically divided into an older, pre-Han dynasty group, and those written during the Han Dynasty. Of the traditionally-considered to be the older works (omitting the mostly prose narratives, “Bu Ju” and “Yu Fu“) David Hawkes considers the following sections to be “functional, explicitly shamanistic”: Jiu GeTian Wen, and the two shamanic summons for the soul, “The Great Summons” and “Summons of the Soul“. Regarding the other, older pieces he considers that “shamanism, if there is any” to be an incidental poetic device, particularly in the form of descriptions of the shamanic spirit journey.” ref


“The mainstream of Chinese literacy and literature is associated with the shell and bone oracular inscriptions from recovered archeological artifacts from the Shang dynasty and with the literary works of the Western Zhou dynasty, which include the classic Confucian works. Both are associated with the northern Chinese areas. South of the traditional Shang and Zhou areas was the land (and water) of Chu. Politically and to some extent culturally distinct from the Zhou dynasty and its later 6 devolved hegemonic states, Chu was the original source and inspiration for the poems anthologized during the Han dynasty under the title Chu Ci, literally meaning something like “the literary material of Chu.” ref

“Despite the tendency of Confucian-oriented government officials to suppress wu shamanic beliefs and practice, in the general area of Chinese culture, the force of colonial conservatism and the poetic voice of Qu Yuan and other poets combined to contribute an established literary tradition heavily influenced by wu shamanism to posterity. Shamanic practices as described anthropologically are generally paralleled by descriptions of wu practices as found in the Chu Ci, and in Chinese mythology more generally.” ref

Li SaoYuan You, and Jiu BianLi SaoYuan You, and Jiu Bian

“The signature poem of the Chu Ci is the poem Li Sao. By China’s “first poet”, Qu Yuan, a major literary device of the poem is the shamanic spirit journey. “Yuan You“, literally “The Far-off Journey” features shamanic spirit flight as a literary device, as does Jiu Bian, as part of its climactic ending. In the Li Sao, two individual shaman are specified, Ling Fen (靈氛) and Wu Xian (巫咸). This Wu Xian may or may not be the same as the (one or more) historical person(s) named Wu Xian. Hawkes suggests an equation of the word ling in the Chu dialect with the word wu.” ref

Questioning Heaven: Heavenly Questions

“The Heavenly Questions (literally “Questioning Heaven”) is one of the ancient repositories of Chinese myth and a major cultural legacy. Propounded as a series of questions, the poem provides insight and provokes questions about the role of wu shaman practitioners in society and history.” ref

Jiu GeJiu Ge

“The Jiu Ge may be read as the lyrical preservation of a shamanic dramatic performance. Apparently typical of at least one variety of shamanism of the Chu area of the Yangzi River basin, the text exhibits a marked degree of eroticism in connection with shamanic invocations.” ref

Summoning the soulHun and po

“Summoning the soul (hun) of the possibly dead was a feature of ancient culture. The 2 Chu Ci pieces of this type may be authentic transcriptions of such a process.” ref

Individual wu shaman 

“Various individual wu shaman are alluded to in the Chu Ci. In some cases the binomial nomenclature is unclear, referring perhaps to one or two persons; for example, in the case of Peng Xian, who appears likely to represent Wu Peng and Wu Xian, which is a common type of morphological construction in Classical Chinese poetry. David Hawkes refers to some wu shaman as “Shaman Ancestors”. Additionally, the distinction between humans and transcendent divinities tends not to be explicit in the received Chu Ci text. In some cases, the individual wu shaman are known from other sources, such as the Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas). The name of some individual shaman includes “Wu” (巫) in the normal position of the family surname, for example, in the case of Wu Yang (巫陽, “Shaman Bright”). Wu Yang is the major speaker in Zhao Hun/Summons for the Soul. He also appears in Shanhaijing together with Wu Peng (巫彭): 6 wu shaman are depicted together reviving a corpse, with Wu Peng holding the Herb of Immortality.” ref

“In the Li Sao, two individual shaman are specified: Ling Fen (靈氛) and Wu Xian (巫咸). This Wu Xian may or may not be the same as the (one or more) historical person(s) named Wu Xian. Hawkes suggests an equation of the word ling in the Chu dialect with the word wu. In Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas), the name of some individual shaman includes “Wu” (巫) in the normal position of the family surname, for example, in the case of the following list, where the 6 are depicted together reviving a corpse, with Wu Peng holding the Herb of Immortality. Wu Peng and Wu Yang and others are also known from the Chu Ci poetry anthology. Wu Yang is the major speaker in Zhao Hun (also known as, Summons for the Soul).” ref

“From Hawkes:

  • The six shamans receiving a corpse: Wu Yang (巫陽, “Shaman Bright”), Wu Peng (巫彭), Wu Di (巫抵), Wu Li (巫履) [Tang reconstruction *Lǐ, Hanyu Pinyin Lǚ], Wu Fan (巫凡), Wu Xiang (巫相)
  • Ten other individuals named Wuin Shanhaijing: Wu Xian (巫咸), Wu Ji (巫即), Wu Fen (or Ban) (巫肦), Wu Peng (巫彭), Wu Gu (巫姑), Wu Zhen (巫真), Wu Li (巫禮), Wu Di (巫抵), Wu Xie (巫謝), Wu Luo (巫羅).” ref

“ModernChinese folk religion

Aspects of Chinese folk religion are sometimes associated with “shamanism”. De Groot provided descriptions and pictures of hereditary shamans in Fujian, called saigong (pinyin shigong) 師公. Paper analyzed tongji mediumistic activities in the Taiwanese village of Bao’an 保安. Shamanistic practices of Tungusic peoples are also found in China. Most notably, the Manchu Qing dynasty introduced Tungusic shamanistic practice as part of their official cult (see Shamanism in the Qing dynasty). Other remnants of Tungusic shamanism are found within the territory of the People’s Republic of China. documented Chuonnasuan (1927–2000), the last shaman of the Oroqen in northeast China.” ref

Chinese shamanism

Chinese shamanism, alternatively called Wuism (Chinese: 巫教; pinyinwū jiàolit. ‘wu religion, shamanismwitchcraft‘; alternatively 巫觋宗教 wū xí zōngjiào), refers to the shamanic religious tradition of China. Its features are especially connected to the ancient Neolithic cultures such as the Hongshan culture. Chinese shamanic traditions are intrinsic to Chinese folk religion. Various ritual traditions are rooted in original Chinese shamanism: contemporary Chinese ritual masters are sometimes identified as wu by outsiders, though most orders don’t self-identify as such. Also Taoism has some of its origins from Chinese shamanism: it developed around the pursuit of long life (shou 壽/寿), or the status of a xian (仙, “mountain man”, “holy man”).” ref

“The Chinese word wu 巫 “shaman, wizard”, indicating a person who can mediate with the powers generating things (the etymological meaning of “spirit”, “god”, or nomen agentisvirtusenergeia), was first recorded during the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600-1046 BCE), when a wu could be either sex. During the late Zhou dynasty (1045-256 BCE) wu was used to specify “female shaman; sorceress” as opposed to xi 覡 “male shaman; sorcerer” (which first appears in the 4th century BCE Guoyu). Other sex-differentiated shaman names include nanwu 男巫 for “male shaman; sorcerer; wizard”; and nüwu 女巫, wunü 巫女, wupo 巫婆, and wuyu 巫嫗 for “female shaman; sorceress; witch”. The word tongji 童乩 (lit. “youth diviner”) “shaman; spirit-medium” is a near-synonym of wu. Modern Chinese distinguishes native wu from “Siberian shaman“: saman 薩滿 or saman 薩蠻; and from Indian Shramana “wandering monk; ascetic”: shamen 沙門, sangmen 桑門, or sangmen 喪門.” ref

Berthold Laufer (1917:370) proposed an etymological relation between Mongolian bügä “shaman”, Turkic bögü “shaman”, Chinese buwu (shaman), bukpuk (to divine), and Tibetan aba (pronounced ba, sorcerer). Coblin (1986:107) puts forward a Sino-Tibetan root *mjaɣ “magician; sorcerer” for Chinese wu < mju < *mjag 巫 “magician; shaman” and Written Tibetan ‘ba’-po “sorcerer” and ‘ba’-mo “sorcereress” (of the Bön religion). Further connections are to the bu-mo priests of Zhuang Shigongism and the bi-mo priests of Bimoism, the Yi indigenous faith. Also Korean mu 무 (of Muism) is cognate to Chinese wu 巫. Schuessler lists some etymologies: wu could be cognate with wu 舞 “to dance”; wu could also be cognate with mu 母 “mother” since wu, as opposed to xi 覡, were typically female; wu could be a loanword from Iranian *maghu or *maguš “magi; magician”, meaning an “able one; specialist in ritual”. Mair (1990) provides archaeological and linguistic evidence that Chinese wu < *myag 巫 “shaman; witch, wizard; magician” was maybe a loanword from Old Persian *maguš “magician; magi“. Mair connects the nearly identical Chinese Bronze script for wu and Western heraldic cross potent , an ancient symbol of a magus or magician, which etymologically descend from the same Indo-European root.” ref

Early history

“The Chinese religion from the Shang dynasty onwards developed around ancestral worship. The main gods from this period are not forces of nature in the Sumerian way, but deified virtuous men. The ancestors of the emperors were called di (帝), and the greatest of them was called Shangdi (上帝, “the Highest Lord”). He is identified with the dragon (Kui 夔), symbol of the universal power (qi).” ref

“Cosmic powers dominate nature: the Sun, the Moon, stars, winds and clouds were considered informed by divine energies. The earth god is She (社) or Tu (土). The Shang period had two methods to enter in contact with divine ancestors: the first is the numinous-mystical wu (巫) practice, involving dances and trances; and the second is the method of the oracle bones, a rational way. The Zhou dynasty, succeeding the Shang, was more rooted in an agricultural worldview. They opposed the ancestor-gods of the Shang, and gods of nature became dominant. The utmost power in this period was named Tian (天, “heaven”). With Di (地, “earth”) he forms the whole cosmos in a complementary duality.” ref

Qing periodShamanism in the Qing dynasty

“The Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty (1636–1912) introduced substantial elements of Tungusic shamanism to China. Hong Taiji (1592–1643) put shamanistic practices in the service of the state, notably by forbidding others to erect new shrines (tangse) for ritual purposes. In the 1620s and 1630s, the Qing ruler conducted shamanic sacrifices at the tangse of Mukden, the Qing capital. In 1644, as soon as the Qing seized Beijing to begin their conquest of China, they named it their new capital and erected an official shamanic shrine there. In the Beijing tangse and in the women’s quarters of the Forbidden City, Qing emperors and professional shamans (usually women) conducted shamanic ceremonies until the abdication of the dynasty in 1912.” ref

“In 1747 the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) commissioned the publication of a Shamanic Code to revive and regulate shamanic practices, which he feared were becoming lost. He had it distributed to Bannermen to guide their practice, but we know very little about the effect of this policy. Mongols and Han Chinese were forbidden to attend shamanic ceremonies. Partly because of their secret aspect, these rituals attracted the curiosity of Beijing dwellers and visitors to the Qing capital. French Jesuit Joseph-Marie Amiot published a study on the Shamanic Code, “Rituels des Tartares Mandchous déterminés et fixés par l’empereur comme chef de sa religion” (1773). In 1777 the Qianlong Emperor ordered the code translated into Chinese for inclusion in the Siku quanshu. The Manchu version was printed in 1778, whereas the Chinese-language edition, titled Qinding Manzhou jishen jitian dianli (欽定滿洲祭神祭天典禮), was completed in 1780 or 1782. Even though this “Shamanic Code” did not fully unify shamanic practice among the Bannermen, it “helped systematize and reshape what had been a very fluid and diverse belief system.” ref

Northeast shamanism: Northeast China folk religion

“Shamanism is practiced in Northeast China and is considered different from those of central and southern Chinese folk religion, as it resulted from the interaction of Han religion with folk religion practices of other Tungusic people such as Manchu shamanism. The shaman would perform various ritual functions for groups of believers and local communities, such as moon drum dance and chūmǎxiān (出馬仙 “riding for the immortals”).” ref

“Shamanism saw a decline due to Neo-Confucianism labeling it as untutored and disorderly. This was furthered in the 19th century with the arrival of Western imperialism’s view of shamanism as superstition, opposing their view of science and western religion. The final hit was Maoist China causing all religious practices to disappear from public spaces. While spirit mediums have begun reappearing (mostly in rural China) since the 1980’s, they operate with a low profile, often working from their homes, relying on word of mouth to generate business, or in newly built temples under a Taoist Association membership card to be legitimate under the law. The term shamanism and the religion itself has been critiqued by Western scholars due to an unfair and limited comparison to more favored religions such as Christianity and other modern and more documented religions in Western society.” ref

“Today, the term shamanism has a somewhat negative stigma.  Spirit mediums are often viewed as scammers, and are frequently portrayed as such in television shows and comedies. Along with the focus on science, modern medicine, and material culture in China (which created serious doubt in spiritual practices), shamanism is viewed as an opposition to the modern focus of science and medicine in the pursuit of modernizing. The marginalization of shamanism is one of the reasons for it mostly being practiced in rural or less developed areas or in small towns, along with the lack of enforcement of anti-shamanism policies among authorities in rural areas (either because they believe in Shamanism themselves or “look the other way in concession to local beliefs”). Shamanistic practices today include controlling the weather, healing diseases modern medicine can not treat, exorcism of ghosts and demons, and seeing or divining the future.” ref

“Shamanism’s decrease in popularity is not reflected in all areas. It still maintains popularity in many areas in southern China (such as in Chaoshan) and rural northern China. Taiwan (although Taiwan tried to ban Shamanism, in the end only restricting it) still have many who openly practice without the stigma seen in other parts of China.” ref

Homo neanderthalensis emerged in Eurasia between 600,000 and 350,000 years ago as the earliest body of European people that left behind a substantial tradition, a set of evaluable historic data through a rich fossil record in Europe’s limestone caves and a patchwork of occupation sites over large areas. These include Mousterian cultural assemblages. Modern humans arrived in Mediterranean Europe during the Upper Paleolithic between 45,000 and 43,000 years ago, and both species occupied a common habitat for several thousand years. Research has so far produced no universally accepted conclusive explanation as to what caused the Neanderthal’s extinction between 40,000 and 28,000 years ago.” ref

“Homo sapiens arrived in Europe around 45,000 and 43,000 years ago via the Levant and entered the continent through the Danubian corridor, as the fossils at Peștera cu Oase suggest. The fossils’ genetic structure indicates a recent Neanderthal ancestry and the discovery of a fragment of a skull in Israel in 2008 support the notion that humans interbred with Neanderthals in the Levant. After the slow processes of the previous hundreds of thousands of years, a turbulent period of Neanderthal–Homo sapiens coexistence demonstrated that cultural evolution had replaced biological evolution as the primary force of adaptation and change in human societies.” ref

“Generally, small and widely dispersed fossil sites suggest that Neanderthals lived in less numerous and more socially isolated groups than Homo sapiens. Tools and Levallois points are remarkably sophisticated from the outset, but they have a slow rate of variability, and general technological inertia is noticeable during the entire fossil period. Artifacts are of utilitarian nature, and symbolic behavioral traits are undocumented before the arrival of modern humans. The Aurignacian culture, introduced by modern humans, is characterized by cut bone or antler points, fine flint blades, and bladelets struck from prepared cores, rather than using crude flakes. The oldest examples and subsequent widespread tradition of prehistoric art originate from the Aurignacian.” ref

“After more than 100,000 years of uniformity, around 45,000 years ago, the Neanderthal fossil record changed abruptly. The Mousterian had quickly become more versatile and was named the Chatelperronian culture, which signifies the diffusion of Aurignacian elements into Neanderthal culture. Although debated, the fact proved that Neanderthals had, to some extent, adopted the culture of modern Homo sapiens. However, the Neanderthal fossil record completely vanished after 40,000 years BCE. Whether Neanderthals were also successful in diffusing their genetic heritage into Europe’s future population or they simply went extinct and, if so, what caused the extinction cannot conclusively be answered.ref

“Around 32,000 years ago, the Gravettian culture appeared in the Crimean Mountains (southern Ukraine). By 24,000 BCE, the Solutrean and Gravettian cultures were present in Southwestern Europe. Gravettian technology and culture have been theorized to have come with migrations of people from the Middle East, Anatolia, and the Balkans, and might be linked with the transitional cultures mentioned earlier since their techniques have some similarities and are both very different from Aurignacian ones, but this issue is very obscure. The Gravettian also appeared in the Caucasus and Zagros Mountains but soon disappeared from southwestern Europe, with the notable exception of the Mediterranean coasts of Iberia.ref

“Around 19,000 BCE, Europe witnesses the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Aurignacian one, which soon superseded the Solutrean area and also the Gravettian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy, the Balkans and Anatolia, epi-Gravettian cultures continued to evolve locally. With the Magdalenian culture, the Paleolithic development in Europe reaches its peak and this is reflected in art, owing to previous traditions of paintings and sculpture.ref

Here are Damien’s thoughts/speculations on where he believes is the possible origin of shamanism, which may have begun sometime around 35,000 to 30,000 years ago seen in the emergence of the Gravettian culture, just to outline his thinking, on what thousands of years later led to evolved Asian shamanism, in general, and thus WU shamanism as well. In both Europe-related “shamanism-possible burials” and in Gravettian mitochondrial DNA is a seeming connection to Haplogroup U. And the first believed Shaman proposed burial belonged to Eastern Gravettians/Pavlovian culture at Dolní Věstonice in southern Moravia in the Czech Republic, which is the oldest permanent human settlement that has ever been found. It is at Dolní Věstonice where approximately 27,000-25,000 years ago a seeming female shaman was buried and also there was an ivory totem portrait figure, seemingly of her.

“The Pavlovian is an Upper Paleolithic culture, a variant of the Gravettian, that existed in the region of Moravia, northern Austria, and southern Poland around 29,000–25,000 years ago. Its name is derived from the village of Pavlov, in the Pavlov Hills, next to Dolní Věstonice in southern Moravia. The culture used sophisticated stone age technology to survive in the tundra on the fringe of the ice sheets around the Last Glacial Maximum. Excavation has yielded flint implements, polished and drilled stone artifacts, bone spearheads, needles, digging tools, flutes, bone ornaments, drilled animal teeth, and seashells. Art or religious finds are bone carvings and figurines of humans and animals made of mammoth tusk, stone, and fired clay.” ref

“One of the burials, located near the huts, revealed a human female skeleton aged to 40+ years old, ritualistically placed beneath a pair of mammoth scapulae, one leaning against the other. Surprisingly, the left side of the skull was disfigured in the same manner as the aforementioned carved ivory figure, indicating that the figure was an intentional depiction of this specific individual. The bones and the earth surrounding the body contained traces of red ocher, a flint spearhead had been placed near the skull, and one hand held the body of a fox. This evidence suggests that this was the burial site of a shaman. This is the oldest site not only of ceramic figurines and artistic portraiture, but also of evidence of female shamans.” ref

“A burial of an approximately forty-year-old woman was found at Dolní Věstonice in an elaborate burial setting. Various items found with the woman have had a profound impact on the interpretation of the social hierarchy of the people at the site, as well as indicating an increased lifespan for these inhabitants. The remains were covered in red ochre, a compound known to have religious significance, indicating that this woman’s burial was ceremonial in nature. Also, the inclusion of a mammoth scapula and a fox are indicative of a high-status burial.” ref

“In the Upper Paleolithic, anatomically modern humans began living longer, often reaching middle age, by today’s standards. Rachel Caspari argues in “Human Origins: the Evolution of Grandparents,” that life expectancy increased during the Upper Paleolithic in Europe (Caspari 2011). She also describes why elderly people were highly influential in society. Grandparents assisted in childcare, perpetuated cultural transmission, and contributed to the increased complexity of stone tools (Caspari 2011). The woman found at Dolní Věstonice was old enough to have been a grandparent. Although human lifespans were increasing, elderly individuals in Upper Paleolithic societies were still relatively rare. Because of this, it is possible that the woman was attributed with great importance and wisdom, and revered because of her age. Because of her advanced age, it is also possible she had a decreased ability to care for herself, instead relying on her family group to care for her, which indicates strong social connections.” ref

“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

“In 1981, Patricia Rice studied a multitude of female clay figurines found at Dolní Věstonice, believed to represent fertility in this society. She challenged this assumption by analyzing all the figurines and found that, “it is womanhood, rather than motherhood that is symbolically recognized or honored” (Rice 1981: 402). This interpretation challenged the widely held assumption that all prehistoric female figurines were created to honor fertility. The fact is that we have no idea why these figurines proliferated nor of their purpose or usage.” ref

“Haplogroup U5 is estimated to be about 30,000 years old, and it is primarily found today in people with European ancestry. Both the current geographic distribution of U5 and testing of ancient human remains indicate that the ancestor of U5  expanded into Europe before 31,000 years ago. A 2013 study by Fu et al. found two U5 individuals at the Dolni Vestonice burial site in the Czech Republic that has been dated to 31,155 years ago.  A third person from the same burial was identified as haplogroup U8. The Dolni Vestonice samples have only two of the five mutations ( C16192T and C16270T) that are found in the present day U5 population. This indicates that the U5-(C16192T and C16270T) mtDNA sequence is ancestral to the present day U5 population that includes the additional three mutations T3197C, G9477A and T13617C.” ref

“Haplogroup U5 is thought to have evolved in the western steppe region and then entered Europe around 30,000 to 55,000 years ago. Results support previous hypotheses that haplogroup U5 mtDNAs expanded throughout Northern, Southern, and Central Europe with more recent expansions into Western Europe and Africa. The results further allow us to explain how U5 mtDNAs are now found with high frequency in Northern Europe, as well as delineate the origins of the specific U5 subhaplogroups found in that part of Europe.” ref 

“Haplogroup U5 is found throughout Europe with an average frequency ranging from 5% to 12% in most regions. U5a is most common in north-east Europe and U5b in northern Spain. Nearly half of all Sami and one fifth of Finnish maternal lineages belong to U5. Other high frequencies are observed among the Mordovians (16%), the Chuvash (14.5%) and the Tatars (10.5%) in the Volga-Ural region of Russia, the Estonians (13%), the Lithuanians (11.5%) and the Latvians in the Baltic, the Dargins (13.5%), Avars (13%) and the Chechens (10%) in the Northeast Caucasus, the Basques (12%), the Cantabrians (11%) and the Catalans (10%) in northern Spain, the Bretons (10.5%) in France, the Sardinians (10%) in Italy, the Slovaks (11%), the Croatians (10.5%), the Poles (10%), the Czechs (10%), the Ukrainians (10%) and the Slavic Russians (10%). Overall, U5 is generally found in population with high percentages of Y-haplogroups I1I2, and R1a, three lineages already found in Mesolithic Europeans. The highest percentages are observed in populations associated predominantly with Y-haplogroup N1c1 (the Finns and the Sami), although N1c1 is originally an East Asian lineage that spread over Siberia and Northeast Europe and assimilated indigenous U5 maternal lineages.” ref

“The age of haplogroup U5 is uncertain at present. It could have arisen as recently as 35,000 years ago, or as early was 50,000 years ago. U5 appear to have been a major maternal lineage among the Paleolithic European hunter-gatherers, and even the dominant lineage during the European Mesolithic. In two papers published two months apart, Posth et al. 2016 and Fu et al. 2016 reported the results of over 70 complete human mitochondrial genomes ranging from 45,000 to 7,000 years ago. The oldest U5 samples all dated from the Gravettian culture (c. 32,000 to 22,000 years ago), while the older Aurignacian samples belonged to mt-haplogroups M, N, R*, and U2. Among the 16 Gravettian samples that yielded reliable results, six belonged to U5 – the others belonging mostly to U2, as well as isolated samples of M, U*, and U8c. Two Italian Epigravettian samples, one from the Paglicci Cave in Apulia (18,500 years ago), and another one from Villabruna in Veneto (14,000 years ago), belonged to U5b2b, as did two slightly more recent Epipaleolithic samples from the Rhône valley in France. U5b1 samples were found in Epipalaeolithic Germany, Switzerland (U5b1h in the Grotte du Bichon), and France. More 80% of the numerous Mesolithic European mtDNA tested to date belonged to various subclades of U5. Overall, it appears that U5 arrived in Europe with the Gravettian tool makers, and that it particularly prospered from the end of the glacial period (from 11,700 years ago) until the arrival of Neolithic farmers from the Near East (between 8,500 and 6,000 years ago).” ref

“Carriers of haplogroup U5 were part of the Gravettian culture, which experienced the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 26,000 to 19,000 years ago). During this particularly harsh period, Gravettian people would have retreated into refugia in southern Europe, from which they would have re-expanded to colonise the northern half of the continent during the Late Glacial and postglacial periods. For reasons that are yet unknown, haplogroup U5 seems to have resisted better to the LGM to other Paleolithic haplogroups like U*, U2 and U8. Mitochondrial DNA being essential for energy production, it could be that the mutations selected in early U5 subclades (U5a1, U5a2, U5b1, U5b2) conferred an advantage for survival during the coldest millennia of the LGM, which had for effect to prune less energy efficient mtDNA lineages.ref

“It is likely that U5a and U5b lineages already existed prior to the LGM and they were geographically scattered to some extent around Europe before the growing ice sheet forced people into the refugia. Nonetheless, founder effects among the populations of each LGM refugium would have amplified the regional division between U5b and U5a. U5b would have been found at a much higher frequency in the Franco-Cantabrian region. We can deduce this from the fact that modern Western Europeans have considerably more U5b than U5a, but also because the modern Basques and Cantabrians possess almost exclusively U5b lineages. What’s more, all the Mesolithic U5 samples from Iberia whose subclade could be identified belonged to U5b.ref

“Conversely, only U5a lineages have been found so far in Mesolithic Russia (U5a1) and Sweden (U5a1 and U5a2), which points at an eastern origin of this subclade. Mesolithic samples from Poland, Germany and Italy yielded both U5a and U5b subclades. German samples included U5a2a, U5a2c3, U5b2 and U5b2a2. The same observations are valid for the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods too, with U5a1 being found in Russia and Ukraine, U5b in France (Cardium Pottery and Megalithic), U5b2 in Portugal. U5b1b1 arose approximately 10,000 years ago, over two millennia after the end of the Last Glaciation, when the Neolithic Revolution was already under way in the Near East. Despite this relatively young age, U5b1b1 is found scattered across all Europe and well beyond its boundaries. The Saami, who live in the far European North and have 48% of U5 and 42% of V lineages, belong exclusively to the U5b1b1 subclade. Amazingly, the Berbers of Northwest Africa also possess that U5b1b1 subclade and haplogroup V.” ref

“Graves 1 and 2 at Sungir are described as “the most spectacular” among European Gravettian burials. The adult male was buried in what is called Grave 1 and the two adolescent children in Grave 2, placed head-to-head, together with an adult femur filled with red ochre. The three people buried at Sungir were all adorned with elaborate grave goods that included ivory-beaded jewelryclothing, and spears. More than 13,000 beads were found (which would have taken 10,000 hours to produce). Red ochre, an important ritual material associated with burials at this time, covered the burials. The children are considered a twin burial, thought to have ritual purpose, possibly sacrifice. The site is one of the earliest examples of ritual burials and constitutes important evidence of the antiquity of human religious practices. The extraordinary collection of grave goods, the position of the bodies, and other factors all indicate it was a burial of high importance.” ref

“However, when compared against other populations, the individuals at Sungir are genetically closest to each other. The individuals at Sungir show closest genetic affinity to the individuals from Kostenki, while showing closer affinity to the individual from Kostenki 12 than to the individual from Kostenki 14. The Sungir individuals descended from a lineage that was related to the individual from Kostenki 14, but were not directly related. The individual from Kostenki 12 was also found to be closer to the Sungir individuals than to the individual from Kostenki 14. The Sungir individuals also show close genetic affinity to various individuals belonging to Vestonice Cluster buried in a Gravettian context, such as those excavated from Dolní Věstonice.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

refrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefref, refrefrefrefrefrefrefref

“Gravettian culture extends across a large geographic region, as far as Estremadura in Portugal. but is relatively homogeneous until about 27,000 years ago. They developed burial rites, which included simple, purpose-built offerings and/or personal ornaments owned by the deceased, placed within the grave or tomb. Surviving Gravettian art includes numerous cave paintings and small, portable Venus figurines made from clay or ivory, as well as jewelry objects. The fertility deities may date from the early period; there are over 100 known surviving examples. They conform to a very specific physical type, with large breasts, broad hips, and prominent posteriors. The statuettes tend to lack facial details, and their limbs are often broken off. The Mal’ta Culture (c. 24,000 years ago) in Siberia is often considered as belonging to the Gravettian, due to its similar characteristics, particularly its Venus figurines, but any hypothetical connection would have to be cultural and not genetic: a 2016 genomic study showed that the Mal’ta people have no genetic connections with the people of the European Gravettian culture (the Vestonice Cluster).” ref

“A boy whose remains were found near Mal’ta is usually known by the abbreviation MA-1 (or MA1). Discovered in the 1920s, the remains have been dated to 24,000 years ago. According to research published since 2013, MA-1 belonged to the population of Ancient North Eurasians, who were genetically “intermediate between modern western Eurasians and Native Americans, but distant from east Asians”, and partial genetic ancestors of SiberiansAmerican Indians, and Bronze Age Yamnaya and Botai people of the Eurasian steppe. In particular, modern-day Native AmericansKetsMansi, and Selkup have been found to harbour a significant amount of ancestry related to MA-1.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Here are Shaman Headdresses from Siberia, Africa, and Mongolia showing the covering of the eyes and may thus, to me relate to why the Venus of Willendorf has a hat that covers the face, meaning I speculate that this hat, also seen in the possible shaman burials in Italy all are related to shamanism.

“Venus figurines have been unearthed in Europe, Siberia, and much of Eurasia. 
Most date from the Gravettian period but start in the Aurignacian era, and lasts to the Magdalenian time.” ref

Venus of Willendorf: Shamanism Headdresses that Cover the Eyes?

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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  1. Kebaran culture 23,022-16,522 Years Ago, 2. Kortik Tepe 12,422-11,722 Years Ago, 3. Jerf el-Ahmar 11,222 -10,722 Years Ago, 4. Gobekli Tepe 11,152-9,392 Years Ago, 5. Tell Al-‘abrUbaid and Uruk Periods, 6. Nevali Cori 10,422 -10,122 Years Ago, 7. Catal Hoyuk 9,522-7,722 Years Ago

Ancient North Eurasian (ANE)

Ancient Beringian/Ancestral Native American (AB/ANA)

Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG)

Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHG)

Western Steppe Herders (WSH) 

Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherer (SHG)

Early European Farmers (EEF)

Jōmon people (Ainu people OF Hokkaido Island) 

Neolithic Iranian farmers (Iran_N) (Iran Neolithic)

Amur Culture (Amur watershed)

Haplogroup R possible time of origin about 27,000 years in Central Asia, South Asia, or Siberia:

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


I think it is possible that drums are a West European idea that later was added to Shamanism as it evolved.

“Aurignacian (43,000 to 26,000 years ago), Gravettian (33,000 to 21,000 years ago), Magdalenian (17,000 to 12,000 years ago), and Sami (Haplogroup N  Y-DNA) at least by 3,500 years ago until the fifteenth century) were all nomadic peoples of Ancient Europe. N1c correlates closely with the distribution of the Finno-Ugrian languages. The Sami languages are thought to have split from their common ancestor about 3300 years ago.” refref

“Mitochondrial DNA studies of Sami people, haplogroup U5 are consistent with multiple migrations to Scandinavia from Volga-Ural region, starting 6,000 to 7,000 years before present.” ref

“Nearly half of all Sami and one-fifth of Finnish maternal lineages belong to U5. U5 arrived in Europe with the Gravettian and appears to have been a major maternal lineage among the Paleolithic European hunter-gatherers and even the dominant lineage during the European Mesolithic at more than 80%. Among 16 Gravettian samples, six belonged to U5.” ref

“U5b1b1 arose approximately 10,000 years ago, over two millennia after the end of the Last Glaciation, when the Neolithic Revolution was already underway in the Near East. Despite this relatively young age, U5b1b1 is found scattered across all of Europe and well beyond its boundaries. The Saami, who live in the far European North and have 48% of U5 and 42% of V lineages, belong exclusively to the U5b1b1 subclade. Amazingly, the Berbers of Northwest Africa also possess that U5b1b1 subclade and haplogroup V. How could two peoples separated by some 6,000 km (3,700 mi) share such close maternal ancestry? The Berbers also have other typically Western European lineages such as H1 and H3, as well as African haplogroups like M1, L1, L2, and L3. The Saami and the Berbers presumably descend from nomadic hunter-gatherers from the Franco-Cantabrian refugium who recolonized Europe and North Africa after the LGM.” ref

“The journey of U5b1b1 didn’t stop there. The Fulbe of Senegal were also found to share U5b1b1b with the Berbers, surely through intermarriages. More impressively, the Yakuts of eastern Siberia, who have a bit under 10% of European mtDNA (including haplogroups H, HV1, J, K, T, U4, U5, and W), also share the exact same deep subclade (U5b1b1a) as the Saami and the Berbers.” ref


Some Paleolithic Batons from 23,000 to 12,000 years ago are/maybe Shaman Drumsticks like Those Used with Sami Shaman Drums?

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“The drum of Anders Paulsen (top left) and the Bindal drum (top right) represent variations in Sami drums, their shape, decoration and history. Paulsen’s drum was confiscated in Vadsø in 1691, while the Bindal drum was bought by a museum official in 1925; Vadsø and Bindal being in opposite corners of the Sami world. Paulsens’s drum has a typical Northern Sámi pattern, with several separate levels representing the different layers of spiritual worlds. The Bindal drum has a typical Southern Sami decoration: a rhombus-shaped sun symbol in the center, with other symbols around the sun, representing people, animals, landscape and deities.” ref

(Decolonize Russia/Siberian Land Back) Russian Conquest of Siberia and the spread of Russian Imperialism/Colonialism

Anders Paulsen

Anders Poulsen (died 1692), was a Sami “noaidi/shaman,” who was the last victim of the many Vardø witch trials, which took place between 1621 and 1692. In Sámi form his name was Poala-Ánde. He was born in Torne Lappmark in Sweden, married and lived in Varanger. He was active as a noaidi, and as such used a Sámi drum. The drum was taken from him by force on 7 December 1691 during the Christianization of the Sámi people, and he was put on trial for idolatry for being a follower of the Pagan Sami shamanism religion. The law used to persecute him was however formally the witchcraft law. Poulsen explained the drum’s use during his trial in February 1692. The case was considered significant and the local authorities sent a request to Copenhagen about how to deal with it. Before a sentence could be reached, however, he was killed by a fellow prisoner who suffered from insanity.” ref

“Poulsen’s drum became part of the Danish royal collection after his death and eventually entered the collections of the National Museum of Denmark. It was on loan to the Sámi Museum in Karasjok, northern Norway from 1979 but it took “a 40-year struggle” for it to be officially handed back to the Sámi people in 2022, according to Jelena Porsanger, director of the museum, following an appeal by Norway’s Sámi president to Queen Margrethe of Denmark.” ref


Sami Shamanism: Religio-Sociocultural Identity, Phenomenon, and System 

Ice Age Humans (30,000 Years Ago)

Abstract: Starting about 35,000 years ago, humans seem to have made a great leap forward culturally. The authors argue that this wasn’t because of genetic changes that caused the human brain to have increased capacity. It was because some groups culturally evolved the “social tools” that allowed them to maintain connections and share information over long distances. The groups with the most effective social tools managed to stay connected and to survive, and their descendants inherited this culture of connectedness. It’s likely that forming greater connectedness and more complex culture was necessary in order to survive the periods of high climate variability that were a feature of the last ice age.” ref

Shamanism (beginning around 30,000 years ago)

Shamanism (such as that seen in Siberia Gravettian culture: 30,000 years ago). Gravettian culture (34,000–24,000 years ago; Western Gravettian, mainly France, Spain, and Britain, as well as Eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians, which include the Pavlovian culture). And, the Pavlovian culture (31,000 – 25,000 years ago such as in Austria and Poland). 31,000 – 20,000 years ago Oldest Shaman was Female, Buried with the Oldest Portrait Carving.

