Denisovan Origins: Hybrid Humans, Göbekli Tepe, and the Genesis of the Giants of Ancient America by Andrew Collins & Gregory Little

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I'm halfway through this book and it's really fascinating. The authors try to explain who were Denisovans, their connection to Göbekli Tepe and other neolithic sites. Collins' explanation of the symbology behind the Vulture Stone and Lascaux painting is quite fascinating and in my opinion not less plausible than the Sweatman's one (Collins actually takes into account more elements of the shaft scene of Lascaux and of the Vulture Stone than Sweatman does). Here are some quotes from the book.


We must therefore ask ourselves what kind of effect the Younger Dryas comet impact, with its accompanying mini–ice age, might have had on the emergence of Göbekli Tepe in particular. How did it affect what was built? And what kinds of people did it bring into southeastern Anatolia, escaping the aftermath of the Younger Dryas event elsewhere in the ancient world? As will become clear, something extraordinary was taking place in southeastern Anatolia around the time of the foundation of Göbekli Tepe—a series of events that would go on to catalyze not only what we call the Neolithic revolution but also the rise of Western civilization. More importantly, we will see that what occurred in Anatolia at this time was not only the start of something new but also the culmination of a dissemination of ancient technologies and cosmological ideas that had begun with the emergence of the first human societies at the commencement of the Upper Paleolithic age some 45,000 years ago. More importantly, there is now compelling evidence that the rise of our own civilization, not only on the Eurasian continent but also in North America and South America, was the result of contact with an extinct human species known today as the Denisovans. It is their impact on the world that this book...

As I exclusively proposed in 2014, the earliest stone installations at Göbekli Tepe were most likely built as liminal interfaces, forming a link between this world and the next, so that shamans might easily deal with perceived threats from supernatural intruders appearing in our skies in the form of comets. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that it was for this express purpose that monumental architecture started to appear in different parts of the world at this time, Göbekli Tepe and Jericho being prime examples of this sudden emergence of sophisticated architectural design. To back up this theory, I have drawn attention to the presence at Göbekli Tepe of comet-related imagery, especially in the site’s oldest and most accomplished installation, Enclosure D. This was built circa 9600 BCE, a date corresponding very well to the abrupt end of the 1,200-year mini–ice age triggered by the Younger Dryas impact event.
Comet shamans

On Pillar 18’s front narrow edge is the belt’s central feature. This takes the form of a curious symbol consisting of a filled circle from which three parallel spokes jut upward (see plate 5 ). When I first saw this glyph, I was struck by its similarity to a three-tailed comet, which I believe it to be (see fig. 1.1). The likeness is uncanny, and the fact that the glyph features so prominently on the belt tells us that this is to be seen as a symbol associated with the function of the wearer. The pillar, I suspect, represents an ancestral shaman, one considered to have had mastery over the supernatural forces seen as responsible for catastrophes. Further linking the figure with comets is the fact that beneath the belts of both Pillar 18 and its western counterpart, Pillar 31, is the carved relief of a long-tailed animal pelt, almost certainly that of a fox. The use here of fox pelts is significant as the animal is a well-known symbol of comets, its bushy tail symbolizing the comet’s own tail...

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CALMING CATASTROPHOBIA

It is the suspicion of the present author that the shamanic society responsible for Göbekli Tepe had also worked out that Halley’s Comet returned every seventy-six years. This was powerful knowledge which could then be used to convince the local population of hunter-gatherers that their shamans had predictive knowledge of the appearance of comets. In this way, they had the ability to counteract the comets’ baleful influence, and in doing so prevent the potential destruction of the world. If correct, then this was how these elite groups of individuals managed to calm the catastrophobia that had been present among the local populace since the terrifying events of the Younger Dryas comet impact.
Flight of the Vulture

In 2017, Pillar 43 came to the attention of the world’s media following claims in a peer-reviewed paper that its relief imagery is a detailed snapshot of the night sky on the day in “10,950 BCE” (+/–250 years) that the Younger Dryas comet decimated the northern hemisphere. The authors of the study acknowledge that the assumed connection between Göbekli Tepe and the comet impact was originally proposed by myself in Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods in 2014, their own theories having been inspired by these earlier deductions. [refers to Sweatman] Although these claims are now finding favor among some science journalists, they have received a rather colder reception from the archaeological team responsible for excavations at Göbekli Tepe. In their opinion, Pillar 43 was not carved during this much earlier epoch, and, what’s more, such ideas make little sense of Göbekli Tepe’s time frame, as they contend it emerged no earlier than the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period, circa 9600 to 8800 BCE.

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Points of coordination

Aside from the vulture, scorpion, and several more stranger creatures seen on Pillar 43, two other key features of its carved relief can provide fixed points of coordination between the skies of 9600 BCE and the positioning of any astronomical figures represented as carved relief. These are the horizontal dividing line between the T-shaped head and the stem of the pillar and the filled circle or ball-like object seen above the vulture’s left wing (to your right when facing toward it). Those who identify the vulture as Sagittarius see this circle as a representation of the sun passing through the zodiacal constellation in question. Yet if the Göbekli builders had wanted to depict the sun, then it is likely they would have ensured there was no ambiguity as to what the observer was seeing when examining the pillar’s relief imagery, especially since we know that in the rock art of southeastern Anatolia filled circles were used to represent the human soul in its form as an abstract human head or skull (see chapter 3).

A more plausible explanation was surely needed, one that better made sense of the ball’s possible role as the disembodied head and soul of the headless male individual, complete with an erect penis, displayed toward the base of the pillar. He is shown on the neck of another vulture, of which only the upper body is visible above ground level. Since the central vulture’s stylized, W-shaped wings appear to tilt toward the ball positioned over its left wing, it implies that the latter, if signifying a celestial object, was located in the same area of sky. So if all these disparate elements—the pillar’s main vulture, its scorpion, the horizontal dividing line between the head and stem, and the ball above the wing of the bird—all formed part of the same astronomical picture, could they be matched with key components of the night sky for 9600 BCE?

Hale’s Findings

Consulting a suitable sky program, British chartered engineer Rodney Hale, who has worked in the field of archaeoastronomy for over twenty years, has devised a satisfactory answer to this puzzling enigma. If the dividing line between the two sections of the pillar is taken to be the local horizon and the constellation of Scorpius is lined up with the approximate position of the stone’s scorpion, then the ball placed above the wing of the vulture corresponds perfectly with the northern celestial pole, the turning point of the heavens around which the stars are seen to revolve each night (see fig. 2.2). During the epoch of 9600 BCE, the northern celestial pole was located in the constellation of Hercules. Yet at the time no bright star was close enough for it to assume the role of polestar. Since then, the pole has shifted its position due to the consequences of precession, caused by the axial wobble of the Earth across a cycle of approximately 26,000 years. Today, the northern celestial pole is in the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, and is marked by the star Polaris ( α Ursae Minoris), known also as the North Star.

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Hole in the sky

Identifying the ball on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 as the turning point of the northern night sky makes perfect sense of its role as the disembodied head and soul of the headless figure seen at the base of Pillar 43. Among the shamanic societies of northern Asia, such as the Chukchee and Altaians, the northern celestial pole acted as a hole through which the soul had to pass in order to reach the sky world.
This “hole in the sky” was compared with the round smoke hole of a yurt or tent, through which the soul of the shaman, as well as that of any person who died inside the yurt, would navigate to reach the afterlife.

Identifying the Vulture

If the ball on Pillar 43 does represent the northern celestial pole, as Rodney Hale has determined, then with the very slightly askew dividing line between the stone’s head and the stem acting as the local horizon, and the scorpion representing as the constellation of Scorpius, its main central vulture corresponds with the region of sky occupied by the constellation of Cygnus, the celestial swan of Greek Hellenic star lore.
Its stars match very well the vulture’s general appearance, angle, and overall proportions. This surmise seems particularly apparent in the case of the vulture’s W-shaped wings, which resemble those of Cygnus in its role as a celestial bird as it would have been seen when the pillar was carved around 9600 BCE. In addition to this, the eye of the vulture corresponds closely to the astronomical position of the constellation’s brightest star, Deneb (α Cygni).

