140 Thousand years of foraging gave Homo sapiens some religious concepts. In the Altamura Cave in Spain, we have found paintings from 35,600 years ago.
In the Serra da Capivara National Park in Brazil, there are paintings that show human figures and animals in complex scenarios. These paintings show supernatural beings , hunting, dancing, sexual activity and battle. They depicted animals common to the forest area of the region. The dates of these paintings is in dispute because of the concepts about how soon Homo sapiens got to the Americas.
17,000 year old paintings have been located in the Lascaux Caves in south western France. One of the bulls is 17 feet in length.
Gobekli Tepe, in eastern Turkey, has two sets of art dating to 10,000 – 8,000 years before Christ. In the pre-pottery neolithic A art, 20 circles of 200 megaliths, up to 20 feet tall and weighing up to ten tons, were lifted and fitted into bedrock sockets. These are the earliest megaliths we know about.
In the pre-pottery neolithic B era smaller pillars were erected in rectangular rooms standing on a limestone floor.
These early structures existed before Homo sapiens learned to make pottery and pre dated the start of agriculture. It seems these structures were of importance to the foragers who lived in villages somewhere near this site at least part of the year. Archeologists assume it took 500 people to carve out these pillars and move them from the quarry to the site. By 8.000 BCE the site no longer had relevance to the new residences but they didn’t”t just abandon it to the weather but covered it over with refuse and dirt creating the tell that now exists.
The archeologists assume it was a central location for a cult of the dead and the animals carved on the pillars were there to protect the dead. It seems that the “temple was built before cities were built”. This site is within 20 miles (30 K) of Karaca Dag, where modern wheat was first domesticated.
275 miles to the east of Gobekli Tepe, the society we know as Sumer arose. This civilization began between 4500 – 4000 BCE. They kept their cosmology and mythology alive with aural transmission until the earliest historical records, dating to 2900 BC. The first leaders of Sumer were priests and religious figures and they lived in temples. They mediated with the gods and helped society develop it’s agriculture with irrigation.
This land between the TigrIs and Euphrates rivers is very dry and dusty and as agriculture got started, irrigation was necessary for it’s success.
The Sumerian creation myth believed the universe had come into being through a series of cosmic births. Nammu, the primeval waters, gave birth to Ki, the earth and An, the sky. They mated and Ki produced a son, Enlil, who was the god of air, winds and storms. He separated An and Ki, and carried of the earth as his domain.
An carried off the sky. Nammu and An produced a son Enki, who was the god of water, knowledge, mischief, crafts and creation.
Enki had a consort Ninhursag, the lady of the mountain, she was the mother goddess and made humans from lumps of clay.
They believed in 3 (7) domes in the sky covering a flat earth. These domes were heaven and reserved only for the gods. When a person died, their souls went to Kur, a dark shadowy underworld place, located deep below the earth’s surface. Here the inhabitants were believed to lead a shadowy version of life on earth. All souls went to Kur, and a person”s actions in life had no relationship to their afterlife. These souls ate nothing but dry dust and the family members poured water to the dead through clay pipes. The style of the burial took on some significance in these later years, when those well buried fared better in the afterlife and those poorly buried, haunted the living.
All of Sumer’s religion got extrapolated throughout Mesopotamia, among the Akkadians, to their north, through Assyria to the north west and later through Babylon. The female goddesses got new names, but they always had to do with the essence of mother, and sexuality.
It is possible that the Sumerians had lived along the east coast of the Persian Gulf before it was flooded at the end of the ice age. Their story of the flood seems to have been transmitted to the early parts of the Hebrew Bible.
Two thousand years after Sumer arose, around 2500 BC the temples were replaced as the cultural centers and palaces were built for their military kings, Lu-gals (“man”+ “big”). In Sumer these kings had to intercede with the gods to deliver benefits to the people.
An epic poem called Gilgamesh was written about a likely Lu-gal of Uruk between 2800 and 2500 BC. He was a brutal and oppressive ruler who made his subjects work in forced labor or sexually abused them. An creates a wild man Enkidu. After a prostitute, Shamhat, tames Enkidu, he goes to Uruk to confront Gilgamesh. They fight, but in the end they become friends and travel together all over Sumer.
They cross to the Cedar Forest, guarded by Humbaba. Gilgamesh prays to Shamash, a female goddess, who blows wind into Humbaba’s eyes. He begs for his life, but Gilgamesh kills him.