Shamanism is approximately a 30,000-year-old belief system and believe in spirit-filled life and/or afterlife that can be attached to or be expressed in things or objects and these objects can be used by special persons or in special rituals that can connect to spirit-filled life and/or afterlife. If you believe like this, regardless of your faith, you are a hidden shamanist.

Around 29,000 to 25,000 years ago in Dolní Vestonice, Czech Republic, the oldest human face representation is a carved ivory female head that was found nearby a female burial and belong to the Pavlovian culture, a variant of the Gravettian culture. The left side of the figure’s face was a distorted image and is believed to be a portrait of an elder female, who was around 40 years old. She was ritualistically placed beneath a pair of mammoth scapulae, one leaning against the other. Surprisingly, the left side of the skull was disfigured in the same manner as the aforementioned carved ivory figure, indicating that the figure was an intentional depiction of this specific individual. The bones and the earth surrounding the body contained traces of red ocher, a flint spearhead had been placed near the skull, and one hand held the body of a fox. This evidence suggests that this was the burial site of a shaman. This is the oldest site not only of ceramic figurines and artistic portraiture but also of evidence of early female shamans. Before 5,500 years ago, women were much more prominent in religion.

Archaeologists usually describe two regional variants: the western Gravettian, known namely from cave sites in France, Spain, and Britain, and the eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians include the Pavlovian culture, which were specialized mammoth hunters and whose remains are usually found not in caves but in open air sites. The origins of the Gravettian people are not clear, they seem to appear simultaneously all over Europe. Though they carried distinct genetic signatures, the Gravettians and Aurignacians before them were descended from the same ancient founder population. According to genetic data, 37,000 years ago, all Europeans can be traced back to a single ‘founding population’ that made it through the last ice age. Furthermore, the so-called founding fathers were part of the Aurignacian culture, which was displaced by another group of early humans members of the Gravettian culture. Between 37,000 years ago and 14,000 years ago, different groups of Europeans were descended from a single founder population. To a greater extent than their Aurignacian predecessors, they are known for their Venus figurines. refrefrefrefrefrefrefrefrefref, & ref

Shamanism (such as that seen in Siberia Gravettian culture: 30,000 years ago)

  • Gravettian culture (34,000–24,000 years ago; Western Gravettian,  mainly France, Spain, and Britain, as well as  Eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians, which include the Pavlovian culture)
  • Pavlovian culture (31,000 – 25,000 years ago such as in Austria and Poland)

Shamanism is approximately a 30,000-year-old belief system and believe in spirit-filled life and/or afterlife that can be attached to or be expressed in things or objects and these objects can be used by special persons or in special rituals that can connect to spirit-filled life and/or afterlife. If you believe like this, regardless of your faith, you are a hidden shamanist.

Around 29,000 to 25,000 years ago in Dolní Vestonice, Czech Republic, the oldest human face representation is a carved ivory female head that was found nearby a female burial and belong to the Pavlovian culture, a variant of the Gravettian culture. The left side of the figure’s face was a distorted image and is believed to be a portrait of an elder female, who was around 40 years old. She was ritualistically placed beneath a pair of mammoth scapulae, one leaning against the other. Surprisingly, the left side of the skull was disfigured in the same manner as the aforementioned carved ivory figure, indicating that the figure was an intentional depiction of this specific individual. The bones and the earth surrounding the body contained traces of red ocher, a flint spearhead had been placed near the skull, and one hand held the body of a fox. This evidence suggests that this was the burial site of a shaman. This is the oldest site not only of ceramic figurines and artistic portraiture but also of evidence of early female shamans. Before 5,500 years ago, women were much more prominent in religion.

Archaeologists usually describe two regional variants: the western Gravettian, known namely from cave sites in France, Spain, and Britain, and the eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians include the Pavlovian culture, which were specialized mammoth hunters and whose remains are usually found not in caves but in open air sites. The origins of the Gravettian people are not clear, they seem to appear simultaneously all over Europe. Though they carried distinct genetic signatures, the Gravettians and Aurignacians before them were descended from the same ancient founder population. According to genetic data, 37,000 years ago, all Europeans can be traced back to a single ‘founding population’ that made it through the last ice age. Furthermore, the so-called founding fathers were part of the Aurignacian culture, which was displaced by another group of early humans members of the Gravettian culture. Between 37,000 years ago and 14,000 years ago, different groups of Europeans were descended from a single founder population. To a greater extent than their Aurignacian predecessors, they are known for their Venus figurines. refref, refrefrefrefrefrefrefref, & ref

“There is no single agreed-upon definition for the word “shamanism” among anthropologists. Thomas Downson suggests three shared elements of shamanism: practitioners consistently alter consciousness, the community regards altering consciousness as an important ritual practice, and the knowledge about the practice is controlled. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a shaman (/ˈʃɑːmən/ SHAH-men/ˈʃæmən/ or /ˈʃmən/) is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. Anthropologist Mihály Hoppál also discusses whether the term “shamanism” is appropriate. He notes that for many readers, “-ism” implies a particular dogma, like Buddhism or Judaism. He recommends using the term “shamanhood” or “shamanship” (a term used in old Russian and German ethnographic reports at the beginning of the 20th century) for stressing the diversity and the specific features of the discussed cultures. He believes that this places more stress on the local variations and emphasizes that shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas, but linked to the everyday life in a practical way.” ref

Shamanismreligious phenomenon centered on the shaman, a person believed to achieve various powers through trance or ecstatic religious experience. Although shamans’ repertoires vary from one culture to the next, they are typically thought to have the ability to heal the sick, to communicate with the otherworld, and often to escort the souls of the dead to that otherworld. The term shamanism comes from the Manchu-Tungus word šaman. The noun is formed from the verb ša- ‘to know’; thus, a shaman is literally “one who knows.” The shamans recorded in historical ethnographies have included women, men, and transgender individuals of every age from middle childhood onward. As its etymology implies, the term applies in the strictest sense only to the religious systems and phenomena of the peoples of northern Asia and the Ural-Altaic, such as the Khanty and Mansi, Samoyed, Tungus, Yukaghir, Chukchi, and Koryak. However, shamanism is also used more generally to describe indigenous groups in which roles such as healer, religious leader, counselor, and councillor are combined. In this sense, shamans are particularly common among other Arctic peoples, American Indians, Australian Aborigines, and those African groups, such as the San, that retained their traditional cultures well into the 20th century.” ref

“It is generally agreed that shamanism originated among hunting-and-gathering cultures, and that it persisted within some herding and farming societies after the origins of agriculture. It is often found in conjunction with animism, a belief system in which the world is home to a plethora of spirit-beings that may help or hinder human endeavors. Opinions differ as to whether the term shamanism may be applied to all religious systems in which a central personage is believed to have direct intercourse with the transcendent world that permits him to act as healer, diviner, and the like. Since such interaction is generally reached through an ecstatic or trance state, and because these are psychosomatic phenomena that may be brought about at any time by persons with the ability to do so, the essence of shamanism lies not in the general phenomenon but in specific notions, actions, and objects connected with trance (see also hallucination).” ref

“Shamanism as practiced in northern Asia is distinguished by its special clothing, accessories, and rites as well as by the specific worldview connected with them. North Asiatic shamanism in the 19th century, which is generally taken as the classical form, was characterized by the following traits:

  1. A society accepts that there are specialists who are able to communicate directly with the transcendent world and who are thereby also possessed of the ability to heal and to divine; such individuals, or shamans, are held to be of great use to society in dealing with the spirit world.
  2. A given shaman is usually known for certain mental characteristics, such as an intuitive, sensitive, mercurial, or eccentric personality, which may be accompanied by some physical defect, such as lameness, an extra finger or toe, or more than the normal complement of teeth.
  3. Shamans are believed to be assisted by an active spirit-being or group thereof; they may also have a passive guardian spirit present in the form of an animal or a person of another sex—possibly as a sexual partner.
  4. The exceptional abilities and the consequent social role of the shaman are believed to result from a choice made by one or more supernatural beings. The one who is chosen—often an adolescent—may resist this calling, sometimes for years. Torture by the spirits, appearing in the form of physical or mental illness, breaks the resistance of the shaman candidate and he (or she) has to accept the vocation.
  5. The initiation of the shaman, depending on the belief system, may happen on a transcendent level or on a realistic level—or sometimes on both, one after the other. While the candidate lies as if dead, in a trance state, the body is cut into pieces by the spirits of the Yonder World or is submitted to a similar trial. The spirits’ reason for cutting up the shaman’s body is to see whether it has more bones than the average person. After awakening, a rite of symbolic initiation, such as climbing the World Tree, is occasionally performed.
  6. By attaining a trance state at will, the shaman is believed to be able to communicate directly with the spirits. This is accomplished by allowing the soul to leave the body to enter the spirit realm or by acting as a mouthpiece for the spirit-being, somewhat like a medium.
  7. One of the distinguishing traits of shamanism is the combat of two shamans in the form of animals, often reindeer or horned cattle. The combat rarely has a stated purpose but is a deed the shaman is compelled to do. The outcome of the combat means well-being for the victor and destruction for the loser.
  8. In going into trance, as well as in mystical combat and healing ceremonies, the shaman uses certain objects such as a drum, drumstick, headgear, gown, metal rattler, mirror, and staff. The specific materials and shapes of these instruments are useful for identifying the types and species of shamanism and following their development.
  9. Characteristic folklore (oral and textual) and shaman songs have come into being as improvisations on traditional formulas used to lure or imitate animals.” ref

“Some selection of these or similar traits may be found among traditional cultures everywhere in the world. Such detached traits, however, do not necessarily indicate that a culture is shamanistic, as the central personalities in such systems—sorcerers, medicine men or healers, and the like—may, unlike the shaman, have attained their position through deliberate study and the application of rational knowledge. Although they perform ceremonies, hold positions of authority, and possess magical abilities, the structure and quality of their transcendental activities are entirely different from that of the shaman. Among the peoples of northern Asia, the universe is full of heavenly bodies peopled by spiritual beings. The world is disk-shaped—saucerlike—and includes several planes of existence. The Earth, or Central World, stands in water held on the back of a colossal creature that may be a turtle, a huge fish, a bull, or a mammoth. The movement of this animal causes earthquakes.” ref

“The Central World is surrounded by an immense belt that connects it to the Lower World through an umbilicus of sorts; it connects to the Upper World by the Pillar of the World. The Upper World consists of three or more strata. On the navel of the Earth stands the Cosmic Tree, which reaches up to the dwelling of the upper gods. The Lower World, Central World, and Upper World are all inhabited by spirit-beings. Among the Mongolian and Turkish peoples, Ülgen, a benevolent deity and the god of the Upper World, has seven sons and nine daughters. Among the Buryat of southern Siberia, Tengri (often identified with Ülgen) also has children—the western ones being good and the eastern ones wicked. The gods of the Buryats number 99 and fall into two categories: the 55 good gods of the west whose attribute is “white,” and the 44 wicked gods of the east whose attribute is “black.” The leader of the latter is Erlen khan, a figure equivalent to Erlik khan of the Altai Kizhi people, who is the ruler of the Underworld. Besides gods and the progeny of gods—both sons and daughters—other spirits also inhabit all three worlds. Fire is also personified, as is the Earth itself. Such personifications are represented in idols as well. Humans are thought to have a body, a soul, or even several souls. Among these may be a mirror soul, which can be seen when looking into water, and a shadow soul, which is visible when the sun is shining.” ref

“Shamanism is a system of religious practice. Historically, it is often associated with Indigenous and tribal societies, and involves belief that shamans, with a connection to the otherworld, have the power to heal the sick, communicate with spirits, and escort souls of the dead to the afterlife. The origins of Shamanism stem from indigenous peoples of far northern Europe and Siberia. Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. In the Peruvian Amazon Basin, shamans and curanderos use medicine songs called icaros to evoke spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song. The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is common. Generally, shamans traverse the axis mundi and enter the “spirit world” by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens or ritual performances. The methods employed are diverse, and are often used together.” ref

Shamans have been conceptualized as those who are able to gain knowledge and power to heal in the spiritual world or dimension. Most shamans have dreams or visions that convey certain messages. Shamans may claim to have or have acquired many spirit guides, who they believe guide and direct them in their travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always thought to be present within the shaman, although others are said to encounter them only when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shamans, enabling them to enter the spiritual dimension. Shamans claim to heal within the communities and the spiritual dimension by returning lost parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. Shamans also claim to cleanse excess negative energies, which are said to confuse or pollute the soul. Shamans act as mediators in their cultures. Shamans claim to communicate with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. Shamans believe they can communicate with both living and dead to alleviate unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.ref

“Among the Selkups, the sea duck is a spirit animal. Ducks fly in the air and dive in the water and are thus believed to belong to both the upper world and the world below. Among other Siberian peoples, these characteristics are attributed to waterfowl in general. The upper world is the afterlife primarily associated with deceased humans and is believed to be accessed by soul journeying through a portal in the sky. The lower world or “world below” is the afterlife primarily associated with animals and is believed to be accessed by soul journeying through a portal in the earth. In shamanic cultures, many animals are regarded as spirit animals. Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures; healing, leading a sacrifice, preserving traditions by storytelling and songs, fortune-telling, and acting as a psychopomp (“guide of souls”). A single shaman may fulfill several of these functions.ref

“The responsibilities of a shaman may include either guiding to their proper abode the souls of the dead (which may be guided either one-at-a-time or in a group, depending on the culture), and the curing of ailments. The ailments may be either purely physical afflictions—such as disease, which are claimed to be cured by gifting, flattering, threatening, or wrestling the disease-spirit (sometimes trying all these, sequentially), and which may be completed by displaying a supposedly extracted token of the disease-spirit (displaying this, even if “fraudulent”, is supposed to impress the disease-spirit that it has been, or is in the process of being, defeated so that it will retreat and stay out of the patient’s body), or else mental (including psychosomatic) afflictions—such as persistent terror, which is likewise believed to be cured by similar methods. In most languages a different term other than the one translated “shaman” is usually applied to a religious official leading sacrificial rites (“priest”), or to a raconteur (“sage”) of traditional lore; there may be more of an overlap in functions (with that of a shaman), however, in the case of an interpreter of omens or of dreams.ref

“There are distinct types of shamans who perform more specialized functions. For example, among the Nani people, a distinct kind of shaman acts as a psychopomp. Other specialized shamans may be distinguished according to the type of spirits, or realms of the spirit world, with which the shaman most commonly interacts. These roles vary among the Nenets, Enets, and Selkup shamans. The assistant of an Oroqen shaman (called jardalanin, or “second spirit”) knows many things about the associated beliefs. He or she accompanies the rituals and interprets the behaviors of the shaman. Despite these functions, the jardalanin is not a shaman. For this interpretative assistant, it would be unwelcome to fall into a trance. Among the Inuit the angakkuq (shamans) fetch the souls of game from remote places, or soul travel to ask for game from mythological beings like the Sea Woman. Shamanic practices may originate as early as the Paleolithic, predating all organized religions, and certainly as early as the Neolithic period. The earliest known undisputed burial of a shaman (and by extension the earliest undisputed evidence of shamans and shamanic practices) dates back to the early Upper Paleolithic era (c. 30,000 years ago) in what is now the Czech Republic.ref

Variants of shamanism among Inuit were once a widespread (and very diverse) phenomenon, but today is rarely practiced, as well as already having been in decline among many groups, even while the first major ethnological research was being done, e.g. among Inuit, at the end of the 19th century, Sagloq, the last angakkuq who was believed to be able to travel to the sky and under the sea died—and many other former shamanic capacities were lost during that time as well, like ventriloquism and sleight of hand. The isolated location of Nganasan people allowed shamanism to be a living phenomenon among them even at the beginning of the 20th century, the last notable Nganasan shaman’s ceremonies were recorded on film in the 1970s.ref

Here are a Few Regional Forms of Shamanism


“The Hmong people are an ethnic group of people originating from Central China, who continue to maintain and practice Ua Neeb. Being a Hmong shaman is a vocation; their primary role is to bring harmony to the individual, their family, and their community within their environment by performing rituals, usually through trance. In addition to the spiritual dimension, Hmong shamans attempt to treat many physical illnesses through the use of the text of sacred words (khawv koob).” ref

“The Hmong believe that all things on Earth have a soul (or multiple souls), each considered equal and possibly interchangeable. Animal sacrifice is central to these beliefs, where it is seen as a necessary request to borrow the animal’s soul to heal a person’s affliction or to save their soul from being captured by a wild spirit for a period of 12 months. During the Hmong New Year, the shaman performs a special ritual to release the animal’s soul to a spiritual dimension. As part of its service to mankind, the animal’s soul is understood to be reincarnated into a ‘higher animal,’ possibly becoming a member of a god’s family (ua Fuab Tais Ntuj tus tub, tus ntxhais) to live a life of luxury, free of suffering as an animal. Hence, participating in this exchange by being sacrificed is one of the greatest honors for the animal.” ref

Animal sacrifice has been part of the Hmong shamanic practice for the past 5,000 years. After the Vietnam War, over 200,000 Hmong were resettled in the United States and shamanism is still part of the Hmong culture. Before the sacred cockfight, The Hmong of south-east Guizhou cover a rooster with a piece of red cloth and then hold it up to worship and sacrifice to the Heaven and the Earth. In a 2010 trial of a Hmong from Sheboygan, Wisconsin charged with staging a cockfight, it was stated that the roosters were “kept for both food and religious purposes”, and the case ended in an acquittal.” ref

“Shamanism in the Qing dynasty (Manchu-led imperial dynasty of China): There were two kinds of shamans: those who entered in a trance and let themselves be possessed by the spirits, and those who conducted regular sacrifices to heaven, to a clan’s ancestors, or to the clan’s protective spirits.” ref, ref


“A dukun is an Indonesian term for shaman. Their societal role is that of a traditional healer, spirit medium, custom and tradition experts, and on occasion sorcerers and masters of black magic. In common usage the dukun is often confused with another type of shaman, the pawang. It is often mistranslated into English as “witch doctor” or “medicine man”. Many self-styled dukun in Indonesia are simply scammers and criminals, preying on people who were raised to believe in the supernatural. The dukun is the very epitome of the kejawen or kebatinan belief system indigenous to Java. Very strong and ancient beliefs of animism, ancestor worship, and shamanism are held by the people of the Nusantara.” ref


Shamanism is part of the indigenous Ainu religion and the Japanese religion of Shinto. Since the early middle-ages Shinto has been influenced by and syncretized with Buddhism and other elements of continental East Eurasian culture. The book “Occult Japan: Shinto, Shamanism and the Way of the Gods” by Percival Lowell delves further into researching Japanese shamanism or Shintoism. The book Japan Through the Looking Glass: Shaman to Shinto uncovers the extraordinary aspects of Japanese beliefs.” ref

Shamanism is still widely practiced in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa, Japan), where shamans are known as ‘Noro’ (all women) and ‘Yuta’. ‘Noro’ generally administer public or communal ceremonies while ‘Yuta’ focus on civil and private matters. Shamanism is also practiced in a few rural areas in Japan proper. It is commonly believed that the Shinto religion is the result of the transformation of a shamanistic tradition into a religion. Forms of practice vary somewhat in the several Ryukyu islands, so that there is, for example, a distinct Miyako shamanism. Shamanist practices seem to have been preserved in the Catholic religious traditions of aborigines in Taiwan.ref


Shamanism is still practiced in North and South Korea. In the south, shaman women are known as mudangs, while male shamans are referred to as baksoo mudangs. A person can become a shaman through either a hereditary title or natural ability. In contemporary society, shamans are consulted for financial and marital decisions.” ref


Shamanism is also practiced among the Malay community in Malay Peninsula and indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak. People who practice shamanism in the country are generally called bomoh, and analogously pawang on the Peninsula. In Sabah, the Bobohizan is the main shaman among the Kadazan-Dusun indigenous community.” ref


Mongolian classics, such as The Secret History of the Mongols, provide details about male and female shamans serving as exorcists, healers, rainmakers, oneiromancers, soothsayers, and officials. Shamanic practices continue in present-day Mongolian culture.ref

“The spiritual hierarchy in clan-based Mongolian society was complex. The highest group consisted of 99 tngri (55 of them benevolent or “white” and 44 terrifying or “black”), 77 natigai or “earth-mothers”, besides others. The tngri were called upon only by leaders and great shamans and were common to all the clans. After these, three groups of ancestral spirits dominated. The “Lord-Spirits” were the souls of clan leaders to whom any member of a clan could appeal for physical or spiritual help. The “Protector-Spirits” included the souls of great shamans (ĵigari) and shamanesses (abĵiya). The “Guardian-Spirits” were made up of the souls of smaller shamans (böge) and shamanesses (idugan) and were associated with a specific locality (including mountains, rivers, etc.) in the clan’s territory.ref

“In the 1990s, a form of Mongolian neo-shamanism was created which has taken a modern approach to shamanism. Among the Buryat Mongols, who live in Mongolia and Russia, the proliferation of shamans since 1990 is a core aspect of a larger struggle for the Buryats to reestablish their historical and genetic roots, as has been documented extensively by Ippei Shimamura, an anthropologist at the University of Shiga Prefecture in Japan. Some Mongolian shamans are now making a business out of their profession and even have offices in the larger towns. At these businesses, a shaman generally heads the organization and performs services such as healing, fortunetelling, and solving all kinds of problems. Although the initial enthusiasm for the revival of Mongol shamanism in the post-communist/post-1990 era led to an openness to all interested visitors, the situation has changed among those Mongols seeking to protect the essential ethnic or national basis of their practices. In recent years many associations of Mongol shamans have become wary of Western “core” or “neo” or “New Age” shamans and have restricted access to only to Mongols and Western scholars.ref


Babaylans (also balian or katalonan, among many other indigenous names) were shamans of the various ethnic groups of the pre-colonial Philippine islands. These shamans specialized in harnessing the unlimited powers of nature and were almost always women or feminized men (asog or bayok). They were believed to have spirit guides, by which they could contact and interact with the spirits and deities (anito or diwata) and the spirit world. Their primary role were as mediums during pag-anito séance rituals. There were also various subtypes of babaylan specializing in the arts of healing and herbalism, divination, and sorcery.ref

“Babaylan were highly respected members of the community, on par with the pre-colonial noble class. In the absence of the datu (head of the domain), the babaylan takes in the role of interim head of the domain. They were powerful ritual specialists with the capability to influence the weather, and tap the various spirits in nature. Babaylans were held in such high esteem because of their ability to negate the dark magic of an evil datu or spirit and heal the sick or the wounded. Among the powers of the babaylan was to heal the sick, ensure a safe pregnancy and child birth, and lead rituals with offerings to the various divinities. The babaylans were well versed in herb lore, and was able to create remedies, antidotes, and potions from various roots and seeds. They used these to treat the sick or to aid an ally datu in bringing down an enemy, hence, the babaylans were also known for their specialization in medical and divine combat.ref

“Their influence waned when most of the ethnic groups of the Philippines were gradually converted to Islam and forcefully converted to Catholicism. Under the Spanish Empire, babaylan were often maligned and falsely accused as witches and “priests of the devil” and were persecuted harshly by the Spanish clergy. The Spanish burned down everything they associated as connected to the native people’s indigenous religion (including shrines such as the dambana), even forcefully ordering native children to defecate on their own god’s idols. In modern Philippine society, their roles have largely been taken over by folk healers, which are now predominantly male, while some are still being falsely accused as ‘witches’, which has been inputted by Spanish colonialism. In areas where the people have not been converted into Muslims or Christians, notably ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, the shamans and their cultural traits have continued to exist with their respective communities, although these shamans and their practices are being slowly diluted by Christian religions which continue to interfere with their life-ways.ref

Siberia and North Eurasia

Siberia is regarded as the locus classicus of shamanism. The area is inhabited by many different ethnic groups, and many of its peoples observe shamanistic practices, even in modern times. Many classical ethnographic sources of “shamanism” were recorded among Siberian peoples. Manchu Shamanism is one of very few Shamanist traditions which held official status into the modern era, by becoming one of the imperial cults of the Qing dynasty of China (alongside Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional Heaven worship). The Palace of Earthly Tranquility, one of the principal halls of the Forbidden City in Beijing, was partly dedicated to Shamanistic rituals. The ritual set-up is still preserved in situ today.ref

“Among the Siberian Chukchis peoples, a shaman is interpreted as someone who is possessed by a spirit, who demands that someone assume the shamanic role for their people. Among the Buryat, there is a ritual known as shanar whereby a candidate is consecrated as shaman by another, already-established shaman. Among several Samoyedic peoples, shamanism was a living tradition also in modern times, especially at groups living in isolation, until recent times (Nganasans). The last notable Nganasan shaman’s seances could be recorded on film in the 1970s. When the People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949 and the border with Russian Siberia was formally sealed, many nomadic Tungus groups (including the Evenki) that practiced shamanism were confined in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. The last shaman of the Oroqen, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jinfu), died in October 2000. In many other cases, shamanism was in decline even at the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, among the Roma.ref

“A large minority of people in North Asia, particularly in Siberia, follow the religio-cultural practices of shamanism. Some researchers regard Siberia as the heartland of shamanism. The people of Siberia comprise a variety of ethnic groups, many of whom continue to observe shamanistic practices in modern times. Many classical ethnographers recorded the sources of the idea of “shamanism” among Siberian peoples.

  • ‘shaman’: saman (Nedigal, Nanay, Ulcha, Orok), sama (Manchu). The variant /šaman/ (i.e., pronounced “shaman”) is Evenk (whence it was borrowed into Russian).
  • ‘shaman’: alman, olman, wolmen (Yukagir)
  • ‘shaman’: [qam] (Tatar, Shor, Oyrat), [xam] (Tuva, Tofalar)
  • The Buryat word for shaman is бөө (böö) [bøː], from early Mongolian böge. Itself borrowed from Proto-Turkic *bögü (“sage, wizard”)
  • ‘shaman’: ńajt (Khanty, Mansi), from Proto-Uralic *nojta (c.f. Sámi noaidi)
  • ‘shamaness’: [iduɣan] (Mongol), [udaɣan] (Yakut), udagan (Buryat), udugan (Evenki, Lamut), odogan (Nedigal). Related forms found in various Siberian languages include utagan, ubakan, utygan, utügun, iduan, or duana. All these are related to the Mongolian name of Etügen, the hearth goddess, and Etügen Eke ‘Mother Earth’. Maria Czaplicka points out that Siberian languages use words for male shamans from diverse roots, but the words for female shaman are almost all from the same root. She connects this with the theory that women’s practice of shamanism was established earlier than men’s, that “shamans were originally female.” ref

Central Eurasia

“Geographical factors heavily influence the character and development of the religion, myths, rituals and epics of Central Eurasia. While in other parts of the world, religious rituals are primarily used to promote agricultural prosperity, here they were used to ensure success in hunting and breeding livestock. Animals are one of the most important elements of indigenous religion in Central Eurasia because of the role they play in the survival of the nomadic civilizations of the steppes as well as sedentary populations living on land not conducive to agriculture. Shamans wore animal skins and feathers and underwent transformations into animals during spiritual journeys. In addition, animals served as humans’ guides, rescuers, ancestors, totems and sacrificial victims. As a religion of nature, shamanism throughout Central Eurasia held particular reverence for the relations between sky, earth and water and believed in the mystical importance of trees and mountains. Shamanism in Central Eurasia also places a strong emphasis on the opposition between summer and winter, corresponding to the huge differences in temperature common in the region. The harsh conditions and poverty caused by the extreme temperatures drove Central Eurasian nomads throughout history to pursue militaristic goals against their sedentary neighbors. This military background can be seen in the reverence for horses and warriors within many indigenous religions.ref

Central Eurasian shamans served as sacred intermediaries between the human and spirit world. In this role they took on tasks such as healing, divination, appealing to ancestors, manipulating the elements, leading lost souls and officiating public religious rituals. The shamanic séance served as a public display of the shaman’s journey to the spirit world and usually involved intense trances, drumming, dancing, chanting, elaborate costumes, miraculous displays of physical strength, and audience involvement. The goal of these séances ranged from recovering the lost soul of a sick patient and divining the future to controlling the weather and finding a lost person or thing. The use of sleight-of-hand tricks, ventriloquism, and hypnosis were common in these rituals but did not explain the more impressive feats and actual cures accomplished by shamans.” ref

“Shamans perform in a “state of ecstasy” deliberately induced by an effort of will. Reaching this altered state of consciousness required great mental exertion, concentration and strict self-discipline. Mental and physical preparation included long periods of silent meditation, fasting, and smoking. In this state, skilled shamans employ capabilities that the human organism cannot accomplish in the ordinary state. Shamans in ecstasy displayed unusual physical strength, the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, the bearing of stabbing and cutting without pain, and the heightened receptivity of the sense organs. Shamans made use of intoxicating substances and hallucinogens, especially mukhomor mushrooms and alcohol, as a means of hastening the attainment of ecstasy.” ref

“The use of purification by fire is an important element of the shamanic tradition dating back as early as the 6th century. People and things connected with the dead had to be purified by passing between fires. These purifications were complex exorcisms while others simply involved the act of literally walking between two fires while being blessed by the shaman. Shamans in literature and practice were also responsible for using special stones to manipulate weather. Rituals are performed with these stones to attract rain or repel snow, cold or wind. This “rain-stone” was used for many occasions including bringing an end to drought as well as producing hailstorms as a means of warfare. Despite distinctions between various types of shamans and specific traditions, there is a uniformity throughout the region manifested in the personal beliefs, objectives, rituals, symbols and the appearance of shamans.” ref


In Vietnam, shamans conduct rituals in many of the religious traditions that co-mingle in the majority and minority populations. In their rituals, music, dance, special garments and offerings are part of the performance that surround the spirit journey. Shamanism is a part of Vietnamese folk religion, three branches of shamanism are known today as Đạo Mẫu, Thánh Trần worship and Nội Đạo Tràng (of which the most famous is Đạo Mẫu). In Vietnam, this ritual practice is called lên đồng or also known as hầu bóng, or hầu đồng, sessions involve artistic elements such as music, singing, dance and the use of costumes. Chầu văn, which is a traditional folk art of northern Vietnam, related to the Đạo Mẫu. The genre is famous for its use in rituals for deity mediumship. Chầu văn serves two purposes: to help hypnotize the medium for reception of the deities and to accompany the medium’s actions with appropriate music.” ref

India and Nepal

Theyyam or “theiyam” in Malayalam – a south Indian language – is the process by which a Priest invites a Hindu god or goddess to use his or her body as a medium or channel and answer other devotees’ questions. The same is called “arulvaakku” or “arulvaak” in Tamil, another south Indian language – Adhiparasakthi Siddhar Peetam is famous for arulvakku in Tamil Nadu. The people in and around Mangalore in Karnataka call the same, Buta Kola, “paathri” or “darshin”; in other parts of Karnataka, it is known by various names such as, “prashnaavali”, “vaagdaana”, “asei”, “aashirvachana” and so on. In Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh a similar Shamanic ritual happen in Hindu temples: it is called “Jagar” and in Himachal, “Gur.” ref

“In Nepal and Sikkim, “dhaamee” or “Jhakri” are common names used for shamans. They exist in the Limbu, Sunuwar, Rai, Sherpa, Kami, Tamang, Gurung, Magar and Lepcha communities. They are influenced by Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, Mun and Bön rites. In English, the closest translation for this position is “oracle.” The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, still consults an oracle known as the Nechung Oracle, which is considered the official state oracle of the government of Tibet. The Dalai Lama has, according to centuries-old custom, consulted the Nechung Oracle during the new year festivities of Losar.” ref

Western Eurasia

“Some of the prehistoric peoples who once lived in Siberia and other parts of Central and Eastern Eurasia have dispersed and migrated into other regions, bringing aspects of their cultures with them. For example, many Uralic peoples live now outside Siberia; however, the original location of the Proto-Uralic peoples (and its extent) is debated. Combined phytogeographical and linguistic considerations (distribution of various tree species and the presence of their names in various Uralic languages) suggest that this area was north of Central Ural Mountains and on lower and middle parts of Ob River. Newer studies suggest and origin in Northeast Eurasia. Proto-Uralic is suggested to be linked to the Chinese Liao civilization. The ancestors of Hungarian people or Magyars have wandered from their ancestral proto-Uralic area to the Pannonian Basin. Shamanism has played an important role in Turko-Mongol mythology: Tengriism—the major ancient belief among Xiongnu, Mongol and Turkic peoples, Magyars and Bulgars—incorporates elements of shamanism. Shamanism is no more a living practice among Hungarians, but remnants have been reserved as fragments of folklore, in folktales, customs.” ref

“Some historians of the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern period have argued that traces of shamanistic traditions can be seen in the popular folk belief of this period. Most prominent among these was the Italian Carlo Ginzburg, who claimed shamanistic elements in the benandanti custom of 16th-century Italy, the Hungarian Éva Pócs, who identified them in the táltos tradition of Hungary, and the Frenchman Claude Lecouteux, who has argued that Medieval traditions regarding the soul are based on earlier shamanic ideas. Ginzburg in particular has argued that some of these traditions influenced the conception of witchcraft in Christendom, in particular ideas regarding the witches’ sabbath, leading to the events of the witch trials in the early modern period. Some of these Italian traditions survived into the 20th and early 21st centuries, allowing Italian-American sociologist Sabina Magliocco to make a brief study of them (2009).” ref

Slavic Shamanism was widely practiced across the Slavic Pagan Tribes of Eastern Europe but the only living type of Shamanism still practiced that is not reconstructed is that of the Molfars of the Hutsul People. There are active attempts to reconstruct the practice and the practice is widely practiced among Rodnover communities. There are three known shamans in the modern hierarchy of Rodnovery being volkhv, guszlar, and vedmak.” ref

Inuit and Yupik cultures

Eskimo groups inhabit a huge area stretching from eastern Siberia through Alaska and Northern Canada (including Labrador Peninsula) to Greenland. Shamanistic practice and beliefs have been recorded at several parts of this vast area crosscutting continental borders. The term “shamanism” can cover multiple characteristics of various different cultures. Mediation is regarded often as an important aspect of shamanism in general. Also in most Eskimo groups, the role of mediator is known well: the person filling it in is actually believed to be able to contact the beings who populate the belief system. The term “shaman” is used in several English-language publications also in relation to Eskimos. The word alignalghi (IPA: [aˈliɣnalʁi]) of the Eurasian Eskimos is translated as “shaman” in the Russian and English literature.” ref

“The belief system assumes specific links between the living people, the souls of hunted animals, and those of dead people. The soul concepts of several groups are specific examples of soul dualism (showing variability in details in the various cultures). Unlike the majority of shamans the careers of most Eskimo shamans lack the motivation of force: becoming a shaman is usually seen as a result of deliberate consideration, not a necessity forced by the spirits. There are similarities in the cultures of the Eskimo groups together with diversity, far from homogeneity.” ref

“The Russian linguist Menovshikov (Меновщиков), an expert of Siberian Yupik and Sireniki Eskimo languages (while admitting that he is not a specialist in ethnology) mentions, that the shamanistic seances of those Siberian Yupik and Sireniki groups he has seen have many similarities to those of Greenland Inuit groups described by Fridtjof Nansen, although a large distance separates Siberia and Greenland. There may be certain similarities also in Eurasiatic groups with North American ones. Also the usage of a specific shaman’s language is documented among several Eskimo groups, used mostly for talking to spirits. Also the Ungazighmiit (belonging to Siberian Yupiks) had a special allegoric usage of some expressions.” ref 

