The Sacred and Ancient Legacy of our Feathered Friends

The Sacred and Ancient Legacy of our Feathered Friends

Although lions, tigers and other ferocious man-eaters were hunted and subsequently ritualized by shamans who attempted to internalize the energy of these different animals, throughout the ages birds of all shapes and sizes also played central roles in shaping ancient rites and religious beliefs. However, tiny bird bones and feathers are often sidelined during excavations of vast gold-filled tombs and Paleolithic hunter burial sites, but nevertheless, the practice of using birds in ancient rituals holds volumes of data about ancient humans’ understanding of the cycles of nature.

This ancient Cascoplecia “unicorn fly" lived 100 million years ago in Burma at the same time as the bird with decoy feathers. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This ancient Cascoplecia “unicorn fly" lived 100 million years ago in Burma at the same time as the bird with decoy feathers. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

100-Million-Year Old Decoy Feathers

Recently a team of researchers led by paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing studied 31 pieces of 100-million-year old Myanmar amber (commonly known as Burmese amber) containing feathers from the Cretaceous period with 3-D technology.  They were astonished to discover everything they assumed about Cretaceous feathers was wrong. A 2018 Science Alert article by science correspondent Michelle Starr discussing the study explains that previously: “it was assumed that ancient birds had tail streamers for the same purpose as their modern cousins; to look good, especially during courtship.” But the scientists discovered these ancient feathers were far from colorful and built unlike anything today, leading to the conclusion that the feathers would have dislodged easily for quick removal acting like decoys so that their lengths coaxed predators to grasp their tails rather than their bodies.


Become a member to read more OR login here