The article deals with the ancient roots of shamanism according to the materials of the petroglyphs of the Upper Amur, Aldan and Olekma of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age (2000–1000 BC) with the ethnographic parallels. In order to analyze the material, the author uses a set of methods – diachronic archaeological and ethnographic comparative research, iconographic and semantic analysis. According to the petroglyphs of the 11 images of shamans of the specified period, and two of the 18th century, describing the personality of shamans with ritual paraphernalia – a suit, a tambourine, a mallet, a baton, masks and a headdress. Two images in costumes were also dressed in masks of the supreme gods of heaven and thunder. All shaman figures are painted in the process of ritual actions. There are hunting rituals, ritual of receiving the heavenly grace of the calendar type, circular dances associated with the cult of the sun at the new year’s holiday, the ritual of seeing the soul into the world of the dead and the shaman's initial ritual of sacrifice to the spirits to strengthen the shaman's power depicted among the shamanistic rituals on the petroglyphs. The vast majority of the considered images of shamans with attributes and costumes, shamanistic rituals depicted in the petroglyphs of the Upper Amur and Aldan rivers have direct correspondences in the shamanism of the Tungus-Manchu peoples (Evenki, Nanai, Udege), which indicates a possible direction of cultural genesis in the region. In addition, some of the images have parallels with the spiritual culture of the ancient Indo-Europeans and Turkic-Mongols. Some images – radiant headdress, figures of thunderbolts – have analogies among the ancient Indo-European population of Karakol and Pribaikalye. Separate stories are genetically related to the Okunevites. Shamanic tambourines with vertical rungs are typical for the Altai and Tuvinians and were found in the Yakut group of Evenks.

Keywords: petroglyphs, Upper Amur, Olekma, Aldan, Bronze Age, early Iron Age, shamanism, shamanistic paraphernalia, shamanic rites

DOI: 0.22250/2072-8662.2019.3.53-61

Download the paper (PDF)

About the author 


Tatiana Yu. SemPhD (History), Leading Researcher at the Russian Museum of Ethnography; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.