“The local cultures showed great diversity. The myths concerning the role of shaman had several variants, and also the name of their protagonists varied from culture to culture. For example, a mythological figure, usually referred to in the literature by the collective term Sea Woman, has factually many local names: Nerrivik “meat dish” among Polar Inuit, Nuliayuk “lubricous” among Netsilingmiut, Sedna “the nether one” among Baffin Land Inuit. Also, the soul conceptions, e.g. the details of the soul dualism showed great variability, ranging from guardianship to a kind of reincarnation. Conceptions of spirits or other beings had also many variants.” ref

North America

Although many Native American and First Nations cultures have traditional healers, singers, mystics, lore-keepers and medicine people, none of them ever used, or use, the term “shaman” to describe these religious leaders. Rather, like other Indigenous, their spiritual functionaries are described by words in their own languages. Many of these indigenous religions have been misrepresented by outside observers and anthropologists. Often these accounts suffer from “noble savage“-type romanticism and racism, meaning that popular understanding of their practices is often inaccurate.” ref

“Not all Indigenous communities have roles for specific individuals who mediate with the spirit world on behalf of the community. Among those that do have this sort of religious structure, spiritual methods and beliefs may have some commonalities, though many of these commonalities are due to some nations being closely related, from the same region, or through post-Colonial governmental policies leading to the combining of formerly independent nations on reservations. This can sometimes lead to the impression that there is more unity among belief systems than there was in antiquity.” ref

“With the arrival of Eurasian settlers and colonial administration, the practice of Native American traditional beliefs was discouraged in favor of Christianity. From the colonial era, up until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978, it was illegal for Indigenous people to practice traditional religion and sacred ceremonies. In most communities, the traditions were not completely eradicated, but rather went underground and were practiced secretly until the prohibitive laws were repealed, or were syncretized with Christianity, retaining some aspects of traditional beliefs and practices and combining them with Christian ones. Up until and during the last hundred years, thousands of Native American and First Nations children from different communities were sent into the Canadian Indian residential school system and Indian boarding schools in an effort to eradicate tribal languages, cultures, and beliefs. This led to a further decline in the number of Indigenous people practicing traditional religion and medicine. Canadian laws enacted in 1982, and henceforth, have attempted to reverse previous attempts at extinguishing Native culture.” ref


The traditional Maya or Mayan religion of the extant Maya peoples of GuatemalaBelize, western Honduras, and the TabascoChiapasQuintana RooCampeche and Yucatán states of Mexico is part of the wider frame of Mesoamerican religion. Two of the most widely known examples of Mesoamerican religion are the Aztec religion and the Mayan religion. Maya religion has already existed for more than two and a half millennia as a recognizably distinct phenomenon. To a large extent, Maya religion is indeed a complex of ritual practices; and it is, therefore, fitting that the indigenous Yucatec village priest is simply called jmen (“practitioner”). Among the main concepts relating to Maya ritual are the following ones.” ref

“The two most important male deities (Martín and Maximón) of the Tz’utujil Mayas of Santiago Atitlán, for example, have their own brotherhoods and priests. Public ritual focusing on agriculture and rain is led by the ‘godfathers of the wet season’ (padrinos del invierno) among the Ch’orti’s – in a particularly rich and complex system – and by the village priests (jmenob) in Yucatán. In the private realm, nearly everywhere diviners (‘seers’, ‘daykeepers’) are active, together with curers. The performance of many of the indigenous priests, but especially of the curers, shows features also associated with shamanism.” ref

“The main collection of ancient Yucatec curing rituals is the so-called Ritual of the Bacabs. In these texts, the world with its four trees and four carriers of earth and sky (Bacabs) located at the corners is the theatre of shamanic curing sessions, during which “the four Bacabs” are often addressed to assist the curer in his struggle with disease-causing agents. Many of the features of shamanic curing found in the ‘Ritual of the Bacabs’ still characterize contemporary curing ritual. Not represented amongst these early ritual texts is black sorcery.” ref

“Until the discovery that Maya stelae depicted kings instead of high priests, the Maya priesthood and their preoccupations had been a main scholarly concern. A concept of royal ʼshamanismʼ, chiefly propounded by Linda Schele and Freidel, came to occupy the forefront instead. Yet, Classic Maya civilization, being highly ritualistic, would have been unthinkable without a developed priesthood. The priesthood as a whole was the keeper of knowledge concerning the deities and their cult, including calendrics, astrology, divination, and prophecy. In addition, they were experts in historiography and genealogy.” ref

“The Maya class of the priests is sometimes thought to have emerged from a pre-existing network of shamans as social complexity grew. The classic Siberian shaman is characterised by his intimate relationship with one or several helper spirits, ‘ecstatic’ voyages into non-human realms, and often operates individually, on behalf of his clients. In 20th-century Maya communities, diviners, and also curers, may show some features of true shamans, particularly vocation through illness or dreamstrance, and communication with a spirit. In reference to these features, they are often loosely called ‘shamans’ by ethnographers. On the other hand, priests are chiefly cultic functionaries operating within a well-defined hierarchy and offering foodsacrifices and prayers to the deities on behalf of social groups situated on different levels. In 20th-century Maya communities of the north-western Guatemalan highlands, the hierarchies of ‘Prayermakers’ offer examples of such priests. The Pre-Hispanic religious functionaries described by men like Diego de LandaTomás de Torquemada and Bartolomé de las Casas were also priests, not shamans.” ref

Tezcatlipoca: meaning “smoking mirror”, a Pan-Mesoamerican shaman god, omnipotent universal power. Religion was part of all levels of Aztec society. On the state level, religion was controlled by the Tlatoani and the high priests governing the main temples in the ceremonial precinct of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. This level involved the large monthly festivals and a number of specific rituals centered around the ruler dynasty and attempted to stabilize both the political and cosmic systems. These rituals were the ones that involved a sacrifice of humans. One of these rituals was the feast of Huey Tozoztli, when the ruler himself ascended Mount Tlaloc and engaged in autosacrifice in order to petition the rains. Throughout society, each level had their own rituals and deities and played their part in the larger rituals of the community. In the Nahuatl language, the word for priest was teopixqui – meaning “god guard”. These men were seen as prominent leaders of the community who taught various ideas and morals to the public. Tlamacazqui the “giver of things” ensured that the gods were given their due in the form of offerings, ceremonies, and sacrifices.” ref

“Aztec temples were basically offering mounds: solid pyramidal structures crammed with special soils, sacrifices, treasures and other offerings. Buildings around the base of the pyramid, and sometimes a small chamber under the pyramid, stored ritual items and provided lodgings and staging for priests, dancers, and temple orchestras. The pyramids were buried under a new surface every several years (especially every 52 years—the Aztec century). Thus the pyramid-temples of important deities constantly grew in size.” ref

South America

The Urarina of the Peruvian Amazon have an elaborate cosmological system predicated on the ritual consumption of ayahuasca, which is a key feature of their society. Santo Daime and União do Vegetal ( abbreviated to UDV) are syncretic religions with which use an entheogen called ayahuasca in an attempt to connect with the spirit realm and receive divine guidance. In the Peruvian Amazon basin and north coastal regions of the country, the healers are known as curanderos. Ayahuasqueros are Peruvians who specialize in the use of ayahuasca. Ayahuasqueros have become popular among Western spiritual seekers, who claim that the ayauasqueros and their ayahuasca brews have cured them of everything from depression to addiction to cancer.” ref

“In addition to curanderos use of ayahuasca and their ritualized ingestion of mescaline-bearing San Pedro cactuses (Echinopsis pachanoi) for the divination and diagnosis of sorcery, north-coastal shamans are famous throughout the region for their intricately complex and symbolically dense healing altars called mesas (tables). Sharon (1993) has argued that the mesas symbolize the dualistic ideology underpinning the practice and experience of north-coastal shamanism. For Sharon, the mesas are the, “physical embodiment of the supernatural opposition between benevolent and malevolent energies” (Dean 1998: 61). In several tribes living in the Amazon rainforest, the spiritual leaders also act as managers of scarce ecological resources. The rich symbolism in Tukano culture has been documented in field works even in the last decades of the 20th century.” ref

“The yaskomo of the Waiwai is believed to be able to perform a soul flight. The soul flight can serve several functions:

  • healing
  • flying to the sky to consult cosmological beings (the moon or the brother of the moon) to get a name for a newborn baby
  • flying to the cave of peccaries’ mountains to ask the father of peccaries for abundance of game
  • flying deep down in a river, to achieve the help of other beings. Thus, a yaskomo is believed to be able to reach sky, earth, and water.” ref

Among the Mapuche people of Chile, a machi is usually a woman who serves the community by performing ceremonies to cure diseases, ward off evil, influence the weather and harvest, and by practicing other forms of healing such as herbalism. For the Aymara people of South America the Yatiri is a healer who heals the body and the soul, they serve the community and do the rituals for Pachamama. Part of the healing power attributed to shamanic practices depends on the use of plant alkaloids taken during the therapeutic sessions.” ref

“Although Fuegians (the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego) were all hunter-gatherers, they did not share a common culture. The material culture was not homogenous, either: the big island and the archipelago made two different adaptations possible. Some of the cultures were coast-dwelling, others were land-oriented. Both Selk’nam and Yámana had persons filling in shaman-like roles. The Selk’nams believed their /xon/s to have supernatural capabilities, e.g. to control weather. The figure of /xon/ appeared in myths, too. The Yámana /jekamuʃ/ corresponds to the Selknam /xon/.” ref

Figurine Traditions from the Amazon | The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines

 “Abstract: Stone and ceramic figurines occurred in many pre-Columbian cultures of Amazonia but only appear as recurrent, traditional objects late in the cultural history of the region, primarily in the large settlements which flourished along the Lower Amazon and its estuaries. Marajoara and Santarém ceramics include an array of figurines depicting humans and animals, in languages emphasizing body transformation and reproduction, and, sometimes, decapitation. Some also performed as rattles, or maracas, an instrument traditionally related to shamanic power. Stone figurines from the Lower Amazon present similar modes of body representation and seem to be part of the drug paraphernalia used in shamanic rituals. Rather than being a marker for the appearance of more complex, agrarian societies, Amazonian figurines seem to be related to the intensification of deeply rooted shamanic practices. This chapter reviews the context and repertoires of figurine traditions within the different models proposed in Amazonian archaeology for pre-Columbian societies.” ref


“On the island of Papua New Guinea, indigenous tribes believe that illness and calamity are caused by dark spirits, or masalai, which cling to a person’s body and poison them. Shamans are summoned in order to purge the unwholesome spirits from a person. Shamans also perform rainmaking ceremonies and can allegedly improve a hunter’s ability to catch animals. In Australia various aboriginal groups refer to their shamans as “clever men” and “clever women” also as kadji. These aboriginal shamans use maban or mabain, the material that is believed to give them their purported magical powers. Besides healing, contact with spiritual beings, involvement in initiation and other secret ceremonies, they are also enforcers of tribal laws, keepers of special knowledge and may “hex” to death one who breaks a social taboo by singing a song only known to the “clever men.” ref


In Mali, Dogon sorcerers (both male and female) communicate with a spirit named Amma, who advises them on healing and divination practices. The classical meaning of shaman as a person who, after recovering from a mental illness (or insanity) takes up the professional calling of socially recognized religious practitioner, is exemplified among the Sisala (of northern Gold Coast): “the fairies “seized” him and made him insane for several months. Eventually, though, he learned to control their power, which he now uses to divine.” ref

“The term sangoma, as employed in Zulu and congeneric languages, is effectively equivalent to shaman. Sangomas are highly revered and respected in their society, where illness is thought to be caused by witchcraft, pollution (contact with impure objects or occurrences), bad spirits, or the ancestors themselves, either malevolently, or through neglect if they are not respected, or to show an individual her calling to become a sangoma (thwasa). For harmony between the living and the dead, vital for a trouble-free life, the ancestors must be shown respect through ritual and animal sacrifice.” ref

“The term inyanga also employed by the Nguni cultures is equivalent to ‘herbalist’ as used by the Zulu people and a variation used by the Karanga, among whom remedies (locally known as muti) for ailments are discovered by the inyanga being informed in a dream, of the herb able to effect the cure and also of where that herb is to be found. The majority of the herbal knowledge base is passed down from one inyanga to the next, often within a particular family circle in any one village. Shamanism is known among the Nuba of Kordofan in Sudan.” ref

Shamanic Healing, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion

Abstract: It is likely that “Homo sapiens” practiced shamanic healing for many millennia. Studies within anthropology, folklore, hypnosis, medical history, psychoneuroimmunology, and religion support the argument that suggestions embedded within shamanic rituals have therapeutic effects. Shamanic/hypnotic suggestions may reduce pain, enhance healing, control blood loss, facilitate childbirth, and alleviate psychological disorders. Those more responsive to such suggestions are hypothesized to have a survival advantage over the less susceptible. As a consequence, shamanic rituals selected for genotypes associated with hypnotizability, a trait correlated with frequency of anomalous and religious experiences. With the evolution of psychophysiological structures associated with hypnotizability, modern forms of religious sentiment became possible.” ref 

Turtle/Tortoise Mythology

“Turtles have an important role in mythologies around the world, and are often implicated in creation myths regarding the origin of the Earth. The turtle has a prominent position as a symbol of important concepts in religion, mythology, and folklore from around the world, including steadfastness and tranquility. A tortoise’s longevity is suggested by its long lifespan and its shell, which to some symbolizes protection from any foe. In the cosmological myths of several cultures a World Turtle carries the world upon its back or supports the heavens. The myth of a World Tortoise, along with that of a world-bearing elephant, was discussed comparatively by Edward Burnett Tylor (1878:341). Around the world the tortoise and/or turtle can be seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, and is able to defend itself on its own. It can be regarded as personifying water, the moon, the Earth, time, immortality, and fertility.” ref

“Some of the Deities associated with Turtle Spirit include Ea, the Mesopotamian God of Wisdom and Magic, who lives under the ocean, Venus and Aphrodite – goddesses of love and fertility (Greco-Roman), Vishnu, who has a giant turtle avatar and Set the Egyptian God of the underworld. Black Turtle: Long life, safety, In China, it is sometimes called the Black Warrior of the North, representing the winter. Those born with Turtle as a Totem Animal often are believed to be associated with healers.” ref

“The World Turtle, also called the Cosmic Turtle or the World-bearing Turtle, is a mytheme of a giant turtle (or tortoise) supporting or containing the world. It occurs in Hindu mythologyChinese mythology, and the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the Chinese mythology, the creator goddess Nüwa cut the legs off the giant sea turtle Ao (simplified Chinesetraditional Chinesepinyináo) and used them to prop up the sky after Gong Gong damaged Mount Buzhou, which had previously supported the heavens. The Lenape creation story of the “Great Turtle” was first recorded between 1678 and 1680 by Jasper Danckaerts. The belief is shared by other indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands, most notably those of the Haudenosanee confederacy, and the Anishinaabeg. The World Turtle in Hindu mythology is known as Akūpāra (Sanskrit: अकूपार), or sometimes Chukwa. An example of a reference to the World Turtle in Hindu literature is found in Jñānarāja (the author of Siddhantasundara, writing c. 1500): “A vulture, whichever has only little strength, rests in the sky holding a snake in its beak for a prahara [three hours]. Why can [the deity] in the form of a tortoise, who possesses an inconceivable potency, not hold the Earth in the sky for a kalpa [billions of years]?” The British philosopher John Locke made reference to this in his 1689 tract, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which compares one who would say that properties inhere in “substance” to the Indian, who said the world was on an elephant, which was on a tortoise, “but being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied—something, he knew not what.” ref

“In ancient Mesopotamia, the turtle was associated with the god Enki and was used on kudurrus as one of Enki’s symbols. In the myth of Ninurta and the Turtle, Enki thwarts an attempt by the god Ninurta to seize absolute power by creating a giant turtle and releasing it behind Ninurta, so it bites the hero’s ankle. As they struggle, the turtle digs a pit with its claws, which both of them fall into. Enki gloats over Ninurta’s defeat. The heron and the turtle is an ancient Sumerian story that has survived to this day. One of Aesop‘s fables is The Tortoise and the Hare. The tortoise was the symbol of the ancient Greek city of Aegina, on the island by the same name: the seal and coins of the city shows images of tortoises. The word Chelonian comes from the Greek Chelone, a tortoise god. The tortoise was a fertility symbol in Greek and Roman times, and an attribute of Aphrodite/Venus.” ref

“For the Chinese, the tortoise is sacred and symbolizes longevity, power, and tenacity. It is said that the tortoise helped Pangu (also known as P’an Ku) create the world: the creator goddess Nuwa or Nugua cuts the legs off a sea turtle and uses them to prop up the sky after Gong Gong destroys the mountain that had supported the sky. The flat plastron and domed carapace of a turtle parallel the ancient Chinese idea of a flat earth and domed sky. For the Chinese as well as the Indians, the tortoise symbolizes the universe. Quoting Pen T’sao, “the upper dome-shaped part of its back has various signs, which correspond with the constellations on the sky, and this is Yan; the lower part has many lines, which relate to the earth and is the Yin.” ref

“The tortoise is one of the “Four Fabulous Animals“, the most prominent beasts of China. These animals govern the four points of the compass, with the Black Tortoise the ruler of the north, symbolizing endurance, strength, and longevity. The tortoise and the tiger are the only real animals of the four, although the tortoise is depicted with supernatural features such as dragon ears, flaming tentacles at its shoulders and hips, and a long hairy tail representing seaweed and the growth of plant parasites found on older tortoise shells that flow behind the tortoise as it swims. The Chinese believe that tortoises come out in the spring when they change their shells, and hibernate during the winter, which is the reason for their long life.” ref

“The Chinese Imperial Army carried flags with images of dragons and tortoises as symbols of unparalleled power and inaccessibility, as these animals fought with each other but both remained alive. The dragon cannot break the tortoise and the latter cannot reach the dragon. In Tibet, the tortoise is a symbol of creativity. The tortoise is of the feng shui water element with the tiger, phoenix, and dragon representing the other three elements. According to the principles of feng shui the rear of the home is represented by the Black Tortoise, which signifies support for home, family life, and personal relationships. A tortoise at the back door of a house or in the backyard by a pond is said to attract good fortune and many blessings. Three tortoises stacked on top of each other represent a mother and her babies.” ref

“In Daoist art, the tortoise is an emblem of the triad of earth-humankind-heaven. The tortoise is a symbol of longevity. Due to its longevity, a symbol of a turtle was often used during burials. A burial mound might be shaped like a turtle, and even called a “grave turtle.” A carved turtle, known as bixi was used as a plinth for memorial tablets of high-ranking officials during the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE) and the Ming periods (1368-1644 CE). Enormous turtles supported the memorial tablets of Chinese emperors and support the Kangxi Emperor‘s stele near Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, China. Tortoise shells were used for witchcraft and future forecasting. There are innumerable tales on the longevity of the tortoises and their ability to transform into other forms.” ref

“The turtle Shetyw (also Shetw, Sheta, or Shtyw) was common in Ancient Egyptian Art (especially Predynastic and Old Kingdom art). Turtle fossils are the most common reptiles found in the Fayoum, including Gigantochersina ammon, a tortoise as large as those living on the Galapagos Islands today. Predynastic slate palettes represent freshwater (soft carapace, Trionyx triunguis) turtles, as does the hieroglyph for “turtle”, in which the animal is always represented from above. Zoomorphic palettes were commonly made in the shapes of turtles. A stone vase in the form of a turtle was found in Naqada.” ref

“The earliest representations of the Nile turtle are from pre-dynastic times; they had magical significance and were meant to ward off evil. Amulets and objects depicting the turtles represent them as a force to defend health and life. Many relics from the Middle Kingdom such as magical knives depicted turtles and were inscribed to protect the women and children of the house. Among Ptah’s many creatures, Shetyw was neither especially remarkable nor esteemed. Though excluded from lists of animal offerings to the deities, there are nevertheless great quantities of turtle bones at the great ceremonial complex at Heirakonpolis in Upper Egypt.” ref

“Sacrifices of turtles may have served some ritual or liturgical purpose within the ancient Egyptian ceremonial system. As an aquatic animal, the turtle was associated with the Underworld. The turtle was associated with Set, and so with the enemies of Ra who tried to stop the solar barque as it traveled through the underworld. Since the XIXth Dynasty, and particularly in the Late and Greco-Roman periods, turtles were ritually speared by kings and nobles as evil creatures. The Medical Ebers Papyrus cites the use of turtle carapaces and organs in some formulas. The flesh of Trionyx was eaten from Predynastic times to as late as the Old Kingdom; later the flesh of turtles began to be considered an “abomination of Ra” and the animals were thought of as evil.” ref

“While eaten in Predynastic, Archaic, and Old Kingdom periods, turtles were used only for medicinal purposes after the Old Kingdom. In Predynastic and Archaic times, objects of daily use, such as cosmetic palettes, dishes, and vessels, were made in the shapes of turtles, while after the Old and Middle Kingdoms representations of turtles are more often found on amuletic objects and furniture. After the Middle Kingdom, the turtle’s shape is rarely associated with any object which would come into close contact with a person, reflecting the increasing explicit hostility shown to turtles in scenes and texts.” ref

I think that around or just before the Early Neolithic time, it seems Turtles/Tortoises became part of, or associated with Shamanism.

Tortoiseshells in the Burial

Tortoiseshells in the Burial

Tortoiseshells in the Burial


Possible diffusion pattern of N1a2a-F1101 in the past 9,000 years 

“A bottleneck period of 5,000 years was observed early in the evolution of N1a2a-F1101. Similar lengthy bottleneck periods were observed in downstream structures of N1a2b-P43, N1a1-M46. Archaeologists have suggested that the elements may have spread from northern boundary of China through the Eurasian steppe.” ref

Early history between 9,300 and 4,400 years ago

“As the only two downstream clades of N1a2-L666, the geographical distribution of N1a2a-F1101 and N1a2b-P43 is very different from each other. Ancient DNA studies have identified early branches of N1a2a-F1101 and N1a2b-P43 in sites in the Baikal region (de Barros Damgaard et al., 2018Kilinc et al., 2021Ma et al., 2021). The most recent branch of N1a2-L666 is N1a1-M46, the main paternal type of the Uralic population (Ilumäe et al., 2016). The first two early branches under N1a1-M46, N1a1b-Y149447, and N1a1a3-F4065, are mainly distributed in northeast China ( (Hu et al., 2015). Therefore, we speculate that the initial spread of haplogroup N1a2-L666 may have been in the southwestern part of northeastern China (Figure 3).” ref

“The researchers proposed that this region is also the initial diffusion center of N1a1-M46, while the diffusion of N1a1-M46 (>12,000 years ago) happened earlier than that of N1a2-L666 (<9,300 years ago) (Hu et al., 2015). In the early Holocene (about 11,200-8,000 years ago), with climate change and the rise of early agricultural populations in northern China, a part of the descendants of the ancestor group, representing by sub-lineage N1a2b-P43, spread to the high latitude region of Siberia, eventually becoming part of the Ural-speaking populations. The other part, representing by sub-lineage N1a2a-F1101, remained in the local area and participated in the formation of the northern Chinese populations in the later historical period (Figure 3).” ref

“A bottleneck period of 5,000 years was observed early in the evolution of N1a2a-F1101 (Figure 1Supplementary Table S1). Similar lengthy bottleneck periods were observed in downstream structures of N1a2b-P43, N1a1-M46, and Q1a1a-M120 (Ilumäe et al., 2016Sun et al., 2019). This evolutionary pattern is very different from the expansion pattern of ancient agricultural populations in East Asia, which continued to expand since the beginning of Neolithic age (Yan et al., 2014). The differentiation of the downstream clades of Q-M242 and N-231 presents a similar structure, i.e., downstream clades with high-frequency distribution both in East Asia and Siberia, respectively. Therefore, we speculate that in the bottleneck interval, ancient populations with Q1a1a-M120 and N1a2a-F1101 as the main paternal lineages are likely to exist in the form of prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations in the border between the eastern Eurasian steppe and the northern-northeastern China. The drought and harsh natural environment of this area had a great influence on the evolution of the two paternal lineages in later historical periods.” ref

Expansion during the chalcolithic age and bronze age

“During the Chalcolithic age (about 4.5 kya-4.0 kya) in East Asia, copper, cattle, and wheat were introduced to the East Asian heartland (Liu and Chen, 2003Liu, 2004Liu and Chen, 2017). Archaeologists have suggested that the elements may have spread from the northern boundary of China through the Eurasian steppe. However, the demographic context of this important cultural process is very ambiguous. Around 4,000 years ago, the Bronze culture arose in the agro-pastoral region of northwestern China and later spread across East Asia and Southeast Asia. The mixing of the bronze culture of agriculture and animal husbandry with the people of the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River contributed to the establishment of three dynasties of the Bronze Age in ancient China, namely the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties (Liu and Chen, 2003Liu, 2004Liu and Chen, 2017).” ref

“As discussed above, ancient populations with Q1a1a-M120 and N1a2a-F1101 as the main paternal lineages may have played a mediating role in the spread of the Copper and Bronze cultures from the eastern Eurasian steppe to the central East Asian region, due to their area of activity in the junction zone. Due to the same reason, these two paternal lines experienced a very significant spread during the Bronze Age, becoming important patrilineal lineages that occupied an upper political position in the Bronze Age, and were frequently detected in the tombs of chiefs and nobles of the time (Zhao et al., 2014Sun et al., 2019Ma et al., 2021Wei et al., 2022). An interesting thing is that the significant expansion of N1a2a-F1101 occurred after 3,300 years ago, significantly later than the major expansion period of Q1a1a-M120 (4.2 kya-3 kya, Figure 1).” ref

“Nevertheless, several downstream clades of Q1a1a-M120, like F4759 and F4689, exhibit simultaneous expansion with N1a2a1a1a1a1-F710 (Sun et al., 2019). Ancient DNA data suggest that these two paternal lineages were concentrated in ancient populations in northwest China, and co-occurred in some tombs (Zhao et al., 2014Ma et al., 2021Wei et al., 2022). These ancient DNA studies also suggest that N1a2a-F1101 is likely the paternal lineage of the royal family of the Zhou Dynasty, while Q1a1a-M120 is the main paternal lineage of the Rong-Di populations (Means “Barbarians” in ancient Chinese). Both paternal lineages became the main paternal component of the Chinese group in later generations. In conclusion, we speculate that Q1a1a-M120 and N1a2a-F1101 together constitute the main paternal lineages of the populations that worked as farmers and pastoralists in northwest China during the Copper-Bronze Age. They played a key role in the emergence of bronze culture, early states, and early civilizations in the central region of ancient China.” ref

Bronze Age globalization in East Asia

“As, discussed in the Introduction section, Bronze Age globalization has led to the mass replacement and mixing of populations in multiple parts of Eurasia (Allentoft et al., 2015). In East Asia, however, the situation is quite different. Ancient DNA shows that during the Copper-Bronze Age, the populations in the central East Asian region did not experience large-scale replacement, and the genetic components from Indo-Europeans are nearly absent. Based on previous literature and the results of this paper, we suggest that the Gobi Desert on the border between China and Mongolia may have hindered the spread of the Bronze culture and Indo-European-related populations. The hunter-gatherer communities that originally operated in the north and south of the Gobi Desert relied on their familiarity with the environment and long-distance material exchange networks to spread relevant cultural elements as intermediaries. In later historical periods, they became the main founders of the bronze culture populations in northwest China.” ref

“These demographic histories led to the spread of Bronze culture into central East Asia as a form of cultural diffusion, unlike what happened in other parts of Eurasia during the Bronze Age period of globalization. In summary, we constructed a high-resolution phylogeny for Y-chromosome haplogroup N1a2a-F1101, one of the main paternal lineages of modern Chinese. We explored the demographic of this paternal haplogroup in the past 9,000 years. We also discussed the activity of ancient populations with this lineage and their role during the appearance of Bronze Age culture, the formation of early state and early civilizations in the central region of China. The newly-discovered sub-branches and variants will assist in exploring the formation process of gene pool of Chinese populations and their cultural traditions.” ref 


Haplogroup N1 (N1a, N1c) was found in ancient bones of Liao civilization (at least by 6,200 BCE or around 8,200 years ago):

“The Liao Civilization or Liao River Civilization named after the Liao River, is an ancient civilization that originated in the Liao basin. It is thought to have formed in about 6,200 BCE. Large-scale pit-type houses, graves, and temples with altars were excavated. It is thought that the Liao civilization may have been “a country” of the prehistoric ageA model of the feng shui were excavated from remains of the Hongshan culture. Ball products such as the jade which made the precursors of Chinese dragon were discovered in remains of Xinglongwa culture. In addition, the oldest pit-comb ware and Liaoning bronze dagger (biwa form bronze sword) were excavated. Since it was contemporaneous with the Yellow River civilization and Yangtze civilization, it is thought to have influenced ancient Chinese culture. A 2015 study found that the region once featured rich aquatic resources and deep lakes and forests that existed from 12,000 years ago to 4,000 years ago. It was changed into desert by climate change which began approximately 4,200 years ago. Therefore, people of the Hongshan culture may have emigrated to the Yellow River in the south approximately 4,000 years ago and later influenced Chinese culture.” ref

“The most ancient populations of the West Liao River valley exhibited a high frequency of Haplogroup N-M231. A study by Yinqiu Cui et al. from 2013 found that 63% of the combined samples from various Hongshan archeological sites belonged to the subclade N1 (xN1a, N1c) of the paternal haplogroup N-M231 and calculated N to have been the predominant haplogroup in the region in the Neolithic period at 89%, its share gradually declining over time. Today, this haplogroup is most common in Finland, the Baltic states, and among northern Siberian ethnicities, such as the Yakuts. Individuals at the Liao civilization were assigned into five different Y sub-haplogroups using diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphisms, namely N1 (xN1a, N1c), N1c, C/C3e, O3a (O3a3) and O3a3c. Ancient samples of the Jinggouzi site situated to the northwest of the Liao civilization were assigned to Haplogroup C-M217. Various Neolithic cultures have been identified in the Xiliao River region. Broomcorn millet and foxtail millet were the main cereal crops, while pigs and dogs were the main domesticated animals found at Neolithic archaeological sites.” ref

“Northern nomads from Jinggouzi might have entered the West Liao River valley, but these Jinggouzi people (closely related to Xianbei and Oroqen) were culturally and genetically distinct from the original people of the West Liao River valley, who carried the characteristic Haplogroup N-M231 lineage. The Haplogroup O-M122 that was observed among Liao individuals is believed to have spread to the Liao civilization from the Yellow River civilization in the southwest. This lineage is most commonly associated with speakers of Sino-Tibetan languages (such as the Han Chinese). However, its frequency only began to rise in the Bronze Age, and the ancient Liao River population was different from the Yellow River population. This means the Liao civilization was occupied by a diverse sequence of human cultures that were originally distinct from both the farming populations of the Yellow River and the nomads of the Eurasian steppe.ref

“The formation and development of the Lower Xiajiadian culture population was likely a complex process affected by admixture of ethnically different people. The Lower Xiajiadian culture of the West Liao River included people carrying haplogroups from northern Asia, but there was genetic evidence of the migration of millet farming people from the Central Plains (Zhongyuan). The climate of the West Liao River valley was warmer at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, which may be one of the driving forces for the northward migration of the Central Plains farming population. An archaeological study showed that the painted potteries of the Lower Xiajiadian were influenced by the Erlitou culture. The people of the Dadianzi site of Inner Mongolia received the haplogroup O3 from the immigrants of the Central Plains, and a Lower Xiajiadian individual was identified to possess both the maternal lineage of D4 and paternal lineage of O3-M122. Due to a cooling climate, part of the Lower Xiajiadian culture population migrated to the south and influenced the Central Plains. Among the Yin Ruins relics of Shang Dynasty, artefacts with northern cultural influences have been identified.ref

“N1a1a (M178) is seen at 60% among Finns and approximately 40% among LatviansLithuanians & 35% among Estonians. N1a2b (P43) estimated to be approximately 4,000 to 5,500 years old, is seen at low to moderate frequency among speakers of some other Uralic languages. Haplogroup N-P43 forms two distinctive subclusters of STR haplotypes, Asian and European, the latter mostly distributed among Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples and related populations. N has also been found in many samples of Neolithic human remains exhumed from Liao civilization in northeastern China, and in the circum-Baikal area of southern Siberia. It is suggested that yDNA N, reached southern Siberia from 12-14 kya. From there it reached southern Europe 8-10kya.” ref 

“N1a1a1a1a1a-CTS2929/VL29 Found with high frequency among LithuaniansLatviansEstonians, northwestern Russians, Swedish SaamiKareliansNenetsesFinns, and Maris, moderate frequency among other RussiansBelarusiansUkrainians, and Poles, and low frequency among KomisMordvaTatarsChuvashesDolgansVepsaSelkupsKaranogays, and Bashkirs.” ref 

“N1a1a1a1a1a1a1-L1025/B215 Highest frequency among Lithuanians, significant in Latvians and Estonians and lesser frequency in BelorussiansUkrainians, South-West Russians, and Poles. With exception of Estonians, L1025 has highest share among N-M231 clades in previously mentioned populations. Also observed in Finland and Sweden, with sporadic instances in NorwayGermanyNetherlandsUnited Kingdom, the AzoresCzech Republic, and Slovakia.” ref 

“N1a1a1a1a2-Z1936,CTS10082 Found with high frequency among FinnsVepsaKarelians, Swedish Saami, northwestern RussiansBashkirs, and Volga Tatars, moderate frequency among other RussiansKomisNenetsesOb-UgriansDolgans, and Siberian Tatars, and low frequency among MordvaNganasansChuvashesEstoniansLatviansUkrainians, and Karanogays.” ref 

“Haplogroup N1c was known as N3. N1c represents the western extent of haplogroup N, which is found all over the Far East (China, Korea, Japan), Mongolia, and Siberia, especially among Uralic speakers of northern Siberia. Haplogroup N1 reaches a maximum frequency of approximately 95% in the Nenets (40% N1c and 57% N1b) and Nganassans (all N1b), two Uralic tribes of central-northern Siberia, and 90% among the Yakuts (all N1c), a Turkic people who live mainly in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic in central-eastern Siberia. N1c is found chiefly in north-eastern Europe, particularly in Finland (61%), Lapland (53%), Estonia (34%), Latvia (38%), Lithuania (42%), and northern Russia (30%), and to a lower extent also in central Russia (15%), Belarus (10%), eastern Ukraine (9%), Sweden (7%), Poland (4%) and Turkey (4%). N1c is also prominent among the Uralic-speaking ethnicities of the Volga-Ural region, including the Udmurts (67%), Komi (51%), Mari (50%), and Mordvins (20%), but also among their Turkic neighbors like the Chuvashs (28%), Volga Tatars (21%) and Bashkirs (17%), as well as the Nogais (9%) of southern Russia.” ref 

“Haplogroup N is a descendant of East Asian macro-haplogroup NO. It is believed to have originated in Indochina or southern China approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Haplogroup N1* and N1c were both found at high frequency (26 out of 70 samples, or 37%) in Neolithic and Bronze Age remains (4500-700 BCE) from the West Liao River valley in Northeast China (Manchuria) by Yinqiu Cui et al. (2013). Among the Neolithic samples, haplogroup N1 made up two-thirds of the samples from the Hongshan culture (4700-2900 BCE) and all the samples from the Xiaoheyan culture (3000-2200 BCE), hinting that N1 people played a major role in the diffusion of the Neolithic lifestyle around Northeast China, and probably also to Mongolia and Siberia.” ref 