Gilgamesh comes back to Urdu and Ishtar, a female goddess, asks him to be her consort but Gilgamesh refuses. Ishtar asks An, her father, for the Bull of Heaven which she sends to kill Gilgamesh. Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the Bull and celebrate but Ishtar is furious and demands one of them must die.
When Enkidu dies from a disease sent by the gods, Gilgamesh becomes afraid of his mortality and sets out to find Utnapishtim, the sole survivor of the flood and who is immortal. He travels over great distances and in the end he realizes that he has failed and cannot become immortal.
These tales must have travelled to Ancient Greece, for there are similarities in the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer that mirror Gilgamesh’s story.
Between 1500 and 1200 BC, the prophet Zoroaster is regarded as the founder of the Zoroastrianism, which is the worlds first monotheistic faith. He was born in northeastern Iran or southwestern Afghanistan. His tribe must have had a polytheistic culture similar to early Hinduism.
A look at the map shows the Persians spread the Zaroastrian religion over Asia from the Indus Valley, in India and Pakistan, across Afghanistan, all of Iran and Mesopotamia, across Turkey, to the Aegean Sea, up into Bulgaria and Romania, across Jordan, Palestine and Israel, in Africa, to the west as far as Benghazi, in Libya and up the Nile as far as Khartoum in the Sudan. Persepolis ruled over 50 million people, 44% of the worlds population. The Persian leaders did not force their religion on their subjects but they celebrated it themselves.
The Nile Valley was long used by the Homo Sapiens who left Africa on their way to Europe and the Far East. At the end of the Stone Age, there had been some semi nomadic people, who had started cultivating grain and domesticating animals. Archaeologists found some of their settlements, on the east side of the Nile. near Bandary.
The religion of Neolithic and predynastic Egypt appears to have been animistic nature worship, with each village or town with its own spirit in the form of an animal, bird, reptile, tree, plant or object. The spirit was always in something that played a prominent part in the life of the people of that locality. The spirits fell into two general groups – that which was friendly and helpful, such as cattle or hawks or baboons, or that which was menacing and powerful such as the crocodile, the hippopotamus or snakes. In both cases, the favour of the spirit had to be solicited with a set formula of words and action, and they had to have houses built for them and offerings made to them.
The original inhabitants, 5000-4400 BC, are called, the Badarians. In their cemeteries they buried the dead lying on their left sides, in a fetal position facing the west, covered in a matting. They had fine materials with them, beautiful ceramics, decorated plates and bowls, cosmetic utensils including makeup palettes, decorative combs, female goddesses made of ivory or clay. They had a myriad of naturalistic gods and idols.
The Badarians were overrun by the Amaratians (Naquadi I), who took over the area between 4500-3100 BC and they are credited as being the first Egyptians. They really started to cultivate the fertile land near the river and hunted for meat. They lived in villages and each village had it”s own animal deity which was identified with a clan emblem. From this came the Egyptian nomes with their own totems – the gods of the dynastic pantheon.
HIERAKONPOLIS …. NEKHEN
Here is where the first kings arose in ancient Egypt. These people seemed to wage a battle to control Chaos (ISFT) and tried to bring Order (Maat). This region was first settled about 4500 BCE.
The religion was interwoven into not only the ruling power, but into life itself. The deity of the town was who the people turned to, through the government, to prevent the everyday hazards of living – magic, spells, charms, folklore and amulets. They appealed to the deity for protection against hazards and to intercede on their behalf for anything from the Nile flooding to sowing and harvest to protection from poisonous animals to childbirth.
As the spirits became gods, in each town or village, the deity had its own temple staffed by priests, who dealt with the deity’s daily wants. In return for these services, the god was thought to protect its people, ensuring fertility and well-being. But if the needs weren’t met, the deity might call down wrath on the community in the form of plague or famine or other such natural disasters.
The totemic origin of the Egyptian religion is that of great antiquity. From spirits worshiped through animals, plants and even mountains to being the standard of the town itself, then to being the god of the town. The standard of the nome clearly showed which deity protected the town. And, as the town gained prominence, so too did the town’s standard.
The Amaratian art improved and they made pottery with animals and human figures hunting or praying. The first signs of papyrus bundle boats appeared. The female goddess appeared in multiple settings and bearded male figures were carved into “magic wands”.