Yet if the stone’s dividing line is matched with the local horizon and the ball synchronized with the northern celestial pole, the vulture becomes enormous, embracing the stars of various neighboring constellations, including Vulpecula, Sagitta, and Delphinus, as well as others in Pegasus, Hercules, and Lyra. What is more, the fact that the rear half of the vulture remains obscured by Enclosure D’s ringwall means that its back and spine would also have included stars from the constellation of Aquila, the eagle. Covering such an expanse of sky means that Pillar 43’s vulture synchronizes with the three bright stars forming what is known as the Summer Triangle.
These are Deneb in Cygnus, Altair in Aquila, and Vega in Lyra. Interestingly, all three constellations were identified in Greek Hellenic tradition as vultures. Collectively, they are recalled in Greek Hellenic myth as the three monstrous creatures known as the Stymphalian birds or Harpies, described as part human, part vulture. In one myth, they are driven away by Hercules during his sixth labor.

In Babylonian mythology, Cygnus, Aquila, and Lyra were the three sky birds that attack the god Bel-Marduk, the Mesopotamian equivalent of Hercules. More significantly, in Armenian sky lore the stars of Cygnus were anciently seen as a constellation known as Angegh, the vulture. 21 In the knowledge that the former kingdom of Armenia Major embraced parts of southeastern Anatolia, including the Şanlıurfa province, this identification is of paramount importance to the matter at hand for it tells us that the vulture is simply an expanded form of the constellation of Cygnus, one embracing all three stars of the Summer Triangle...

From these realizations, we are left with the impression that the soul of the headless individual seen at the base of the pillar has departed its material existence and has now reached its destination, which appears to have been the northern celestial pole, the “hole in the sky” of shamanic tradition. The soul’s presence in the form of the ball-like device seems acknowledged, honored even, by the main vulture, which has its wings tilted slightly toward the ball...

That Scorpius is depicted below the horizon might well have something to do with the fact that the constellation has traditionally been seen as a Lower World creature, and even as a guardian of the entrance to the land of the dead.
Thus, the scorpion on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 reflects a similar theme. In other words, rites concerning the transition of the soul from the land of the living to the realm of the dead might well have been possible only after the Scorpius constellation had set below the horizon. Doing so at any other time might have meant unnecessary danger to the soul, a theme reflected in the fact that the scorpion is clearly a deadly creature, its sting sometimes fatal to its victim.
Cult of the Skull

In 2017, it was announced that excavators at Göbekli Tepe had unearthed fragments of three human skulls that had been deliberately modified for use in what can only be described as a cult of the skull, arguably one of its earliest manifestations anywhere in the world. One cranial fragment has a deep vertical groove from front to back. Another has a hole bored through it—one of two such holes—allowing the skull to be hung on a cord, while a third fragment has undeniable defleshing marks, suggesting that the scalp was removed postmortem. These and other indications of enhancement make it clear that the skulls were featured in ritualistic practices soon after the site’s foundation circa 9600 BCE...

Skulls are very often shown in association with vultures, which were primary symbols of death and rebirth in Anatolia and the Near East during the early Neolithic age.
At the Neolithic urban center of Çatalhöyük in southern-central Anatolia, which thrived circa 7000 to 5500 BCE, painted frescoes depict vultures protecting abstract human heads shown as balls with eyes and mouth. Here too excavators have found human skulls set aside for use in ritualistic practices.

At Göbekli Tepe, rediscovered fragments of totem poles show vultures in association with human heads, while on a T-shaped pillar (Pillar 57) in the newly uncovered Enclosure H, a ball-like object that is almost certainly a skull is shown flanked by two snakes. In addition to this, a large fragment of stone displaying carved relief, found deliberately positioned on the north side of Enclosure D’s Pillar 18, its eastern-central monolith, shows a disembodied human head immediately above a vulture with open wings (see fig. 3.1). The existence of this carved fragment, which was probably in secondary use when placed in position, helps us to understand why the ball-like object above the wing of the central vulture on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 should be identified as an abstract human head, and not as the sun passing through the constellation of Sagittarius.

CYGNUS ALIGNMENTS

Elsewhere, I present compelling evidence that Göbekli Tepe’s oldest and most accomplished installations—Enclosures B, C, D, and H—are aligned north-northwest toward the setting of the Cygnus star Deneb,
4 a theory independently confirmed in a study of the site’s astronomical alignments by Italian academics Alessandro de Lorenzis and Vincenzo Orofino of the University of Salento. 5 These alignments toward Cygnus are further confirmed by the positioning of porthole stones in the north-northwest sections of the ringwalls of Enclosures C, D, and H. Each one is aligned so that the setting of Deneb on the local horizon would have been visible through its aperture as viewed from between the installation’s twin central pillars, thus providing a direct link between the stars of Cygnus and the spirit of the shaman or deceased person...

That the porthole stones in the enclosures at Göbekli Tepe were aligned north-northwest toward Cygnus, and not due north toward the northern celestial pole in its role as the “hole in the sky,” implies that upon exiting the enclosure the soul was expected to travel first to the realm of Cygnus, the celestial vulture, before continuing its journey to the afterlife. Why might this have been?

THE DARK RIFT

The answer is that Cygnus is positioned very prominently within the Milky Way, the starry stream forming the outer edge of our disk-like galaxy. This pathway of stars was anciently seen as a road or river that permitted the soul access to the sky world. Cygnus itself is located exactly where the Milky Way bifurcates into two separate branches due to the presence of dust and debris directly in line with the galactic plane. Known as the Dark Rift
, Great Rift, or Cygnus Rift, this dark band, which begins in the vicinity of the star Deneb, continues all the way down to the vicinity of the stars of Sagittarius. Here one arm expands to form a bridge with the southern extension of the Milky Way while the other ends immediately above the stars of the Scorpius constellation.(Birds such as swans, geese, eagles, and vultures are primary symbols of the soul’s journey to and from the afterlife.) It is likely therefore that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic peoples of Anatolia and the Near East viewed the Dark Rift in a similar manner, seeing it as a darkened road to the sky world. The fact that the Dark Rift can be seen to begin, or alternately, end, immediately above the stars of Scorpius is telling indeed, especially since it is the scorpion that appears immediately beneath the horizon on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43.

Very likely the Scorpius constellation was seen as a threat to the soul on its journey to the afterlife, especially as it sought to join the Milky Way. It is in this same vicinity that the sun crosses the starry stream in only one of two places in the sky, the other being in the vicinity of the constellations of Taurus, Gemini, and Orion on the opposite side of the sky. The importance of this synchronization between the sun and the Milky Way meant that at certain times of the year, most obviously at the summer or winter solstice, the Milky Way would have been seen to rise up into the sky from the same position where the sun had either just set or was about to rise. This is something that would have been interpreted as a moment when the souls of either the departed or those of shamans were able to make the transition from the physical environment to the place of the afterlife.

SKY BURIALS

The use of vultures as primary symbols of death and rebirth during the PrePottery Neolithic age, circa 9600 to 6000 BCE, probably came about because human carcasses were often left out on wooden platforms for vultures to swoop down and pick clean the meat and bones, a practice known today as sky burial. This defleshing process, called excarnation, would have included the removal of the head postmortem. Since the head was seen as the seat of the soul, this permitted the vulture to become a primary symbol of the soul’s journey to the afterlife. It is for this reason that the vulture appears in association with heads in relief art and as life-like carvings at sites like Göbekli Tepe, Nevalı Çori, and Çatalhöyük.

Yet it is important also to remember that this apparently hazardous journey did not just involve the souls of the dead. It included those of shamans as well.
They would have entered the sky world during dream incubation (the cultivation of meaningful dreams through ritual processes), and altered states of consciousness to deal with supernatural creatures seen as a threat to the stability of the world. For this they would have undergone some kind of symbolic death to enter or be “reborn” into the next world. Very often, the achievement of an altered state of consciousness involved the ingestion of dangerous hallucinogens, which would have brought the shaman very near to death. Once, however, a sense of connection with the otherworld was established, the shaman would have been able to conduct spirit communications with the supernatural inhabitants of these normally invisible realms until the effects ceased and their soul “returned” to its physical body. Thus, the headless individuals seen on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 and within painted frescoes at Çatalhöyük do not necessarily have to signify a dead person. More likely, they represent the physical body of a shaman who is working with the spirit of the vulture in its role as a psychopomp to gain entrance to the sky world.

FLIGHT OF THE SHAMAN

What all this tells us is that the cosmological structure behind the beliefs and practices of those who built Göbekli Tepe, circa 9600 BCE, possessed striking parallels with the shamanistic traditions of tribal cultures as far away as northern Eurasia, Siberia, and Mongolia in particular...