Ye Zhang et al. 2016 found 100% of Y-DNA N out of 17 samples from the Xueshan culture (Jiangjialiang site) dating from 3600–2900 BCE, and among those 41% belonged to N1c1-Tat. It is therefore extremely likely that the N1c1 subclade found in Europe today has its roots in the Chinese Neolithic. It would have progressively spread across Siberia until north-eastern Europe, possibly reaching the Volga-Ural region around 5500 to 4500 BCE with the Kama culture (5300-3300 BCE), and the eastern Baltic with the Comb Ceramic culture (4200-2000 BCE), the presumed ancestral culture of Proto-Finnic and pre-Baltic people. There is little evidence of agriculture or domesticated animals in Siberia during the Neolithic, but pottery was widely used. In that regard, it was the opposite development from the Near East, which first developed agriculture then only pottery from circa 5500 BCE, perhaps through contact with East Asians via Siberia or Central Asia.” ref 

  • “N1c1a (M178): found in Siberia (Khakass-Daurs)
    • N1c1a1 (L708): found in Siberia (Anayins)
      • N1c1a1a (P298): found in Siberia (Yakuts)
        • N1c1a1a1 (L392, L1026): Finno-Ugric branch; found throughout north-east Europe
          • N1c1a1a1a (CTS2929/VL29): Baltic-Finnic branch
            • N1c1a1a1a1 (L550): West Finnic branch; found around the Baltic Sea and in places settled by the Vikings
              • N1c1a1a1a1a (L1025)
                • N1c1a1a1a1a1 (M2783): found especially in Balto-Slavic countries, with a peak in Lithuania and Latvia
                • N1c1a1a1a1a2 (Y4706): found mostly in Finland and Scandinavia
            • N1c1a1a1a2 (CTS9976): East Finnic branch; found among the Chudes (Karelia, Estonia)
            • N1c1a1a1a2a (L1022)
          • N1c1a1a1a2a1 (Z1936): Finno-Permic branch; found in the Volga-Ural region and among the Karelians and Savonians
            • N1c1a1a1a2a1a (Z1925): found in Finland, Lapland, Scandinavia, the Volga-Ural and the Altai
              • N1c1a1a1a2a1a1 (Z1933)
                • N1c1a1a1a2a1a1a (Z1927): found among the Karelians
                • N1c1a1a1a2a1a1b (CTS8565): found among the Savonians” ref


“Estimated prehistoric migration routes for Y-chromosome haplogroup N lineage.” ref

“The inhabitants of Jiahu cultivated foxtail millet and rice. While millet cultivation is common in the Peiligang culture, rice cultivation at Jiahu is unique, and tends to support the theory that Jiahu was a separate culture from the Peiligang grouping. On the other hand, difference in local climate, moisture and soil conditions may have made cultivating rice in the Peiligang area more difficult. Jiahu rice cultivation is one of the earliest found, and the most northerly found at such an early stage in history. The rice was a kind of short-grained japonica rice. Scholars had previously thought the earliest domesticated rice belonged to the long-grain indica subspecies.” ref

“There is abundant proof of millet farming in cool, dry high latitudes of the Yellow River Valley, and rice farming dominated in warm, moist low latitudes of the Yangtze River Valley. The early Neolithic site of Jiahu lies near the boundary between the cool, dry north and the warm, moist south. In another sign of advancement, Jiahu’s farmers had moved on from the usual slash-and-burn techniques of Neolithic farmers, and were using intensive cultivation in permanent fields. Jiahu is also the site of the earliest find of wild soybean seeds in China; a large quantity of soybean remains were discovered at Jiahu.” ref

“Food was plentiful, from farming as well as hunting and foraging, and contributed to considerable population growth for such an early settlement. Women of the Jiahu culture gathered wild pears and apricots, and foraged for acorns, chestnuts, broad beans, edible roots and tubers in the surrounding countryside. There is evidence of domesticated pigs, dogs, poultry, and small numbers of cattle. The Jiahu people used manure from their pigs and cattle as fertilizer, substantially increasing the yield of their rice crops. The livestock produced meat, milk and eggs. There was also evidence of deer, wild boar and rabbit hunting, and fishing in the nearby rivers to the north and south, with nets made of hemp fibers. The earliest evidence of Common carp aquaculture was also found at Jiahu. The red-crowned crane, a large bird indigenous to the region, was hunted for meat; its bones and feathers were also used for other purposes.” ref

“Due to this steadily improving and varied diet, the health and longevity of the Jiahu people gradually improved. This has been documented through comparison of the archaeological evidence. Over 400 burials have been unearthed at Jiahu, and many hundreds more are believed to await excavation. Skeletons have been measured and carefully examined, revealing the height, weight, gender, and approximate age of each of the deceased Jiahu at the time of death, as well as the general health, and in many cases the cause of death. The three phases of Jiahu history correspond to steadily increasing numbers of middle-aged and older people, suggesting an increase in survival and life expectancy, and fewer remains of children and infants, suggesting a reduction in child and infant mortality. By the third phase, the average height of an adult had increased by two centimetres (34 in) and the bones and teeth were in significantly better condition.” ref

“A stone sickle blade has been recovered. This was secured to a wooden handle to harvest grain. Evidence of baskets woven from wild grass has been uncovered. These were used to carry grain from the harvests. Remnants of a spinning loom have been found, indicating the production of cloth, probably from hemp fibers. Among the many tools and utensils unearthed at Jiahu are three-legged earthenware cooking pots with tight-fitting lids, and a variety of stone implements, including arrowheads, barbed harpoons, spades, axes, awls, and chisels.” ref

“Stone spearheads have also been found, and evidence of what may have been a wooden stockade fence along at least a portion of the interior shore of the moat. These improved weapons, and the moat surrounding the settlement, provided an ideal defense for such an early culture. The area is known to have been frequented by nomadic hunting and gathering tribes for several thousand years prior to the Jiahu settlement, and these may have been potential enemies, as well as the genetic forebears of Jiahu. The Jiahu people are not believed to have been warlike in nature, but capable of defending themselves if the need arose.” ref

“Thorough examination of the site has revealed no evidence of any armed conflict. Unearthed human remains showing signs of violent death are very rare, and scattered along the known timeline—rather than occurring at the same time which would indicate a battle. It is possible that the large size of the settlement, its substantial defenses, and the improved weapons of the Jiahu people may have caused potential enemies of that time to keep their distance. Such a scenario is consistent with the substantial growth in population and longevity exhibited by the Jiahu site. Without war, and with plenty of nutritious food, the village flourished.

“Some of the most significant burial offerings discovered were playable tonal flutes made from red-crowned crane wing bones. This crane is 1.5 metres (5 ft) tall with a wingspan of 2.4 m (8 ft), yielding large bones for this purpose. Thirty-three flutes—including around 20 intact flutes, several broken or fragmented ones, and several more unfinished ones—have been found at Jiahu. All are between 18 and 25 cm (7 and 10 in) in length. It seems plausible that ancient flutes were also made from bamboo. Ancient myths described bamboo flutes; but no ancient ones have been found, in all likelihood because bamboo decays more quickly than bone and doesn’t survive burial for thousands of years like bone.” ref

“The oldest phase at Jiahu only contains two flutes, which are tetratonic and pentatonic; the middle phase at Jiahu contains several flutes, including an interesting pair of hexatonic flutes. One of the flutes was broken, and the other flute seems to be a replica of the first flute, as it shows evidence of adjustments made to match the pitch of the first. Innovations in the last phase include the use of heptatonic flutes. The flutes were cut, smoothed at the ends, polished and finally drilled with a row of holes on one side. One of the broken flutes was repaired by drilling fourteen tiny holes along the breakage lines and then tying the sections together with hemp string.” ref

“The flutes play in the so-called pentatonic scale, in which octaves are divided into five notes—the basis of many kinds of music, including Chinese folk music. The fact that the flute has a scale indicates that its original players played music rather than just single notes. The flutes were probably used in some kind of ceremonial capacity, but may have been played for entertainment. Substantial quantities of rice and millet were stored in pottery jars, enabling the specialization of labor. Jiahu society is believed to have been fairly egalitarian, with several hundred residents of the village at the height of its development. Comparative DNA evidence from remains in the Jiahu settlement itself, as well as other evidence gathered, leads to speculation among researchers that there were one or more other ancient villages nearby, with peaceful interaction with the Jiahu in some form; but the sites of other villages nearby have not been located.” ref

“Jiahu yielded some of the oldest Chinese pottery yet found in Neolithic China. Patrick McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led a team of scientists who applied biomarker chemical analysis to pottery jars from Jiahu. They found signature molecules proving alcohol was fermented from rice, honey, grapes, and hawthorn. Researchers hypothesize that this hybrid beverage (a beer, wine, and mead combination) was fermented by the process of mold saccharification, a uniquely Chinese contribution to the art of beverage-making in which several mold species are used to break down the carbohydrates of rice and other grains into simple, fermentable sugars. Specific aromatic herbs and flowers such as chrysanthemum, in addition to tree resins such as China fir, had been added to the hybrid beverages, the researchers found. These aromatic additions, as well as the honey, indicate that fermented beverages with a pleasing aroma and sweet taste were important to the Jiahu people.” ref

“At Jiahu, archaeologists identified eleven markings of Jiahu symbols, also known as pictograms: nine on tortoise shells and two on bone, as possible evidence for proto-writing. The markings correspond to the middle phase. Some of the markings are quite similar to later Chinese characters; two of the most intriguing marks appear to be similar to later characters for eye () and sun (). However, correspondence of many early non-writing symbols with the Shang dynasty period oracle bone writing is to be expected, given the pictographic style of many of the Shang characters.” ref

“In later Chinese culture dating to around 3500 BCE, tortoise shells were used as a form of divination. These were subjected to intense heat, and the cracks that formed were read as omens. The cracks were then carved as permanent marks on the surface of the shell. The evidence of shell pictograms from Jiahu may indicate that this tradition, or a related one, has much deeper roots in ancient Chinese culture than previously considered. Based on the archaeological evidence, a severe flood from the nearby rivers submerged most or all of the Jiahu settlement under a few feet of water sometime around 5700 BC. The inhabitants evacuated. It is not known where they went. The absence of tools and weapons in most of the residences indicates that they were able to salvage most of their belongings. They may have built a new village that has not been discovered, emigrated to the Peiligang villages, or scattered.” ref

“Zhang Juzhong imagines that they were led by their tribal priest to build a new village nearby on higher ground, so that they could send salvage parties to the old village site. The new village site has never been found. The demolishing of older structures to salvage materials for the construction of new ones may have eradicated the site of the new village if it existed. Archaeologists have divided Jiahu into three distinct phases. The oldest phase ranges from 7000 to 6600 BCE; the middle phase ranges from 6600 to 6200 BCE; and the last phase ranges from 6200 to 5700 BCE. The last two phases correspond to the Peiligang culture, while the earliest phase is unique to Jiahu.” ref

“Some archaeologists point to cultural distinctions between Jiahu and Peiligang, as well as the distance: Jiahu is isolated, many kilometers south of the larger Peiligang grouping of over 100 archaeological sites in a fairly compact area. The distance would have represented a journey on foot of several days in the Neolithic era. This school of thought suggests that Jiahu and Peiligang represented separate, neighboring cultures that interacted and shared many characteristics. Other early Neolithic settlements in this part of the world were much farther south and east.” ref

“Careful examination of the skeletons of over 400 individuals, removed from more than 300 graves, by several scientific teams over the course of the past 30 years illustrates that the Jiahu ethnic group was a part of the Northern Mongoloid group, and identified closely with the Miaodigou and Xiawanggang sub-groups which were also descendants of hunting and gathering tribes in Henan Province, and the Dawenkou, Xixiahou and Yedian sub-groups that were later found in Shandong Province.” ref

Ancient Rattles (percussion instrument)

 An experimental study of turtle shell rattle production and the implications for archaeofaunal assemblages

“Turtle shell rattles are percussion instruments used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas in ceremonial contexts to keep rhythm. Archaeological investigations in the southeastern United States produced several complete and partial Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) shell rattles from mortuary contexts dating from the Archaic (ca. 8000–1000 BCE or 10,000 to 3,000 years ago) through Mississippian periods (ca. CE 800–1500).” ref 

“Pictograms, signs carved on tortoiseshells, were also uncovered at Jiahu. In later Chinese culture dating to around 3500 BCE, shells were used as a form of divination. They were subjected to intense heat, and the cracks that formed were read as omens. The cracks were then carved as permanent marks on the surface of the shell. The evidence of shell pictograms from Jiahu may indicate that this tradition, or a related one, has much deeper roots than previously considered.” ref 

“In Ancient Egypt, rattles were used during funerary rituals to signify regeneration in the after-life. Rattles were viewed as sacred and became the forerunners of the sistrum. The earliest Egyptian rattles were ovular and made of pottery. During the Predynastic and Old Kingdom periods rattles gained handles and different shapes and were made out of different materials such as basket, wood, and stone. Native American people often use rattles in ceremonial dances. Oftentimes, these rattles are meant to represent something. Each figure or depiction can relate to something sacred to their tribe. Often, the sound of rattles forms a connection to the supernatural world when the rattles are employed by shamans. The use of the raven rattle, like the one pictured to the right, always implies power, which when used in dances, symbolize the status of the chief, who has a hereditary right to use the rattle.” ref  

Peiligang culture (7,000-5,000 BCE)

“The Peiligang culture was a Neolithic culture in the Yi-Luo river basin (in modern Henan Province, China) that existed from about 7000 to 5000 BCE. Over 100 sites have been identified with the Peiligang culture, nearly all of them in a fairly compact area of about 100 square kilometers in the area just south of the river and along its banks. Archaeologists believe that the Peiligang culture was egalitarian, with little political organization. The culture practiced agriculture in the form of cultivating millet and animal husbandry in the form of raising pigs and possibly poultry. The people hunted deer and wild boar, and fished for carp in the nearby river, using nets made from hemp fibers. The culture is also one of the oldest in ancient China to make pottery. This culture typically had separate residential and burial areas, or cemeteries, like most Neolithic cultures.” ref

“Common artifacts include stone arrowheads, spearheads and axe heads; stone tools such as chisels, awls and sickles for harvesting grain; and a broad assortment of pottery items for such purposes as cooking and storing grain. The site at Jiahu is the earliest site associated with Peiligang culture. There are many similarities between the main group of Peiligang settlements and the Jiahu culture, which was isolated several days’ travel to the south of the main group. Archaeologists are divided about the relationship between Jiahu and the main group. Most agree that Jiahu was part of the Peiligang culture, pointing to the many similarities. A few archaeologists are pointing to the differences, as well as the distance, believing that Jiahu was a neighbor that shared many cultural characteristics with Peiligang, but was a separate culture. The cultivation of rice, for example, was unique to Jiahu and was not practiced among the villages of the main Peiligang group in the north. Also, Jiahu existed for several hundred years before any of the settlements of the main group.” ref

 ref, ref

Tortoiseshells in the Burial

“The burials at Jiahu were usually accompanied by burial offerings, with increasing frequency as the second and third phases progressed. Burial objects range from pottery to tortoise shells. Burial offerings varied between individuals, and are believed to be linked to the skills they displayed in life, providing evidence of an early specialization of labor. The types of labor specialization, from most common to most rare, included farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, hunters, potters, musicians, and a tribal priest.” ref

“Most of the burials were earthen pits; infants were buried in earthenware jars. As is common with Neolithic communities, the burials were in cemeteries which were separate from the residential areas, although many gravesites overlapped, so they were probably not marked. A few burials were multiple, while most burial pits contained single individuals. These did not follow any discernible pattern, although it is possible that in some cases, couples (a man and a woman of roughly the same age) were buried together.” ref

“In some graves, the heads were severed from the body and pointed toward the northwest. Cut marks made when the bones were fresh indicates the heads were cut off shortly after the person died. A few burial offerings included turquoise carvings, and represented a significant level of material wealth, suggesting some differences in social status. Burial offerings in women’s graves were more sparse, indicating lower social status, and indicated that their roles were limited to childbearing and child care, cooking, and foraging for food.” ref

“Japanese culture adopted from China the myth of four Guardian Beasts, said in Japan to protect the city of Heian (Kyoto) from threats arising from each of the four cardinal directions. The Black Tortoise or Gen-bu, sometimes depicted as a combination of a tortoise and a snake, protects Kyoto from the north; the other beasts and associated directions are the Azure Dragon (Sei-ryu, east), the Vermilion Bird (Su-zaku, south), and the White Tiger (Byak-ko, west). In Japan, however, the turtle has developed a more independent tradition than the other three prominent beasts of China. The minogame (蓑亀), which is so old it has a train of seaweed growing on its back, is a symbol of longevity and felicity. A minogame has an important role in the well-known legend of Urashima Tarō. According to traditional Japanese beliefs, the tortoise is a haven for immortals and the world mountain, and symbolizes longevity, good luck, and support. It is the symbol of Kompira, the god of seafaring people.” ref

“The tortoise is a favored motif by netsuke-carvers and other artisans, and is featured in traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies. There is also a well-known artistic pattern based on the nearly hexagonal shape of a tortoise’s shell. These patterns are usually composed of symmetrical hexagons, sometimes with smaller hexagons within them. Many legends of Vietnam connect closely to the turtle. During the time of Emperor Yao in China, a Vietnamese King’s envoy offered a sacred turtle (Vietnamese: Thần Quy) which was carved in Khoa Đẩu script on its carapace writing all things happening from the time Sky and Earth had been born. Yao King ordered a person to copy it and called it Turtle Calendar.” ref

“Another legend told that Kim Quy Deity (Golden Turtle Deity) came into sight and crawled after An Dương Vương‘s pray. Following the Deity’s foot prints, An Dương Vương built Cổ Loa Citadel as a spiral. An Dương Vương was given a present of Kim Quy Deity’s claw to make the trigger (Vietnamese: lẫy), one part of the crossbow (Vietnamese: nỏ) named Linh Quang Kim Trảo Thần Nỏ that was the military secret of victorious Zhao Tuo. A 15th-century legend tells that Lê Lợi returned his sacred sword named Thuận Thiên (Heaven’s Will) to Golden Turtle in Lục Thủy lake after he had defeated the Ming army. That is why Lục Thủy lake was renamed Sword Lake (Vietnamese: Hồ Gươm) or Returning Sword lake (Hoàn Kiếm Lake). This action symbolizes taking leave of weapons for peace.” ref

“In Taiwanese villages, paste cakes of flour shaped like turtles are made for festivals that are held in honor of the lineage patron deity. People buy these cakes at their lineage temple and take them home to assure prosperity, harmony, and security for the following year. In the stories of many Indigenous groups of North America, the World Turtle carries the Earth upon its back. Many North American Indigenous groups, mostly in the northern and eastern areas of the continent, have in common a type of creation story called the Earth-Diver Myth in which a supreme being usually sends an animal into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land; in many stories these are then used to build that land upon the base of a turtle’s back. For this reason many Indigenous peoples of the continent refer to it as Turtle Island. Use of term “Turtle Island” for the North American continent expanded beyond those groups carrying these story traditions into more widespread pan-Indigenous use during Indigenous rights activism in the 1970s.” ref

“Most turtles have thirteen scales, or scutes, on the backs of their shells. In many Native American cultural traditions these scutes represented the thirteen full moons in each year, including those of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe other related Algonquian peoples, and the Wabanaki/Abenaki. In Cheyenne tradition, the great creator spirit Maheo kneads some mud he takes from a coot‘s beak until it expands so much that only Old Grandmother Turtle can support it on her back. In Haudenosaunee tradition, the trembling or shaking of the Earth is thought of as a sign that the World Turtle is stretching beneath the great weight that she carries. In the Anishinaabe creation story, Gchi-Mikinaak (“The Great Turtle”) offers his back as a base in order to (re)build the world from mud brought up from the bottom of the great waters covering the world by another animal, usually by Wazhashk (“Muskrat”).) In most versions of this story, this takes place after a Great Flood covers the world, and the land created on Turtle’s back is the first to re-emerge, on which the Anishinaabeg will live from then on.” ref


“The Paleolithic dog was a Late Pleistocene canine. They were directly associated with human hunting camps in Europe over 30,000 years ago and it is proposed that these were domesticated. They are further proposed to be either a proto-dog and the ancestor of the domestic dog or an extinct, morphologically and genetically divergent wolf population. There are a number of recently discovered specimens which are proposed as being Paleolithic dogs, however, their taxonomy is debated. These have been found in either Europe or Siberia and date 40,000–17,000 years ago. They include Hohle Fels in Germany, Goyet Caves in Belgium, Predmosti in the Czech Republic, and four sites in Russia: Razboinichya Cave in the Altai RepublicKostyonki-8, Ulakhan Sular in the Sakha Republic, and Eliseevichi 1 on the Russian plain.” ref

1. 40,000–35,500 years ago Hohle FelsSchelklingen, Germany
2. 36,500 years ago Goyet Caves, Samson River Valley, Belgium
3. 33,500 years ago Razboinichya Cave,  Altai Mountains, (Russia/Siberia)
4. 33,500–26,500 years ago Kostyonki-Borshchyovo archaeological complex, (Kostenki site) Voronezh, Russia
5. 31,000 years ago Predmostí, Moravia, Czech Republic
6. 26,000 years ago Chauvet CaveVallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche region, France
7. 17,300–14,100 years ago Dyuktai Cave, northern Yakutia, Siberia
8. 17,000–16,000 years ago Eliseevichi-I site, Bryansk Region, Russian Plain, Russia
9. 16,900 years ago Afontova Gora-1, Yenisei River, southern Siberia
10. 14,223 years ago BonnOberkassel, Germany
11. 13,500 years ago MezineChernigov region, Ukraine
12. 13,000 years ago Palegawra, (Zarzian culture) Iraq
13. 12,800 years ago Ushki I, Kamchatka, eastern Siberia
14. 12,790 years ago NanzhuangtouChina
15. 12,300 years ago Ust’-Khaita site, Baikal region, Siberia
16. 12,000 years ago Ain Mallaha (Eynan) and HaYonim terrace, Israel
17. 10,150 years ago Lawyer’s Cave, Alaska, USA
18. 9,000 years ago Jiahu site, China
19. 8,000 years ago Svaerdborg site, Denmark
20. 7,425 years ago Lake Baikal region, Siberia
21. 7,000 years ago Tianluoshan archaeological site, Zhejiang province, China ref

1. 40,000–35,500 years ago Hohle FelsSchelklingen, Germany

“Canid maxillary fragment. The size of the molars matches those of a wolf, the morphology matches a dog. Proposed as a Paleolithic dog. The figurine Venus of Hohle Fels was discovered in this cave and dated to this time.” ref

2. 36,500 years ago Goyet Caves, Samson River Valley, Belgium

The “Goyet dog” is proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. The Goyet skull is very similar in shape to that of the Eliseevichi-I dog skulls (16,900 years ago) and to the Epigravettian Mezin 5490 and Mezhirich dog skulls (13,500 years ago), which are about 18,000 years younger. The dog-like skull was found in a side gallery of the cave, and Palaeolithic artifacts in this system of caves date from the MousterianAurignacianGravettian, and Magdalenian, which indicates recurrent occupations of the cave from the Pleniglacial until the Late Glacial. The Goyet dog left no descendants, and its genetic classification is inconclusive because its mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) does not match any living wolf nor dog. It may represent an aborted domestication event or phenotypically and genetically distinct wolves. A genome-wide study of a 35,000-year-old Pleistocene wolf fossil from northern Siberia indicates that the dog and the modern grey wolf genetically diverged from a common ancestor between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago.” ref

3. 33,500 years ago Razboinichya Cave,  Altai Mountains, (Russia/Siberia)

The “Altai dog” is proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. The specimens discovered were a dog-like skull, mandibles (both sides), and teeth. The morphological classification, and an initial mDNA analysis, found it to be a dog. A later study of its mDNA was inconclusive, with 2 analyses indicating dog and another 2 indicating wolf. In 2017, two prominent evolutionary biologists reviewed the evidence and supported the Altai dog as being a dog from a lineage that is now extinct and that was derived from a population of small wolves that are also now extinct.” ref

4. 33,500–26,500 years ago Kostyonki-Borshchyovo archaeological complex, (Kostenki site) Voronezh, Russia

One left mandible paired with the right maxilla, proposed as a Paleolithic dog.” ref

5. 31,000 years ago Predmostí, Moravia, Czech Republic

Three dog-like skulls proposed as being Paleolithic dogs. Predmostí is a Gravettian site. The skulls were found in the human burial zone and identified as Palaeolithic dogs, characterized by – compared to wolves – short skulls, short snouts, wide palates and braincases, and even-sized carnassials. Wolf skulls were also found at the site. One dog had been buried with a bone placed carefully in its mouth. The presence of dogs buried with humans at this Gravettian site corroborates the hypothesis that domestication began long before the Late Glacial. Further analysis of bone collagen and dental microwear on tooth enamel indicates that these canines had a different diet when compared with wolves (refer under diet).” ref

6. 26,000 years ago Chauvet CaveVallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche region, France

50-metre trail of footprints made by a boy of about ten years of age alongside those of a large canid. The size and position of the canid’s shortened middle toe in relation to its pads indicate a dog rather than a wolf. The footprints have been dated by soot deposited from the torch the child was carrying. The cave is famous for its cave paintings. A later study using geometric morphometric analysis to compare modern wolves with modern dog tracks proposes that these are wolf tracks.” ref

7. 17,300–14,100 years ago Dyuktai Cave, northern Yakutia, Siberia

Large canid remains along with human artifacts. And from a nearby site dating to around 17,200–16,800 Ulakhan Sular, northern Yakutia, Siberia held a fossil dog-like skull similar in size to the “Altai dog”, proposed as a Paleolithic dog.” ref

8. 17,000–16,000 years ago Eliseevichi-I site, Bryansk Region, Russian Plain, Russia

Two fossil canine skulls proposed as being Paleolithic dogs. In 2002, a study looked at the fossil skulls of two large canids that had been found buried 2 meters and 7 meters from what was once a mammoth-bone hut at this Upper Paleolithic site, and using an accepted morphologically based definition of domestication declared them to be “Ice Age dogs”. The carbon dating gave a calendar-year age estimate that ranged between 16,945 and 13,905 years ago. The Eliseevichi-1 skull is very similar in shape to the Goyet skull (36,000 years ago), the Mezine dog skull (13,500 years ago) and Mezhirich dog skull (13,500 years ago). In 2013, a study looked at the mDNA sequence for one of these skulls and identified it as Canis lupus familiaris i.e. dog. However, in 2015 a study using three-dimensional geometric morphometric analyses indicated the skull is more likely from a wolf. These animals were larger in size than most grey wolves and approached the size of a Great Dane.” ref

9. 16,900 years ago Afontova Gora-1, Yenisei River, southern Siberia

Fossil dog-like tibia, proposed as a Paleolithic dog. The site is on the western bank of the Yenisei River about 2,500 km southwest of Ulakhan Sular, and shares a similar timeframe to that canid. A skull from this site described as dog-like has been lost in the past, but there exists a written description of it possessing a wide snout and a clear stop, with a skull length of 23 cm that falls outside of those of wolves.” ref

Afontova Gora is a Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Siberian complex of archaeological sites located on the left bank of the Yenisei River near the city of KrasnoyarskRussia. Afontova Gora 3 carries are at the root of the classic European blond hair mutation, as massive population migrations from the Eurasian steppe, by a people who had substantial Ancient North Eurasian ancestry, entered continental Europe. Afontova Gora has cultural and genetic links to the people from Mal’ta-Buret’ culture. In a 2016 study, researchers determined that Afontova Gora 2, Afontova Gora 3, and Mal’ta 1 (Mal’ta boy) shared common descent and were clustered together in a Mal’ta cluster. The individual showed close genetic affinities to Mal’ta 1 (Mal’ta boy). Afontova Gora 2 also showed greater genetic affinity for the Karitiana people an indigenous people of Brazil, than for the Han Chinese.” ref

“Since the term ‘Ancient North Eurasian’ refers to a genetic bridge of connected mating networks, scholars of comparative mythology have argued that they probably shared myths and beliefs that could be reconstructed via the comparison of stories attested within cultures that were not in contact for millennia and stretched from the Pontic–Caspian steppe to the American continent. The mytheme of the dog guarding the Otherworld possibly stems from an older Ancient North Eurasian belief, as suggested by similar motifs found in Indo-EuropeanNative American and Siberian mythology. In SiouanAlgonquianIroquoian, and in Central and South American beliefs, a fierce guard dog was located in the Milky Way, perceived as the path of souls in the afterlife, and getting past it was a test. The Siberian Chukchi and Tungus believed in a guardian-of-the-afterlife dog and a spirit dog that would absorb the dead man’s soul and act as a guide in the afterlife. In Indo-European myths, the figure of the dog is embodied by CerberusSarvarā, and Garmr. In Zoroastrianism, two four-eyed dogs guard the bridge to the afterlife called Chinvat BridgeAnthony and Brown note that it might be one of the oldest mythemes recoverable through comparative mythology. A second canid-related series of beliefs, myths and rituals connected dogs with healing rather than death. For instance, Ancient Near Eastern and TurkicKipchaq myths are prone to associate dogs with healing and generally categorised dogs as impure. A similar myth-pattern is assumed for the Eneolithic site of Botai in Kazakhstan, dated to 3500 BCE, which might represent the dog as absorber of illness and guardian of the household against disease and evil. In Mesopotamia, the goddess Nintinugga, associated with healing, was accompanied or symbolized by dogs. Similar absorbent-puppy healing and sacrifice rituals were practiced in Greece and Italy, among the Hittites, again possibly influenced by Near Eastern traditions.” ref

10. 14,223 years ago BonnOberkassel, Germany

The “Bonn-Oberkassel dog“. Undisputed dog skeleton buried with a man and woman. All three skeletal remains were found sprayed with red hematite powder. The consensus is that a dog was buried along with two humans. Analysis of mDNA indicates that this dog was a direct ancestor of modern dogs. Domestic dog.” ref

11. 13,500 years ago MezineChernigov region, Ukraine

Ancient dog-like skull proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. Additionally, ancient wolf specimens were found at the site. Dated to the Epigravettian period (17,000–10,000 years ago). The Mezine skull is very similar in shape to the Goyet skull (36,000 years ago), the Eliseevichi-1 dog skulls (16,900 years ago), and the Mezhirich dog skull (13,500 years ago). The Epigravettian Mezine site is well known for its round mammoth bone dwelling. Taxonomy uncertain.” ref

12. 13,000 years ago Palegawra, (Zarzian culture) Iraq

The fossil jaw and teeth of a domesticated dog, recovered from a cave in Iraq, have been found to be about 14,000 years old. The bone was found in a shallow cave with a number of stone tools suggesting that its keepers were hunters. The scientists who found and studied the bone speculated that the animal served either as a hunting dog in the field or as a watchdog back at the cave or perhaps as both.” refref

13. 12,800 years ago Ushki I, Kamchatka, eastern Siberia

Complete skeleton buried in a buried dwelling. Located 1,800 km to the southeast from Ulakhan Sular. Domestic dog.” ref

14. 12,790 years ago Nanzhuangtou, China

31 fragments including a complete dog mandible.” ref 

Nanzhuangtou, dated to 12,600–11,300 years ago an Initial Neolithic site near Lake Baiyangdian in Xushui CountyHebeiChina. The site was discovered under a peat bog. Over 47 pieces of pottery were discovered at the site. Nanzhuangtou is also the earliest Neolithic site yet discovered in northern China. There is evidence that the people at Nanzhuangtou had domestic dogs 10,000 years ago. Stone grinding slabs and rollers and bone artifacts were also discovered at the site. It is one of the earliest sites showing evidence of millet cultivation dating to 10,500 years ago. Pottery can also be dated to 10,200 years ago.” ref 

“At a nearby location of Lingjing (Henan, China) was found bird carving, with a probable age estimated to 13,500 years old. The carving, which predates previously known comparable instances from this region by 8,500 years.” ref 

Damien finds both the dogs likely from Siberia and possibly the bird mythology that came to inspire the bird art.

 “N moved from southern China 20,000 years ago involving the earliest pottery, then spreading pottery into Siberia starting around 14,000 years ago, and N has experienced serial bottlenecks in Siberia and secondary expansions in eastern Europe. Haplogroup N-M46 is approximately 14,000 years old. In Siberia, haplogroup N-M46 reaches a maximum frequency of approximately 90% among the Yakuts, a Turkic people who live mainly in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. However, N-M46 is present with much lower frequency among many of the Yakuts’ neighbors, such as Evenks and Evens. The haplogroup N-M46 has a low diversity among Yakuts suggestive of a population bottleneck or founder effect. This was confirmed by a study of ancient DNA which traced the origins of the male Yakut lineages to a small group of horse-riders from the Cis-Baikal area.” ref

15. 12,300 years ago Ust’-Khaita site, Baikal region, Siberia

Sub-adult skull located 2,400 km southwest of Ulakhan Sular and proposed as a Paleolithic dog. Also a somewhat close find at 12,450 years old mummified dog carcass. The “Black Dog of Tumat” was found frozen into the ice core of an oxbow lake steep ravine at the middle course of the Syalaah River in the Ust-Yana region. DNA analysis confirmed it as an early dog.” ref The Archaeology of Ushki Lake, Kamchatka, and the Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas: The Ushki Paleolithic sites of Kamchatka, Russia, have long been thought to contain information critical to the peopling of the Americas, especially the origins of Clovis. New radiocarbon dates indicate that human occupation of Ushki began only 13,000 calendar years ago-nearly 4000 years later than previously thought. Although biface industries were widespread across Beringia contemporaneous to the time of Clovis in western North America, these data suggest that late-glacial Siberians did not spread into Beringia until the end of the Pleistocene, perhaps too recently to have been ancestral to proposed pre-Clovis populations in the Americas.” ref

16. 12,000 years ago Ain Mallaha (Eynan) and HaYonim terrace, Israel

Three canid finds. A diminutive carnassial and a mandible, and a wolf or dog puppy skeleton buried with a human during the Natufian culture. These Natufian dogs did not exhibit tooth-crowding. The Natufian culture occupied the Levant, and had earlier interred a fox together with a human in the Uyun al-Hammam burial site, Jordan dated 17,700–14,750 years ago.” ref

17. 10,150 years ago Lawyer’s Cave, Alaska, USA

Bone of a dog, oldest find in North America. DNA indicates a split from Siberian relatives 16,500 years ago, indicating that dogs may have been in Beringia earlier. Lawyer’s Cave is on the Alaskan mainland east of Wrangell Island in the Alexander Archipelago of southeast Alaska.” ref

18. 9,000 years ago Jiahu site, China

Eleven dog interments. Jaihu is a Neolithic site 22 kilometers north of Wuyang in Henan Province.” ref Most archaeologists consider the Jaihu site to be one of the earliest examples of the Peiligang culture. Settled around 7000 BCE or around 9,000 years ago, the site was later flooded and abandoned around 5700 BCE or around 7,700 years ago. At one time, it was “a complex, highly organized Chinese Neolithic society”, home to at least 250 people and perhaps as many as 800. The important discoveries of the Jiahu archaeological site include the Jiahu symbols, possibly an early example of proto-writing, carved into tortoise shells and bones; the thirty-three Jiahu flutes carved from the wing bones of cranes, believed to be among the oldest playable musical instruments in the world; and evidence of alcohol fermented from rice, honey and hawthorn leaves.” ref

19. 8,000 years ago Svaerdborg site, Denmark

Three different sized dog types recorded at this Maglemosian culture site. Maglemosian (c. 9000 – c. 6000 BCE or around 11,000 to 8,000 years ago) is the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe. In Scandinavia, the culture was succeeded by the Kongemose culture. It appears that they had domesticated the dog. Similar settlements were excavated from England to Poland and from Skåne in Sweden to northern France.” refref

20. 7,425 years ago Lake Baikal region, Siberia

Dog buried in a human burial ground. Additionally, a human skull was found buried between the legs of a “tundra wolf” dated 8,320 years ago (but it does not match any known wolf DNA). The evidence indicates that as soon as formal cemeteries developed in Baikal, some canids began to receive mortuary treatments that closely paralleled those of humans. One dog was found buried with four red deer canine pendants around its neck dated 5,770 years ago. Many burials of dogs continued in this region with the latest finding at 3,760 years ago, and they were buried lying on their right side and facing towards the east as did their humans. Some were buried with artifacts, e.g., stone blades, birch bark, and antler bone.” ref

21. 7,000 years ago Tianluoshan archaeological site, Zhejiang province, China

In 2020, an mDNA study of ancient dog fossils from the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins of southern China showed that most of the ancient dogs fell within haplogroup A1b, as do the Australian dingoes and the pre-colonial dogs of the Pacific, but in low frequency in China today. The specimen from the Tianluoshan archaeological site is basal to the entire lineage. The dogs belonging to this haplogroup were once widely distributed in southern China, then dispersed through Southeast Asia into New Guinea and Oceania, but were replaced in China 2,000 years ago by dogs of other lineages.” ref

Sacred Dogs

Dog Domestication, Shamanism, and Emerging “Sacred Companion” Mortuary Rituals between 33,000 to 12,000 years ago?