Their graves held statuettes to keep them company in the afterlife. The dead were buried with food, weapons, amulets, ornaments, decorated vases and palettes.
By 3500BC, the Naqada II people superceded the Naqadan I. They had mastered the art of agriculture and had begun the use of man made irrigation. They no longer had to hunt for food and they started to live in towns, with a higher density of population than had existed in the villages.
These Gerzean people expanded the artwork that was done, new styles of pottery and copper metalwork was done and they used copper knives.
They traded with far distant peoples for copper and other goods (they traded much further than the previous two cultures) – silver, lapis lazuli, lead, cylinder seals were some goods traded for from Asia and Mesopotamia. Foreign influences through their trading began to show in their style of dress, ornaments and various implements. Radical changes in the design of knives, daggers and pottery were made by the Gerzeans.
They created cast-metal implements and weapons. They created a wide array of animal shaped ceremonial palettes and some shield shaped palettes that were the predecessors of the ceremonial palettes that were used in Dynastic Egypt. They created the images and totems of the Falcon, symbol of the Sun god Ra, and the cow, symbol of the love goddess Hathor.
The graves they created were larger, the dead were not buried in any particular orientation and there was some sign of ritual due to shattered pottery in the graves. The grave goods gave archeologists the sense that classes of people seem to have arisen by this time.
There was a Zoo in NEKHEM about 3400 BCE. The first rulers caught and captured animals that represented Chaos and animals that represented Order. They held them captive and demonstrated the rulers power to preserve order. They were killed when the ruler died. The first animal unearthed was a baboon. They found Hippopotamus and Crocodile and Elephants buried here. This occurred for several generations but later, they created a barricade and gathered the animals and paraded them and ritually killed them to feed the people in the center of Nekhem.
A ritual palace temple with postholes big enough for tree trunks was found in Nekhem, the cult center for Horus of Nekhem. It had a large oval courtyard, surrounded by various buildings and is the forerunner of the royal ritual precincts of the early Dynastic period. This is the root of Egyptian kingship.
The Naqada III had many territorial divisions, known as nomes. They had their own sacred animal or plant that became the totem, fetish or emblem of that territory. This fetish was depicted on the pottery of that nome. These nomes resulted in two states Upper and Lower Egypt. Each state had its own king. Later the Pharos unified Egypt into a national state. In Egypt the Pharaoh was the direct dispenser of all good fortune in the country.
Horus and Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Al Kab, came to represent Upper Egypt. In Lower Egypt, Set and Udjo, the cobra goddess of Buto, were worshiped. In later Egyptian history, the vulture and cobra were united in the royal diadem, to represent dominion over both lands. So when Nekhem became the most powerful town, Horus became the god par excellence. The rulers started to identify themselves as the living embodiment of the hawk god.
The growth of the Egyptian religion is one of the reasons why Egypt ended up with such a complex and polythestic religious system. When a town grew in prominence, so did the god. When the town was deserted, the god disappeared. Only a few of the many deities ended up in the Egyptian pantheon, and even then their popularity waxed and waned through the thousands of years of Egyptian history. Another reason for complexity was when people moved, their god did, too. This meant that at the new town, there was sometimes a battle between the old and new gods – but the Egyptian gods were easily merged, with other gods taking over that god’s attributes and abilities! So it is that some of the ancient gods of Neolithic and Predynastic Egypt came to national prominence are considered to be some of the main gods in the Egyptian pantheon today: Amun of Thebes, Ptah of Hikuptah (Memphis), Horus (the Elder) of Nekhem, Set of Tukh (Ombos), Ra of Iunu (Heliopolis), Min of Gebtu (Koptos), Hathor of Dendra and Osiris of Abydos.
This situation remained through many centuries until some Egyptians became Christians and later the bulk of Egypt became Moslem.
In order to understand what happened in Greece from the Stone Age through to the palaces of the Minoans and the Mycenaeans you will have to do some research on your own, because I can’t do all of that here. A very good starting point is: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~prehistory/aegean/
For early humans living in Europe 35,000 years ago, the climate must have presented extreme hardship and been quite terrifying. Within a few years their climate transformed from one very much like our own to one more like Siberia, with brutally cold winters that eventually lasted through spring and summer. Freezing temperatures prevailed with very little respite. For years, endless snow and ice simply accumulated and deepened, covering Europe with glaciers, forcing many humans to flee, die out, and, thankfully for us, some to adapt.