The importance of shamanism at Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites like Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia, however, is that it was formalized out of necessity so that the baleful influence of comets could be quickly neutralized. Doing so would allay the catastrophobia of the local population, at least until the next major comet appeared in the skies...

WORSHIP OF THE SUN

The world was now a different place, and with the coming of the Neolithic revolution and the fear of further cataclysms gradually receding, the function of cult centers like Göbekli Tepe started to change. No longer were they oriented toward the stars of Cygnus and the Milky Way. Instead, the enclosures, which started to become much simpler in design, were turned toward the rising sun at the time of either the equinoxes or solstices.
The reason for this change in direction was because the most important consideration now was whether the sun would continue to ripen the wheat and barley so that communities could produce everything from bread to cake to beer. (The oldest stone beer vats anywhere in the world were found in some of the younger enclosures at Göbekli Tepe.) The duties of the shamanic priesthood had now become even more formalized, revolving around the death and rebirth of the sun across its yearly cycle...

THE END OF GÖBEKLI TEPE

...Yet questions remain: Who were the first shamans of Göbekli Tepe? Why were they seen as having mastery over comets and cosmic catastrophes, and where exactly did they come from? As we will see next, there is every reason to suspect that the builders of Göbekli Tepe came not from the south, in the Levant, but from the north, in what is today Ukraine and Russia.
COMPLEX HUNTER-GATHERERS

It was the late archaeologist Klaus Schmidt (1953–2014) who was the first to draw comparisons between the Pre-Pottery Neolithic world of Anatolia and the hunting techniques of hunter-gathering societies that thrived on the northern shores of the Black Sea. In particular, he made mention of a tool-making tradition, a so-called technocomplex, known as the Swiderian. So who or what were the Swiderians, and what role might they have played in the emergence of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic world of Göbekli Tepe, and through it the rise of western civilization? The Swiderian world emerged during the 2,000-year period of temperature increase known as the Allerød interstadial. This followed the cessation of the last ice age proper around 13,000 BCE and ended abruptly with the Younger Dryas impact event of circa 10,800 BCE.

Powerful elites

There seems every reason to conclude that the Swiderian societies of central and eastern Europe were prime examples of the complex hunter-gatherer system in operation. Forming themselves into “powerful elites,” as Hayden calls them, enabled Swiderian groups to establish trading and bartering networks stretching across many thousands of kilometers, from Poland and the Carpathian Mountains of central Europe to the northern shores of the Black Sea, and eastward across to their suspected original homeland in the western foothills of the Ural Mountains. In all of these territories, they spread their influence, bringing local societies under their wing, not only for trading and bartering purposes but also to exert some form of control over their spiritual well-being.

EPIGRAVETTIAN INDUSTRIES

Swiderian societies of the Crimean Highlands seem particularly significant to this debate since it was here that one of the principal Epipaleolithic populations thrived alongside them at the end of the last ice age. They are known as the Epigravettians, in other words, the terminal form of a much earlier cultural tradition known as the Gravettians, which thrived across Europe circa 33,000 to 22,000 BCE (see chapter 6). In fact, the Swiderian toolkit was so similar to that of the Epigravettians that Australian archaeologist and philologist V. Gordon Childe (1892–1957), one of the twentieth century’s most renowned prehistorians, concluded that the Swiderian industry was a direct survival of the Eastern Gravettian tradition of Russia; they being the precursors of the later Epigravettians as the name suggests.

Such ideas support the observations of Klaus Schmidt, who not only compared Anatolia’s Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture’s hunting techniques with those of European hunter-gathering societies such as the Swiderians, but also suggested that clues regarding the origins of Göbekli Tepe should be looked for among the Epipaleolithic societies situated north of the Black Sea. In making these observations, Schmidt was himself merely echoing the findings of his esteemed colleague, the Turkish prehistorian Mehmet Özdoğan. He too believes that the inspiration behind Anatolia’s Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture derived from the Epigravettian societies of the northern Pontic region, in other words, those of the Crimean Highlands in Ukraine, where some of the principal Swiderian settlements were to be found at that time...

It is important to remember also that all this was going on immediately before and then during the Younger Dryas mini–ice age, when the cold Arctic conditions and extreme dry weather would have driven human populations ever southward in search of more suitable environments in which to live. It is there-fore likely that Swiderian groups would have continued their southward journey, entering southeastern Anatolia some time between 10,500 BCE and 9600 BCE...

WHO BUILT GÖBEKLI TEPE?


The answer to this vexing question is that the actual building and maintenance of Göbekli Tepe was very likely the work of a local populace, one consisting of many hundreds of hunter-gatherers, some almost certainly descendants of the Zarzian culture that had inhabited southeast Anatolia during Epipaleolithic times. The principal architects behind Göbekli Tepe, on the other hand, were, in the opinion of the current author, Swiderian groups from Russia and Ukraine. Arguably, they brought with them knowledge of how to make blades, bladelets and microblades using the pressure technique...

Although we can say very little about the Swiderians themselves, we do know a great deal about their direct successors, the Post-Swiderian cultures of northern, central, and eastern Europe. As we will see next, their cosmological vision of the heavens matches very well that displayed on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43. Yet to establish this relationship, we must shift our attentions, temporarily at least, from southeastern Anatolia to northwestern Russia, in particular an area close to the border with Finland, known as Karelia.
Journeys of the Soul


One of the most important Post-Swiderian cultures was that of the Kunda. They occupied territories from the western foothills of the Urals across to the Baltic forest zone; their open air sites, which can date to anything between 9500 BCE and 5000 BCE, having been found in western Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, and Scandinavia. 1 The Kunda’s largest known cemetery is Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov, Southern ReindeerIsland, located within Lake Onega, not far from its eastern shoreline.

Situated in the Russian Republic of Karelia, close to the border with Finland, Lake Onega is Europe’s second largest inland sea. Here, circa 7000–6000 BCE, 2 as many as 170 individuals were interred, many of whom were uncovered during excavations from 1936 to 1938. What is important, however, is that many of the graves were found to contain substantial numbers of bird bones, in particular those belonging to the shoulders, legs, and wings (radii and ulna). Several species are represented, including the osprey, the white-tailed sea eagle, the great gray owl (one example), and various waterfowl, including mallards and whooper swans ( Cygnus cygnus ), the last being represented only by wing bones. Indeed, it has been proposed that to the Kunda the wings of whooper swans “carried some special symbolic significance.”

KARELIAN ROCK ART


That the swan was of special interest to the Kunda culture, or at least its direct Neolithic successors in the northern Baltic region, 12 is apparent also from the presence of rock art seen on exposed surfaces around the northern shores of Lake Onega. Some 1,300 carvings have been dated to the Neolithic age, circa 4200 to 2000 BCE, although the discovery that a large number of the settlements in the vicinity of the rock art date from the Mesolithic age suggests that local rock carving formed part of a long tradition, with its roots in the local Suomusjärvi and Kunda cultures.

A great many of the petroglyphs—around 43 percent on average and up to 60 percent at some locations 14 represent swans or long-necked waterfowl. Some are scaled down in size, others are lifelike, while still others are gigantic, up to 4 meters in length. Mostly, the birds shown are whooper swans, although what appear to be ducks and geese are also present. The necks of the swans are often exaggerated in length and made to look like long poles.

Some of the carvings depict swans with human arms or legs, while still others show anthropomorphic figures with the heads of birds. The discovery of several upright standing burials found in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov cemetery, suspected to be those of shamans, has led to proposals that the swan-human hybrids found among the rock art of Lake Onega depict shamans who have adopted the guise of the bird to enter the next world.

Cracks and Crevices

Other carvings show swans sitting atop poles that are being climbed by human figures. These perhaps are meant to show the souls of shamans or those of the deceased entering the Upper World via some kind of sky pole or perceived axis mundi, an axis of the earth.
In several cases, linear cracks or fissures coincide with the long necks of swans, giving the impression that the birds are either emerging from or disappearing into the other world. This is yet another indication that the swans and the rock art as a whole have a liminal value in that they signify movement between this world and the next. Indeed, according to Antti Lahelma, an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki, “Many of the images of swans at Lake Onega are to be understood as symbols of the soul, or as messengers between the worlds of humans and spirits. Swans entering a crack or emerging from one appear to symbolize the passage of the soul—of a deceased person or a shaman—between this world and the other.”