“The Peiligang culture was a Neolithic culture in the Yi-Luo river basin (in modern Henan Province, China) that existed from about 7000 to 5000 BCE or around 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. Over 100 sites have been identified with the Peiligang culture, nearly all of them in a fairly compact area of about 100 square kilometers in the area just south of the river and along its banks. The culture practiced agriculture in the form of cultivating millet and animal husbandry in the form of raising pigs and possibly poultry. The site at Jiahu is the earliest site associated with Peiligang culture. There are many similarities between the main group of Peiligang settlements and the Jiahu culture, which was isolated several days’ travel to the south of the main group.” ref

“Most archaeologists consider the site of Jiahu to be one of the earliest examples of the Peiligang culture. Settled around 7000 BCE, the site was later flooded and abandoned around 5700 BCE. The inhabitants of Jiahu cultivated foxtail millet and riceThe burials at Jiahu were usually accompanied by burial offerings, with increasing frequency as the second and third phases progressed. Burial objects range from pottery to tortoise shells. Burial offerings varied between individuals, and are believed to be linked to the skills they displayed in life, providing evidence of an early specialization of labor. The types of labor specialization, from most common to most rare, included farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, hunters, potters, musicians, and a tribal priest/shaman.” ref

“Most of the burials were earthen pits; infants were buried in earthenware jars. As is common with Neolithic communities, the burials were in cemeteries which were separate from the residential areas, although many gravesites overlapped, so they were probably not marked. A few burials were multiple, while most burial pits contained single individuals. These did not follow any discernible pattern, although it is possible that in some cases, couples (a man and a woman of roughly the same age) were buried together. There is evidence of domesticated pigs, dogs, poultry, and small numbers of cattle.” ref 

“In some graves, the heads were severed from the body and pointed toward the northwest. Cut marks made when the bones were fresh, indicating the heads were cut off shortly after the person died. A few burial offerings included turquoise carvings, and represented a significant level of material wealth, suggesting some differences in social status. Burial offerings in women’s graves were more sparse, indicating lower social status, and indicated that their roles were limited to childbearing and child care, cooking, and foraging for food.” ref

“The Dadiwan culture (c. 7900–7200 years ago) was a Neolithic culture located primarily in the eastern portion of Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in modern China. The culture takes its name from the deepest cultural layer found during the original excavation of the type site at Dadiwan. The remains of milletpigs, and dogs have been found in sites associated with the culture, which is itself defined by a thin-walled, cord-marked ceramic tradition sometimes referred to as Laoguantai. The Dadiwan culture shares a variety of common features, in pottery, architecture, and economy, with the Cishan and Peiligang cultures to the east. The Neolithic cultural sequence here begins with the Dadiwan culture (c. 7900–7200 years ago), followed by the Yangshao culture (c. 6800–4900 years ago) and then the Changshan culture (c. 4900–4800 years ago). The agricultural economy intensified and flourished during the early phases of the Yangshao culture.” ref

Dadiwan, which was first settled about 8000 years ago and produced China’s earliest known painted pottery, was excavated in the 1970s and again in 2006. The site contains some fossilized fragments of millet, which is the main plant found there, but not enough to elucidate its domestication. In the first phase of occupation at Dadiwan, between 7,900 to 7,200 years ago, pigs ate only C3 plants, whereas most of the dogs had C4 signatures, meaning that they ate millet. But during the second occupation phase, 6500 to 4900 years ago, all human and dog bones, and the great majority of pig bones, showed strong C4 signatures, indicating that all of their diets contained a lot of millet. ref

Dogs in Ancient China

“Remains of dogs and pigs have been found in the oldest Neolithic settlements of the Yangshao (circa 4000 BCE or around 6,000 years ago) and Hemudu (circa 5000 BCE or around 7,000 years ago) cultures. Canine remains similar to the Dingo have been found in some early graves excavated in northern China. Tests on neolithic dog bones show similarities between dogs from this era and modern-day Japanese dogs, especially the shiba inu. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), known in Classical Chinese as quan (ChinesepinyinquǎnWade–Gilesch’üan), played an important role in ancient Chinese society. According to Bruno Schindler, the origin of using dogs as sacrificial animals dates back to a primitive cult in honor of a dog-shaped god of vegetation whose worship later became amalgamated with that of Shang Di, the reigning deity of the Shang pantheon.” ref

“Systematic excavation of Shang tombs around Anyang since 1928 have revealed a large number of animal and human sacrifices. There was hardly a tomb or a building consecrated without the sacrifice of a dog. At one site, Xiaotong, the bones of a total of 825 human victims, 15 horses, 10 oxen, 18 sheep, and 35 dogs were unearthed. Dogs were usually buried wrapped in reed mats and sometimes in lacquer coffins. Small bells with clappers, called ling (鈴) have sometimes been found attached to the necks of dogs or horses. The fact that alone among domestic animals dogs and horses were buried demonstrates the importance of these two animals to ancient Chinese society. It’s reflected in an idiom passed down to modern times: “to serve like a dog or a horse.” (犬馬之勞). According to ancient folk legends, solar eclipses take place because dogs in heaven eat the sun. In order to save the sun from demise, ancient people formed the habit of beating drums and gongs at the critical moment to drive away the dogs.” ref

“Shang oracle bones mention questions concerning the whereabouts of lost dogs. They also refer to the ning (寧) rite during which a dog was dismembered to placate the four winds or honor the four directions. This sacrifice was carried over into Zhou times. The Erya records a custom to dismember a dog to “bring the four winds to a halt.” (止風). Other ceremonies involving dogs are mentioned in the Zhou li. In the nan (難) sacrifice to drive away pestilence, a dog was dismembered and his remains were buried in front of the main gates of the capital. The ba (軷) sacrifice to ward off evil required the Son of Heaven, riding in a jade chariot, to crush a dog under the wheels of his carriage. The character ba gives a clue as to how the ceremony took place. It is written with the radical for chariot (車) and a phonetic element which originally meant an animal whose legs had been bound (发). It was the duty of a specially appointed official to supply a dog of one color and without blemishes for the sacrifice. The blood of dogs was used for the swearing of covenants between nobles.” ref

“Towards the late fifth century BCE, surrogates began to be used for sacrifice in lieu of real dogs. The Dao De Jing mentions the use of straw dogs as a metaphor: “Haven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.” However, the practice of burying actual dogs by no means died out. One Zhongshan royal mausoleum, for example, included two hunting dogs with gold and silver neck rings. Later, clay figurines of dogs were buried in tombs. Large quantities of these sculptures have been unearthed from the Han dynasty onwards. Most show sickle-shaped tails not unlike the modern shiba inu or akita inu. Dogs are an important motif in Chinese mythology. These motifs include a particular dog which accompanies a hero, the dog as one of the twelve totem creatures for which years are named, a dog giving first provision of grain which allowed current agriculture, and claims of having a magical dog as an original ancestor in the case of certain ethnic groups.” ref, ref

Chinese mythology includes myths in Chinese and other languages, as transmitted by Han Chinese as well as other ethnic groups (of which fifty-six are officially recognized by the current administration of China). In the study of historical Chinese culture, many of the stories that have been told regarding characters and events which have been written or told of the distant past have a double tradition: one which tradition which presents a more historicized and one which presents a more mythological version. This is also true of some accounts related to mythological dogs in China. Historical accounts and anecdotes about dogs from ancient China and onwards exist in extant literary works, for example in the Shiji, by Sima Qian. Archaeological study provides substantial backing and supplemental knowledge in this regard.” ref

“For thousands of years, a twelve-year cycle named after various real or mythological animals has been used in Southeast Asia. This twelve-year cycle, sometimes referred to as the “Chinese zodiac,” associates each year in turn with a certain creature, in a fixed order of twelve animals, after which it returns to the first in the order, the Rat. The eleventh in the cycle is the Dog. One account is that the order of the beings-of-the-year is due to their order in a racing contest involving swimming across a river, in the Great Race. The reason for the Dog finishing the race second from last despite generally being a talented swimmer is explained as being due to its playful nature: the Dog played and frolicked along the way, thus delaying completing the course and reaching the finishing line. Other members of the canidae family also figure in Chinese mythology, including wolves and foxes. The portrayal of these is usually quite different than in the case of dogs. Tales and literature on foxes is especially extensive, with foxes often having magical qualities, such as being able to shift back and forth to human shape, live for incredible life spans, and to grow supernumerary tails (nine being common).” ref

“The personalities of people born in Dog years are popularly supposed to share certain attributes associated with Dogs, such as loyalty or exuberance; however, this would be modified according to other considerations of Chinese astrology, such as the influences of the month, day, and hour of birth, according to the traditional system of Earthly Branches, in which the zodiacal animals are also associated with the months and times of the day (and night), in twelve two-hour increments. The Hour of the Dog is 7 to 9 p.m. and the Dog is associated with the ninth lunar month. There are various myths and legends in which various ethnic groups claimed or were claimed to have had a divine dog as a forebear, one of these is the story of Panhu. The legendary Chinese sovereign Di Ku has been said to have a dog named Panhu. Panhu helped him win a war by killing the enemy general and bringing him his head and ended up with marriage to the emperor’s daughter as a reward.” ref

“The dog carried his bride to the mountainous region of the south, where they produced numerous progeny. Because of their self-identification as descendants from these original ancestors, Panhu has been worshiped by the Yao people and the She people, often as King Pan, and the eating of dog meat tabooed. This ancestral myth is also has been found among the Miao people and Li people. An early documentary source for the Pan-hu origin myth is by the Jin dynasty (266–420) author Gan Bao, who records this origin myth for a southern (that is, south of the Yangzi River) ethnic group which he refers to as “Man” (蠻). There are various variations of the Panhu mythology. According to one version, the Emperor had promised his daughter in marriage as a reward to the one who brought back the enemy general’s head, but due to the perceived difficulties of a dog marriage with a human bride (especially an imperial princess), the dog proposed to magically turn into a human being, by means of a process in which he would be sequestered beneath a bell for 280 days.” ref

One of the stock heroic supernatural beings with mighty martial prowess in Chinese culture is Erlang, a character in Journey to the West. Erlang has been said to have a dog. In the epic novel, Journey to the West Erlang’s dog helps him in his fight against the evolved-monkey hero, Sun Wukong, critically biting him on the leg. Later on in the story (Chapter 63), Sun Wukong with Erlang (now both on the same side) and their companions-in-fight battle against a Nine-headed Insect monster, when, again, Erlang’s small hound comes to the rescue and defeats by biting off the monster’s retractable head, which popped in and out of its torso: the monster then flees, dripping blood, off into the unknown.” ref

“The author of the Journey to the West comments that this is the origin of the “nine-headed blood-dripping bird”, and that this trait was passed on to its descendant. Anthony C. Yu, editor and translator of Journey to the West associates this bird with the ts’ang kêng of Chinese mythology. The Tiangou (“Heavenly Dog”) has been said to resemble a black dog or meteor, which is thought to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse, unless frightened away. According to the myths of various ethnic groups, a dog provided humans with the first grain seeds enabling the seasonal cycle of planting, harvesting, and replanting staple agricultural products by saving some of the seed grains to replant, thus explaining the origin of domesticated cereal crops. This myth is common to the Buyi, Gelao, Hani, Miao, Shui, Tibetan, Tujia, and Zhuang peoples.” ref

“A version of this myth collected from ethnic Tibetan people in Sichuan tells that in ancient times grain was tall and bountiful, but that rather than being duly grateful for the plenty that people even used it for personal hygiene after defecation, which so angered the God of Heaven that he came down to earth to repossess it all. However, a dog grasped his pant leg, piteously crying, and so moving God of Heaven to leave a few seeds from each type of grain with the dog, thus providing the seed stock of today’s crops. Thus it is said that because humans owe their possession of grain seed stocks to a dog, people should share some of their food with dogs. Another myth, of the Miao people, recounts the time of the distantly remote era when dogs had nine tails, until a dog went to steal grains from heaven, and lost eight of its tails to the weapons of the heavenly guards while making its escape, but bringing back grain seeds stuck onto its surviving tail. According to this, when Miao people hold their harvest celebration festival, the dogs are the first to be fed.(Yang 2005: 54) The Zhuang and Gelao peoples have a similar myth explaining why it is that the ripe heads of grain stalks are curly, bushy, and bent – just so as is the tail of a dog.” ref

In northern China, dog images made by cutting paper were thrown in the water as part of the ritual of the Double Fifth (Duanwu Festival) holiday, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, as an apotropaic magic act meant to drive away evil spirits. Paper dogs were also provided for protecting the dead. Numerous statuary of Chinese guardian lions exist, which are often called “Fu Dogs” “Foo Dogs“, “Fu Lions“, “Fo Lions“, and “Lion Dogs“. Modern lions are not native in the area of China, except perhaps the extreme west; however, their existence was well known, and associated symbolism and ideas about lions were familiar; however, in China, artistic representations of lions tended to be dog-like. Indeed, “[t]he ‘lion’ which we see depicted in Chinese paintings and in sculpture bears little resemblance to the real animal, which, however, plays a big part in Chinese folklore.” The reasons for referencing “guardian lions” as “dogs” in Western cultures may be obscure, however, the phenomenon is well known.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Based on the seeming evidence, I speculate that around 14,000 years ago, it could be possible Siberian Shamanism (along with dogs and a bird carving, different but yet possibly related to the bird carvings in Siberia dating from 24,000 to 15,000 years ago) was transferred to China, after “N” DNA reached Siberia bringing them pottery. Bird sculptures through ethnographic comparison at 24,000–15,000 years old Mal’ta with objects used by Siberian shamans, suggest a fully developed shamanism.

An interesting potential dog genetic lineage is connected to a group of ancient canids date to more than 47,000 years ago had separated from the other ancient canids including wolves. Genetic studies of modern dog and wolf populations show origins in East/South Asia and/or the Near East to multiple areas of domestication and/or hybridization with regional wolf breeds.

A 33,000-year-old emerging dog from southern Siberia in the Altai Mountains seems to demonstrate an early domestication. The oldest similar emergence of this behavior seems to be demonstrated a pre-Natufian burial site in Jordan Uyun al-Hammam dated to around 16,500-year-old with elaborate human burials with grave goods as well as include evidence for unique human-animal relationships, seeming to show foxes where used similar to modern dogs demonstrating that the dog like domestication features were not unique to the later Natufians.

Moreover, dog genetics is one way to further demonstrate human migration as well as its oven accompanying religious transfer. While most dogs buried at this time were individual others were placed back-to-back in pairs. Moreover, a general genetic analysis of modern dogs suggests a general origin in southern China approximately 16,000 years ago. The Natufian culture existed in the Levant roughly from 14,500 to 11,500 years. It seems two different human burials at the Ain Mallaha Natufian settlement and Hayonim cave sites include dogs which likely suggest dogs were domesticated by at least by around 12,000 years ago.

In addition, at Ain Mallaha there is a widespread influence of the culture and as always, the presumed religious transfer can be estimated by the presence of obsidian from Turkey and shellfish from the Nile-valley as part of the artifacts found. Furthermore, generally by around 12,000 years ago domestic dogs are presumed to be found from the Levant, Cyprus, Iraq, Northern China, and the Kamchatka peninsula in Far Eastern Russia. A 12,000-year-old tomb in northern Israel held a fifty-year-old woman was buried with a puppy close to her head with her left hand on it seemingly expressing a religious or an emotional connection, possibly some kind of shaman burial. By around 8,000 years ago at Svaerdborg in Denmark there are already three differently sized dog types found.

1234, 5, 6, 7

Dogs have played a role in the religion, myths, tales, and legends of many cultures. In mythology, dogs often serve as pets or as watchdogs. Stories of dogs guarding the gates of the underworld recur throughout Indo-European mythologies and may originate from Proto-Indo-European religion. Historian Julien d’Huy has suggested three narrative lines related to dogs in mythology. One echoes the gatekeeping noted above in Indo-European mythologies—a linkage with the afterlife; a second “related to the union of humans and dogs”; a third relates to the association of dogs with the star Sirius. Evidence presented by d’Huy suggests a correlation between the mythological record from cultures and the genetic and fossil record related to dog domestication.” ref

The Ancient Egyptians are often more associated with cats in the form of Bastet, but dogs are found to have a sacred role and figure as an important symbol in religious iconography. Dogs were associated with Anubis, the jackal headed god of the underworld. At times throughout its period of being in use the Anubieion catacombs at Saqqara saw the burial of dogs. Anput was the female counterpart of her husband, Anubis; she was often depicted as a pregnant or nursing jackal, or as a jackal wielding knives. Other dogs can be found in Egyptian mythology. Am-heh was a minor god from the underworld. He was depicted as a man with the head of a hunting dog who lived in a lake of fire. Duamutef was originally represented as a man wrapped in mummy bandages. From the New Kingdom onwards, he is shown with the head of a jackal. Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. Khenti-Amentiu was depicted as a jackal-headed deity at Abydos in Upper Egypt, who stood guard over the city of the dead.” ref

Dogs were closely associated with Hecate in the Classical world. Dogs were sacred to Artemis and AresCerberus is a three-headed, dragon-tailed watchdog who guards the gates of Hades. Laelaps was a dog in Greek mythology. When Zeus was a baby, a dog, known only as the “golden hound” was charged with protecting the future King of Gods. In Homer‘s epic poem the Odyssey, when the disguised Odysseus returns home after 20 years, he is recognized only by his faithful dog, Argos, who has been waiting all this time for his return.” ref

In Hindu mythology, Yama, the god of death, owns two watchdogs who have four eyes. They are said to watch over the gates of Naraka. The hunter god Muthappan from the North Malabar region of Kerala has a hunting dog as his mount. Dogs are found in and out of the Muthappan Temple and offerings at the shrine take the form of bronze dog figurines. The dog (Shvan) is also the vahana or mount of the Hindu god BhairavaYudhishthira had approached heaven with his dog who was the god Yama himself. Dogs are also shown in the background in the iconography of Hindu deities like Dattatreya, many times dogs are also shown in the background in the iconography of deities like Khandoba. In Valmiki Ramayana there’s a tale about a dog receiving justice, passed by king Rama.” ref

“In ancient Mesopotamia, from the Old Babylonian period until the Neo-Babylonian, dogs were the symbol of Ninisina, the goddess of healing and medicine, and her worshippers frequently dedicated small models of seated dogs to her. In the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, dogs were used as emblems of magical protection. There is a temple in Isin, Mesopotamia, named é-ur-gi7-ra which translates as “dog house”. Enlilbani, a king from the Old Babylonian First Dynasty of Isin, commemorated the temple to the goddess Ninisina. Although there is a small amount of detail known about it, there is enough information to confirm that a dog cult did exist in this area. Usually, dogs were only associated with the Gula cult, but there is some information, like Enlilbani’s commemoration, to suggest that dogs were also important to the cult of Ninisina, as Gula was another goddess who was closely associated to Ninisina. More than 30 dog burials, numerous dog sculptures, and dog drawings were discovered when the area around this Ninisina temple was excavated. In the Gula cult, the dog was used in oaths and was sometimes referred to as a divinity.” ref

“In Persian mythology, two four-eyed dogs guard the Chinvat Bridge. During archaeological diggings, the Ashkelon dog cemetery was discovered in the layer dating from when the city was part of the Persian Empire. It is believed the dogs may have had a sacred role – however, evidence for this is not conclusive. In Zoroastrianism, the dog is regarded as an especially beneficent, clean and righteous creature, which must be fed and taken care of. The dog is praised for the useful work it performs in the household, but it is also seen as having special spiritual virtues. Dogs are associated with Yama who guards the gates of afterlife with his dogs just like Hinduism. A dog’s gaze is considered to be purifying and to drive off daevas (demons). It is also believed to have a special connection with the afterlife: the Chinwad Bridge to Heaven is said to be guarded by dogs in Zoroastrian scripture, and dogs are traditionally fed in commemoration of the dead. Ihtiram-i sag, “respect for the dog”, is a common injunction among Iranian Zoroastrian villagers.” ref

“In Norse mythology, a bloody, four-eyed dog called Garmr guards Helheim. Also, Fenrir is a giant wolf who is a child of the Norse god Loki, who was foretold to kill Odin in the events of Ragnarok. In Welsh mythologyAnnwn is guarded by Cŵn Annwn.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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“The ANE lineage is defined by association with the MA-1, or “Mal’ta boy“, the remains of an individual who lived during the Last Glacial Maximum, 24,000 years ago in central Siberia. Populations genetically similar to MA-1 were an important genetic contributor to Native AmericansEuropeansAncient Central AsiansSouth Asians, and some East Asian groups (such as the Ainu people), in order of significance.” ref

“Groups partially derived from the Ancient North Eurasians: Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (R1a-M417, around 8,400 years ago), Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherer (around 8,000 years ago), Ancient Beringian/Ancestral Native American (around 11,500 years ago), West Siberian Hunter-Gatherer, Western Steppe Herders (closely related to the Yamnaya culture), Late Upper Paeolithic Lake Baikal (14,050-13,770 years ago), Lake Baikal Holocene (around 11,650 years ago to the present), Jōmon people, pre-Neolithic population of Japan (and present-day Ainu people).” ref

“Since the term ‘Ancient North Eurasian’ refers to a genetic bridge of connected mating networks, scholars of comparative mythology have argued that they probably shared myths and beliefs that could be reconstructed via the comparison of stories attested within cultures that were not in contact for millennia and stretched from the Pontic–Caspian steppe to the American continent.” ref

“For instance, the mytheme of the dog guarding the Otherworld possibly stems from an older Ancient North Eurasian belief, as suggested by similar motifs found in Indo-EuropeanNative American, and Siberian mythology. In SiouanAlgonquianIroquoian, and in Central and South American beliefs, a fierce guard dog was located in the Milky Way, perceived as the path of souls in the afterlife, and getting past it was a test. The Siberian Chukchi and Tungus believed in a guardian-of-the-afterlife dog and a spirit dog that would absorb the dead man’s soul and act as a guide in the afterlife. In Indo-European myths, the figure of the dog is embodied by CerberusSarvarā, and GarmrAnthony and Brown note that it might be one of the oldest mythemes recoverable through comparative mythology.” ref

“A second canid-related series of beliefs, myths, and rituals connected dogs with healing rather than death. For instance, Ancient Near Eastern and TurkicKipchaq myths are prone to associate dogs with healing and generally categorized dogs as impure. A similar myth-pattern is assumed for the Eneolithic site of Botai in Kazakhstan, dated to 3500 BC, which might represent the dog as absorber of illness and guardian of the household against disease and evil. In Mesopotamia, the goddess Nintinugga, associated with healing, was accompanied or symbolized by dogs. Similar absorbent-puppy healing and sacrifice rituals were practiced in Greece and Italy, among the Hittites, again possibly influenced by Near Eastern traditions.” ref

“Koryaks (Russian: коряки) are an Indigenous people of the Russian Far East, who live immediately north of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Kamchatka Krai and inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea. The cultural borders of the Koryaks include Tigilsk in the south and the Anadyr basin in the north. The Koryaks are culturally similar to the Chukchis of extreme northeast Siberia. The Koryak language and Alutor (which is often regarded as a dialect of Koryak), are linguistically close to the Chukchi language. All of these languages are members of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family. They are more distantly related to the Itelmens on the Kamchatka Peninsula. All of these peoples and other, unrelated minorities in and around Kamchatka are known collectively as Kamchadals.” ref

The origin of the Koryak is unknown. Anthropologists have speculated that a land bridge connected the Eurasian and North American continent during Late Pleistocene. It is possible that migratory peoples crossed the modern-day Koryak land en route to North America. Scientists have suggested that people traveled back and forth between this area and Haida Gwaii before the ice age receded. They theorize that the ancestors of the Koryak had returned to Siberian Asia from North America during this time. Cultural and some linguistic similarity exist between the Nivkh and the Koryak. Families usually gathered into groups of six or seven, forming bands. The nominal chief had no predominating authority, and the groups relied on consensus to make decisions, resembling common small group egalitarianism.” ref

“The inland Koryak rode reindeer to get around, cutting off their antlers to prevent injuries. They also fitted a team of reindeer with harnesses and attached them to sleds to transport goods and people when moving camp. Koryaks believe in a Supreme Being whom they call by various names: ŋajŋənen (Universe/World), ineɣitelʔən (Supervisor), ɣət͡ɕɣoletənvəlʔən (Master-of-the-Upper-World), ɣət͡ɕɣolʔən (One-on-High), etc. He is considered to reside in Heaven with his family and when he wishes to punish mankind for immoral acts, he falls asleep and thus leaves man vulnerable to unsuccessful hunting and other ills. Koryak mythology centers on the supernatural shaman Quikil (Big-Raven), who was created by the Supreme Being as the first man and protector of the Koryak. Big Raven myths are also found in Southeast Alaska in the Tlingit culture, and among the HaidaTsimshian, and other natives of the Pacific Northwest Coast Amerindians.” ref

“Archeologists have uncovered evidence of sled dogs during thousand year old excavations in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Early 18th century writers report the abundance of sled dogs in the region and local dependence on sled dogs for transportation. However, the Kamchatka sled dog was also used for clothing and spiritual purposes by the native Koryak people. Koryaks believe that the door to the afterlife was guarded by dogs which had to be bribed to allow the newly deceased to pass through. Prior to the introduction of reindeer, Kamchatka sled dogs were allowed to roam freely during the summer to find their own food. With the introduction of reindeer, the dogs needed to be tied up during the summers, creating a dependency on humans for feeding. While generally the Chukotka sled dog is considered the progenitor of the Siberian huskies, it is theorized that the Kamchatka sled dog may also have been intermingled, contributing the characteristic blue eyes seen in Siberian huskies but which are not standard in Chukotka sled dogs.” ref

Koryak Dog Sacrifices

“The Koryak people impaled dogs on a post as an offering to local spirits. Spiritual forces in traditional Koryak religion are associated with a particular geography, like a region, a hill, or even a house. Spirits from one place had to be kept separate from spirits associated with other places, therefore visitors would be “cleansed” by a brief ritual involving smoke and a few words. A spiritually “charged” drum used for shamanic healing was not carried from house to house by an individual shaman, but rather each household had a drum associated with the spirits of that place, which a shaman would use to talk to the spirits and heal a sick person. Scholars often refer to this kind of shamanic activity as “familial shamanism.” Each family had a person who was skilled in drumming and had some influence with spirits, and he or she would heal family and friends. Professional shamans, like those known among the Evenk (Tungus) or Sakha (Yakut) were unknown among Koryaks.” ref

“The sacrifice of nearly a whole team of dogs by coastal Koryaks (indigenous people of Siberia), was made in early spring to ensure the success of the new hunting season. The dogs are hung from poles stuck in the snow in front of a Koryak semi–dugout house.” ref

“Laikas are aboriginal spitz from Northern Russia, especially Siberia but also sometimes expanded to include Nordic hunting breeds. Laika breeds are primitive dogs who flourish with minimal care even in hostile weather. Generally, laika breeds are expected to be versatile hunting dogs, capable of hunting game of a variety of sizes by treeing small game, pointing and baying larger game, and working as teams to corner bear and boar. However, a few laikas have specialized as herding or sled dogs. Indeed the word laika is often used to refer not only to hunting dogs but also to the related sled dog breeds of the tundra belt, which the FCI classifies as “Nordic Sled Dogs” and even occasionally all spitz breeds.” ref

Modern Siberian dog ancestry was shaped by several thousand years of Eurasian-wide trade and human dispersal. The Siberian Arctic has witnessed numerous societal changes since the first known appearance of dogs in the region ∼10,000 years ago. Dogs have been essential to life in the Siberian Arctic for over 9,500 years ago, and this tight link between people and dogs continues in Siberian communities. Although Arctic Siberian groups such as the Nenets received limited gene flow from neighboring groups, archaeological evidence suggests that metallurgy and new subsistence strategies emerged in Northwest Siberia around 2,000 years ago. It is unclear if the Siberian Arctic dog population was as continuous as the people of the region or if instead admixture occurred, possibly in relation to the influx of material culture from other parts of Eurasia. To address this question, we sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 20 ancient and historical Siberian and Eurasian Steppe dogs. Our analyses indicate that while Siberian dogs were genetically homogenous between 9,500 to 7,000 years ago, the later introduction of dogs from the Eurasian Steppe and Europe led to substantial admixture. This is clearly the case in the Iamal-Nenets region (Northwestern Siberia) where dogs from the Iron Age period (∼2,000 years ago) possess substantially less ancestry related to European and Steppe dogs than dogs from the medieval period (∼1,000 years ago). These changes include the introduction of ironworking ∼2,000 years ago and the emergence of reindeer pastoralism ∼800 years ago. The analysis of 49 ancient dog genomes reveals that the ancestry of Arctic Siberia dogs shifted over the last 2,000 years due to an influx of dogs from the Eurasian Steppe and Europe. Combined with genomic data from humans and archaeological evidence, our results suggest that though the ancestry of human populations in Arctic Siberia did not change over this period, people there participated in trade with distant communities that involved both dogs and material culture.” ref


“Inscriptions have been found on pottery in a variety of locations in China, such as Banpo near Xi’an, as well as on bone and bone marrows at Hualouzi, Chang’an County near Xi’an. These simple, often geometric, marks have been frequently compared to some of the earliest known Chinese characters appearing on the oracle bones, and some have taken them to mean that the history of Chinese writing extends back over six millennia. At a range of Neolithic sites in China, small numbers of symbols of either pictorial or simple geometric nature have been unearthed which were incised into or drawn or painted on artifacts, mostly on pottery but in some instances on turtle shells, animal bones or artifacts made from bone or jade.” ref

“These sites include those pertaining to the cultures of Yangshao, Liangzhu, Majiayao, and Longshan. In general, the Neolithic symbols which have been unearthed to date are found in isolated use (as would be expected with ownership marks or clan symbols) rather than in sequences consistent with representation of the spoken language.  The earliest of China’s Neolithic signs come from Jiahu, Dadiwan and Damaidi. Jiahu is a Neolithic site in Wuyang County, Henan Province, in the basin of the Yellow River, dated to 6600–6200 BCE or around 8,600 to 8,200 years ago. This site has yielded turtle plastrons that were pitted and inscribed with markings known as the Jiahu symbols.” ref

Divination and Shamanism 

Different Types of Divination used in Shamanism

“For centuries, shamans have used divination as a powerful tool for connecting with the spiritual realm, receiving guidance and insight, and promoting healing and balance in their communities. At the heart of shamanic practice lies the ability to tap into the unseen world and access knowledge beyond the physical realm. The role of divination in shamanism is crucial in facilitating this connection, serving as a powerful means of communication between the physical and spiritual planes.” ref

The Art of Divination – The Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe

“Shamanic oracles and divination: The concrete way in which divination has been or is carried out is subject to immense variation. By means of ‘Los’ on the drum in the case of the Saami people; 41 stones in Tuva; the skull of a dead shaman within the Yukaghirs’ of northeast Siberia; shoulder bones or other animal bones in other parts of Siberia, North America and the polar regions; chants within the Navajo of North- and the Yaminawá of South America or the stars in the case of the Ainu in Japan. The underlying functional principle is always the same. The shamans are in contact with the spirits, ‘read’ the answer and pass it on to the client. Often special ‘holy’ objects are used, which were collected or produced specifically for the divinatory work – among other things: plants, stones, crystals, and artifacts made of wood, clay, stone, metal or animal bones. Divination objects are carriers of power and are usually connected to specific spirits, are important working tools, part of the shaman´s paraphernalia.” ref

Shamanism & Divination Amongst Tribes of the North Pacific Coast Region

“The Indians of the North Pacific Coast tribal shamans, priests, and oracles employed many of the same techniques used by oracles throughout the world to obtain this secret information. Unlike researchers of Asian prophetic ritual, writings of early anthropologists and explorers of Native Americans did not use the word “oracle” for the people who performed this deed. Most commonly they used the term “shaman.” Furthermore, the information available specific to prophetic ritual among the Northwest tribes is often marbled into the more general discussions of shamans and shamanistic practices.” ref

Divination | Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology

“The classic distinction is that of Cicero’s inspirational divination versus that which requires some form of trained skill. Oracles, seers, and prophets in Ancient Greece would be part of the first category, while African basket diviners, Yoruba priests of divination, and Mongolian shamans would be part of the latter category. Arguably most forms of divination require both inspiration and skill. Divination practices are often based in nature, taking form through its elements. It can be done with things, such as tea leaves, bones, nuts, and water, as well as cards, and other non-nature-based components. It can also be done in and as the body, such as with spirit possession, mediation, and dreams.” ref

Tracing the Spread and Development of Oracle Bone Divination in Ancient East Asia

“Oracle bones — animal bones used for pyro-osteomantic divination rituals in East Asia — are one of the most important types of bone artifacts in Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age sites and the source of inscriptions containing the earliest writing in ancient China. Although these inscriptions are the focus of most research, oracle bone use far pre-dates the inscribed examples and continues after they were a primary medium for writing. Our goal is to trace the origins of oracle bone divination rituals, their spread across Asia during the Neolithic, and the ultimate development of oracle bone divination as a central part of Shang Dynasty royal religious practices.” ref

Oracle bones 

“While the use of bones in divination has been practiced almost globally, such divination involving fire or heat has generally been found only in Asia and the Asian-derived North American cultures. The use of heat to crack scapulae (pyro-scapulimancy) originated in ancient China, the earliest evidence of which extends back to the 4th millennium BCE, with archaeological finds from Liaoning, but these were not inscribed. In neolithic China at a variety of sites, the scapulae of cattle, sheep, pigs, and deer used in pyromancy have been found, and the practice appears to have become quite common by the end of the third millennium BCE.” ref

“Scapulae were unearthed along with smaller numbers of pitless plastrons in the Nánguānwài (南關外) stage at Zhengzhou, Henan; scapulae as well as smaller numbers of plastrons with chiseled pits were also discovered in the Lower and Upper Erligang stages. Significant use of tortoise plastrons does not appear until the Shang culture sites. Ox scapulae and plastrons, both prepared for divination, were found at the Shang culture sites of Táixīcūn (台西村) in Hebei and Qiūwān (丘灣) in Jiangsu. One or more pitted scapulae were found at Lùsìcūn (鹿寺村) in Henan, while unpitted scapulae have been found at Erlitou in Henan, Cíxiàn (磁縣) in Hebei, Níngchéng (寧城) in Liaoning, and Qíjiā (齊家) in Gansu.” ref

