Technological Analysis of the World's Earliest Shamanic Costume: A Multi-Scalar, Experimental Study of a Red Deer Headdress from the Early Holocene Site of Star Carr, North Yorkshire, UK

Aimée Little, Benjamin Elliott, Chantal Conneller, Diederik Pomstra, Adrian A Evans, Laura C Fitton, Andrew Holland, Robert Davis, Rachel Kershaw, Sonia O'Connor, Terry O'Connor, Thomas Sparrow, Andrew S Wilson, Peter Jordan, Matthew J Collins, André Carlo Colonese, Oliver E Craig, Rebecca Knight, Alexandre J A Lucquin, Barry TaylorNicky Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shamanic belief systems represent the first form of religious practice visible within the global archaeological record. Here we report on the earliest known evidence of shamanic costume: modified red deer crania headdresses from the Early Holocene site of Star Carr (c. 11 kya). More than 90% of the examples from prehistoric Europe come from this one site, establishing it as a place of outstanding shamanistic/cosmological significance. Our work, involving a programme of experimental replication, analysis of macroscopic traces, organic residue analysis and 3D image acquisition, metrology and visualisation, represents the first attempt to understand the manufacturing processes used to create these artefacts. The results produced were unexpected-rather than being carefully crafted objects, elements of their production can only be described as expedient.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0152136
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, Little et al.


  • Mesolithic, hunter-gatherer, Star Carr, Headdress, shamanism

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