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THE FINNISH “SOUL BIRD”

According to the Finno-Ugric mythology of northwestern Eurasia, which is derived almost certainly from a much older Uralic tradition (that is, it originated among the Uralic-speaking peoples of the Ural Mountains in central-western Russia), migrating birds, swans in particular, are seen to carry the soul into incarnation.
Indeed, in Baltic folklore it is the swan that brings babies into the world, not the stork, as is more usual in many other countries of Europe. 1Swans also carried the soul into the afterlife at the moment of death according to Finnish folk tradition. In one mythical account, for instance, the soul of an individual is passed from one swan to another until it reaches a boat waiting by the banks of an otherworldly river. This leads from the physical world to a northerly placed land of the dead called Tuonela, said to be the domain of a beautiful swan.

In Finno-Ugric sky lore, the North Star, as the center of the heavens, was said to be the location of a column that supports the starry vault. As this revolves, it causes a great whirl at the North Pole, and it is through this whirl that human souls gain access to the land of the dead. Almost certainly the long, polelike necks of the swans seen among the rock art at Lake Onega also signify the axis of the earth. Being connected to the celestial pole, it was upon this turning axis of the heavens that the souls of shamans and those of the deceased would climb to reach the afterlife, presumably through a hole in the sky like that found in the shamanic traditions of northern Eurasia.

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...The swan-based rock art at Lake Onega almost certainly reflects these same mythological themes, introduced to northwestern Russia and Finland most likely by Uralic-speaking Swiderian or Post-Swiderian groups that entered the region from the vicinity of the Ural Mountains shortly after the retreat of the ice sheets following the cessation of the Younger Dryas event, circa 9600 BCE.

Land of Birds

As seen from the Eurasian and North American continents, the Milky Way is marked at its highest point by the crosslike group of stars identified in Greek Hellenic astronomy as the constellation of Cygnus, the celestial swan (see fig. 5.3). The constellation was most likely identified originally as a swan both from its appearance as a long-necked bird flying along the Milky Way, as well as from the swan’s role as a psychopomp accompanying the human soul into the afterlife. This can then account for why various burials found in Lake Onega’s Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov cemetery were accompanied by swan wing bones, for these, as Kristiina Mannermaa and her colleagues suspect, acted as a psychic link between the soul of the deceased and the swan’s spirit in the belief that it would accompany the soul of the individual into the afterlife.

All these ideas were almost certainly introduced to the Mesolithic peoples of northern Europe by Finno-Ugric speaking Swiderian groups, whose own ancestors had come originally from the Ural Mountains, or arguably beyond them in western Siberia. Here, of course, still live the Mansi and Khanty.

Similar Swiderian groups, I suspect, helped catalyze the rise of the PrePottery Neolithic world in southeastern Anatolia. They introduced the widespread use of microblade technology and triggered the construction of the megalithic enclosures at Göbekli Tepe. It can thus be no coincidence that Kurdish, one of the oldest language groups in southwest Asia, contains a number of words that have direct comparisons with those of the Finno-Ugric or Uralic languages of northern and central Europe. It thus seems reasonable to suggest that these language elements were introduced by incoming Uralicspeaking peoples, including Swiderian-linked groups. What is more, even closer links exist between the material culture of the Göbekli builders and the peoples inhabiting the Ural Mountains at the beginning of the Mesolithic age, circa 9600 BCE.

Anthropologist and prehistoric archaeologist Mikhail G. Zhilin of the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and his colleagues, in an important paper published in 2018 within the journal Antiquity, draw attention to the design of the Shigir Idol and the anthropomorphic nature of the T-pillars found at Göbekli Tepe, which are all of a similar age. As proposed by the current author elsewhere and intimated also by Zhilin and his colleagues, the advanced culture existing in the Trans-Urals at the end of the Upper Paleolithic Age-early Mesolithic age, circa 9600 BCE, evidenced not just by the Shigir Idol but also by various well-fashioned portable artifacts and two cave sanctuaries with extensive painted art, hint strongly at a cross-cultural link at this time between the inhabitants of the Urals and the Pre-Pottery Neolithic world of Göbekli Tepe.

So is it possible that these incoming Uralic-speaking peoples carried with them cosmological beliefs and practices relating to the transmigration of the soul and its connection with both the Milky Way and the Cygnus constellation?

The Elk in Star Lore

One clue is the fact that the carved relief of Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 and Lake Onega’s Neolithic rock art both appear to represent the same death journey taken by the soul to reach an afterlife among the stars. Both reflect an interest in the north, and the northern celestial pole in particular, and both feature birds that can be identified with the Cygnus constellation—the vulture at Göbekli Tepe and the swan at Lake Onega in Karelia.
What is more, the enigmatic set of petroglyphs on the tiny island of Bolshoy Guri in the northeastern part of Lake Onega, showing a swan along with a filled circle and two elks, is strangely reminiscent of the carved relief on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43. For instance, the circular device in the Lake Onega rock art replicates the filled circle seen on the wing of the vulture on the T-shaped head of Pillar 43...

Vulture, not Swan

The greatest difference between the rock art of Lake Onega and the carved relief on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43 is that in the latter the principal bird featured is the vulture, and not the swan. Why exactly is not difficult to understand. In the Zagros and Taurus mountains of Anatolia and the Near East, vultures, as eaters of the dead, would have had a far greater impact on funerary beliefs and practices related to the soul’s journey to the afterlife. At high altitudes, waterfowl just did not have the same impact on the human psyche, the reason most probably why at places like Göbekli Tepe the vulture became the ultimate psychopomp.
THE SOLUTREAN CONNECTION

When celebrated prehistorian V. Gordon Childe wrote that Swiderian stone tool manufacture was a direct survival of the Eastern Gravettian tradition, as shown at sites like Kostenki in Russia, 1 he also made another important observation. He noted that “Solutrean techniques” of stone tool manufacture were “applied at times to the later Eastern Gravettian (Kostienki) flint-work and survived locally even in the Mesolithic Swiderian industry.” Thus, he recognized a commonality in style between the stone tools made by the Solutreans of southwestern Europe, who thrived circa 20,000 to 15,000 BCE, and those made by later Swiderian and Post-Swiderian societies that occupied many parts of central, northern, and eastern Europe circa 11,500 to 5000 BCE...

Many archaeologists write off the Solutreans as a minor intrusion into European prehistory, their influence lasting no more than a few thousand years. The achievements of the Solutreans, and any lasting impact on the sub-sequent Magdalenian tradition, are seen as negligible. Yet as we shall see next, this was most certainly not the case, for today there is compelling evidence that the Solutreans were responsible for the creation of sculpted relief art with direct comparisons to that found at Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia some 5,000 years later.
Shaft of the Dead Man

Although the Solutreans do not appear to have contributed greatly to the painted cave art of southwestern Europe, they do seem to have been responsible for the creation of at least some of the ice age frescoes at the Lascaux Cave in the Vézère Valley, within France’s Dordogne region. The cave complex’s 6-meter-deep pit known as the Shaft of the Dead Man, or the well shaft, contains an enigmatic painted panel showing a reclining bird-headed man with an erect penis next to a bird on a pole (see plate 10 ). To the birdman’s right is a bison with a spear in its stomach, exposing the animal’s entrails. Off to the left is a rhinoceros that seems to be walking away from the scene.

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FALLING IN TRANCE

The fresco’s location on the north wall of the pit is most likely connected with its fundamental purpose, for the bird on a pole is almost certainly a representation of a cosmic bird on top of a sky pole. Very likely this pole symbolized a connection between the physical world, or indeed the underworld of the cave chamber, and the northern celestial pole in its role as an opening to the Upper World of shamanic tradition. The birdman immediately above the bird on a pole is most likely a shaman who, having achieved a state of trance, is in the process of entering the other world.
Supporting this theory is the reclining stance of the birdman, which provides the pit with its name, the Shaft of the Dead Man. In Finno-Karelian shamanism, “falling in trance” is an expression used to describe entry into otherworldly environments, either via clefts in rock faces or via cracks in the ground, like those found in connection with the Post-Swiderian–linked rock art on the rocky shores of Lake Onega. Finno-Karelian shamans also believe that painting or carving images on rock surfaces creates a portal through which they can pass between this world and the next. It is a concept connected also with the presence of porthole stones in the north-northwestern sections of enclosure walls at Göbekli Tepe, which would seem to have been used for the same purpose of exiting the physical world.