New insights into the origins of oracle bone divination: Ancient DNA from Late Neolithic Chinese bovines

“Domestic taurine cattle (Bos taurus) were introduced to China from Central Asia between 3600 and 2000 cal BCE. Most of the earliest domestic cattle remains in China come from sacrificial or ritual contexts, especially in the form of oracle bones used in divination rituals. These oracle bones became closely tied to royal authority and are the source of the earliest written inscriptions in ancient China. In this article, we use ancient DNA to identify uninscribed bovine oracle bones from the Longshan period archaeological sites of Taosi and Zhoujiazhuang (late third millennium BCE). We found that in addition to making oracle bones out of domestic cattle scapulae, people also used aurochs (wild cattle) scapulae for oracle bone divination.” ref 

Divination and Power

“In ancient China as elsewhere, divination was the domain of ritual specialists who used their skills to mediate uncertainty, but the role that these specialists played in society differed considerably from one place to another. An examination of divination remains from the Neolithic, Shang, and Zhou periods of China suggests that more elaborate divination procedures are associated with bureaucratic institutions as a source of state power.” ref 

Ancient Chinese Divination – Association for Asian Studies

“Any study of Chinese culture should focus on divination, since it influenced the fields of “medicine, science, government, and most importantly, philosophy and religion.” ref

 “Chinese fortune telling, better known as Suan ming (Chinese: 算命; pinyinSuànmìnglit. ‘fate calculating’) has utilized many varying divination techniques throughout the dynastic periods. There are many methods still in practice in Mainland ChinaTaiwanHong Kong and other Chinese-speaking regions such as Malaysia and Singapore today. Over time, some of these concepts have moved into KoreanJapanese, and Vietnamese culture under other names. For example, “Saju” in Korea is the same as the Chinese four pillar (Chinese: 四柱八字) method. The oldest accounts about the practice of Chinese divination describe it as a measure for “solving doubts” (e.g. “Examination of doubts” 稽疑 part of the Great Plan zh:洪範). Two well known methods of divination included  卜 (on the tortoise shells) and shì 筮 (on the stalks of milfoil shī 蓍). Those methods were sanctioned by the royal practice since Shang and Zhou dynasties. Divination of the xiang 相 type (by appearance – of the human body parts, animals etc.), however, was sometimes criticized (the Xunzi, “Against divination”). Apparently, the latter type was a part of the medical and veterinary practice, as well as a part necessary in match-making and marketing choices. A number of divination techniques developed around the astronomic observations and burial practices (see Feng shuiGuan Lu). The dynastic chronicles preserve a number of reports when divination was manipulated to the end of achieving a political or personal goal.” ref

The body’s share: Shamanism and Writing

Entering a cave, often deep underground, to leave a trace of one’s passage—from paintings, drawings, and engraving of animals to enigmatic signs and rare, often animal-shaped human figures—is a particular approach that engages the whole body. During the Upper Paleolithic period, this confrontation between the artist and the wall suggests an interpretation that calls upon a shamanism fully infused with the natural forms of the cave, and at the same time an evolution from the old art of “contact” to the more standardized images of the Magdalenian period can be observed. The themes, gestures, and recurring items depicted, at the scale of the representation and in the underground environment, combine to suggest the early phase of a pictorial language.” ref

The Shaman of Trois Freres

“Cave paintings document a transitional moment in human evolution when we began using symbols and images to represent our experiences and record cultural knowledge and activities. Among the most famous of the art found in the painted Paleolithic caves of France is the Shaman of Trois Freres. With its bearded face of an old man and various animal parts, it dances across the cave wall, and across time, revealing the costume, activities, and said to be the first art representation of a shaman. Cave art also reflects methods shamans use to achieve altered states of consciousness, the experiences of trance with visions, geometric shapes, and spirit animals and beings. It makes sense that these images depicted on cave walls are the perfect setting for a journey to the spirit world. In the cave, most of the pictures of animals, together with a couple of therianthropes (half-human, half-animal figures), are located on the walls of a deep interior chamber known as the Sanctuary. This area is filled with some 280 often-overlapping engraved figures of bison, horses, stags, reindeer, ibex, and mammoths. The great majority probably date to the mid-Magdalenian Period (about 14,000 years ago). The Sanctuary is dominated by the cave’s most famous figure, a small image, both painted and engraved, known as the Horned God, or the Sorcerer. It depicts a human with the features of several different animals, and it dominates the mass of animal figures from a height of 13 feet (4 metres) above the cave floor. Its significance is unknown, but it is usually interpreted as some kind of great spirit or master of the animals. The unusual nature of the Sanctuary’s decoration may reflect the practice of magical ceremonies in the chamber. In a different part of the cave, there is a small chamber, known as the Chapel of the Lioness, that contains a large engraving of a lioness on a natural “altar,” with numerous special objects (animal teeth, shells, flint tools) carefully placed in crevices below it and around the walls. These are most plausibly seen as votive objects.” ref 

Shamanism and Hierarchy in the Upper Paleolithic

The beginnings of inequality do not start with the onset of farming, or any other ecological input, they lie far back in the varied social configurations and ideologies of gatherer-hunter societies.” (Barbara Bender, 1989: 93). ​For the kind of inequality defined by Marx, power is inherently connected to economic wealth and control of the means of production. For Marx the original formation of social inequality was bound up in the use of force. “In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part” (Marx 1976 [1870]: 874). By default, this assumes little or no social inequality among Paleolithic communities. Mobile societies cannot accrue a large amount of material goods, meaning fewer differences in material wealth can develop, meaning that these societies lacked inequality. Additionally, ruling by force in band societies is difficult, given the ability of others in the group to form coalitions to depose despotic leaders.” ref

“Max Weber’s concept of Charismatic Leadership provides an alternative understanding of social inequality. Charismatic Leaders can exert influence without force, without passing their prestige to their offspring, and without benefiting in any economic way from their wielding of social prestige. Additionally, Charismatic Leaders need not belong to a formalized social class, but instead are often set apart in a more informal way based on their individual characteristics. This point led Weber to see Charismatic Leadership as perhaps the most original, or natural form of authority (Weber 2017 [1922]: 89). We may, then, find it valuable to look for evidence of charismatic leadership in the distant past. There is no reason to assume that “simple” societies lack a capacity for social inequality, especially for the most fluid and unstructured forms of inequality which may be inseparable from the origin of symbolic and ritual behavior. Weber points out that “the ‘natural’ leaders- in times of psychic, physical, economic, ethuical, religious, political distress- have been neither officeholders nor incumbents of an ‘occupation’ in the present sense of the word,” (Weber 2017 [1922]: 89), but rather individuals set apart by unique personal characteristics. While many anthropologists romanticize the past as an egalitarian Eden, the truth is we may be much more similar to our paleolithic ancestors than we would like to admit.ref

Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery argue that social inequality might have first emerged among those Upper Paleolithic foraging groups which possessed clans. “Although one is born into a family, one is initiated into a clan” (Marcus and Flannery 2012: 16) and membership in a clan implies differentiation between groups, an increase in symbolic behavior, and controlled access to ritual knowledge. We may see then, how the formation of complex social relationships could dovetail with the emergence of shamanism, of parietal rock art, and other phenomenon which emerge in the Upper Paleolithic. Marcus and Flannery’s perspective begins to put more emphasis on the symbolic and ritual elements of social inequality. Barbara Bender fully articulates this idea in her chapter The Roots of Inequality (1989). Bender points to the cave and mobile art of Northwest Spain and Southwest France in the Upper Paleolithic as evidence for the presence of social inequality. To her the root of this inequality lies in the growth of larger social groupings, forms of regional organization that required mediation, “formalized and negotiated through ritual” (Bender 1989: 88).” ref

“Others like Gilman (1996) and Gamble (1982) tie these social groups to alliance networks that served to address the problems of population growth and resource control. However, these researchers still focus on those forms of inequality which are formalized into class divisions on the basis of differential access to resources. They simply shift the goalpost from agricultural societies, to economically complex foraging societies. Bender moves past such a view, arguing that “ We can be fairly sure that artefact, cave and landscape demarcate a ritual rather than an economic homeland” (Bender 1989: 89). David Kertzer also takes a symbolic approach to inequality, arguing that “people are not merely material creatures, but also symbol producers and symbol users. People have the unsettling habit of willingly, even gladly, dying for causes that oppose their material interests, while vociferously opposing groups that espouse them” (Kertzer 1988: 8). He argues that other bureaucratic and economic forms of inequality represent outgrowths of a more fundamental, symbolic form of differentiation.” ref

Ancient DNAs and the Neolithic Chinese super-grandfather Y haplotypes

Abstract: Previous studies identified 3 Neolithic Han Chinese super-grandfather Y haplotypes, O2a2b1a1a-F5, O2a2b1a2a1-F46, and O2a1b1a1a1a-F11, but their relationships with the archaeological and written records remain unexplored. We here report genome wide DNA data for 12 ancient samples (0.02x-1.28x) from China ranging from 6500 to 2500 years ago. They belonged to 4 different genetic groups, designated as Dashanqian (DSQ) of Xiajiadian Culture in the Northeast, Banpo (BP) of middle Yangshao Culture in the Central West, Zhengzhou Xishan (ZX) of Miaodigou Culture in the Central Plains, and Others. Present day F5 samples were closer in autosomal distances to the ZX and DSQ groups while F11, C, O1, and O2 samples were closer to the BP group. We also sequenced the Y chromosome of one of these ancient samples K12 from DSQ and found both K12 and a previously reported ~4000 year old sample MG48 from Northwest China to have the O2a2b1a1a1a2a-F2137 haplotype, belonging to the most prolific branch O2a2b1a1a1-F438 immediately under F5. We further found close relationships between ZX and DSQ and between ZX and ancient M117 Tibetans or present day Southwest Dai Chinese carrying the F5 subtype O2a2b1a1a6, implicating radiations of F5 subtypes from the putative place of F5 origin in ZX. These results are remarkably consistent with archaeological and written records.” ref

“There are numerous data for human activity in China from the time of the Neolithic period to the beginning of written records. There were the Gaomiao Culture and Pengtoushan Culture of ~5800 BCE in the South (Hunan), the Jiahu Culture and Peiligang Culture of 7000-5000 BCE in the Central Plains (Henan), the Xinglongwa Culture of 6200-5400 BCE and later the Hongshan and Xiajiadian Cultures in the Northeast (Inner Mongolia-Liaoning border), the Dadiwan Culture of 5800-5400 BC in Gansu and Western Shaanxi. At 5000 to 3000 BCE, the Yangshao Culture was the most popular and existed extensively along the Yellow River in China and flourished mainly in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi with the early period of the Culture mostly found in Shaanxi and the late period in Henan. Elements of the middle to late Yangshao Culture, the Miaodigou Culture, have been found widely in China, including the Hongshan Culture in the Northeast (3500 BCE), indicating the broad cultural migration and influence of this Culture.” ref

Gaomiao Relics, Hunan Province Earliest White Pottery: “The Gaomiao culture (7500–5500 years ago) Relics are situated in Yanli village, 5 km northeast of Hongjiang, Hunan Province. The excavation site is a shell mound on the northern bank of the Yuan River and covers an area of 30,000 square meters. Unearthed objects currently include various pottery decorated with phoenix, animal face, and eight-square star-images; the earliest white pottery found in China; and the joint tombs of tribe leaders and their wives, all of which are of key importance learning about the culture of the Neolithic age in the area. The large scale of the sacrificing site unearthed at the lower stratum of Gaomiao site is quite rare among the contemporaneous prehistoric relics. The various establishments in the site could help to tell about people’s sacrificing activities in that period. The distribution and structure of the altar salso greatly influenced the later development of Chinese sacrificial activities. Results suggest that the Gaomiao skeletons inherited genetic signatures from early colonising populations of Late Pleistocene southern Eurasian origin to a certain extent, and might share a common ancestry with present-day Australian Aboriginal and Melanesian people.” ref, ref

“By analyzing the Y chromosome haplotype patterns, three Neolithic super-grandfather haplotypes have been discovered that together account for ~40% of present-day Han Chinese males. The expansion dates are estimated 5,400 years ago for O3a2c1a-M117-F5 (O2a2b1a1a-F5 or F8, ISOGG 2017), 6,500 years ago for O3a2c1-F46 (O2a2b1a2a1-F46), or 6,800 years ago for O3a1c-002611-F11 (O2a1b1a1a1a-F11), and these three haplotypes represent 16%, 11%, and 14% of present-day Han Chinese males, respectively. Several historical writings on ancient Chinese mention the great leaders/ancestors around the time of 5000 years ago or earlier, including Fu Xi, Yan Emperor (Yandi), Huang Emperor (Huangdi), and Chi You.” ref

“It remains unclear how the Neolithic Cultures were related to the super-grandfather haplotypes and how the different Neolithic Cultures were interconnected. We here addressed these questions by analyzing ancient DNA samples from 10 different sites in Central and Northern China. We found evidence of F5 associated autosomes in the Miaodigou Culture in Henan, F11 associated autosomes in the early Yangshao Culture in Banpo, and both F5 haplotype and F5 associated autosomes in the Xiajiadian Culture in Inner Mongolia. The results provide a coherent account of information from the relevant fields.” ref

“Results here showed that aDNAs in Central and Northern China from this study could be separated into 4 groups based on autosomal relationships among them. Two among these, ZX and DSQ, were related to F5 associated autosomes. The BP group was more related to autosomes associated with the O1, O2, C, and F11 that are commonly found in the South while the ZX group was more associated with the F5 and F46 haplotypes common in the Central Plains and the North (8/12 F11 samples in Han Chinese were CHS and 6/8 F11 in CHS were from Hunan). This indicates that the BP group might be migrants from the South. Consistently, analyses of human skulls of the Duzhong and Banpo sites indicated close relationship with populations from South China.” ref

“Human skulls from the Zhengzhou Xishan site or other Miaodigou sites such as Shanxian Henan however showed mixed features related to both Yangshao and Dawenkou people. Thus, people from different Miaodigou sites in Henan, such as Duzhong and Xishan, appear to have different cranial features, consistent with DNA findings here. The DNA results confirm the suggestion based on archaeological and historical records that the early Yangshao Culture and its possible predecessor the Peiligang/Jiahu Culture may be associated with migrants under the legendary Yan or Fuxi Emperor from the South such as the Pengtoushan and Gaomiao Culture.” ref

“The DSQ group had one sample K12 carrying F5 while the ZX group was non-informative for Y chromosome. There are at least 7 branches immediately under F5. The F438 branch appears to be of high socioeconomic status (SES) based on it having shorter branch length, more descendant branches, and higher fitness (lower risk for autism). The O2a2b1a1a1a2a2 haplotype of K12 and MG48 belongs to F438. If the original F5 haplotype had a fitness advantage that might have contributed to its super-grandfather status in the first place, haplotypes with fewer random variations from the original F5 haplotype should be expected to retain the most of the fitness advantage of F5 and as such to be more likely to confer high SES status and produce more descendants. Thus populations in ancient times near the time of the original F5 would be expected to be enriched with haplotypes closest to F5. Thus the finding of two of two informative samples that have high coverage sequence data being of the F438-F2137 haplotype is consistent with a priori expectation of higher prevalence of a high SES haplotype in ancient times.” ref

“It appears that the ZX group may be more directly linked to the origin of F5 as it was both related to DSQ in the Northeast and the Southwest people carrying the F5 subtype O2a2b1a1a6. The common presence of F438-F2137 in the 3000-4000 YBP time period in the North indicates unlikely the presence of F* haplotype in the North in ancient times. The most parsimonious explanation for these observations is the diversification and radiation of F5 sub-branches from a centrally located population such as ZX where F* might originate.” ref

“Present-day Chinese are thought to be the descendants of Yan and Huang. Based on archaeological and historical records, scholars have suspected an association of Yan with the Yangshao Culture in the Central Plains (but with ancestry from the South such as the Gaomiao Culture in Hunan) and Huang with the Hongshan Culture in the Northeast. The Miaodigou Culture was a most popular Culture of its time and known to have impacted the Northeast HongShan Culture (and the subsequent Xiajiadian Culture to which the DSQ group belonged), more so than any other Culture of the time such as the Dawenkou Culture. Our DNA findings here suggest that there were people in the Central Plains closely related to the super-ancestor F5 lineage and possibly associated with the Miaodigou Culture.” ref

“These conclusions from DNA studies are consistent with the suggestion from archaeological and historical studies that the Miaodigou Culture, and in particular the first walled town (made of rammed earth) of Xishan, may be linked to the lineage of Huang who is known to be the first to have built walled towns in Chinese history. People of this lineage are believed to have also lived in the Northeast (Hongshan and Xiajiadian Culture) including the great Zhuanxu Emperor, a grandson of Huang, and to have migrated down to the Central Plains in later times during a cold climate period. Samples from the Niuheliang site of Hongshan Culture are 13.7% for haplotype O2a2b1-M134 (downstream sites remain to be determined) and future studies of more samples are needed to determine if F5 was present at this site.” ref

“Overall, our study identified the presence of F5 genomes in ancient samples from the Central Plains and the Northeast and implicates the origin of the F5 lineage in the Central Plains and subsequent diversification and migration to the Northeast and Southwest. The remarkable unification of ancient DNA results with archaeological and written records can only be found when we used slow SNPs but not fast SNPs. This provides further confirmation of our new molecular methodology in demographic inferences.” ref


Ancient DNA reveals the maternal genetic history of East Asian domestic pigs

“Two major population expansion events of East Asian domestic pigs coincided with changes in climate, widespread adoption of introduced crops, and the development of agrarian societies. These findings add to our understanding of the maternal genetic composition and help to complete the picture of domestic pig evolutionary history in East Asia. The possible area for the origin of most East Asian domestic pigs (in purple) and possible dispersal directions after the wild boars were domesticated in the Yellow River basin. The purple and dark blue areas show the regions with > 8000 BP: years before present Sus scrofa remain found in archaeological sites, which probably represent the earliest centers for pig domestication. The Jiahu site with the oldest confirmed domestic pigs in China is marked with a red dot. The inset box on the top left shows four domestication models based on archaeological evidence from Luo (2015): ① represents the Central China model; ② represents the lower reaches of the Yangtze River model; ③ represents the Northwest China model; ④ represents the South China model. The vertical axis in the model diagram represents the schematic of the development degree of domestication. The higher development degree of the Central China model in pre-Yangshao and Yangshao periods shows earlier successful pig management than other areas. NEA, Northeast Asia; MR_W, Mekong region; SC, South China; YR, Yellow River basin; YZ, Yangtze River basin.” ref

“Bones of Sus scrofa are one of the most frequently identified mammalian remains in East Asian archaeological sites, and pig remains from the Jiahu site, Henan province, fix the timing of pig domestication to at least 8,600 years ago (Cucchi et al., 2011). The proportions of pig bones at later sites were found to be continuously increasing, with more than half of the total faunal assemblage consisting of domestic pigs at most sites during the Yangshao culture period (7,000–5,000 years ago) (Luo, 2015Dong and Yuan, 2020). The ongoing domestication of pigs is also supported by the gradual morphological transformation and the decreasing ratio of adult pigs to juvenile pigs identified at archaeological sites (Luo, 2015). The average length of the mandibular third molar (M3) of pigs declined continuously from the pre-Yangshao period to the Zhou dynasty (∼8,000–2,500 years ago) in Central China (Luo, 2015), indicating an artificial control of diet throughout the domestication of pigs.” ref

Neolithic Shamans and Pigs

“An unusual burial from the Early Neolithic Xinglongwa culture consisted of an adult male buried within a house with two whole, articulated adult pigs beside him. One of the pigs was male, the other female. These full-grown pigs together were nearly as long as the person they accompanied in death. It is possible that the buried person was a shaman accompanied by pigs representing spirit familiars. The pigs were unlikely to have been food for the afterlife in this context. Although they could have been buried as pets, this also seems an unlikely explanation for such a unique burial. The man was buried with 715 other grave offerings made of jade, bone, ceramic, and shell.” ref

“The Hongshan culture, which succeeded Xinglongwa in the Late Neolithic, also was notable for pig ceremonialism which took several forms. The main burial at the site of Niuheliang had been plundered in antiquity, but it still contained pig and cattle bones. Pigs were sacrificed in Manchu rituals and are still important in Korean shamanism. A pig head or whole pig is often part of the rite. Animal bones were unusual as grave offerings in Hongshan sites. In fact, this is the only burial at Niuheliang from which animal bones are recorded. Sheep bones were found in a pit near the Goddess Temple, along with broken pots, suggesting a sheep feast dedicated to the spirits, making it necessary to dispose of the pots and bones in special pits.” ref

“Hongshan jades are the earliest figured jades in China, although jade earrings were found in the preceding Xinglongwa culture. They include many Zhulong, or pig-dragons, which feature a pig’s head attached to a curved body. The body is plain but the head has sculpted ears, large round eyes and tusks indicated by incising. These objects were perforated for suspension from a cord and were often found on the chest of the deceased. Another form also called Zhulong is larger than the typical one, has a thinner “body” and ends in the head of a horse with almond eyes and a long flowing mane. It is possible that both pigs and horses were spirit animals, or animal assistants to shamans. However, Zhulong seems to be more generic than personal, since so many have been found. Each shaman has his or her own particular animal helper, while these “dragons” are made to a pattern that must have had a specific meaning. More likely they signalled rank, occupation, or other status – perhaps even different clans of Wu.” ref

“The jaw and trotters of a pig from the Goddess Temple at Niuheliang have already been mentioned. Pigs clearly figured in many rituals. Another possible indication of pig symbolism is a mountain visible from the Goddess Temple that has the outline of a pig head with upright pointed ears and a snout and is known locally as Zhushan – Pig Mountain. It seems likely that this was a sacred mountain, since it is also visible from most of the burial areas. The idea that it might be seen as a bear has been floated but that is unlikely because the shape of the ears is porcine rather than ursine, and there is no other indication of bears in the Hongshan iconography. Thus pigs seem to be important in the whole society, not just as a shaman’s familiar.” ref

“Pigs are frequently depicted in the Neolithic. At the Peiligang site, small realistic figures are found as far north as Heilongjiang province. Pigs represented wealth in later China and may have acquired that symbolic meaning quite early because they are an excellent source of food, reproduce prolifically, and are able to digest plant parts and waste that humans cannot, and therefore they do not compete with humans for food. Painted jars from Zhaobaogou, Nantaidi and Shaoshan depict “spirit” deer, pigs, and dragons.” ref

“The pigs buried alongside the dead indicate that the offering of sacrifices to ancestors was combined with those to the preys, and the offering of sacrifice by the inhabitants of Xinglongwa to the spirit of pig is considered to be of the significance of totem worship.” ref

Xinglongwa Culture 

“The type site at Xinglongwa is located on the southwest side of a hill at Aohan Banner, Chifeng, Inner Mongolia. Each home had a hearth at its center. Xinglongwa also featured a large building in the center of the village. Xinglongwa is the earliest discovered site in China to be surrounded by a ditch. Xinglongwa also featured an unusual burial custom, as some bodies were buried directly under the houses. Jade objects were also discovered. In the most lavish grave, a man was buried with a pair of pigs, as well as jade objects.” ref

“According to some papers, the Xinglongwa are perhaps the distant ancestors of the present-day Northeast Asian peoples that belong to the proposed “Transeurasian” (aka Altaic) language family. The recently discovered site at Xinglonggou is the only site of the culture to show evidence of any sort of agriculture, with evidence of millet remains. Some of the oldest Comb Ceramic artifacts were found in the Xinglongwa culture. A bone flute with five finger holes was also found at a Xinglongwa site.” ref

“Although the Xinglongwa culture was contemporary to the Peiligang (6750–4850 BCE) and Cishan (6000–5000 BCE) cultures south and north of the Yellow River, it was clearly culturally distinct. Whereas the Yellow River cultures were focused on agriculture, with foxtail millet as the prevailing cereal, the Xinglongwa culture, with its broad-spectrum subsistence strategy, had broomcorn millet as the most important cereal. If we associate the Xinglongwa culture with the proto-Transeurasian speech community, it would be reasonable to assume that the Zhaobaogu and Hongshan people continued the linguistic tradition, while Peiligang and Cishan people presumably spoke a different language, perhaps an ancestral form of Sino-Tibetan.” ref


Ancient Northeast Asian

“In archaeogenetics, the term Ancient Northeast Asian (ANA), also known as Amur ancestry, is the name given to an ancestral component that represents the lineage of the hunter-gatherer people of the 7th-4th millennia before present, in far-eastern Siberia, Mongolia, and the Baikal regions. They are inferred to have diverged from Ancient East Asians about 24,000 years ago, and are represented by several ancient human specimens found in archaeological excavations east of the Altai Mountains. They are a sub-group of the Ancient Northern East Asians (ANEA). Genetically, ANA ancestry peaks among modern Tungusic, Mongolic, and Nivkh-speaking populations of Northeast Asia. ANA ancestry (represented by the Tungusic-speaking Ulchi people) overall forms the main ancestry of the early and contemporary speakers of Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages, which supports their spread from Northeast Asia westwards. An earlier wave into Siberia can be associated with “Neo-Siberians” (represented by Uralic-speaking Nganasans), which may be associated with the spread of Yukaghir and Uralic languages, and the partial displacement of Paleo-Siberians.” ref

Chinese shamanism, alternatively called Wuism (wu religion, shamanismwitchcraft), refers to the shamanic religious tradition of China. Its features are especially connected to the ancient Neolithic cultures such as the Hongshan culture. Chinese shamanic traditions are intrinsic to Chinese folk religion.” ref

Hongshan Culture

“The Hongshan culture was a Neolithic culture in the West Liao river basin in northeast China. Hongshan sites have been found in an area stretching from Inner Mongolia to Liaoning, and dated from about 4700 to 2900 BCE or around 6,700 to 4,900 years ago. In northeast China, Hongshan culture was preceded by Xinglongwa culture (6200–5400 BCE), Zhaobaogou culture (5400–4500 BCE), and Xinle culture (5300–4800 BCE). The Yangshao culture (5000- 3000 BCE) of the Yellow River existed contemporaneously with the Hongshan culture (see map). These two cultures interacted with each other.” ref

Xinglongwa culture (6200–5400 BCE)

Xinle culture (5300–4800 BCE)

Zhaobaogou culture (5400–4500 BCE)

Yangshao culture (5000- 3000 BCE)

“A genetic study by Yinqiu Cui et al. from 2013 analyzed the Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup based N subclade; it found that DNA samples from 63% of the combined samples from various Hongshan archaeological sites belonged to the subclade N1 (xN1a, N1c) of the paternal haplogroup N-M231 and calculated N to have been the predominant haplogroup in the region in the Neolithic period at 89%, with its share gradually declining over time. Today, this haplogroup is found in northern HanMongolsManchuOroqenXibe, and Hezhe at low frequencies. Other paternal haplogroups identified in the study were C and O3a (O3a3), both of which predominate among the present-day inhabitants of the region.” ref

“Nelson et al. 2020 attempts to link the Hongshan culture to a “Transeurasian” (Altaic) linguistic context. According to a study on genetic distance measurements from a large scale genetic study from 2021 titled ‘Genomic insights into the formation of human populations in East Asia’, hunter-gatherers of Mongolia and the Amur River Basin have ancestry shared by Mongolic and Tungusic language speakers, but they did not carry West Liao River farmer ancestry, contradicting the Transeurasian hypothesis proposed by Martine Robbeets et al. that the expansion of West Liao River farmers spread these proto-languages.ref

“A 2020 study discovered substantial genetic changes in the West Liao River region over time. An increase in the reliance on millet farming between the Middle-to-Late Neolithic is associated with higher genetic affinity to the Yellow River basin (generally associated with speakers of the Sino-Tibetan languages), while a partial switch to pastoralism in the Bronze Age Upper Xiajiadian culture is associated with a decrease in this genetic affinity. After the Late Neolithic, there was a sharp transition from Yellow River to Amur River-related genetic profiles (associated with speakers of Tungusic languages) around the West Liao River. This increase in Amur River affinity corresponds with the transition to a pastoral economy during the Bronze Age. A 2021 study found that Yellow River millet farmers from the modern-day provinces of Henan and Shandong had played an important role in the formation of Hongshan people or their descendants via both inland and coastal northward migration routes.ref

“Similarly to the Yangshao culture, the Hongshan culture cultivated millet. Isotope analyses revealed that millet contributed up to 70% of the human diet in the Early Hongshan and up to 80% in the Late Hongshan. The Hongshan culture is known for its carved jade. Hongshan burial artifacts include some of the earliest known examples of jade working. The Hongshan culture is known for its jade pig dragons and embryo dragons. Clay figurines, including figurines of pregnant women, are also found throughout Hongshan sites. Small copper rings were also excavated. The archaeological site at Niuheliang is a unique ritual complex associated with the Hongshan culture.ref

“Excavators have discovered an underground temple complex—which included an altar—and also cairns in Niuheliang. The temple was constructed of stone platforms, with painted walls. Archaeologists have given it the name “Goddess Temple” (Chinese: 女神庙; pinyin: nüshenmiao) due to the discovery of a clay female head with jade inlaid eyes. It was an underground structure, 1m deep. Included on its walls are mural paintings. Housed inside the Goddess Temple are clay figurines as large as three times the size of real-life humans. The exceedingly large figurines are possibly deities, but for a religion not reflective in any other Chinese culture.ref

“The existence of complex trading networks and monumental architecture (such as pyramids and the Goddess Temple) point to the existence of a “chiefdom in these prehistoric communities. Painted pottery was also discovered within the temple. Over 60 nearby tombs have been unearthed, all constructed of stone and covered by stone mounds, frequently including jade artifacts. Cairns were discovered atop two nearby two hills, with either round or square-stepped tombs, made of piled limestone. Entombed inside were sculptures of dragons and tortoisesIt has been suggested that religious sacrifice might have been performed within the Hongshan culture.ref

Just as suggested by evidence found at early Yangshao culture sites, Hongshan culture sites also provide the earliest evidence for feng shui. The presence of both round and square shapes at Hongshan culture ceremonial centers suggests an early presence of the gaitian cosmography (“round heaven, square earth”). Early feng shui relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe. Some of the people of the Hongshan culture may have emigrated south to the Yellow River valley approximately 4,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence discovered at the Miaozigou site in Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia, a northern branch of the Yangshao culture from the Yellow River (the Yangshao culture is speculated to be the origin of the Sino-Tibetan languages) demonstrates similarities in the material cultures between the Yellow River and Liao River cultures.ref 

“Three individuals from the Miaozigou site belonged to haplogroup N1(xN1a, N1c), while the main lineage of Yellow River valley cultures is O3-M122. The existence of N1(xN1a, N1c) among the Miaozigou individuals could serve as evidence for the migration of some of the Hongshan people. Some Chinese archaeologists such as Guo Da-shun see the Hongshan culture as an important stage of early Chinese civilization. Whatever the linguistic affinity of the ancient denizens, Hongshan culture is believed to have exerted an influence on the development of early Chinese civilization. The culture may have also contributed to the development of settlements in ancient Korea. However, the Hongshan culture is also commonly employed in Korean pseudohistory by some Korean scholars, who seek to contest any connections between the Hongshan culture with Chinese civilization and assert that the Hongshan culture is only related to Korean civilization.ref

Wuism at the Hongshan Site of Niuheliang

“Archaeoastronomical Evidence for Wuism at the Hongshan Site of Niuheliang. Introduction The Neolithic Hongshan Culture flourished between 4500 and 3000 BCE in what is today northeastern China and Inner Mongolia. Village sites are found in the northern part of the region, while the two ceremonial sites of Dongshanzui and Niuheliang are located in the south, where villages are fewer. The Hongshan inhabitants included agriculturalists who cultivated millet and pigs for subsistence, and accomplished artisans who carved finely crafted jades and made thin black-on-red pottery. Organized labor of a large number of workers is suggested by several impressive constructions, including an artificial hill containing three rings of marble-like stone, several high cairns with elaborate interiors and a 22-meter-long building that contained fragments of life-sized statues.” ref

“One fragment was a face with inset green jade eyes. A ranked society is implied by the burials, which include decorative jades made in specific, possibly iconographic, shapes. It has been argued previously that the sizes and locations of the mounded tombs imply at least three elite ranks. The Nature of Leadership Hongshan scholars agree that the elite burials are those of leaders, but the nature of that leadership still needs to be elucidated. We propose that the Chinese word wu is appropriate to apply to the Hongshan leaders, and, following Tong (2002), we use the term wuism to describe their activities, arguing that this designation is appropriate for the Hongshan culture. Shamanism, ritual and magic are just beginning to be identified in archaeological sites.” ref

“Ralph Merrifield defines ritual and magic as “practices intended to gain advantage or avert disaster by the manipulation of supernatural power”. Neil Price is particularly helpful in describing the kinds of material culture found in shamanistic contexts (2001:3). Notably, figurines found on the chests of shamans in Siberia are similar to some finds in Hongshan burials. Julia Ching, in advancing her thesis that high leadership is related to mysticism, begins her exploration in the Chinese Neolithic. K. C. Chang has been a strong advocate of the interpretation of shamanistic leadership in China. Likely shamanistic connections with specific artifacts have also been proposed. In addition, several archaeologists at a recent Chinese conference argued specifically that the Hongshan leaders were wu. While there are no written documents from this period in Chinese history, the presence and influence of wu in the Hongshan culture may be inferred from the activities of wu as documented in later China.” ref

“China’s earliest extant writing comes from the Shang dynasty, created by carving characters into bone with a sharp instrument. The character for wu (meaning a person who can reach the Powers) first appears in these 1 Department of Anthropology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA 2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA 1 Shang oracle bones, but it is not until the early Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050-221 BCE) that the activities of the wu were recorded. As described in the Zhou Li, the wu were responsible for divination, medicine and healing, music, dancing, and star-gazing. By engaging in rhythmic drumming and dancing, wu could trance and transcend the earthly realm in order to communicate with the celestial spirit world.” ref

“Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy provides a useful interdisciplinary framework for examining the connection between wuism and astronomy in Neolithic China. By combining knowledge of the Hongshan culture with new research on the night sky of the region more than 5000 years ago, archaeoastronomy reflects the terrestrial-celestial ideology we wish to examine. Thus, by presenting both archaeological and astronomical lines of evidence, we propose that the wu were actively creating a connection between heaven and earth at the Hongshan site of Niuheliang. We focus here on astronomical observations in particular because “the main purpose of Chinese astronomy was to study the correlation between [humanity] and [the] universe.” ref

“Chinese astronomy is known to date back to the Neolithic. It has continuously involved relationships between human beings, especially leaders, and phenomena in the skies. By creating calendars and observing the apparent movements of the heavenly bodies, leaders such as wu correlated occurrences in the sky with events on earth. Archaeological Evidence Shamanistic activity is implied by much of the archaeological evidence at Niuheliang. Similarly, archaeological continuities between the Hongshan and later cultures point to the presence of wu in Neolithic northeast China. Oracle bones without writing were used by cultures contemporaneous with the Hongshan suggesting that they may have practiced a similar form of divination long before the Shang. In the first century BCE, the Zhou Bi Suan Jing outlined the gai tian cosmography in which the earth was square, covered by a round heaven.” ref

“The presence of both round and square structures at Hongshan ceremonial centers suggests that this cosmological model was present in Chinese society long before it was written down . Jade While jade is found even in the earliest Neolithic sites in northeast China, it is only with the appearance of the Hongshan culture that jade is clearly used in ritual activities. The relationship between jade and both royalty and religion is well-established in China. For example, a burial at Locality 5 contained a large cloud-shaped pendant, several squared rings, and two Jade turtles. The number and quality of the jade ornaments probably reflected the elite status of the individual, but in addition, they suggest wuist activities. Wu often acted as healers and physicians and the qi (spirit or power) that jade was believed to possess made it a potent medicinal substance. The wu also used their skills as dancers and musicians to perform rain ceremonies during periods of drought.” ref

