Ancient rock carvings of strange creatures - hybrids of humans and animals - are considered by many scientists to be "portraits" of shamans and sorcerers dressed in ritual equipment. However, archaeological finds, along with the well-known cases of the birth of people with characteristic physical abnormalities, raise doubts about the indisputability of such an interpretation.
An abundance of mysterious pictures
A huge number of drawings with images of beastmen, made more than 10 thousand years ago, were discovered in Europe, South Africa and Australia. The heads of most of these creatures are decorated with horns of various sizes and shapes.
The renowned expert on prehistoric art, an employee of the Australian Museum in Sydney, Dr. Paul Taiken, in an article published at the end of November 2001 in the authoritative scientific journal New Scientist ("Modern Scientist"), suggested that the figures mentioned are not people, but "Therianthropes are hybrids of people and animals, which reveal to us the picture of the beginning of the formation of modern mankind."
Together with another expert on primitive art, Christopher Chippendale of the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, they conducted the first truly scientific study of ancient therianthropic drawings.
In Europe, including in the famous French Trois-Frères (cave of the Three Brothers), as well as in South Africa and Northern Australia, they studied more than five thousand rock paintings. Moreover, their ancient origin was confirmed by the most modern dating methods.
Who posed for the ancient masters?
Scientists have long come to the conclusion that primitive people painted on the walls of caves what they saw in life: buffalo, horses, mammoths and, of course, their fellows. But then why did these people draw so many therianthropes, most of whom are horned? The study of this problem, along with the above-mentioned scientists, is also engaged in the Polish researcher of historical mysteries Tadeusz Oshubsky.
Here is the general opinion of these experts: until now it was believed that the strange characters of cave art were not therianthropes at all, but the same primitive people, only “working” as shamans and depicted in their “overalls”. As for the horns, they say, from time immemorial, they served as a symbol of belonging to other worlds: in different eras and among different peoples, horns were either attributes of solar and lunar deities of fertility (and in general signs of holiness and beauty), or were identified with evil spirits, aggressiveness, death.
Many thousands of years ago, horns were a common property of all sorts of "wild people" and forest deities, and these creatures did not personify evil - they simply were not like the people of "Cro-Magnon appearance" prevailing at that time. In later times, horned characters were such as the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom and the moon Dzhehuti (Thoth) and the sun god and "the king of all gods, Amon." The warriors of the Gauls, Germans, Goths adorned their helmets with horns. Such decoration symbolized strength, courage, fearlessness.
Women of the African Mursi tribe in traditional horned jewelry
However, the study of ancient legends and traditions, historical documents, as well as a number of details discovered by Taiken, Chippendale and other researchers, allow us to challenge this point of view and suggest that therianthropes-hybrids are actually existing ancestors of modern humans.
In the ruins of the city of Ur, founded by the Sumerians on the territory of modern Iraq about 7000 years ago, archaeologists have unearthed royal tombs, on the walls of which horned and tailed humanoid creatures are depicted. Similar creatures flaunt on Chinese pottery, made around 500 BC.
English researchers John and Caitlin Matthews in the book "The Mythology of the British Isles" describe the sculptural images of the Celtic deity Cernanos, which means "horned", in the form of a mustachioed man with antlers on his head.
Outstanding representatives of ancient culture and science - the poet Ovid, historians Pliny the Elder and Herodotus - mentioned in their writings a tribe of fauns (people covered with wool, with goat beards, horns and hooves), who lived in the deep forest wilds. The Roman consul and writer Philostratus, who lived at the beginning of our era, in one of his books told about the capture and taming of a wild faun in Ethiopia.
And the ancient Greek historian Plutarch describes in detail how the same faun was lured into a trap on the Black Sea coast near the Greek city of Apollonia, on the territory of modern Bulgaria. The strange creature was taken to Rome, where it was repeatedly shown to the Roman nobility during festivals and feasts. Plutarch also writes that, according to legend, the faun, the grandson of Jupiter, was the third ruler of Italy.