Most likely, the Lascaux birdman is himself “falling in trance,” as he appears to be “falling” into the cleft or hollow visible immediately below and to the left of the bird on a pole (see fig. 9.2). The fact that this hole has a long concave depression beyond its upper end, which is aligned toward the birdman, suggests that it acts in the same capacity as the cracks and fissures seen on the shores of Lake Onega. It is through this hole, located in the pit’s north wall, that the Lascaux birdman, or indeed, the soul or spirit of anyone conducting ceremonies in the well shaft, is able to gain access, via the sky pole, to the realm of the cosmic bird.

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The purpose of the birdman’s erect penis lies in the sheer fact that erections often occur during the early stages of drug-induced experiences. They are also known to occur at the moment of death, something that might well have been linked with death-like trances brought about by the consumption of dangerous hallucinogens. So in this manner a pictorial representation of a shaman with an erection is conveying the idea that he is in the process of entering a death-like state. This might therefore explain not only the erect penis of the Lascaux birdman, but also that of the headless individual seen riding on the back of the hook-beaked bird on Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43.

Radiocarbon testing of organic materials removed from the Shaft of the Dead Man at Lascaux has provided dates in the region of 16,500 to 15,000 BCE. 3 Thus it seems likely that the cosmic bird in question is the constellation of Cygnus, which coincided with the northern celestial pole circa 15,750 to 12,750 BCE (and arguably for 1,000 years or so before this time). Since a time frame of 16,500 to 15,000 BCE hints strongly at the fact that Solutreans were responsible for this cave art, this tells us that these cosmological notions almost certainly featured in their beliefs and practices.

The Summer Triangle

Archaeoastronomer Michael Rappenglück, Ph.D., of the University of Munich, has proposed that the Lascaux birdman, the bird on a pole, and the nearby bison represent key stars in the vicinity of Cygnus and the Summer Triangle when the former marked the northern celestial pole. 4 This is exactly what Estonian astronomer and scientist Heino Eelsalu concluded as far back as 1985. He wrote that the Lascaux well shaft scene showed cosmological imagery relating to the northern celestial pole as it crossed the Milky Way in the vicinity of the Cygnus constellation, the latter representing a bird of creation. If correct, then it shows that the Solutreans, like the Swiderians thousands of years later, identified the stars of Cygnus as a cosmic bird and saw the northern celestial pole as a point of entry to the sky world. This final assertion seems confirmed in the knowledge that the head of the birdman is more or less identical to that of the bird itself. Both signify the same avian influence. In addition to this, the Solutreans might also have recognized the Milky Way’s well-established role as a road, river, or pathway along which the soul, whether that of the shaman or that of a deceased person, could access this sky portal.

Goose or Duck?

From the bird on a pole’s very basic and somewhat abstract profile (squat body, flat back, curved neck, straight bill, and rounded head), it is perhaps to be identified as a goose or a duck, both of which feature in creation myths found across the Eurasian continent, and also in North America. Moreover, when not identified with a swan, the stars of Cygnus have been identified with a goose, as is recorded in ancient Egypt, Vedic India, Celtic Britain, and also in North America. So in both the Post-Swiderian–inspired rock art of Lake Onega and the well scene at the Lascaux Cave in southwestern France, we can see how a relationship might well have existed between the cosmological beliefs and practices of the Solutreans and those of the later Swiderians and Pre-Pottery Neolithic peoples of southeastern Anatolia. Moreover, there exists even further evidence that both cultures recognized the Cygnus constellation as the entrance to the sky world and origin point of human souls...

THE IDENTITY OF TÜNDÉR ILONA

Tündér Ilona as the swan that brings forth the sun in the form of an egg is very clearly a Hungarian form of Cygnus in its role as the cosmic bird, meaning that she can also be equated with the bird on a pole in France’s Lascaux Cave. More than this, Ilona also has similarities to the Estonian swan goddess Linda or Lindu. This is confirmed in the knowledge that in both Estonian and Hungarian mythology the Milky Way is said to be the trail of the goddess’s veil. Tündér Ilona can be equated also with the swan of Finno-Ugric myth who brings forth the universe in the form of an egg, a myth seemingly expressed in the swan imagery at Lake Onega and echoed as far away as ancient Egypt in the story of the god Geb taking the form of the goose Gengen-wer (“Great Cackler”) to bring forth both the universe and the sun god from an egg laid by him.

Many other similar stories involving either a swan or a goose bringing forth the universe and/or the physical world are found in northern Asia, showing the widespread dissemination of these myths across the Eurasian continent. They are even present in North America. For instance, in Cherokee tradition, the bird that brought forth the universe in the form of an egg is Guwisguwi, a large white water bird with the appearance of a swan. In Cherokee star lore, Guwisguwi is identified with the Cygnus star Deneb. He is shown on the top of a T-shaped device symbolizing a sky pole supporting the Upper World (see fig. 9.5), a theme that once again echoes the bird on a pole seen in the Shaft of the Dead Man in France’s Lascaux Cave.

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THE INFLUENCE ON GÖBEKLI TEPE

The importance of this exercise is to demonstrate that cygnocentric and polar-centric cosmological ideas, that would appear to have flourished at the same time that the Solutreans occupied southwestern Europe, eventually found their way via carrier cultures such as the Swiderians all the way from the Ural Mountains to Anatolia
. Here, sometime around 9600 BCE, they were adopted by its Pre-Pottery Neolithic world. This included the belief that the soul’s journey to the land of the dead was connected with the Milky Way and Cygnus constellation, which last synchronized with the northern celestial pole circa 15,750 to 12,750 BCE. Guarding the entrance to the land of the dead at Göbekli Tepe was a cosmic bird, exactly as we find in northern, central, and western Europe. Yet in southwestern Asia, the vulture, the ultimate symbol of the dead and rebirth in Pre-Pottery Neolithic tradition, replaced the migrating swans or geese of more northerly climes. However, their function was exactly the same: they guided and protected the soul on its journey to an afterlife accessed via the northern celestial pole, and also, most likely, acted as symbols both of cosmic creation and the emergence into the physical world of human souls.

Beyond these assumptions is the tantalizing connection between the carved stone friezes and sculpture of the Solutreans and the carved art seen on the decorated T-pillars and porthole stones found at Göbekli Tepe. Prior to the emergence of Anatolia’s Pre-Pottery Neolithic world some 11,500 years ago, the only recognized two-dimensional bas-relief and three-dimensional rock sculpture that might in any way be compared to that seen at Göbekli Tepe were those created at Solutrean sites in the Franco-Cantabrian region of France and Spain. Last, we have the beautiful trifacial projectile points manufactured by the Solutreans of southwestern Europe and found also at Göbekli Tepe (see chapter 6). So unique in style are these points, which in both instances have been finished using the pressure technique, that to deny some kind of continuity, whether it be direct or indirect, would be foolish indeed.
To be continued.
 

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Across the Ice

Sometime around the time of the Last Glacial Maxim, circa 22,000–18,000 BCE, small groups of Solutreans might well have reached the North American continent. Here they established small colonies that would go on to thrive for thousands of years after the disappearance of their kinsfolk in southwestern Europe. Most likely, these transatlantic voyages were made using skin-covered boats similar in design to the umiak vessels of the Inuit of Greenland, Alaska, and Arctic Canada. Some of these vessels would even appear to have possessed sails in order to counter prevailing ocean currents. Confirmation of these ideas comes from Spanish rock art dating from the Solutrean period, which could show both umiak-style vessels and larger boats with sails (see fig. 10.1).

Initially, the Solutreans would perhaps have used maritime exploration simply to exploit the riches offered by the readily available fauna on offshore islands, which would have included seals and birds such as the great auk, both of which appear in painted art from the Solutrean period. Yet very gradually, the Solutreans may well have traveled farther afield, exploring ever more remote regions of the sea ice that spanned the vast ocean expanse between the two continents. Such explorations would eventually have brought Solutrean groups within easy reach of the North American continent (see fig. 10.2). Here, south of the Laurentide ice sheet, which at the time extended as far south as Pennsylvania, the Solutreans came to settle, their descendants merging with a preexistent human population that had probably entered North America from the Russian Far East when the land corridor between Western Beringia in Siberia and Eastern Beringia in Alaska was not only above water, but also free of ice, taking us back to an age before even the Last Glacial Maxim.

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THE CLOVIS POINT

The principal proponents of what has become known as the Solutrean hypothesis behind the foundation of Clovis culture are Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter and Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. Their case is outlined in the compelling, yet highly controversial book titled Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, which received a hostile reception upon its publication in 2012.