“The cloud-shaped jade that was found with the individual at Locality 5 may imply rain2 making rituals, and indeed many of the shapes of Hongshan jades could be interpreted as being associated with water. The turtle and ring-shaped jades excavated at the site may reflect Chinese cosmology, another area of specialization for the wu: the two “square” rings with circular holes reflect the gai tian cosmography while the turtles may represent the cosmic tortoise which was believed to hold up the sky. A recently discovered jade in an elite burial at Locality 16 of Niuheliang also suggests connections with the later wu. A large jade bird was found under the skull of a burial, suggesting a connection between the deceased and sacred birds as messengers of Powers.” ref

“Birds were prominent in Shang dynasty (ca. 1500-1050 BCE) mythology, and those beliefs are likely to have been of considerable age by the time of the Shang. Statues Several fragments of large, unbaked clay statues were excavated at Locality 1 (commonly referred to as the Goddess Temple) including a face with jade eyes, as well as a shoulder and breast that imply the statue is female. Small female figurines were excavated from Dongshanzui, as well as a seated statue wearing a knotted rope around the waist. Some fragments imply that statues at Niuheliang were larger than lifesized. Certainly, the ceremonial nature of the Goddess Temple and the size of the figures suggest that these statues served a ritual function, a function that was most likely realized by religious specialists such as wu. As the name of the site suggests, the statues unearthed at the Goddess Temple were interpreted by the excavators as representations of female deities.” ref

“However, an alternate interpretation may be explored. While the term wu often refers to all early Chinese shamans regardless of gender, it was originally used to describe female shamans exclusively. Also, because of the belief of the great medicinal potency of jade, some scholars have proposed that “jade working was monopolized by shamans”. Thus, it is possible that the clay face with jade eyes from the Goddess Temple is a portrait of a wu rather than a “goddess.” Painted Pottery Most of the Niuheliang tombs are surrounded by broken pottery cylinders, which once stood next to each other in rows near the outer edges of the tombs. Guo Dashun estimated that if all the mounded burials known at Niuheliang were surrounded by rows of these jars, 10,000 of them must have been made. Because these cylinders were open at both ends they were clearly not used as containers.” ref

“Hongshan painted pottery has been found in ritual contexts, suggesting that painted pottery was produced primarily for ceremonial purposes. Therefore we may infer that there was a productive ceramics industry dedicated to the creation of ceremonial pottery, as well as sculpting the fragile statues of unbaked clay. Architecture Some of the most intriguing archaeological evidence for wuism at Niuheliang comes from the site’s architectural structures, including the Goddess Temple. The distinctive outline of the Temple may be interpreted as the Chinee character ya, a cruciform shape which has significance in Chinese cosmography. The ya was a representation of the five cardinal directions: north, south, east, west, and center.” ref

“Similarly, according to Chinese mythology, the sky was supported above the earth by a cosmic turtle whose lower shell, or plastron, was ya-shaped. If the Goddess Temple was indeed an early representation of a ya-shaped cosmos, then its architecture may have been an attempt to create a representation of heaven on earth, or to symbolize the connection between earth and heaven. Because one of the primary duties of wu was to connect the terrestrial and the celestial, this cosmic architecture may be evidence for the powerful influence of the wu at Niuheliang. The placement of tombs at Niuheliang also suggests the influence of wu. All but one of the tomb groups at the site are positioned on top of prominent hills with line-ofsight views of the Goddess Temple. These vantage points offer views of the night sky which would make them prime spots for observations.” ref

“Perhaps by placing the tombs on hills, the deceased also enjoyed this vantage point closer to the heavens and, thus, in proximity to the realm of the ancestors. Hence, the influence of wu as facilitators of a terrestrial-celestial association may have shaped architecture and tomb construction at Niuheliang. Potential architectural evidence for wuism at Niuheliang includes the round and square structures found throughout the site. Because ancient Chinese lore described a round heaven which enveloped a square earth, these structures may have been representations of the celestial and terrestrial realms. While circular rings of white stones are found within mounds in several localities, the most compelling evidence for the architectural representation of the gai tian cosmography is found at Locality 2. Here, tombs that are both square and circular in ground plan lie side by side with other structures without burials that have been interpreted as altars. As a representation of both the celestial and the terrestrial, Locality 13 is an artificial hill which must have served a ritual function.” ref

“The data presented below suggest that the hill was constructed precisely in this spot for viewing the full moon at its farthest points north and south. Astronomical Evidence Data Analysis As has been argued for other Neolithic sites, data from Niuheliang reveals possible astronomical alignments between localities which may be indicative of a connection between the celestial and the terrestrial landscape during the Hongshan period. To further examine these potential alignments, distances, and angles between localities were determined from latitude, longitude, and elevation values. In 2000, Chris Rock used a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device to obtain these values for all but two of the sixteen localities at Niuheliang including the Goddess Temple (Locality 1a) and the Platform (Locality 1b).” ref

“In order to compensate for several outlying data points, the elevation for the Goddess Temple (1a) was obtained by examining the nine data points collected with the GPS device and averaging those with errors of less than 16 meters. Further exceptions 4 include the elevation values for Localities 8 and 9, as no GPS data was acquired at these locations. To approximate the elevations, the old contour map and newer satellite image of Niuheliang were examined and compared to the elevation values of the other localities. Locality 8 was determined to have an approximate elevation of 660 meters with an error of approximately ±30 meters, as it appears to be lower than the Platform (1b) but similar in elevation to the Goddess Temple (1a). It is also similar to but lower in elevation than Localities 6 and 7. The elevation for Locality 9 was approximated as being higher than Localities 11, 12, and 13 since it is in the northeastern most part of the valley and because elevation decreases to the west.” ref

“Also, Locality 9 appears to be similar to Locality 2 in relation to the valley as well as elevation. Thus its elevation is approximated as 647 ±20 meters. To obtain elevation as well as latitude and longitude values for Locality 15 (which were absent from the data collected by Rock), measurements made by Hungjen Niu and Yangjin Pak at the same time as Rock but using a newer GPS unit were examined. Niu and Pak acquired two values for Locality 15 that when averaged together resulted in coordinates of N41° 18.87, E119 ° 30.34, and an elevation of 619±16 meters. Data for Locality 14 was absent from Rock’s GPS readings as well as those of Niu and Pak and was therefore estimated from the satellite map and the data from nearby Locality 15. The latitude (N41°18.97), longitude (E119°29.97), and elevation (616±25 meters) for Locality 14 were approximated in this way. The next steps in determining possible astronomical alignments are to determine the differences in elevation between the localities and distances between localities.” ref

“By calculating the distances between the localities, a triangle can be formed between two specific localities such that the base of the triangle is the distance between the localities and the height of the triangle is the relative elevation between the localities. The first step in calculating the distances between localities was to convert the latitude and longitude values into their decimal form by dividing the minutes of latitude or longitude by 60 and adding them to the degree value. The values were then converted to degrees by dividing the decimal latitude or longitude by the ratio of 180 degrees for every pi radians. However, in order to account for the curvature of the Earth, we must apply the Haversine Approximation to these values: dlon = lon2 – lon1 dlat = lat2 – lat1 a = (sin(dlat/2))^2 + cos(lat1) * cos(lat2) * sin(dlon/2))^2 d = R* 2 * atan2(sqrt(1-a), sqrt(a)) First, the decimal radian values for latitude and longitude were used to determine the difference in latitude (dlat) and longitude (dlon) between localities. Second, these dlat and dlon values were used to solve for the variable “a” using the formula above. Finally, these resulting “a” values were used to solve for the variable “d” using the second formula in the Haversine approximation in which R is the radius of the Earth (6,367,000 meters). The corrected distance (d) and elevation can then be used as the base and height, respectively, of the aforementioned triangle in order to determine the azimuth angles between the localities by applying the formula: azimuth = atan2 (dlat, dlon).” ref

“The resulting azimuth angles were converted into degrees and subtracted from ninety so that zero degrees corresponds to north rather than the x-axis in a Cartesian plane. To determine the declination angles used to verify astronomical alignments, both the azimuth and altitude angles are needed. Just as the azimuth angles were calculated above, the next set of computations involved finding altitude angles. The altitude angles between localities were determined by calculating the arctangent of the difference in elevation and the distance between the localities. The angles were then multiplied by the conversion factor of 57.3 degrees per radian, giving the angles in degrees. The final calculations performed were to determine the sight lines corresponding to declination angles in the sky. The declination angles were determined using the formula: sin(DEC)= sin(LAT)sin(ALT)+cos(LAT)cos(ALT)cos(AZ), in which LAT corresponds to the decimal latitude of each locality, ALT corresponds to the altitude angles and AZ corresponds to the azimuth angles. Because this formula gives the sine of the declination angles, the arcsine of the values was then calculated to obtain the declination angles. The results were then multiplied by 57.3 so that the final angles were given in degrees.” ref

“Interpretation To determine possible astronomical alignments between localities, the declination angles were inspected for angles that correspond to significant points in the orbits of the sun and moon because of their prominence in the sky as well as their usefulness in time keeping. Significant solar angles occur when the sun is at its farthest point north (+23.5°) or south (-23.5°), corresponding to the summer and winter solstices, and when the sun is at the midpoint of its motion (0°), occurring at the spring and autumn equinoxes. Because the moon’s motion varies from the sun’s, significant lunar angles are those five degrees to either side of the aforementioned solar angles: 28.5°, 18.5°, 5°, -5°, -18.5° and -28.5°. To account for the error within the calculations and variations in viewing locations due to the size of the localities, declination angles within ±1.5 degrees of the actual solar or lunar angles were considered for alignments. Table 4 highlights the significant angles considered for further analysis. Of the interesting angles, one set occurs between Locality 13 and Localities 8, 9, and 10.” ref

“The angles between Locality 13 and Localities 8 and 9 are within our range of lunar alignment angles, with Locality 8 having an angle of -19.63° and Locality 9 having an angle of -28.53°. Besides yielding possible lunar alignments, these angles are also potentially significant because of the prominence of Locality 13 which is an artificial hill characterized as an earthen “pyramid.” Localities 8 and 9 are also considered likely for alignment because although we do not have measured values for their elevations, we know from visiting the site that they are situated on hills that are visible form Locality 13. Locality 13 also forms a potentially significant solar angle of -24.73° with Locality 10. This alignment seems plausible because Locality 10 is centrally located, is characterized by a high concentration of ceramic debris and could have been seen from Locality 13. Additionally, Locality 10 bisects Localities 8 and 9 suggesting a possible triple alignment. Locality 13 also forms a lunar angle of -19.06° with Locality 2. In addition to the aforementioned prominence of Locality 13, this alignment is also considered of interest because Locality 2 contains a central square tomb whose inhabitants may have been connected to wuism.” ref

“Thus, the archaeological discoveries at Locality 2 as well as its 6 position directly south of the Goddess Temple suggest that it may have astronomical significance. Another set of potentially significant lunar angles are those between the Platform (1b) and Localities 7 (18.92°) and 8 (-5.81°) which are both situated atop a high hill. The Platform also produces a lunar angle of -28.20° with Locality 10 which, as previously stated, is not very prominent but is near the center of the valley and has a large amount of ceramic debris. Further declination angles of interest include those between Locality 16 and Localities 7 and 9. Locality 7 forms a solar angle of -23.48° with Locality 16, and Locality 9 a possible lunar angle of -20.64°. Locality 16 is considered potentially significant because of the structural remains and jade artifacts excavated there and because it affords a view of the entire site from the westernmost point in the region. Localities 7 and 9 afford similar panoramic views from the northernmost and easternmost parts of the Niuheliang complex, respectively. Finally, Locality 6 creates a lunar angle of -6.21° with Locality 8.” ref

‘This alignment may be significant because of the two Localities’ close proximity to the Goddess Temple (1a) and the Platform area (1b), as well as nearby Localities 7 and 9. The position of Locality 6 atop a hill also points towards possible astronomical significance. Conclusion The archaeological evidence at Niuheliang makes a strong argument for wuism in Hongshan China. First, many of the jade shapes in burials suggest that thay might have been symbols of the wu. Second, the discovery of anthropomorphic statuary and large numbers of bottomless jars imply that ritual activity connected with wuism was taking place at Niuheliang, and was particularly connected with the elite. Finally, the existence of a ya-shaped temple, hilltop tombs, and round and square structures suggest that wu was actively involved in connecting heaven and earth at the site. Therefore, the nature of the archaeological evidence argues that the societal leaders were wu and used their influence with the Powers to create a celestial-terrestrial connection at Niuheliang.” ref

“From the calculations and analysis of the localities at Niuheliang, declination angles corresponding to both significant solar and lunar angles as well as possessing some distinguishing factor about their location or contents were analyzed to highlight promising alignments between the heavens and the terrestrial landscape. Of the 136 possible angles studied among localities at Niuheliang, a striking number of lunar rather than solar alignment angles emerged, and many of them took the artificial hill as their backsight. Assuming the lunar orbit evolution is small since Hongshan times, an integrative interpretation of the Niuheliang site plan relates it to the study of lunar motion – stillstand to stillstand – and the cultural development of ability to predict eclipses based thereupon. This is one implication of this preliminary astronomical alignment survey at Niuheliang.” ref

Feng shui and One’s Fortune

“The Yangshao (5000 to 3000 BCE) and Hongshan (4700 to 2900 BCE) cultures of China provide the earliest known evidence for the use of feng shui. Until the invention of the magnetic compass, feng shui relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe. In 4000 BCE or around 6,000 years ago, the doors of dwellings in Banpo were aligned with the asterism Yingshi just after the winter solstice—this sited the homes for solar gain. Historically, as well as in many parts of the contemporary Chinese world, feng shui was used to orient buildings and spiritually significant structures such as tombs, as well as dwellings and other structures.” ref

“A grave at Puyang (around 4000 BCE) that contains mosaics— a Chinese star map of the Dragon and Tiger asterisms and Beidou (the Big Dipper, Ladle or Bushel)— is oriented along a north–south axis. The presence of both round and square shapes in the Puyang tomb, at Hongshan ceremonial centers and at the late Longshan settlement at Lutaigang, suggests that gaitian cosmography (heaven-round, earth-square) existed in Chinese society long before it appeared in the Zhoubi Suanjing. The late Yangshao site at Dadiwan (c. 3500–3000 BCE) includes a palace-like building (F901) at its center. The building faces south and borders a large plaza. It stands on a north–south axis with another building that apparently housed communal activities. Regional communities may have used the complex. Cosmography that bears a resemblance to modern feng shui devices and formulas appears on a piece of jade unearthed at Hanshan and dated around 3000 BCE.” ref

“Archaeologist Li Xueqin links the design to the liuren astrolabezhinan zhen and luopan. Beginning with palatial structures at Erlitou, all capital cities of China followed rules of feng shui for their design and layout. During the Zhou era, the Kaogong ji (Chinese: 考工記; “Manual of Crafts”) codified these rules. The carpenter’s manual Lu ban jing (魯班經; “Lu ban’s manuscript”) codified rules for builders. Graves and tombs also followed rules of feng shui from Puyang to Mawangdui and beyond. From the earliest records, the structures of the graves and dwellings seem to have followed the same rules. Some current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China, while others were added later (most notably the Han dynasty, the Tang, the Song, and the Ming). At its core, feng shui views good and bad fortune as tangible elements that can be managed through predictable and consistent rules.” ref 

“This involves the management of qi, a form of cosmic “energy.” In situating the local environment to maximize good qi, one can optimize their own good fortune. Feng shui holds that one’s external environment can affect one’s internal state. In this manner the “perfect spot” is a location and an axis in time that can help one achieve a state of shu fu (舒服) or harmony with the universe. Traditional feng shui is inherently a form of ancestor worship. Popular in farming communities for centuries, it was built on the idea that the ghosts of ancestors and other independent, intangible forces, both personal and impersonal, affected the material world, and that these forces needed to be placated through rites and suitable burial places. For a fee, a Feng shui practitioner could properly site locations for the living and the dead to achieve shu fu. The primary underlying value was material success for the living.” ref

“Polarity is expressed in feng shui as yin and yang theory. While the goal of Chinese medicine is to balance yin and yang in the body, the goal of feng shui has been described as aligning a city, site, building, or object with yin-yang force fields. Eight diagrams known as bagua (or pa kua) loom large in feng shui, and both predate their mentions in the Yijing (or I Ching). The Lo (River) Chart (Luoshu) was developed first, and is sometimes associated with Later Heaven arrangement of the bagua. This and the Yellow River Chart (Hetu, sometimes associated with the Earlier Heaven bagua) are linked to astronomical events of the 6,000 to 5,000 years ago or in the 6th millennium BCE, and with the Turtle Calendar from the time of Yao. The Turtle Calendar of Yao (found in the Yaodian section of the Shangshu or Book of Documents) dates to 2300 BCE, plus or minus 250 years.” ref

“In Yaodian, the cardinal directions are determined by the marker-stars of the mega-constellations known as the Four Celestial Animals:

“The diagrams are also linked with the sifang (four directions) method of divination used during the Shang dynasty.  The sifang is much older, however. It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in Hongshan culture‘s astronomy. And it is this area of China that is linked to Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) who allegedly invented the south-pointing spoon (see compass).” ref 

“Archaeologists discovered a dragon made of mussel shells in Inner Mongolia related to the Hongshan Culture between 4700 to 2900 BCE or around 6,700 to 4,900 years ago. The shell dragon dates back much further than the iconic C-shaped dragon made of jade, which is also from the Neolithic Hongshan Culture.” ref


“Two Ghost Populations Hypothesis of David Reich. Also added was the Liao River Ghost Population to indicate the people associated with Hongshan culture. It is believed to have played critical role in the development of early Korean culture and Chinese civilization as well. Y chromosome haplogroup O2b and O2b1 might have arose here and expanded after they move into Korean peninsula and Japanese islands. If this population spoke proto-Korean language, a branch of Altaic languages, Liao River Ghost Population could be a descendant of the Ancient Mongolian Ghost Population, as discussed in section of Khövsgöl burials.” ref

Genetic diversity of two Neolithic populations provides evidence of farming expansions in North China

“Abstract: The West Liao River Valley and the Yellow River Valley are recognized Neolithic farming centers in North China. The population dynamics between these two centers have significantly contributed to the present-day genetic patterns and the agricultural advances of North China. To understand the Neolithic farming expansions between the West Liao River Valley and the Yellow River Valley, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the Y chromosome of 48 individuals from two archeological sites, Jiangjialiang (>3000 BCE) and Sanguan (~1500 BCE). These two sites are situated between the two farming centers and experienced a subsistence shift from hunting to farming. We did not find a significant difference in the mtDNA, but their genetic variations in the Y chromosome were different. Individuals from the Jiangjialiang belonged to two Y haplogroups, N1 (not N1a or N1c) and N1c. The individuals from the Sanguan are Y haplogroup O3. Two stages of migration are supported. Populations from the West Liao River Valley spread south at about 3000 BCE, and a second northward expansion from the Yellow River Valley occurred later (3000–1500 BCE).” ref

“The northern farming center is in the West Liao River Valley. The earliest evidence of crop domestication dates to 6500 BCE at the Xinglongwa site. The common millet became a staple diet during the Hongshan culture period (4500–3000 BCE, characterized by their jade artifacts and dragon-shaped relics), indicating that agriculture was a chief way of life. Agriculture provides high yields and allows the support of an increasing population and flourishing culture, such as the Xiaoheyan culture (3000–2200 BCE) and the Lower Xiajiadian culture (2200–1600 BCE). Following the Lower Xiajiadian culture, paleoclimate records showed a regional shift toward a cold and steppe-like environment, which encouraged nomadic subsistence strategy ~1000 BCE. Consequently, the widespread agricultural practices disappeared from the archeological records in this region, but some characteristics of this farming center remained in North China, such as the widespread use of jade.” ref

“To the south, the farming center traces to the Yellow River Valley. The earliest evidence of crop domestication in this region dates to 8000 BCE at the Cishan site. The majority of archeological sites located at the Yellow River Valley sites belong to the Yangshao culture (5000–3000 BCE), which is known for its distinctive geometric or animal prints patterned pottery in red or black. The common millet and foxtail millet were grown throughout this region at that time period. Yangshao culture holds significance in Chinese history as scholars, arguing that it gives rise to the present-day Han Chinese culture.” ref

“The Sanggan River Valley is centrally located and accessible between the West Liao River Valley and the Yellow River Valley (Figure). Until ~4300 BCE, hunting-and-gathering was the main way of life for the ancient community, since local climate aridity is not favorable for intensified agriculture development. After this period, archeological evidence indicates a shift toward a farming strategy. Regional data from the Sangan River Valley suggest that technologies from the west Liao River Valley and the Yellow River Valley were influential on the development and adaptations of agricultural practices. Hence, the genetic changes of populations in this region during their lifestyle shifted toward an agriculturally focused subsistence strategy can provide evidence of Neolithic farming expansions in North China.” ref

“The Jiangjialiang (JJL) and Sanguan (SG) sites are located in the Sanggan River Valley (Figure), yet display different subsistence economies. The Jiangjialiang site was one of the largest Neolithic sites in the Sanggan River Valley. It is the oldest Neolithic Sanggan River Valley site with human remains. A previous excavation uncovered a total of nine buildings and 78 graves (Supplementary Figure). Radiocarbon dating of the nine buildings in the lowest stratigraphic layer indicated that they were constructed in 4850±80 BCE. Artifacts were found in the buildings and graves, including pottery, millstones, stone axes and flake tools. The non-decorative sand inclusion pottery is stylistically similar to the early Xueshan culture (3600–2900 BCE). A large number of millstones were excavated in buildings and graves at this site, which demonstrated that by ~7000 years ago people had already begun to practice agricultural techniques. However, stone axes and flake tools are also found in the buildings and graves, suggesting that hunting still had a crucial role.” ref

“The Sanguan site (1435±170 BCE) is more recent than the Jiangjialiang site by 1500 years. It is approximately 30 km from the Jiangjialiang site. The Sanguan site is not geographically isolated from the Jiangjialiang site. Excavation from the Sanguan site and the Jiangjialiang site yield bowls with similar characteristics. This suggested a close cultural affinity between these two sites. The Sanguan population may extensively practice agricultural subsistence strategy, and share aspects of the Lower Xiajiadian culture (2500–1500 BCE). For the Sanguan population, agriculture was the primary form of subsistence, replacing the earlier hunting and gathering lifestyle.” ref

The Earliest Dragon Worship in Ancient China Came from the Huang Di People

Abstract: Many people claimed that Huang Di was the ancestor of all Chinese people and some Chinese people proudly call themselves “descendants of the Dragon.” Are these truth or false? We will find out from Shanhaijing’s records and modern archaeological discoveries. Shanhaijing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) records many ancient groups of
people (or tribes) in Neolithic China. The five biggest were: Zhuan Xu, Di Jun, Huang Di, Yan Di and Shao Hao. These were not only the names of individuals, but also the names of tribes who regarded them as common ancestors. These groups used to live in the Pamirs Plateau, later spread to other places of China and built their unique ancient cultures during the Neolithic Age. Shanhaijing reveals Huang Di’s offspring worshipping dragon. Modern archaeological discoveries have revealed the authenticity of Shanhaijing’s records. The dragon shape stone pile in Xinglongwa Culture (6200-5400 BCE) and jade dragons in Hongshan Culture (4000-3000 BCE) which suggest the earliest
dragon worship in ancient China came from the Huang Di People.” ref 

“Under the ideology of the Five Races Under One Union, Huangdi became the common ancestor of the Han Chinese, the Manchu people, the Mongols, the Tibetans, and the Hui people, who were said to form the Zhonghua minzu, a broadly understood Chinese nation.” ref

Alligator Drums were used in Neolithic China

“The alligator drum (simplified Chinesetraditional Chinesepinyintuó gǔ) is a type of drum once used in Neolithic China, made from clay and alligator hides. Alligator drums have been found over a broad area at the Neolithic sites from modern Shandong in the east to Qinghai in the west, dating to a period of 5500–2350 BCE or around 7,500 to 4,350 years ago. In literary records, drums manifested shamanistic characteristics and were often used in ritual ceremonies. Drums covered with alligator skin for ceremonial use are mentioned in the Shijing. During the Archaic period, alligators probably lived along the east coast of China, including southern Shandong. The earliest alligator drums, comprising a wooden frame covered with alligator skin, are found in the archaeological sites at Dawenkou, as well as several sites of Longshan.” ref  

The Evidence of Shamanism Rituals in Early Prehistoric Periods of Europe and Anatolia

“The occurrence of protective animal spirits in shamanism suggests possible earlier links with totemism that its roots may go much further back into early prehistoric periods. In totemism an animal or plant could be identified with a particular group. This totem is presumed to transmit special or superhuman power to its human partner or owner. In most native societies, group totem remains in the clan and is passed on from generation to generation, mainly because of the belief that ancestors were born from it. According to Peters and Schmidt, each animal species will be preferentially depicted at sites within the territory of the group for whom it is the totemic emblem.” ref

“The Dawenkou culture was a Chinese Neolithic culture primarily located in the eastern province of Shandong, but also appearing in AnhuiHenan and Jiangsu. The culture existed from 4300 to 2600 BCE or around 6,300 to 4,600 years ago, and co-existed with the Yangshao cultureTurquoisejade and ivory artefacts are commonly found at Dawenkou sites. The earliest examples of alligator drums appear at Dawenkou sites. Neolithic signs, perhaps related to subsequent scripts, such as those of the Shang dynasty, have been found on Dawenkou pottery. The physical similarity of the Jiahu people to the later Dawenkou (2600 BC±4300 BCE) indicates that the Dawenkou might have descended from the Jiahu.” ref

Drums made with alligator skins have been found in Neolithic cultures located in China, dating to a period of 5500–2350 BCE. In literary records, drums manifested shamanistic characteristics and were often used in ritual ceremonies. The bronze Dong Son drum was fabricated by the Bronze Age Dong Son culture of northern Vietnam. They include the ornate Ngoc Lu drum. The Rig Veda, one of the oldest religious scriptures in the world, contains several references to the use of the Dundhubi (war drum). Arya tribes charged into battle to the beating of the war drum and chanting of a hymn that appears in Book VI of the Rig Veda and also the Atharva Veda. The dundhuhi was considered sacred and to capture one in battle would signal defeat of the enemy.” ref

“The oldest drums in the world, which are dated from 6000 BCE or around 8,000 years ago, have been found from Neolithic or ‘New Stone Age’ period excavations. Indian drums from the Middle East are as old as 5000 BCE or around 7,000 years ago; ruins in Mesopotamia (Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and Southwest Iran) contain small cylindrical drums that are as old as from 3000 BCE or around 5,000 years ago; and Egyptian tombs from the “Middle Kingdom” (2125–1550 BCE) have yielded small goblet drums used for ceremonies.” ref

“The alligator drum was discovered in China and is thought to have been used by people there in the years 5500 to 2350 BCE, per Uncovering Sound. In a book of ancient Chinese songs called “Shijing” dating back to the 11th century BCE, cultures of the time wrote about the alligator drum, which they reported using in spiritual ceremonies (via Uncovering Sound). Much like some drums used in ceremonies today, the drums were a tool used by shamans. Later on in the Zhou Dynasty, ancient drums in China were important in war times to signal things among the military, according to Study at China Best Universities. These ancient artifacts were discovered in Dawenkou and Longshan within the Shandong region of China, which is located on the border of the Yellow Sea, to the west of North and South Korea (per Uncovering Sound).” ref

“According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, alligators used to be abundant in Eastern China, although today their range is limited and they are listed as critically endangered. Per Uncovering Sound, those playing the alligator drums could have been trying to mimic the mating sounds of the alligators, which may have inspired much of the dragon symbolism that still exists in Chinese culture today. The dragon and the alligator were “traditionally described as having a peaceful nature,” so invoking their natural sounds with the drum could be a way to summon good luck, power, and even to bring rain. In rain ceremonies, the shaman would become the dragon using the music of the drums in order to summon rain.” ref

“The use of drums across the world started to spread across Asia, reaching Japan, India, Middle East, Africa, and southern Europe by the 2nd century BCE (most notably African drums that were introduced into ancient Greece and Rome). While the use of drums continued to be a regular occurrence in Africa, Middle East, and Asia, drums never found much success in popular music in Europe between the fall of Rome and Renaissance.” ref

“Artifacts from China suggest that percussionists played drums made from alligator skins as far back as 5500 BCE, and iconography from ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures show the use of drums in religious ceremonies and cultural gatherings.” ref


“Neolithic Drum (small) c. 3200-2800 BCE or around 5,200 to 4,800 years ago, from Lagerburg / Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, Trichterbecher (TRB) / Walternienburg-Bernburger culture. These drums consist of small ceramic drum with dear or goat skin. These ceramic objects are frequently discovered in burials and domestic contexts of the Late Neolithic cultures in central Germany. Their use as drums is probable, but so far not finally verified. Similar objects were found in China.” ref

“The Funnel Beaker Culture is the name of the first farming society in northern Europe and Scandinavia. There are several names for this culture and related cultures: Funnel Beaker Culture is abbreviated FBC, but it is also known by its German name Tricherrandbecher or Trichterbecher (abbreviated TRB).” ref

“The Funnelbeaker culture emerged in northern modern-day Germany c. 4100 BCE or around 6,100 years ago. After its establishment, the Funnelbeaker culture rapidly spread into southern Scandinavia and Poland, in what appears to have been a well-organized colonizing venture. The emergence of the Neolithic British Isles through maritime colonization by Michelsberg-related groups occurred almost at the same time as the expansion of the Funnelbeaker culture into Scandinavia, suggesting that these events may be connected.” ref

“An Ornate, 5,000-Year-Old Stone Drum Is the U.K., dubbed the “Burton Agnes drum” after the village where it was found, and this chalk sculpture was buried alongside three children between 3005 to 2890 BCE, during the first phase of Stonehenge’s construction. The drum is one of only four of its kind known to survive today. Rather than being used to play music, it was probably a funerary offering or protective talisman. Three “hastily added holes” in the stone cylinder may represent the trio laid to rest in the grave, according to the statement. (Possible sacrifice?) the children, appear to have died at the same time but exhibit no obvious signs of trauma, were essentially cuddling. The sculpture closely resembles the three Folkton drums (dated between 2500 and 2000 BCE), which were found in a Neolithic child’s grave some 15 miles away from the Burton Agnes site.” ref

Inuit drum history is longer than realized

“Two 4,500 year-old pieces of frozen wood found in Greenland have added a couple of thousand years to the history of the Inuit drum. But they help little in revealing the drums’ origin. Archaeologists recognised the two pieces of frozen wood as parts of drums – used in drum songs and dances, which express the soul of the Inuit culture. Until Greenland was Christianised, the drum was the indispensable tool of the angakoq – the Inuit shaman – at séances. All subsequent cultures in Alaska had drums, but the situation is similar to that in Canada: wooden objects have not been preserved in the oldest Alaskan settlements, which date from the Denbigh culture about 5,500 years ago. This means we cannot prove that the first Inuit used drums – but the finds from Greenland make it very probable.” ref

Inuit (‘the people’) are a group of culturally similar Indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic and subarctic regions of GreenlandLabradorQuebecNunavut, the Northwest Territories, and AlaskaInuit languages are part of the Eskimo–Aleut languages, also known as Inuit-Yupik-Unangan, and also as Eskaleut. Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule people, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE. They had split from the related Aleut group about 4000 years ago and from northeastern Siberian migrants. They spread eastward across the Arctic.” ref 

Eskimo–Aleut or Inuit–Yupik–Unangan languages are a language family native to the northern portions of the North American continent and a small part of northeastern Asia. Languages in the family are indigenous to parts of what are now the United States (Alaska); Canada (Inuit Nunangat) including NunavutNorthwest Territories (principally in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region), northern Quebec (Nunavik), and northern Labrador (Nunatsiavut); Greenland; and the Russian Far East (Chukchi Peninsula).The Eskaleut language family is divided into two branches: Proto-Eskimoan and Aleut. The Alaska Native Language Center believes that the common ancestral language of the Eskimoan languages and of Aleut divided into the Eskimoan and Aleut branches at least 4,000 years ago. Alexander Vovin (2015) notes that northern Tungusic languages, which are spoken in eastern Siberia and northeastern China, have Eskaleut loanwords that are not found in Southern Tungusic, implying that Eskaleut was once much more widely spoken in eastern Siberia. Vovin (2015) estimates that the Eskaleut loanwords in Northern Tungusic had been borrowed no more than 2,000 years ago, which was when Tungusic was spreading northwards from its homeland in the middle reaches of the Amur River. Vovin (2015) considers the homeland (Urheimat) of Proto-Eskaleut to be in Siberia rather than in Alaska. Phonologically, the Eskaleut languages resemble other language families of northern North America (Na-Dene and Tsimshianic) and far-eastern Siberia (Chukotko-Kamchatkan).” ref

Inuit religion is the shared spiritual beliefs and practices of the Inuit, an indigenous people from Alaska, northern Canada, parts of Siberia and Greenland. Their religion shares many similarities with some Alaska Native religions. Traditional Inuit religious practices include animism and shamanism, in which spiritual healers mediate with spirits. Shamans (anatquq or angakkuq in the Inuit languages of northern parts of Alaska and Canada) played an important role in the religion of Inuit acting as religious leaders, tradesmen, healers, and characters in cultural stories holding mysterious, powerful, and sometimes superhuman abilities.” ref

An interpretation of the Nebra Disc, dated by archaeologists to c. 1800–1600 BCE or around 3,800 to 3,600 years ago and attributed to the Early Bronze Age Unetice culture.

