Prehistoric religion


Prehistoric religion
History of religions
founding figures

Anthropology
Comparative religion
Development
Neurotheology / God gene
Origins
Psychology

Prehistoric
Ancient Near East
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Indo-European
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Neopagan
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Prehistoric religion is a general term for the religious beliefs and practices of prehistoric peoples. More specifically it encompasses Paleolithic religion, Mesolithic religion, Neolithic religion and Bronze Age religion.

Contents

Paleolithic

Burial

Intentional burial, particularly with grave goods may be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice (the onset of burial itself being a canonical indicator of behavioral modernity) since, as Philip Lieberman suggests, it may signify a "concern for the dead that transcends daily life."[1]

Animal worship

Picture of a half animal half human being in a Paleolithic cave painting in Dordogne, France which archeologists believe may be evidence for early shamanic practices.

A number of archeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies such as Neanderthal societies may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship. Emil Bächler in particular suggests (based on archeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal bear cult existed (Wunn, 2000, p. 434-435). A claim that evidence was found for Middle Paleolithic animal worship c 70,000 BC originates from the Tsodilo Hills in the African Kalahari desert has been denied by the original investigators of the site.[2][3] Animal cults in the following Upper Paleolithic period, such as the bear cult, may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults.[4]

Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic was intertwined with hunting rites.[4] For instance, archeological evidence from art and bear remains reveals that the Bear cult apparently had a type of sacrificial bear ceremonialism in which a bear was shot with arrows and then was finished off by a shot in the lungs and ritualistically buried near a clay bear statue covered by a bear fur with the skull and the body of the bear buried separately.[4]

Neolithic

There are no extant textual sources from the Neolithic era, the most recent available dating from the Bronze Age, and therefore all statements about any belief systems Neolithic societies may have possessed are glimpsed from archaeology.

The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas put forward a notion of a "woman-centered" society surrounding goddess worship throughout Pre History (Paleolithic and Neolithic Europe) and ancient civilizations, by using the term matristic "exhibiting influence or domination by the mother figure".

However, these views are questioned by the majority of the scientific community. Archaeologist Sarah M. Nelson criticizes Gimbutas suggesting that she used the same techniques used in the past to disparage women but in this case to glorify them, and quotes another archaeologist, Pamela Russell as saying "The archaeological evidence is, in some cases, distorted enough to make a careful prehistorian shudder".[5]

Bronze Age

Bronze Age
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Chalcolithic

Near East (3300-1200 BC)

Caucasus, Anatolia, Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Elam, Jiroft
Bronze Age collapse

Europe (3200-600 BC)

Aegean (Minoan)
Caucasus
Catacomb culture
Srubna culture
Beaker culture
Unetice culture
Tumulus culture
Urnfield culture
Hallstatt culture
Atlantic Bronze Age
Bronze Age Britain
Nordic Bronze Age
Italian Bronze Age

Indian Subcontinent (3300-1200 BC)

China (3000-700 BC)

Korea (800-300 BC)

arsenical bronze
writing, literature
sword, chariot

Iron Age

Reconstructions

The early Bronze Age Proto-Indo-European religion (itself reconstructed), and the attested early Semitic gods, are presumed continuations of certain traditions of the late Neolithic.

Archaeology

Bronze Age Europe

Hints to the religion of Bronze Age Europe include images of solar barges, frequent appearance of the Sun cross, deposits of bronze axes, and later sickles, so-called moon idols, the conical golden hats, the Nebra skydisk, and burial in tumuli, but also cremation as practised by the Urnfield culture.

Iron Age

While the Iron Age religions of the Mediterranean, Near East, India and China are well attested, much of Iron Age Europe, from the period of about 700 BC down to the Great Migrations falls within the prehistoric period. There are scarce accounts of non-Mediterranean religious customs in the records of Hellenistic and Roman era ethnography.

In the case of Circumpolar religion (Shamanism in Siberia, Finnic mythology), traditional African religions, native American religions and Pacific religions, the prehistoric era mostly ends only with the Early Modern period and European colonialism. These traditions were often only first recorded in the context of Christianization.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, "Women in the Stone Age," in the essay "The Venus of Willendorf" (accessed March 13, 2008).

References

  1. ^ Uniquely Human. 1991. ISBN 0674921836. http://books.google.com/books?id=3tS2MULo5rYC&pg=PA162&dq=Uniquely+Human+cognitive-linguistic+base&ei=nNUeR9fmBo74pwKwtKnMDg&sig=3UsvgAnE5B-vzb55I6W6OqqhJy4. 
  2. ^ World's Oldest Ritual Discovered -- Worshipped The Python 70,000 Years Ago The Research Council of Norway (2006, November 30). World's Oldest Ritual Discovered -- Worshipped The Python 70,000 Years Ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2008, fromhttp://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2006/11/061130081347.htm
  3. ^ Robbins, Lawrence H.; AlecC. Campbell, George A. Brook, Michael L. Murphy (June 2007). "World's Oldest Ritual Site? The "Python Cave" at Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site, Botswana". NYAME AKUMA, the Bulletin of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (67). http://cohesion.rice.edu/CentersAndInst/SAFA/emplibrary/Robbins.pdf. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c Karl J. Narr. "Prehistoric religion". Britannica online encyclopedia 2008. http://concise.britannica.com/oscar/print?articleId=109434&fullArticle=true&tocId=52333. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  5. ^ Nelson, Sarah M (2004). Gender in archaeology: analyzing power and prestige. AltaMira Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0759104969. http://books.google.com/books?id=46UlbBqCE9AC&pg=PA130&dq=neolithic+religion&hl=en&ei=B-tJTMb6G4__Ocaw2ZgD&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=pamela%20russell&f=false. 

Sources

  • Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974)
  • Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess (1989)
  • Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991)

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