Bradley and Stanford point out that, just like the Solutreans of southwestern Europe and the Szeletians of central Europe, the Clovis people produced long, leaf-shaped bifacial tools, used both as knives and spear points. What is more, the surfaces of these tools and weapons display parallel scars created using the all-important pressure flaking technique. How could the Clovis people have learned this unique technique that was previously only known on the Eurasian continent? More pressingly, how could the flaking technique used by the Clovis people be more or less identical to that employed by the Solutreans to reduce the surfaces of their own bifacial leaf points if no connection existed between these two different populations on opposite sides of the Atlantic?

The natural conclusion is that the Clovis point and its successors are a direct development of the Solutrean leaf point, something first hinted at as far back as 1915 by the English geologist and anthropologist William J. Sollas (1849–1936). 6 The similarities between the two styles of stone tool manufacture are striking indeed. The only principal difference between the two is that classic Clovis points have a long vertical “flute” (a deep, longitudinal scar) on either face. These start at the base of the implement and extend as much as one-third of its entire length. The purpose of this fluting is to allow the spearhead to be more efficiently hafted and bound to a wooden shaft, something that is thought to have helped the weapon’s aerodynamics.

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DNA Evidence

Even if all material evidence of the Solutreans’ influence in North America is ignored, there is something else suggesting the presence of Eurasian populations on the North American continent during the prehistoric age, and this is DNA. First Nation tribal peoples of the northeastern and eastern United States carry a very specific mutation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) known as haplogroup X (a matter dealt with in chapter 16 and also by Greg Little in the second half of this book). It has also been found in connection with ancient human remains, including the 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man discovered on the Columbia River in Washington State; 2,000-year-old mound builders in Ohio, and the Windover peat bog people who inhabited eastern Florida around 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. The immediate significance of haplogroup X is that it is not found among modern-day populations of the Russian Far East. The closest source of haplogroup X outside of the northeastern and eastern coasts of North America is that present among modern populations in southwestern Europe, which just happens to be the very same territory in which the Solutreans thrived circa 20,000–15,000 BCE. (Other areas where it is found include the Scottish Orkney Isles, the eastern Mediterranean, and southern Siberia, among the Altaian people there)

The Northwest Passage

Other Post-Solutreans may have come into contact with early Swiderian groups, who are known to have occupied areas of northern Europe during the 2,000-year Allerød interstadial or interglacial period that followed the end of the last ice age circa 13,000 BCE. 15 However, this new golden age of cross-communication between different human traditions was, of course, brought to an abrupt halt by the Younger Dryas impact event of circa 10,800 BCE, as well as by the 1200-year mini–ice age that followed in its wake. Yet the suspected links between the Solutrean, Post-Solutrean, and Swiderian groups bring us closer to understanding why both the stone tool technology and carved art seen at Göbekli Tepe bear a close resemblance to that of the Solutreans and their successors, the Swiderians.

If these surmises are correct, then we can begin to see a basic commonality between two different human populations who existed contemporaneously in different parts of the globe at this time. On the one hand, we have the Clovis culture, who for just a few brief centuries occupied the North American continent, while in Europe this same role was taken up by the Swiderians. Both had either direct or indirect links to the Solutreans of southwestern Europe. Yet although both traditions, the Clovis and the Swiderian, were to suffer the full brunt of the suspected comet impact of 10,800 BCE, it was the Clovis population who experienced the greatest loss in human life. In contrast, the Swiderians would appear to have avoided complete annihilation, and with the onset of the 1,200-year mini–ice age, they migrated southward, some of their number eventually entering Anatolia, where they not only came to bear on the foundation of Göbekli Tepe but would also appear to have been revered as great shamans whose ancestors had survived the Younger Dryas impact event, their memory immortalized in the erection of the twin monoliths standing at the center of Enclosure D. As far fetched as these ideas might seem, the proposed catastrophobia still looming over the Pre-Pottery Neolithic world of southeastern Anatolia at this time might well have caused them to accept the presence of incoming Swiderian groups from the north in the firm belief that they would be able to avert the likelihood of future cataclysms triggered by the appearance in our skies of comets, asteroids, and meteors...

All this is important to remember in the knowledge that as recently as the early twentieth century many Native American tribes shared a common belief in the origin of the human soul among the stars and a cosmic death journey involving the Milky Way and the constellations of Cygnus and, as we shall see, Orion.

These quite profound cosmological ideas were bound up with a closely guarded celestial geography, the knowledge of which would enable the human soul to reach the afterlife. Their significance here is in the fact that this same celestial geography is present also in connection with Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 43, the Neolithic rock art of Karelia, the mythical origins of the tündér-fairies and the human race in Hungarian tradition, and the Lascaux Cave’s well shaft scene with its birdman and bird-on-a-pole created by Solutrean artists some 17,000 to 18,500 years ago.
Hybrid Human Origins

Through such contact, hybrid human groups started to emerge across the Eurasian continent, with the Brünn-Předmostí population of central Europe being a very obvious example. They, as we have seen, displayed pronounced hybrid features and can be linked through the production of the bifacial leaf points with the Szeletian population that thrived at the same time in the very same region. Their very distinctive stone points are, as we have seen, considered Neanderthal in design, since they match a stone tool technology developed almost exclusively by the preexisting Neanderthal population.

It is my belief that at least some of these hybrid groups, which we know as the Proto-Solutreans, moved westward from central Europe into western Europe, reaching eventually France and Spain where they inspired the foundation of the classic Solutrean tradition around 22,000 years ago. Yet this does not mean that the classic Solutrean leaf point originated in central Europe. Far from it, for as we shall see in chapter 15, very similar bifacial points, some even with their surfaces finished using the pressure flaking technique, are now known to have been manufactured in southern Siberia as much as 45,000 years ago, and arguably earlier.
THE CHANCELADE DISCOVERY

One of the most controversial discoveries of human remains dating from the Upper Paleolithic that came to light during the latter half of the nineteenth century is that of Chancelade Man. The term refers to the well-preserved skeleton of a male individual found on October 1, 1888, in the Abri Raymonden cave near Chancelade in France’s Dordogne region.

The male internee, whose age at death was determined to be around 55 to 65, was buried in a contracted position, lying on his left side with his head toward the south. His hands were under the chest, his legs up against his stomach, and his eye sockets turned toward the west. Both the body and the surrounding soil had been powdered with red ochre. The burial was discovered on the cave bedrock immediately below a thin layer of sterile earth. Above this were three separate layers of occupation dating to the Magdalenian age, circa 15,000 to 9600 BCE. For these reasons, the Chancelade remains are usually considered to be around 17,000 years old, implying that they date from the very beginning of the Magdalenian period. The skeleton is today in the Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie du Périgord in Perigueux (see fig. 14.1).

Yet since the Chancelade body was found beneath a layer of sterile earth, it could very easily be older than the Magdalenian age. If correct, this would suggest it dates to the Solutrean period, circa 20,000 to 15,000 BCE. 2 Even if this is not the case, the fact that the Solutreans’ densest area of occupation was in France’s Dordogne region tells us that the individual was perhaps related to this population in some manner...

Neanderthal Ancestry

Finding out that the Chancelade individual might well have been related both to the classic Solutreans of southwestern Europe and their Proto-Solutrean ancestors from central Europe is important, simply because Solutrean remains are so rare. What is more, there is compelling evidence that, in common with the Brünn-Předmostí population, the Chancelade individual bears clear Neanderthaloid traits.

THE ESKIMO CONTROVERSY

Following the discovery of the Chancelade remains in 1888, the French anatomist given the task of recording every detail of its anatomy was JeanLéo Testut (1849–1925) of the University of Lyon. In an exhaustive study published in 1889, he offered a quite staggering and far-reaching conclusion regarding the origins of Chancelade Man. Testut was of the firm opinion that there were enough osteological traits present in the skull in particular to classify the Chancelade individual as belonging to the Eskimo population of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. Although the name used by Testut was indeed Eskimo, this is usually replaced today by the population’s indigenous name, which is Inuit, a word meaning something like “the Living Ones Who Are Here.”...

