Author of the Month

Astronomers of the Ice Age

By Sharif Sakr, August 2000

Additional note by Graham Hancock

ShamanIn 1992 I was faxed an interesting piece of information about the Lascaux cave figures. The information was from a book by Belinda Gore entitled Ecstatic Body Postures: An Alternate Reality Workbook. Gore is a student of anthropologist Dr Felicitas Goodman who "has spent many decades collecting the postures from the art of hunter-gatherer peoples worldwide, having her students try them out to the rhythmic beat of a rattle, and record the results."

Gore draws special attention to the figure of the strange bird-man hybrid in the "Shaft of the Dead Man" and criticises the interpretation given to it by orthodox scholars:

"A ritual body posture identified among the cave drawings was depicted as a stick figure lying in front of a giant auroch. Various archaeologists speculated that either he had been killed by the aurochs or the drawing related to some kind of hunting magic.

Osiris"From the perspective of ecstatic trance, neither of these explanations is correct. First, the man is not dead... Second, the man's head is a bird mask, and beside him stands a staff with a bird at its head. These suggest that the man is a shaman, journeying as a bird into the Sky World, perhaps with the assistance of a bird who is his spirit helper.

"This was the first spirit-journey posture identified by Dr Goodman, and it was a credit to her skills in observation that she noticed that the body of the shaman was not lying flat. It was, instead, lying at a 37-degree angle. This very precise angle was a hallmark of spirit-journey postures performed by hunters, especially for journeying to the Sky World. For example, this same posture turned up 12,000 years later in Egypt in a drawing of Osiris. [Emphasis added]. Osiris underwent a typical shamanic initiation in which his body was dismembered and then reassembled by his sister before he made his spirit journey to the Upper World. In the drawing Osiris was lying at the same 37-degree angle as the Shaman in the Lascaux cave..."

Shaman SchematicThe similarity of the two figures is, in my view intriguing, especially when we consider the sky religion of the ancient Egyptians and their desire to be transformed into stars after death.

Perhaps Lascaux shows us not only that the constellations were recognised 16,500 years ago but also that sophisticated spiritual ideas have much more ancient origins than has previously been believed.

Another point to note on this matter is raised by my friend John Anthony West in his wonderful book Serpent in the Sky. He shows that complex mathematical proportions are encoded within the posture of the Egyptian figure and that it yields the "Pythagorean" 3:4:5 triangle thousands of years before Pythagoras.

Perhaps the roots of such mathematics are even more ancient than the Egyptians?

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