- Prehistoric religion
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.
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."
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. 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.
Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic was intertwined with hunting rites. 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.
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".
remains of a fertility statue in the Tarxien Temples ca. 2800 BC
a detail from the Megalithic temple of Mnajdra ca. 2800 BC
Near East (3300-1200 BC)
Europe (3200-600 BC)
- Aegean (Minoan)
- 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)
↓ Iron Age
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.
The Avanton Gold Cone, ca. 1500-1250 BC.
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.
- Scythian mythology (Herodotus)
- Celtic polytheism (Posidonius)
- Paleo-Balkans mythology
- Germanic polytheism (Tacitus)
- Slavic polytheism (Procopius)
- Altaic mythology
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.
- Ancestor worship
- Anthropology of religion
- Bear worship
- Bull worship
- Circular ditches
- Development of religion
- Fire worship
- Horse sacrifice
- Matriarchal religion
- Megalithic tomb
- Moon worship
- Mother Goddess
- Religions (ancient Near East)
- Sacral king
- Sun worship
- Tarxien Temples
- ^ Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, "Women in the Stone Age," in the essay "The Venus of Willendorf" (accessed March 13, 2008).
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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.
- 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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