Prehistory of Religion

Hunting • • • •

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Culture Ice Age: large mammals dependable source of food Hunting favors increased cranial capacity Leads to Gender Differentiation: dominant male group Violence of hunt threatens stability of community o Killing becomes a SACRED act  RITUAL: community controls killing  SACRIFICE: communal killing ritual dissipates group friction  MYTH: explains origins, details of ritual (ETIOLOGY) o AUTHORITY over sacred realm exercised by leaders,  

Attributed to GOD(s), ANCESTOR-HEROES Supernatural authority extends to social and natural phenomena generally AGRICULTURE: new technology introduces new elements (DEATH/REBIRTH cycle) • Sedentary societies establish CIVIC RITUALS o Rituals that encompass the whole state Basis for model • ARCHAELOGY (objective criteria): artifacts; carbon dating, tree rings, etc. • ANTHROPOLOGY (subjective criteria): comparison of periods, cultures, • linguistics (combines subjective & objective criteria) 200,000 – 40,000 BP: Middle Paleolithic: Neanderthals 100-40,000: emergence of Modern Humans (Cro-Magnons) 40,000 – 13,000 BP Last Ice AGe Cro-Magnon innovations

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ever more sophisticated stone tools: new tool materials used (such as bone) musical instruments (clay flutes) definite art; jewelry evidence of counting, calendar (tally sticks) use of ropes, fibers, needles, awls multi-part tools (such as the atlatl and the mano and the metate) more complex burials; evidence for more complex spiritual beliefs

13,000 BP beginning of current interglacial period (Mesolithic) • 10,000 earliest evidence of bow and arrow 9,000 (in Near East) – 3,000 BCE (northwest Europe) • emergence of agriculture • land requirements go down “Neolithic Revolution” (from around 9,000 BCE) New technologies • Genetic engineering (selective breeding) o Crops: wheat, barley, oats; rice; maize, squash, potato (seed, sowing, harvest; fallow) o Animals: dogs, goats, sheep (tending, feeding; fertilizer) • Time reckoning: arithmetic, record-keeping, projection into future • Monumental building (ex: Stonehenge, calendar and sacred complex) Permanent settlements: villages and towns (dozens to hundreds of people) • Diversified year-round economy Effects of agriculture-dependence on societies • Increased population: subsistence on ~10X less land / person cp. With hunting culture • Social roles

o Diversified: farmer / defender / citizen o Specialized: rulers, priests; craftsmen o Gender: women’s roles in Neolithic economy • Trade: surplus, storage, transport, protection Diffusion • Slow spread from “fertile crescent” (9,000 BCE) to Europe (5,000 in Greece) • Persistence: “barbarians” who attack Rome, etc Parallel developments: china, Mesoamerica Relationship between religion and society • A general principle o Changes in religious practice with changes in culture at large Relationship to hunter culture • SYNCRETISM: adaptation of pre-existing practice to new culture contexts • Ex: “Venus Figures” Neolithic innovations • Death-rebirth cycle: crops as metaphor for human life and vice versa • Monumental architecture (sacred calendar) • Cities (civic ritual) o Catal Huyuk in modern Turkey (~7,000 BCE)  5-10,000 people, evidence of social differentiation  religion: shrines, altars, paintings; Venus-figures  blend of wild and domestic symbols (wild bull horns)  burial: vulture symbol; plaster heads (ANCESTOR HEROES?) o solar temple on island of Malta  monumental temple-calendar; Venus-figures

27/08/2007 12:54:00

27/08/2007 12:54:00