Mongolian Roots

This was the line of approach adopted also by Coon in his own study of the Chancelade remains. While acknowledging their similarity to Inuit physiology, he felt inclined to connect the Chancelade individual with morphological traits more commonly associated with the Mongolian populations of northern Asia. “It is likely,” he noted in 1939, “that the occurrence of partial mongoloid traits in many Upper Palaeolithic survivor groups [in Europe, such as those seen in the Chancelade individual] may be due to the retention of traits acquired during the final glacial maximum.” In other words, what Coon was implying is that the Chancelade individual’s distinctive features derived not from an Inuit ancestry, but from interactions between different human groups at the time of the Last Glacial Maxim. Yet what isn’t made clear is where this complex introgression might have taken place. Since we know that the Chancelade remains also bear osteological characteristics in common with the Proto-Solutrean individuals found at Solutré in 1923 as well as the Brünn-Předmostí human group of central Europe, then the chances are that we must look toward the East for clues regarding the individual’s true origins...

URALO-ALTAIC ORIGINS

Is it possible, therefore, that this human group really originated beyond the Ural Mountains, either in Siberia or Mongolia? As we have already seen, German physician, ophthalmologist, and anthropologist Franz Ignaz Pruner, a.k.a. Pruner Bey, concluded that the skeletal remains unearthed at the Roche de Solutré site in the 1860s belonged to individuals of “the Mongol type,” with links he felt to the Uralo-Altaic peoples of central Eurasia. Indeed, he believed that the Mongolian morphology of the Proto-Solutreans could be compared physiologically with that of the Lapps, Finns, and Greenlanders, in other words, the Inuit population of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Thus Pruner became firmly convinced that the antecessors of the Solutreans should be sought, not in southwestern Europe, but as far east as the Altai Mountains of Siberia and Mongolia, a sentiment echoed, as we have seen, in early illustrations of the Solutreans and their Proto-Solutrean ancestors...

If correct, then it seems clear that the Proto-Solutreans and later Solutreans were far more than simply marauding hordes who overtook Europe by force and quickly came to dominate its existing Aurignacian population. They would have been powerful groups of Neanderthal-modern human hybrids who possessed a highly advanced stone tool kit, worked closely with wolves and large canids especially in hunting magic and otherworldly contact, created the first carved stone art, wore tailored clothing, domesticated and rode horses, and carried with them a well-developed cosmology that was both cygnocentric and polarcentric in nature. This last realization seems indicated not just by the astronomy-based cave art at places like Lascaux in southwestern France but also by the swaninspired cosmological beliefs of the Finno-Ugricand Hungarian-speaking peoples of much later ages, all of which can be shown to have firm roots in the Uralic traditions preserved to this day by indigenous populations such as the Mansi and Khanty, whose traditional homeland is in western Siberia.
THE DENISOVAN HORIZON

A major clue as to why the reported Inuit characteristics of the Chancelade individual might be important to our understanding of the Solutreans and their origins in the East comes from a quite extraordinary discovery that might initially seem unimportant to this debate. This is the fact that a recent DNA study of the Inuit of Greenland, headed by integrative biologist Fernando Racimo, Ph.D., of the New York Gene Center, showed that a gene allowing the population to survive the Arctic cold was inherited from an extinct human species known as the Denisovans, whose suspected home was central, northern and eastern Eurasia, southern Siberia in particular. 2 What this means is that at some point in the distant past, the Paleolithic ancestors of the Inuit must have interbred with Denisovans, who had developed this all-important gene across tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years of existence in frozen climates.

DENISOVAN ANCESTRY

The geographical distribution of the Denisovans is a far more challenging proposition. DNA evidence obtained from modern human populations worldwide tells us that the Denisovans, or more specifically their hybrid descendants, were eventually dispersed into several widely different regions of the eastern Eurasian landmass. Denisovan DNA has been traced in ethnic groups in central Asia, southern Siberia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, India, and the Tibetan Plateau, as well as farther east in Melanesia, the Philippines, Australia, and the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific (see fig. 15.1 below). Indeed, among indigenous populations of Australia and Melanesia, in Papua New Guinea especially, the percentage of Denisovan DNA is extremely high, being anything up to 5 or 6 percent. It has also been found in much lower percentages among several indigenous groups in North America, Central America, and South America (see chapters 16 and 23). This tells us that the Denisovans and/ or their hybrid descendants must have entered the Americas before the final submergence of the Beringia land bridge linking Siberia with Alaska around 8500 BCE.

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To date, almost no Denisovan DNA has been found in modern human populations in Africa, southwestern Asia, or Europe (with two exceptions, Greenland, as already discussed, and, as we shall see shortly, Finland). This does not mean it was never there, only that it has not survived to any great degree in modern populations. Indeed, to date very little testing has taken place to establish whether prehistoric remains found in western Eurasia or the Americas possess Denisovan DNA.

The fossil remains of Denisovans found in the cave tell us that the population occupied southern Siberia between circa 287,000 and 45,000 years before the present (see below), a timeframe adequately reflecting the date range of the archaeological layers in which these discoveries were made. Whether the population existed in the region even earlier remains unclear. What we do know, however, is that somewhere around 40,000 years ago, the Denisovans of Siberia disappear from the fossil record and cease to exist as an independent hominin population, leaving only their hybrid descendants to continue their legacy through until the present day.

DENISOVAN-NEANDERTHAL HYBRIDS

In addition to the presence of Denisovans in the Denisova Cave, the discovery of further archaic human fossils, as well as traces of DNA, shows that the site was the home also of Neanderthals, who lived there on and off between 193,000 and 97,000 years ago. Whether or not they occupied the cave alongside the Denisovans at any point is not known, although certainly the two populations co-existed in the same region, and must have interbred on more than one occasion. We know this from the announcement in August 2018 that a two-centimeter slither of long bone found in the Denisova Cave six years earlier, in 2012, is that of a first-generation Denisovan-Neanderthal hybrid teenage girl who lived around 90,000 years ago. The child, given the name Denny by the genetics team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, responsible for sequencing the bone’s genome, was found to have had a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother.

Adding to our knowledge of Denisovan–Neanderthal introgression in southern Siberia was the discovery in the Denisova Cave back in 2010 of a toe bone belonging to a young female Neanderthal (later dubbed the “Altai Neanderthal”), who lived around 123,000 years ago. When the bone’s genome was sequenced it revealed that the girl’s direct ancestors had interbred not only with Denisovans but also with anatomically modern humans. Yet while the introgression with Denisovans had almost certainly occurred in southern Siberia, perhaps even in the vicinity of the Denisova Cave, the introgression with modern humans had taken place, most likely, in southwestern Asia following our ancestors’ earliest excursions outside of the African continent. 12 What this tells us is that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals long before our first encounters with Denisovans.

DENISOVAN GENES

Returning now to the Inuit population of Greenland, we must ask ourselves how they came to inherit not one, but two Denisovan genes. Known to geneticists as TBX15 and WARS
2, they were first identified as Denisovan in origin when in 2012 a team of geneticists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, led by Svante Pääbo, were able to sequence what is today known as the Altai Denisovan genome using the finger bone of the young Denisovan girl found in the Denisova Cave in 2010. This came just two years after the same team, once again led by Pääbo, had successfully sequenced the Neanderthal genome. The TBX15 gene is thought to affect the human body’s response to cold, as well as aid the distribution of body fat, while WARS2 is a protein-coding gene that helps a human bulk up in order to better combat the cold weather.

What’s important about these findings is that even though these genes were found to be common among the Inuit of Greenland, they are relatively rare among other human groups.
Not only does this make it clear that the ancestors of the Inuit interbred with Denisovans, but also that this introgression must have occurred in a region formerly inhabited by this extinct population, or at least their direct descendants. So where might this have been?

In similar with Mongolians, Inuit culture is rooted very strongly in shamanistic traditions involving a powerful belief in magic and the supernatural. Also like various Mongolian tribes, the Inuit have a close relationship to the reindeer, which is linked with the attainment of shamanic journeys. In addition to this, the Eskimo-Aleut languages (as principally exemplified by central Alaskan Yupik) have been found to share a number of important typological traits in common with the Mongolic and Tungusic languages, along with others of a primarily Altaic origin.

SWAN ANCESTRY

What is more, the Inuit, Aleuts, and Yupiks adhere to a belief in what might be described as swan ancestry, derived from the belief in an ancestral mother known as the swan maiden.
This is used to explain the population’s mythical origins, a widespread tradition that almost certainly had its inception in northern Eurasia during the Paleolithic age. Even today, a belief in swan ancestry is common among the Altaian peoples of southern Siberia, and also farther to the east among the Buryat tribes of the Cis-baikal region west of Lake Baikal in southern-central Siberia (see plate 12 and “ Mal’ta Swan Pendants ”). A strong belief in swan ancestry exists also among the inhabitants of central Mongolia.

