In this case, the shaman was a woman.
"I wasn't surprised that the shaman was a woman, because women have often taken on shamanistic roles as healers, magicians and spiritual leaders in societies across the globe," lead author Natalie Munro told Discovery News.
Munro, a University of Connecticut anthropologist, and colleague Leore Grosman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem excavated and studied the shaman's skeleton and associated feasting remains. These were found at the burial site, Hilazon Tachtit cave, located about nine miles west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
According to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the grave consisted of an oval-shaped basin that was intentionally cut into the cave's floor.
"After the oval was excavated, the sides and bottom of the floor were lined with stone slabs lined and plastered with clay brought into the cave from outside," said Munro.
The 71 tortoise shells, previously butchered for meat removal, were found situated under, around and on top of the remains of the woman. The woman's skeleton indicates she suffered from deformities that would have possibly made her limp and "given her an unnatural, asymmetrical appearance." A large triangular stone slab was placed over the grave to seal it.