9,000-year-old Shaman Burial in Germany

The Bad Dürrenberg shaman in the State Museum of Prehistory Halle (Saale). Credit: Juraj Lipták, State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

The double burial of an adult woman and an infant, dating to about 7000–6800 BCE, discovered in 1934 during construction works at the spa gardens of Bad Dürrenberg, is regarded as one of the outstanding burial finds of the Mesolithic in Central Europe. Because of the unusual equipment with the woman, who was buried in a seated position, and her bodily anomalies, the burial is interpreted as that of a shaman.                                  

In 1934, archaeologists made this groundbreaking discovery near the village of Bad Dürrenberg in southern Germany—the unearthing of one of Europe’s most ancient and remarkable burials. Within a grave, lay the skeletal remains of an adult human, ultimately identified as a woman.  What set this burial apart was the extraordinary and diverse assortment of grave goods interred alongside her. The nature of these artifacts hinted at the woman’s possible role as a shaman—an individual engaged in traversing alternate dimensions of reality in pursuit of sacred knowledge and spiritual connections. A subsequent excavation revealed the presence of an infant’s remains in close proximity to the woman, suggesting a potential relationship between the two bodies.

The genetic analysis placed the shaman’s genomic ancestry within the Western (European) hunter–gatherer category, aligning with Mesolithic individuals from central and western Europe. Phenotypically, she had dark skin, straight dark hair, and blue eyes, a common profile among Western European hunter–gatherers.

© Juraj Lipták. An impressive selection of grave goods including roe deer antlers (top) that could have been worn as a headdress and boars’ teeth (middle) and tusks (above) with holes drilled in them enabling them to be suspended from an animal skin were found in a 9,000-year-old shaman’s burial.