Pressure Flaking Origins

The importance of these realizations is that prehistoric stone tool specialist Mikkal Sørensen has stated that pressure blade production, which is at the core of the Eastern Gravettian and later Solutrean stone tool industries, emerged first in central Mongolia before being carried across the Ural Mountains westward as “transmitted knowledge.” Thereafter, he says, it was adopted by Swiderian-linked cultures such as the Kunda and Butovo, sometime during the tenth or ninth millennium BCE. In other words, hybrids of a mixed modern human, Neanderthal, and perhaps even Denisovan admixture, whose journey had begun as far east as southern Siberia or Mongolia, might well have been involved in the creation of Göbekli Tepe, a fact that, if correct, would have had a massive impact on myths and legends regarding the semi-mythical founders of civilization in the Near East...

Solutrean-Denisovan Ancestry?

Supporting the idea that Chancelade Man and at least some Solutrean groups might have been carriers of Denisovan DNA is the fact that a small percentage of Denisovan admixture exists among the Finns (the Saami in particular), who obtained around 7 percent of their ancestry from northern Asia.

EUROPEAN DENISOVANS?


Very clearly, the genetic forebears of the Finns entered northern Europe during successful waves of migration from beyond the Ural Mountains, arguably in western Siberia or beyond in the foothills of the Altai Mountains, where encounters with Denisovans and/or their hybrid descendants probably occurred tens of thousands of years ago. Possible evidence of Denisovan migrations westward out of Siberia comes from the discovery of early modern human fossil remains at a cave site in Oase, Romania, particularly the cranium designated Oase 2. It possesses various archaic features, including a sloping forehead, large mandible (lower jawbone), and molar teeth that “exceed the dimensions of any human M3s [third molars] known from the last 500,000 years.” 28 Yet the human remains from Oase are thought to be no more than 34,000 years old, 29 taking them well within the potential time frame of Denisovan–Neanderthal–modern human hybridization in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia...

So both the Solutreans and their Proto-Solutrean forebears are likely to have been not just pronounced Neanderthal–modern human hybrids, but also bearers of Denisovan DNA, their own ancestors having carried this ancestry westward from southern Siberia and Mongolia somewhere between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago. With them went highly specialized stone tool technologies, including the employment of the pressure technique to make blades, bladelets and microblades, along with the widespread use of pressure flaking to reduce the surfaces of bifacial points. Examples of foliate bifaces, that is, bifacial leaf points, have been found at various sites in the Altai region, including some from the Denisova Cave’s Layer 11, which, as we will see shortly, has also yielded up incredible jewelry and artifacts that are today thought to have been fashioned by the region’s Denisovan population.

The Denisovan Bracelet

Another example of the Denisovans’ incredible technological achievement comes from the remarkable arm bracelet found in the all-important Layer 11 of the Denisova Cave. Thought to be around 40,000 to 50,000 years old, this perfectly symmetrical item of adornment (see plate 13 ), worn perhaps by a woman of high status, is made from a translucent form of bottle-green chlorite known as chloritolite. Not only does the choice of stone used to make the bracelet seem deliberate, since it alters color in artificial light, but the nearest sources of chloritolite are in eastern Kazakhstan, hundreds of kilometers to the west. This has led to proposals that trading networks linking the Altai Mountains with Eastern Kazakhstan existed at this time.

What is also remarkable about the Denisovan bracelet is that it displays clear evidence of having been sawed, polished, and, finally, drilled to create a hole through its width, enabling a second object, perhaps a stone ring or disk, to be hung from a cord. Even more incredible is the fact that the hole displays characteristic signs of having been drilled at high speed, something that can only have been achieved using a highly advanced spinning mechanism attached to a drill bit fashioned from a stone much harder than chlorite (which is 2–2.5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness). Nothing quite like this bracelet would again be seen until similarly advanced jewelry began to be manufactured at Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites like Aşıklı Höyük in central Anatolia, some 10,000 years ago. This, of course, was the same culture that built the sophisticated stone enclosures at Göbekli Tepe circa 9600 BCE.
To be continued.
 

Pierre

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I'm halfway through this book and it's really fascinating. The authors try to explain who were Denisovans, their connection to Göbekli Tepe and other neolithic sites. Collins' explanation of the symbology behind the Vulture Stone and Lascaux painting is quite fascinating and in my opinion not less plausible than the Sweatman's one (Collins actually takes into account more elements of the shaft scene of Lascaux and of the Vulture Stone than Sweatman does). Here are some quotes from the book.
I found that Collins brought a lot of interesting information in his books, but I have doubts about the way he connects some dots. The following ideas left me dubious:
- presenting Neanderthals as highly spiritual individuals and the fathers of shamanism. From what I see Neanderthals roamed on Earth for almost 400 ka while their toolkit barely evolved which suggest very limited creativity/spirituality.
- Collins sticks to a very linear/sequential evolution: Aurignacian -> Gravettian -> Solutrean -> Magdalenian while it seems to me that the process is more complex and includes also various group of people being implanted in different places and times.
- Collins assume a linear/sequential spread of beliefs, populations and technologies: location A at time T -> location B at time t+1 etc. while a lot could be explained by pocket of survivors (Atlantis or others) in different locations but who shared similar belief/knowledge.
- Collins focuses of the Cygnus symbology, the sky pole which shamans climb to reach higher sphere. Collins ends up seeing in any prehistoric representation of a bird (duck, vulture, eagle, swan) the same Cygnus constellation and shamanic symbology. Plus, Collins ascribes the same sky pole / axis mundi to artifacts that are 10's of thousand of years apart, while it's very likely that shifts of the geographic pole moved the location of the North star/constellation, which would falsify Collin's theory.
I think Collins bit off more than he could chew. In 200 pages, he tried to explain 300,000 years of worldwide genetic, cultural and geographical changes.
- to my taste, Collins repeats too much that he was the first one to have this or that idea years ago before everyone else.

I kept on reading because he brings up a lot of dates and archeological artifacts that were potentially useful for an article I'm currently writing (3,600 year cometary cycle).

I found the second part (written by Greg Little) better. The topic is more focused: North America, mound culture and giants. The style is more fluid and the proposed theories are more convincing, OSIT
 
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Beau

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Altair

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I found that Collins brought a lot of interesting information in his books, but I have doubts about the way he connects some dots. The following ideas left me dubious:
- presenting Neanderthals as highly spiritual individuals and the fathers of shamanism. From what I see Neanderthals roamed on Earth for almost 400 ka while their toolkit barely evolved which suggest very limited creativity/spirituality.
- Collins sticks to a very linear/sequential evolution: Aurignacian -> Gravettian -> Solutrean -> Magdalenian while it seems to me that the process is more complex and includes also various group of people being implanted in different places and times.
- Collins assume a linear/sequential spread of beliefs, populations and technologies: location A at time T -> location B at time t+1 etc. while a lot could be explained by pocket of survivors (Atlantis or others) in different locations but who shared similar belief/knowledge.
- Collins focuses of the Cygnus symbology, the sky pole which shamans climb to reach higher sphere. Collins ends up seeing in any prehistoric representation of a bird (duck, vulture, eagle, swan) the same Cygnus constellation and shamanic symbology. Plus, Collins ascribes the same sky pole / axis mundi to artifacts that are 10's of thousand of years apart, while it's very likely that shifts of the geographic pole moved the location of the North star/constellation, which would falsify Collin's theory.
I think Collins bit off more than he could chew. In 200 pages, he tried to explain 300,000 years of worldwide genetic, cultural and geographical changes.
- to my taste, Collins repeats too much that he was the first one to have this or that idea years ago before everyone else.

I kept on reading because he brings up a lot of dates and archeological artifacts that were potentially useful for an article I'm currently writing (3,600 year cometary cycle).

I found the second part (written by Greg Little) better. The topic is more focused: North America, mound culture and giants. The style is more fluid and the proposed theories are more convincing, OSIT
Thank you for the comments, Pierre. And the first part of the book written by Collins indeed reads rather like a summary of his previous books which he references a lot. Looking forward to your new article. :-)
 

Laura

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We know that the Neanderthals were not the "fathers of shamanism" because they were hanging around for 400K years, more or less.

The fathers of Shamanism are most likely the Kantekkians who spread rapidly over Russia/Siberia etc and developed all kinds of things that are barely known.

We also know that the Denisovans were around long before the Kantekkians came, also.
 
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