Horned people and giants
There is information about horned people from more recent times. It is documented that in the 17th century in the English county of Leicestershire lived Mary Davis with two "ram" horns on her head, and the French historian Collene de Plancy at the beginning of the 19th century wrote about a horned monk from the monastery of Saint-Justine.
And here are two more facts. In the 80s of the XIX century in the USA, on the territory of Tioga Point in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, an expedition led by historian Dr. J. P. Donahue, as well as professors: A. B. Skinner of the American Museum of Research and W. K. Morehead of Phillips Academy was excavating an earthen mound. Inside was the burial of the remains of 68 people, dating back to 1200. Judging by the skeletons, the buried were real giants, their average height was more than two meters. But most of all, the researchers were struck by the skulls: on some of them, bony outgrowths, that is, horns, protruded on the sides.
And in 1903, at one of the mines near the American city of Isola, Kansas, before dawn, a horned, long-haired humanoid creature with burning red eyes suddenly appeared, causing panic among the night shift workers. This case is described in the book "More than …" by journalist and writer Richard Lazarus.
Thus, the real existence of horned people can be considered indisputable, and as for the presence of hooves and tails, this question still remains open "for lack of material evidence."
Warriors in bearskin
In search of an answer to the question posed in the title of this article, it is appropriate to pay attention to the following information.
At the turn of the X-XI centuries, the Rostov prince (later - the Grand Duke of Kiev) Yaroslav the Wise, circling his possessions, came across a settlement of unknown pagans, who were in animal guise. The nasty ones attacked the princely squad with a pack of terrible war dogs led by a huge bear.
But the prince's squad overcame this animal flock. The victory was recognized so honorable that in 1010 a city named after the prince - Yaroslavl was laid to commemorate it.
In Europe, warlike male beasts appeared at the beginning of our era. They went into battle naked, only throwing a wolf or bearskin over their shoulders. For this they were nicknamed berserkers ("berserker" means "bearskin"). The warring parties often resorted to the help of berserkers. The VIII century historian Paul the Deacon reports that the Germanic tribe of the Lombards, when faced with superior enemy forces, spread a rumor that the "dog-heads" were rushing to their aid. Hearing about this, the enemy often retreated, not accepting the battle.
The first Europeans to settle in America were surprised by the strange customs of local residents. Young men who reached the age of majority went in search of a personal patron spirit. Finding themselves in a fairly uninhabited area, young Indians began to subject themselves to cruel and very sophisticated torture. For example, one English missionary witnessed how a young man pierced his own side through, passed a rawhide buffalo leather belt through the wound, and hung himself on it from a nearby tree.
Indian god Ganesha
In this position, the young man remained until the image of a patron spirit appeared before his eyes. Usually some strong and fearless animal became it. From that moment on, a mystical connection was established between the young man and the spirit, lasting until the hour of death.
And in Africa, every tribe living in the Congolese or Guinean jungle, from time immemorial, has its own patron, most often appearing in the form of a predatory beast-progenitor. Ordinary mortals communicate with his spirit during ritual dances, which are led by a sorcerer dressed in the skin of this beast.
The American Harry Wright, who visited the Jackal Tribe, wrote: “That was the most unpleasant part of the ritual. In the dance, they growled, threw themselves at one another, then dropped to all fours and began to sniff each other. Suddenly something dark flew into their circle. At first I thought it was one of the dancers, but then I saw that it was a real jackal. He ran among the dancers, growled and rushed at them. It all ended in a wild orgy."
In order for the patronage of a jackal or, say, a leopard to extend to every man of the tribe, he had to undergo a rite of passage. It was led by a sorcerer, dressed in the skin of this beast. During the ceremony, young men were necessarily tested for endurance to physical pain - for example, they could have their foreskin or front teeth removed.
The sorcerer and several of his assistants formed secret alliances. Knowing full well which of the tribesmen was not capable of repelling them, these people in animal skins burst into dwellings at night, kidnapped children and sold them into slavery. And bloody massacres were often arranged over the disobedient. For example, the "people-leopards from Dahomey" tore the bodies of their victims with hooks that left terrible wounds, like from the claws of a leopard.