Have you ever wondered about what society—early society—was like before religion appeared?
Thanks to many discoveries made in the past few decades, we have come to understand that mankind has existed on earth much sooner than written history—and religion for that matter—tells us.
So, before humanity started dividing and worshiping different Gods, what where we really like?
We must distinguish the historical origins of religion from its psychological or sociological roots.
The first religious behavior that appears in the course of human evolution is likely to be relatively recent—researchers say the Middle Paleolithic—and constitutes an aspect of behavioral modernity that it seems surely at the same time as the origin of the language.
Many researchers note how evidence of religious behavior in the first humans pre-Homo sapiens is irrefutable.
Scholars point to intentional burials, particularly those that include a series of artifacts buried together with an individual, which can be considered as one of the first detectable forms of religious practice, since, it may illustrate a “concern for the deceased that transcends daily life.”
Evidence suggests that the Neandertals were the first hominids to intentionally bury the dead.
Examples of this are the Shanidar in Iraq, the Kebara Cave in Israel and Krapina in Croatia.
Some scholars claim, however, that these bodies may have been manipulated for secular reasons, despite the fact, there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.
Archaeologists propose that Middle Palaeolithic societies, such as Neanderthal societies, may have practiced a form of totemism or zoolatry, apart from their burials, which many believe were religious in nature.
However, scientists note that while religious behavior varies widely among different cultures around the globe, in a broad sense, religion is a universal cultural identity found in all human populations.
But, where did it all start?
Oxford Study: mankind is ‘hardwired’ to be religious, and the cause of this is EVOLUTION
A study by Oxford University experts suggests that mankind is ‘hardwired’ to be religious, and the cause of this is EVOLUTION. As noted by Dominic Johnson, an expert in evolutionary biology and in international relations from Oxford University fear of gods could have helped shape mankind into what we are today. This means that Religion could very well be the result of evolution.
Storytelling, myths, and bonding, as foundations to complex religions?
A new—fresh insight—is offered by experts from the UK, who suppose that the exchange of traditional tales among ancient peoples served as a “universal” instrument for the establishment of relations between different tribes.
They call it ‘the diplomacy of prehistory.’
Anthropologists at University College London reveal that the stories and myths of ancient peoples served as a means of uniting the population, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Many anthropologists accept the theory that religions appeared with the objective of maintaining social order and strengthening the links between members.
However, according to a new study, the ancient peoples had other ways to establish relationships, since the first religions appeared some 13,000-15,000 years ago.
One of the co-authors of the study of the British university, Andrea Migliano, looked into the life of an indigenous tribe of the Philippines, the Agta: they are hunters and gatherers and live oblivious to new technologies, and modern society.
The research explored the impact of storytelling on hunter-gatherer cooperative behavior and the individual-level fitness benefits to being a skilled storyteller.
In order to understand the behavior of society and religion, researchers from the UK asked the Agta to tell them stories and traditional fables of their tribe and noticed that most of the stories centered around the value of cooperation, the importance of social norms, gender equality and the prohibition of the use of violence as an instrument for the solution of conflicts.
Furthermore, the best narrators of stories, both men, and women, have advantages within their tribe.
The other members respect them especially and have on average 0.5 children more than the others.
Also, scientists estimate that the tradition of storytelling served as a prototype to the religions that would appear later.
The researchers concluded how “skilled storytellers are preferred social partners and have greater reproductive success, providing a pathway by which group-beneficial behaviors, such as storytelling, can evolve via individual-level selection.”
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.