Abstract: The Nebra Sky disc is one of the most sensational European discoveries of the decade. It appears to carry symbols of the sun, moon and stars wrought in gold on a flat bronze disc just over a foot across (320mm). It is not only very strange, but, famously, appears to be winking, initially raising the suspicion that it may be a hoax. Scholars have, however, claimed it firmly for the Bronze Age, and the debate now moves to the matter of its meaning. Here the authors offer a subtle interpretation that sees it as the shamanistic device of a local warrior society. “A Shaman’s drum of the Kets people in Siberia had the depiction of the sun and the moon and the accesses to the Upper and Lower Worlds.” ref, ref


“The Yangshao culture was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the middle reaches of the Yellow River in China from 5000 to 3000 BCE or around 7,000 to 5,000 years ago. Recent research indicates a common origin of the Sino-Tibetan languages with the Cishan, Yangshao and/or the Majiayao cultures. The main food of the Yangshao people was millet, with some sites using foxtail millet and others proso millet, though some evidence of rice has been found. The Yangshao culture crafted pottery: Yangshao artisans created fine white, red, and black painted pottery with human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Unlike the later Longshan culture, the Yangshao culture did not use pottery wheels in pottery-making. Excavations found that children were buried in painted pottery jars. Pottery style emerging from the Yangshao culture spread westward to the Majiayao culture, and then further to Xinjiang and Central Asia. The Yangshao culture produced silk to a small degree and wove hemp. Men wore loin clothes and tied their hair in a top knot. Women wrapped a length of cloth around themselves and tied their hair in a bun.” ref

“Although early reports suggested a matriarchal culture, others argue that it was a society in transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, while still others believe it to have been patriarchal. The debate hinges on differing interpretations of burial practices. The discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC in the Yangshao culture makes it the world’s oldest known dragon depiction, and the Han Chinese continue to worship dragons to this day. The archaeological site of the village of Banpo near Xi’an is one of the best-known ditch-enclosed settlements of the Yangshao. Another major settlement called Jiangzhai was excavated out to its limits, and archaeologists found that it was completely surrounded by a ring-ditch. Both Banpo and Jiangzhai also yielded incised marks on pottery which a few have interpreted as numerals or perhaps precursors to Chinese characters, but such interpretations are not widely accepted.” ref

“The Yangshao culture is conventionally divided into three phases:

  • The early period or Banpo phase, c. 5000–4000 BCE) is represented by the Banpo, Jiangzhai, Beishouling, and Dadiwan sites in the Wei River valley in Shaanxi.
  • The middle period or Miaodigou phase, c. 4000–3500 BCE) saw an expansion of the culture in all directions, and the development of hierarchies of settlements in some areas, such as western Henan.
  • The late period (c. 3500–3000 BCE) saw a greater spread of settlement hierarchies. The first wall of rammed earth in China was built around the settlement of Xishan (25 ha) in central Henan (near modern Zhengzhou).” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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4,320-3,820 years old “Shimao” (North China) site with Totemistic-Shamanistic Paganism and a Stepped Pyramid


Shimao is a site in Shenmu County, Shaanxi, China. The site is located in the northern part of the Loess Plateau, on the southern edge of the Ordos Desert. It is dated to around 2000 BCE or around 4,000 years ago or so, near the end of the Longshan period, and is the largest known walled site of that period in China, at 400 ha. The fortifications of Shimao were originally believed by to be a section of the Great Wall of China, but the discovery of jade pieces prompted an archaeological investigation.” ref

“The city was surrounded by inner and outer stone walls, in contrast to the rammed earth walls typical of Longshan sites in the Central Plain and Shandong. The walls were 2.5 meters thick on average, with perimeters of approximately 4200 m and 5700 m respectively, and feature gates, turrets, and watchtowers. The earliest site, the “palace center”, was a large stepped pyramid based on a loess hill which had been reworked to make 11 platforms, with a height of 70m. Each of these was reinforced by stone buttresses. At the top of this pyramid palaces of rammed earth were built. The inner city contained a stone-walled platform, interpreted as a palatial complex, and densely packed residential zones, cemeteries, and craft workshops. Unusual features include jade embedded in the city walls, possibly to provide spiritual protection, relief sculptures of serpents and monsters, and paintings of geometrical patterns on the inner walls. Approximately 80 human skulls were found under the city gate, mainly of young girls, suggesting ritual sacrifice.” ref

“Developments such as bronze working, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, and cattle seem to appear here earlier than elsewhere in China, showing that its inhabitants were communicating with Eurasian Steppe peoples across extensive trade networks. Additionally, materials likely from Southern China, such as alligator skin drums, have been found, indicating a north-south commerce across what is now modern China. Thin curved bones discovered at Shimao are believed to be the earliest known evidence of the jaw harp, an instrument that has spread to over 100 different ethnic groups, suggesting possible Chinese origins.” ref

“The prevailing hypothesis concerning the abandonment of Shimao is tied to a rapid shift to a cooler, drier climate on the Loess Plateau, from 2000 to 1700 BCE. This environmental change likely led populations to shift to the Central Plain, leaving the site to be forgotten until the 21st century.” ref

Ancient Mitogenomes Reveal the Origins and Genetic Structure of the Neolithic Shimao Population in Northern China

Shimao City is considered an important political and religious center during the Late Neolithic Longshan period of the Middle Yellow River basin. The genetic history and population dynamics among the Shimao and other ancient populations, especially the Taosi-related populations, remain unknown. Here, we sequenced 172 complete mitochondrial genomes, ranging from the Yangshao to Longshan period, from individuals related to the Shimao culture in northern Shaanxi Province and Taosi culture in southern Shanxi Province, Middle Yellow River basin. Our results show that the populations inhabiting Shimao City had close genetic connections with an earlier population in the Middle Neolithic Yangshao period of northern Shaanxi Province, revealing a mostly local origin for the Shimao Society. In addition, among the populations in other regions of the Yellow River basin, the Shimao-related populations had the closest maternal affinity with the contemporaneous Taosi populations from the Longshan period. The Shimao-related populations also shared more affinity with present-day northern Han populations than with the minorities and southern Han in China. Our study provides a new perspective on the genetic origins and structure of the Shimao people and the population dynamics in the Middle Yellow River basin during the Neolithic period.” ref

“The Shimao site (∼4,300–3,800 years ago), also called “Shimao City”, is considered an important political and religious center during the Middle Yellow River basin’s Longshan period (∼4,500–3,800 years ago). It is currently the largest Neolithic settlement known in China, covering 4 km2 with a triple structure made of stone-reinforced walls (Figure), and was selected as one of the world’s top 10 archaeological discoveries in the past decade (Archaeology Institute of America, 2021). The center of Shimao City, Huangchengtai, has many high-grade buildings and relics. The Neicheng (or “inner city”) surrounds Huangchengtai and consists of multiple grave sites (e.g., Hanjiagedan, Houyangwan, and Mahuangliang). The Dongmen (or “East Gate”) is located along the northeastern wall of Waicheng (or “outer city”) and exhibits complex fortifications. According to archaeological records, these distinct sites within Shimao City showed clear differences in social hierarchy and inequality. For example, Hanjiagedan, Houyangwan, and those closer to Huangchengtai, yielded more high-status graves than Dongmen. Archaeologists named the “Shimao culture” based on artifacts unearthed in Shimao City. The sites neighboring Shimao City in northern Shaanxi Province, such as the Muzhuzhuliang, Shengedaliang, Xinhua, and Zhaishan sites, were all attributed to the Shimao culture.” ref

“However, the origin of Shimao City was still uncertain. The Shimao culture was considered to have developed from local populations with an influence from surrounding cultures; however, it may have alternatively originated from the migration of populations from the Central Plain or other regions. In addition, recent studies revealed that the Shimao culture interacted frequently with other regions in the Yellow River basin outside of northern Shaanxi Province during the Neolithic period, especially the Taosi culture in southern Shanxi Province of the Middle Yellow River basin. The links between these two cultures may have been political, economic, cultural, or through shared population connections. However, the interactions between the Shimao and Taosi people remain ambiguous from the perspective of archaeology and physical anthropology. Although there were some genomic analyses that included samples from the Shengedaliang and Wuzhuangguoliang sites in northern Shaanxi Province, the large-scale genetic affinities among the populations related to the Shimao culture and their predecessors, along with other populations in different regions of the Yellow River basin, is still unclear.” ref


“The carved block in Figure 1, which features a massive image of what appears to be a primarily human form with extended arms in displayed position to left and right of a frontal face and abbreviated body, is one of a number of sandstone relief sculptures recently excavated from architectural edifices at the late Neolithic citadel site of Shimao in Shenmu county, Shaanxi province, China. The site dates to 2200–1800 BCE, the very end of the late Longshan cultural phase (also called Longshan tradition or Longshan Age/era; c. 3000–1900 BCE) and beginning of the dynastic phase known in later histories as Xia (c. 2070–1600 BCE). The finds are exciting corroborative evidence that early belief in metamorphic imagery was not limited to a scale of art that includes only ritual paraphernalia such as bronzes, lacquers, ceramics, ivories, or jades, but rather is found on a massive scale decorating panels of wall structures within, in this case, a palatial hilltop fortress in the far northwest part of the East Asian Heartland (in other words, ‘China’ before it became ‘China’ in the historical period.” ref

“The Shimao site is located on the northern loess plateau skirting the edge of the Ordos Desert. Although geographically distant from what were to become ‘capital’ centers of the Erlitou culture (c. 1900–1500 BCE) and Shang dynastic period (c. 1600–1046 BCE) in the north along the Yellow River basin in Henan province, by the previous Longshan phase of the late Neolithic period cultural contacts had already spread like wildfire, penetrating the East Asian Heartland well beyond the confines of today’s traditional political map, and well beyond the northwestern frontier (see the map below, which shows the spread and influence of the Longshan culture; for sites under each heading, see Childs-Johnson and Major. A number of scholars have documented the spread of different Longshan cultural artifacts, including, for example, ceramic libation vessels (jue) and symbolic jade insignia blades (zhang) (an emblematic form of blade based on the agricultural spade-tool [chan] and sometimes mislabelled a scepter; the latter currently being most numerous at Shimao and related sites in northwest Shaanxi and, for example, at Lushanmao in Shanxi province.” ref

“Zhang has also been discovered as far south as Vietnam and China’s Sichuan province and as far north as China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Liaoning. This widespread distribution of the insignia blade and its cousins underscores the rapidity with which ‘civilization’ took place throughout the East Asian Heartland during the late 3rd millennium BCE and illustrates just how rampant and vast were trade and cultural contact. The ‘core symbolic’ function of the semi-human or humanoid image as preserved at Shimao is corroborated by the ubiquitous representation of the same image throughout the Longshan era in the East Asian Heartland and in subsequent historical eras, but primarily on a small scale. The image on the well-known jade types of insignia found elsewhere during the Longshan and Erlitou eras appears not to have originated at Shimao as surmised by some, but to be a ubiquitous ‘religious’ image seen throughout the Longshan and Erlitou cultural eras.” ref

“In addition to a palatial complex and rammed earth loess foundations, rare and unusual finds at Shimao include fragments of polychrome painted clay wall murals and evidence of an eccentric, probably apotropaic practice of inserting jade and stone axes into the foundations of the stone-constructed fortifications. Ceramic vessel types appear to be shared within an area encompassing other northwestern cultures, such as nearby Zhukaigou on the Ordos Plateau (Inner Mongolia); nearby fortified sites such as Lushanmao and Bicun in Shanxi province; Shiluoluoshan and Xinhua in Shaanxi; and further south, Taosi in Shanxi. More than thirty carvings were unearthed among the collapsed stones of the southern retaining wall of the central upper citadel foundation of the major platform (dataiji) at Shimao, some remaining embedded as part of the wall. Most of the carvings are single-sided relief carvings, one measuring almost 3 metres in length. The majority are focused on a frontal facial image of a deified human (shenmian).” ref

“The images appear to be old artifacts used in a new context. The excavators suggest that the carvings were inserted into the retaining wall when it was repaired, having been salvaged from an earlier phase of the citadel and serving the same function as the axes embedded below the stone blocks of the wall—a function that must have endowed the royal structure with spiritual sustenance and protection. As the excavators point out, stone-working was pervasive in the north, as represented in the earlier Neolithic Xinglongwa culture (6200–5400 BCE) and jade-working Hongshan culture (4700–2920 BCE) in Liaoning and Inner Mongolia. Yet none of the images at Shimao correspond to ones of the earlier Hongshan or Xinglongwa cultures, but rather correspond to images found in central, northeast, and southern cultures of the Longshan tradition.” ref

“Our interest here is to fill in some gaps when considering power symbols and their significance to early ritual and belief during the Longshan cultural phase of the late Neolithic period, when ‘civilization’ was forming and creating long-standing roots—roots which would continue to evolve during the early historic Erlitou and Shang periods. The surviving and published images from Shimao are comparable to a wide number of image types from both the Jade Age (c. 3200–2000 BCE) and Bronze Age (c. 2100–5th century BCE) eras.” ref


“Genomic data from four Late Neolithic individuals in central China associated with the Late Neolithic Longshan culture. The Longshan culture (ca. 4,500–3,800 years ago) is regarded as an important transitional stage in the development of Chinese civilization from independent communities to dynastic states. Studies of burial patterns, house distributions, and dietary isotopes confirm major changes in Longshan social organization. Compared to the Middle Neolithic Yangshao culture, the Longshan witnessed the shrinking of public cemeteries and the disappearance of large tombs such as secondary burials with multiple individuals. At the same time, archaeology indicates enhanced social mobilities in terms of both the integration of multicultural artifacts and the gathering of groups of people with different dietary habits. These changes have suggested to archaeologists that the Longshan witnessed a major transformation in kinship organization, perhaps from large extended to small nuclear families. All four individuals were buried nearby the house foundations rather than in the public cemetery, and this type of burial pattern is common in many Longshan societies in the Central Plain area of China. The Pingliangtai site is located southeast of Huaiyang city, Henan province, China. Both Pinglinagtai Male samples had: Y-DNA (N1b2∗) and M-DNA (D4b1a).” ref  

“Haplogroup N1b has been predominantly found in the Yi people, a Tibeto-Burman speaking ethnic group in southwestern China who originated from ancient Qiang tribes in northwestern China. However, it also has been found in people all over China and in some samples of people from Poland, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It is suggested that yDNA N, reached southern Siberia from 12,000-14,000 years ago. From there it reached southern Europe 8,000-10,000 years ago.” ref

The Qiang people are generally thought to have been of Tibeto-Burman origin, though there are other theories. The Tangut people of the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties may be of Qiang descent. The modern Qiang people as well as Tibetans may also have been descended in part from the ancient Qiangs. According to a legend, the Qiang were partly descended from the Yan Emperor, the mythical “Flame Emperor.” The Yan Emperor and his tribe were defeated by the Yellow Emperor. The term “Qiang” first appeared on oracle bone inscriptions 3,000 years ago and was used to describe “a people other than one’s people.” It appears again in the Classic of Poetry in reference to Tang of Shang (trad. 1675–1646 BCE). They seem to have lived in a diagonal band from northern Shaanxi to northern Henan, somewhat to the south of the later Beidi. They were enemy of the Shang dynasty, who mounted expeditions against them, capturing slaves and victims for human sacrifice. The Qiang prisoners were skilled in making oracle bones. The Qiang revered the tiger and featured it prominently on their totem poles. White stones were also considered to be sacred and sometimes put on altars or rooftops. Qiang folk religion resembles animism and shamanism. It places spiritual belief in the natural features of the landscape and the ability of shamans to contact spirits.” ref

“The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China from about 3,000 to 1,900 BCE or around 5,000 to 3,900 years ago. It decreased in most areas around 2000 BCE until the central area evolved into the Bronze Age Erlitou culture. The Longshan culture has been linked to the early Sinitic (of the Sino-Tibetan languages). Remains have been found in Shaanxi and southern Henan of scapulae of cattle, pigs, sheep, and deer that were heated as a form of divination. Evidence of human sacrifice becomes more common in Shaanxi and the Central Plain in the late Longshan period.” ref

Characteristics of the Longshan culture that dominated the Central Plain from the late 4th millennium on, town enclosures made of stamped-earth, thin and polished black pottery produced with a wheel, oracles made of burned and cracked scapulas.” ref

“Oracle bones are pieces of ox scapula and turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. The Shang dynasty dates from 1,600 to 1,045 BCE or around 3,600 to 3,045 years ago. The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of Chinese writing, using an early form of Chinese characters, mostly divinations inscribed on oracle bones – turtle shells, ox scapulae, or other bones.” ref

Liangzhu Culture

“The Liangzhu culture or Liangzhu civilization (3300–2300 BCE) was the last Neolithic jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China. The culture was highly stratified, as jade, silkivory, and lacquer artifacts were found exclusively in elite burials, while pottery was more commonly found in the burial plots of poorer individuals. This division of class indicates that the Liangzhu period was an early state, symbolized by the clear distinction drawn between social classes in funeral structures. A pan-regional urban center had emerged at the Liangzhu city-site and elite groups from this site presided over the local centers. The Liangzhu culture was extremely influential and its sphere of influence reached as far north as Shanxi and as far south as Guangdong. The primary Liangzhu site was perhaps among the oldest Neolithic sites in East Asia that would be considered a state society.” ref

“The jade from this culture is characterized by finely worked large ritual jades, commonly incised with the taotie motif. Jade pendants were also found, designed with engraved representations of small birds, turtles, and fish. The Taotie is an ancient Chinese mythological creature that was commonly emblazoned on bronze and other artifacts during the 1st millennium BCE. Taotie are one of the “four evil creatures of the world“. In Chinese classical texts such as the “Classic of Mountains and Seas“, the fiend is named alongside the Hundun, Qiongqi, and Taowu. They are opposed by the Four Holy Creatures, the Azure Dragon, Vermilion Bird, White Tiger, and Black Tortoise. The four fiends are also juxtaposed with the four benevolent animals which are Qilin, Dragon, Turtle, and Fenghuang. The Taotie is often represented as a motif on dings, which are Chinese ritual bronze vessels from the Shang (1766-1046 BCE) and Zhou dynasties (1046–256 BCE). The design typically consists of a zoomorphic mask, described as being frontal, bilaterally symmetrical, with a pair of raised eyes and typically no lower jaw area. Some argue that the design can be traced back to jade pieces found at Neolithic sites belonging to the Liangzhu culture (3310–2250 BCE). There is also notable similarity with the painted pottery shards found at Lower Xiajiadian cultural sites (2200–1600 BCE).” ref, ref

Scholars have long been perplexed over the meaning (if any) of this theriomorphic design, and there is still no commonly held single answer. The hypotheses range from Robert Bagley‘s belief that the design is a result of the casting process, and rather than having an iconographic meaning was the artistic expression of the artists who held the technological know-how to cast bronze, to theories that it depicts ancient face masks that may have once been worn by either shamans or the god-kings who were the link between humankind and their deceased ancestors (Jordan Paper). Modern academics favor an interpretation that supports the idea that the faces have meaning in a religious or ceremonial context, as the objects they appear on are almost always associated with such events or roles. As one scholar writes “art styles always carry some social references.” Shang divination inscriptions shed no light on the meaning of the taotie.” ref

“A neolithic altar from the Liangzhu culture, excavated at Yaoshan in Zhejiang was elaborate, made of carefully positioned piles of stones and rock walls: this implies that religion was of considerable importance. The altar has three levels, the highest being a platform of rammed earth. Three additional platforms were paved with cobblestones. There are the remains of a stone wall. On the altar are twelve graves in two rows. Some scholars claim that ritual sacrifice of slaves was part of the Liangzhu tradition. A 2007 analysis of the DNA recovered from human remains in archeological sites of prehistoric peoples along the Yangtze River shows high frequencies of Haplogroup O1-M119 (Y-DNA) at Liangzhu culture sites of Maqiao and Xindili, linking them to the Austronesian and Kra–Dai peoples. The Liangzhu culture existed in coastal areas around the mouth of the Yangtze. Haplogroup O1-M119 was absent in other archeological sites inland. The authors of the study suggest that this may be evidence of two different human migration routes during the peopling of Eastern Asia, one coastal and the other inland, with little genetic flow between them.” ref

“China when the smelting of bronze had made an appearance, the earliest cities surrounded by ditches had shown up, and the division between urban and rural areas had taken shape. Religious activities characterized by worshiping dragons and jade, and respecting the ancestors were in vogue. The conflicts among social groups and the subsequent fights for the unification of religious beliefs had become the fundamental social issue. This is another proof of the assumption that the people of Hongshan Culture had marched from the clan society into the historical phase of ancient kingdoms. Therefore, we can say that by laying a foundation for the development of the Chinese civilization of five thousand years and formulating and influencing the layout of the origin and the progress of the protocol-dominating culture of China, Hongshan Culture at about 4700 to 2900 BCE, played an extremely essential role in the evolution of the Chinese civilization, seen in other later cultures of china.” ref

“The Liangzhu culture in the lower Yangtze region can be seen as a kind of offspring of the Longshan culture. In the relics of Liangzhu culture, it becomes clear that these neolithic societies were already stratified in ruling class and that of the ruled, because for the first time, it was only the tombs of political and religious leaders as found in Taosi 陶寺, Shanxi, and Fanshan 反山, Zhejiang. These tombs were equipped with rich tomb offerings, consisting of jade objects like cong 琮 tubes and bi 璧 disks or yue 鉞 ritual axes, pottery, ivory, stone axes, shark teeth, lacquerware, and even mural paintings within the grave chamber. An archaeological survey has detected hundreds or thousands of towns in Shandong and Henan provinces, communities that might have been the “ten thousand states” (wanguo 萬國) of legendary history of China. Some of these states rose to political supremacy and might have been the states of Xia 夏 and Shang 商 of antique historiography. The mythological accounts of the prehistoric period gives us the names of dozens of places and states that could have existed in the 3rd and 2nd millennia. Younger relics of the Longshan culture have come to light that are incised with precursors of the Chinese script.” ref

Ancient Bells

“The earliest archaeological evidence of bells dates from the 3rd millennium BCE, and is traced to the Yangshao culture of Neolithic China. Clapper-bells made of pottery have been found in several archaeological sites. The pottery bells later developed into metal bells. In West Asia, the first bells appear in 1000 BCE. The earliest metal bells, with one found in the Taosi site and four in the Erlitou site, are dated to about 2000 BCE. With the emergence of other kinds of bells during the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 – 1050 BCE), they were relegated to subservient functions; at Shang and Zhou sites, they are also found as part of the horse-and-chariot gear and as collar-bells of dogs. By the 13th century BCE, bells weighing over 150 kg were being cast in China.” ref

Genetic characteristics and migration history of a bronze culture population in the West Liao-River valley revealed by ancient DNA

“Abstract: In order to study the genetic characteristics of the Lower Xiajiadian culture (LXC) population, a main bronze culture branch in northern China dated 4500–3500 years ago, two uniparentally inherited markers, mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome single-nucleotide polymorphisms (Y-SNPs), were analyzed on 14 human remains excavated from the Dadianzi site. The 14 sequences, which contained 13 haplotypes, were assigned to 9 haplogroups, and Y-SNP typing of 5 male individuals assigned them to haplogroups N (M231) and O3 (M122). The results indicate that the LXC population mainly included people carrying haplogroups from northern Asia who had lived in this region since the Neolithic period, as well as genetic evidence of immigration from the Central Plain. Later in the Bronze Age, part of the population migrated to the south away from a cooler climate, which ultimately influenced the gene pool in the Central Plain. Thus, climate change is an important factor, which drove the population migration during the Bronze Age in northern China. Based on these results, the local genetic continuity did not seem to be affected by outward migration, although more data are needed especially from other ancient populations to determine the influence of return migration on genetic continuity.” ref


“Over the course of those six millennia leading up to the Xia Dynasty, Neolithic communities became more diverse and complex. For instance, for the period 5000 – 3000 BCE, archaeologists have identified at least eight major regional Neolithic cultures located along rivers and coasts. They did so by examining pottery styles and village settlement patterns. One example is Yangshao culture, which was concentrated along the middle reaches of the Yellow River. Over one thousand sites left behind by millet-farming village communities have been discovered. Jiangzhai (c. 4000 BCE), for instance, was a moated village settlement that occupied roughly thirteen acres. It was composed of related lineages and tribal in organization. During the third millennium BCE, Yangshao culture was gradually supplanted by Longshan culture (c. 3000 – 1900 BCE), which emerged further to the east, along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. Archaeologists excavated a site near the town after which Longshan was named, they found evidence for a culture that had laid the foundations for the kingdoms that emerged in the second millennium BCE, including the ruins of numerous walled towns with cemeteries outside. Their rammed-earth walls protected urban areas with public buildings, roads, and drainage systems. The cemetery’s arrangement suggests that people living in the towns were buried alongside clan members, but also that some members were wealthier and more powerful: while most graves had nothing but a skeleton, others contained numerous artifacts, such as pottery and jade.” ref

“Based on this evidence, archaeologists have concluded that, during the third millennium BCE, population grew and some of it shifted from villages to walled towns. These walled towns developed into political and economic centers exercising control over and serving as protection for surrounding communities. Individuals with more elaborate graves were likely political and religious leaders, and served as chieftains. Hence, numerous competing chiefdoms emerged, providing the foundation for more powerful kingdoms to follow. Ancient Chinese histories identify the first major kingdom as the Xia Dynasty (c. 1900 – 1600 BCE). However, these were written many centuries after the kingdom about which they speak and, lacking written evidence from the dynasty itself, specialists have been unable to definitively establish its location. Nevertheless, most agree that the Xia capital was located along the Yellow River at Erlitou [are-lee-toe]. At its peak of activity from 1900 – 1600 BCE, this town looks like something more complex than a chiefdom. Erlitou included a central, walled palace complex, workshops for the production of bronze and pottery, and elite burials containing bronze weapons and jade, suggesting a socially stratified, Bronze Age civilization and kingdom. That is why many historians identify it as the capital of the Xia Dynasty.” ref

“With the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE), we formally step into China’s historical period. A Chinese scholar came across mysterious bones that were being ground up for use as medicine. He immediately recognized that the Chinese characters inscribed on them were very ancient. Subsequently, the origin of these bones was traced to fields in Anyang [anneyawng], China where, excavations were carried out. Similar to the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization, a lost civilization was revealed on the North China Plain, the one difference being that traditional histories of a later time had documented this one. The Shang Dynasty capital (was Anyang) and boundaries. The Shang centered in the North China Plain, along the lower reaches of the Yellow River. The other labels indicate names given by the Shang rulers to tribal peoples surrounding the kingdom. The findings were substantial. A diverse array of settlements with a royal capital at the center covered nearly thirty square kilometers. Archaeologists have identified 53 pounded earth foundations as the floors of royal palace-temples and the ruins in their vicinity as residential areas for elites and commoners; sacrificial pits; and workshops for the production of bronze, pottery, and stone. Also, a royal cemetery with eight large tombs and dozens of smaller ones lies to the northwest. The larger graves were roughly half the size of a football field, each accessible through four ramps whose orientation to the cardinal directions gives them the appearance of crosses. Deep down at the bottom of each tomb’s central shaft, wooden chambers were built to house the dead bodies of Shang kings. Shockingly to us, dozens of human skeletons were placed above and below these, presumably as servants to accompany rulers in the afterlife (view reconstruction of a Xia Dynasty palace at Erlitou.” ref


Erlitou culture of Ancient China

“The Erlitou culture was an early Bronze Age urban society and archaeological culture that existed in the Yellow River valley from approximately 1900 to 1500 BCE or around 3,900 to 3,500 years ago. (A 2007 study of radiocarbon dating proposed a narrower date range of 1750 to 1530 BCE) The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan. It was widely spread throughout Henan and Shanxi and later appeared in Shaanxi and Hubei. Most archaeologists consider Erlitou the first state-level society in China. Chinese archaeologists generally identify the Erlitou culture as the site of the Xia dynasty, but there is no firm evidence, such as writing, to substantiate such a linkage, as the earliest evidence of Chinese writing dates to the late Shang dynastyThe Erlitou culture may have evolved from the matrix of the Longshan culture (3000 – c. 1900 BCE). Originally centered around Henan and Shanxi provinces, the culture spread to Shaanxi and Hubei provinces. After the rise of the Erligang culture, the site at Erlitou diminished in size but remained inhabited.” ref

“Many archetypal Chinese artifacts were first found in Erlitou culture sites. The earliest bronze ding in China were found in the fourth stage of the Erlitou culture, decorated with striped grid patterns. The earliest metal bells, with one found in the Taosi site, and four in the Erlitou site, dated to about 2000 BCE, may have been derived from the earlier pottery prototype. The first bronze dagger-axe or ge appeared at the Erlitou site, where two were found among over 200 bronze artifacts (as of 2002) at the site. Three jade ge were also discovered from the same site. Symbols on ceramic pieces have been found at Erlitou culture sites, leading to speculation about possible connections with early Chinese characters, which appear several centuries later in the same region. However, no clear linkage has been proven yet, thus the symbols are currently considered markings or proto-writing.” ref

“Archaeological evidence of a large outburst flood at Jishi Gorge that destroyed the Lajia site on the upper reaches of the Yellow River has been dated to about 1920 BCE. This date is shortly before the rise of the Erlitou culture in the middle Yellow River valley and the Yueshi culture in Shandong, following the decline of the Longshan culture in the North China Plain. The authors suggest that this flood may have been the basis for the later myth, and contributed to the transition of cultures. They further argue that the timing is further evidence for the identification of the Xia with the Erlitou culture. However, no evidence of contemporaneous widespread flooding in the North China Plain has yet been found.ref

“The traditional account of the overthrow of the Xia by the Shang has been identified with the ends of each of the four phases of the site by different authors. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project identified all four phases of Erlitou as Xia, and the construction of the Yanshi walled city as the founding of the Shang. Other scholars, particularly outside China, point to the lack of any firm evidence for such an identification, and argue that the historiographical focus of Chinese archaeology is unduly limiting.” ref

 Seima-Turbino phenomenon

“The Altai Mountains in what is now southern Russia and central Mongolia have been identified as the point of origin of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon. It is conjectured that changes in climate in this region around 2000 BCE and the ensuing ecological, economic, and political changes triggered a rapid and massive migration westward into northeast Europe, eastward into China, and southward into Vietnam and Thailand across a frontier of some 4,000 miles. This migration took place in just five to six generations and led to peoples from Finland in the west to Thailand in the east employing the same metalworking technology and, in some areas, horse breeding and riding. It is further conjectured that the same migrations spread the Uralic group of languages across Europe and Asia: some 39 languages of this group are still extant, including HungarianFinnish, and Estonian. However, recent genetic testings of sites in south Siberia and Kazakhstan (Andronovo horizon) would rather support a spreading of the bronze technology via Indo-European migrations eastwards, as this technology was well known for quite a while in western regions.” ref

“In China, the earliest bronze artifacts have been found in the Majiayao culture site (between 3100 and 2700 BCE). The term “Bronze Age” has been transferred to the archaeology of China from that of Western Eurasia, and there is no consensus or universally used convention delimiting the “Bronze Age” in the context of Chinese prehistory. By convention, the “Early Bronze Age” in China is sometimes taken as equivalent to the “Shang dynasty” period (16th to 11th centuries BCE), and the “Later Bronze Age” as equivalent to the “Zhou dynasty” period (11th to 3rd centuries BC, from the 5th century, also dubbed “Iron Age“), although there is an argument to be made that the “Bronze Age” proper never ended in China, as there is no recognizable transition to an “Iron Age”. Significantly, together with the jade art that precedes it, bronze was seen as a “fine” material for ritual art when compared with iron or stone.” ref

“Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou (Wade–GilesErh-li-t’ou) period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia (Wade–GilesHsia) dynasty. The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BCE and 771 BCE”, a period that begins with the Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule.” ref

“There is reason to believe that bronze work developed inside China separately from outside influence. However, the discovery of Europoid mummies in Xinjiang has caused some scholars such as Johan Gunnar Andersson, Jan Romgard, and An Zhimin to suggest a possible route of transmission from the West eastwards. According to An Zhimin, “It can be imagined that initially bronze and iron technology took its rise in West Asia, first influenced the Xinjiang region, and then reached the Yellow River valley, providing external impetus for the rise of the Shang and Zhou civilizations.” According to Jan Romgard, “bronze and iron tools seems to have traveled from west to east as well as the use of wheeled wagons and the domestication of the horse.” There are also possible links to Seima-Turbino culture, “a transcultural complex across northern Eurasia,” the Eurasian steppe, and the Urals. However, the oldest bronze objects found in China so far were discovered at the Majiayao site in Gansu rather than at Xinjiang.” ref

“The Shang dynasty (also known as the Yin dynasty) of the Yellow River Valley rose to power after the Xia dynasty around 1600 BC. While some direct information about the Shang dynasty comes from Shang-era inscriptions on bronze artifacts, most comes from oracle bones—turtle shells, cattle scapulae, or other bones—which bear glyphs that form the first significant corpus of recorded Chinese characters.” ref

“The production of Erlitou in Henan represents the earliest large-scale metallurgy industry in the Central Plains of China. The influence of the Saima-Turbino metalworking tradition from the north is supported by a series of recent discoveries in China of many unique perforated spearheads with downward hooks and small loops on the same or opposite side of the socket, which could be associated with the Seima-Turbino visual vocabulary of southern Siberia. The metallurgical centers of northwestern China, especially Qijia in Gansu and Kexingzhuang culture in Shaanxi, played an intermediary role in this process.” ref

“Iron has been found from the Zhou dynasty, but its use was minimal. Chinese literature dating to the 6th century BCE attests knowledge of iron smelting, yet bronze continues to occupy the seat of significance in the archaeological and historical record for some time after this. Historian W.C. White argues that iron did not supplant bronze “at any period before the end of the Zhou dynasty (256 BCE)” and that bronze vessels make up the majority of metal vessels through the Later Han period, or to 221 BCE.” ref

“The Chinese bronze artifacts generally are either utilitarian, like spear points or adze heads, or “ritual bronzes”, which are more elaborate versions in precious materials of everyday vessels, as well as tools and weapons. Examples are the numerous large sacrificial tripods known as dings in Chinese; there are many other distinct shapes. Surviving identified Chinese ritual bronzes tend to be highly decorated, often with the taotie motif, which involves highly stylized animal faces. These appear in three main motif types: those of demons, of symbolic animals, and abstract symbols. Many large bronzes also bear cast inscriptions that are the great bulk of the surviving body of early Chinese writing and have helped historians and archaeologists piece together the history of China, especially during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE).” ref

“The bronzes of the Western Zhou dynasty document large portions of history not found in the extant texts that were often composed by persons of varying rank and possibly even social class. Further, the medium of cast bronze lends the record they preserve a permanence not enjoyed by manuscripts. These inscriptions can commonly be subdivided into four parts: a reference to the date and place, the naming of the event commemorated, the list of gifts given to the artisan in exchange for the bronze, and a dedication. The relative points of reference these vessels provide have enabled historians to place most of the vessels within a certain time frame of the Western Zhou period, allowing them to trace the evolution of the vessels and the events they record.” ref 

“In Ban ChiangThailand, (Southeast Asia) bronze artifacts have been discovered dating to 2100 BCE. However, according to the radiocarbon dating on the human and pig bones in Ban Chiang, some scholars propose that the initial Bronze Age in Ban Chiang was in late 2nd millennium. In Nyaunggan, Burma, bronze tools have been excavated along with ceramics and stone artifacts. Dating is still currently broad (3500–500 BCE). Ban Non Wat, excavated by Charles Higham, was a rich site with over 640 graves excavated that gleaned many complex bronze items that may have had social value connected to them.” ref

“Ban Chiang, however, is the most thoroughly documented site while having the clearest evidence of metallurgy when it comes to Southeast Asia. With a rough date range of late 3rd millennium BCE to the first millennium CE, this site alone has various artifacts such as burial pottery (dating from 2100 to 1700 BCE), fragments of Bronze, copper-base bangles, and much more. What’s interesting about this site, however, is not just the old age of the artifacts but that this technology suggested on-site casting from the very beginning. The on-site casting supports the theory that Bronze was first introduced in Southeast Asia as fully developed which therefore shows that Bronze was innovated from a different country. Some scholars believe that the copper-based metallurgy was disseminated from northwest and central China via south and southwest areas such as Guangdong province and Yunnan province and finally into southeast Asia around 1000 BCE. Archaeology also suggests that Bronze Age metallurgy may not have been as significant a catalyst in social stratification and warfare in Southeast Asia as in other regions, social distribution shifting away from chiefdom-states to a heterarchical network. Data analyses of sites such as Ban Lum Khao, Ban Na Di, Non-Nok Tha, Khok Phanom Di, and Nong Nor have consistently led researchers to conclude that there was no entrenched hierarchy.” ref

“The beginning of the Bronze Age on the peninsula is around 1000–800 BCE. Initially centered around Liaoning and southern Manchuria, Korean Bronze Age culture exhibits unique typology and styles, especially in ritual objects. The Mumun pottery period is named after the Korean name for undecorated or plain cooking and storage vessels that form a large part of the pottery assemblage over the entire length of the period, but especially 850–550 BCE. The Mumun period is known for the origins of intensive agriculture and complex societies in both the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago.” ref

“The Middle Mumun pottery period culture of the southern Korean Peninsula gradually adopted bronze production (c. 700–600? BCE) after a period when Liaoning-style bronze daggers and other bronze artifacts were exchanged as far as the interior part of the Southern Peninsula (c. 900–700 BCE). The bronze daggers lent prestige and authority to the personages who wielded and were buried with them in high-status megalithic burials at south-coastal centers such as the Igeum-dong site. Bronze was an important element in ceremonies and as for mortuary offerings until 100 BCE. Dating back to the