About 20,000 BCE the landscape was glacier-dominated. A mile-high polar ice cap enshrouded Scandinavia and most of northern Europe. Elsewhere harsh conditions favored grassland that provided fodder for large grazing mammals such as mammoth, bison, aurochs, horses, reindeer and elk. As the ice age started to fade, from glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, the sea level has risen by more than 125 metres (410 ft), with rates varying from less than a mm/year to 40+ mm/year, as a result of melting ice sheets over Canada and Eurasia. Rapid disintegration of ice sheets led to so called ‘meltwater pulses’, periods during which sea level rose rapidly and there was a massive flood in the Persian sea. The rate of rise started to slow down about 8,200 years before present; the sea level was almost constant in the last 2,500 years, before the recent rising trend that started at the end of the 19th century or in the beginning of the 20th.
Agriculture got started in Asia Minor. This start of agriculture came to Greece by migration of Greek speaking people. There were several tribes that entered Greece. The four major tribes described by the Classical Greeks were: the Achaeans, who inhabited the Argolis and Laconia in the Peloponnese, the Aeolians, who lived in Thessaly, the Ionians , who lived in Achaea and Laconia, in the Peloponnese and the Dorians, who lived in Epirus. The Dorians came down into the Peloponnese and drove out the Achaeans from the Argolis and Laconia. They went up to Achaea and the Ionians moved toward Attica and lived there and on many Aegean islands.
In the eastern section of the Peloponnese, there is the Franchthi Cave, near the village of Kolias. Human habitation for this cave exists from 20,000 BC to 3,000 BC. These inhabitants were seasonal hunter gatherers. There is no sign of plant food before 11,000 BC.
The Franchthi Cave is below the S in ARGOULIS.
At any rate, the years rolled by and we got to Neolithic Greece. This period, from 7000 BC saw the spread of agriculture in Greece. You can get some details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic_Greece
These Greek speaking tribes developed the Greek religion and it lasted for more than 1000 years. The Gods were anthropomorphic. They were the highest class of individuals and they lived forever. They had specific areas they controlled and they got involved in Human endeavors. They favored one side or another and they had a great deal to do on how things turned out. There was no church, just altars for the individual god. There was no holy book, like the Bible. People learned about this religion through the poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey from Homer and from Hesiod’s book, Theogony.
You can get a real overview of these Gods by studying this site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_religion
And you can get an overview of the background to the development of these Gods by reading Hesiod’s Theogony and by studying this Family tree of the Greek Gods: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_tree_of_the_Greek_gods
So these Gods led the Ionians who settled in Athens and the Aegean islands to a love for philosophy and rational thought that led to great public education in Greece and the rest of the world.
The Dorians were militaristic and that led to wars in Greece.
The Biblical patriarchs began with Adam and has 20 patriarchs who led to Abram, later called Abraham, then his son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob, also known as Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites. The first ten patriarchs existed before the flood.
By the 21st century, archeologists have given up hope of recovering any contexts that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible historical figures. The Bible places their existence to the 2nd millennial BCE, but scholars have determined that the biblical texts were to Iron Age creations.
The Babylonians and Egypt fought back and forth for about 25 years around 609 BCE. There were 4 deportations of people from Jerusalem sent to Babylon. During this period, the Torah was written and scribes and sages arose in power. This was a shift in Jewish religion away from the tribal temple and into the familial service described by the Torah. Only the tribe of Levi returned to temple worship after the return.
In 539 BCE, the Persian emperor Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem. The story of Abraham was probably written at this time. In the Jewish tradition, Abraham was the most obedient server of God. The Jews who continued to live in Jerusalem during the exodus claimed Abraham as their father and those returning claimed that the Exodus was the start of the national Jewish religion, based on the Torah.
Meanwhile, the Christians claimed Abraham was a “Friend of God” because of his faith in God’s good will. He is celebrated by all Christian churches, but the essence of Christianity is Jesus, the son of God. I assume you know his story.
Islam regards Abraham as one of the prophets in the link between Adam and Muhammad. They see his life as a testament to the oneness of God. They see him as a hanif, a monotheist and as a muslim, one who submits. They see him as a reformer of the Kaabe in his life.
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