Evolution of Superstition to Religion (Timeline Exurbs from the book “The Tree of Lies and its Hidden Roots”)

When I describe the evolution of religion, I will use the prefixes (primal, proto, and progressed) for the set of stages of development of religion. My use of primal, proto and progressed as prefixes for subclasses I have organized such as early superstitionism, early religionism and organized religionism all connected parts in the evolution of religion. The “Primal” prefix is meant to express the very basic aspects appear but not yet fully evolved or beginning assemblages are starting to come together but lack form, The “Proto” prefix is meant to express the “earliest form of” or all parts of the earliest aspects are now assembled. And, the “Progressed” prefix is meant to express the “concepts or behaviors more fully solidify” or all parts of the aspects are now further developed from previously assembled concepts or behaviors.

I would first like to point out that there seems to be some scant possible hinting of the earliest pseudo-superstition before 1 million years ago and possibly back to 2 million years ago, yet likely this is not yet full superstitionism and defiantly not religion, but there are still elements there that are forming that will further religions’ future evolution.

This pseudo-superstition starts with symbolic, superstition, or sacralized behaviors that may have been possibly exhibited even if only in the most limited ways at start to further standardize around 1 million years ago with primal superstition. Then the development of religion evolution increased around 600,000 years ago with proto superstition and then even to a greater extent around 300,000 years ago with progressed superstition.

Religions’ evolution moves from the loose growing of superstitionism to a greater developed thought addiction that was used to manage fear and the desire to sway control over a dangerous world. This began to happen around 100,000 years ago with primal religion, next the proto religion stage is around 75,000 years ago or less, the progressed religion stage is around 50,000 years ago, and finally after around 13, 500 years ago, begins with the evolution of organized religion. The set of stages for the development of organized religion is subdivided into the following: the primal stage of organized religion is 13,000 years ago, the proto organized religion stage is around 10,000 years ago, and finally the progressed organized religion stage is around 7,000 years ago with the forming of mythology and its connected set of Dogmatic-Propaganda strains of sacralized superstitionism.

Proto Superstition

600,000 Years Ago – Fire can be said to have a reasonably wide use and possibly being sacralized then, but we do know at some point it was attached to sacredness. At what point in humanoid history did these sacred rituals fully appear? What dreams were dreamed, what stories told around the fire?

Progressed Superstition

300,000 Years Ago – Atapuerca, Spain, evidence of the intentional storing of bones from at least 32 people in a cave chamber pit (may have symbolism of a pseudo womb; put back from where they came from). This behavior suggests a belief that dead humans are not the same as other animals. A stone axe made of red quartzite found exposes some kind of ritual offering for a funeral. If it is so, it would be the oldest evidence of known of sacred funerary practices.

Primal Religion

100,000 Years Ago – Qafzeh cave burial in Israel, modern humans remains stained with red ochre. A variety of grave goods were found at the burial site. 71 pieces of red ocher and red ocher-stained stone tools where found near the bones suggesting ritual use. The mandible of a wild boar was found placed in the arms of one of the skeletons.

Proto Religion

75,000 – 70,000 Years Ago – Blombos Cave, South Africa, two pieces of sacralized rock art composed of red ochre and decorated with abstract crosshatch geometric pattern designed artifacts. Moreover, at the Tsodilo Hills, South Africa, “first evidence of worship” cognitive revolution increases enabling Homo sapiens to do and think more thus increase religious mythologizing. Ritual carvings on a megalithic snake-shaped rock comes out of a cave and link to mythology of modern local people like a mecca of sorts calling it Mountain of the gods. The site had more than 100 multicolored spear points some burned or smashed and 22 tips made from red stone and may have been used in sacrifices which leads to the conclusion of prehistoric religion in an animistic totemism of some kind. The ritualized practices of hunter-gatherer communities commonly recognize natural features seemingly seeing them as places of particular power or mystical essence. A number of these communities also physically altered the landscape by the construction of durable monuments or sacralized unusual natural features that hold special looking shapes. Hunter-gatherer monuments occur on every inhabited continent, from the inuksuit marker cairns of the Canadian Arctic to the stone rows of Australia and the Mesolithic post-holes beneath the Stonehenge parking lot. Furthermore, many of the impressive prehistoric monuments of North America were constructed by societies that had not fully adopted a farming economy. By contrast, in prehistoric Europe, hunter-gatherer monuments are rare and it was early farming communities who began to construct monuments of earth and stone. The significance of these early monuments must be understood against the background of the widespread veneration of natural places. African ethnography exposes the distinction through the contrast between ‘places of power’ and ‘shrines of the land’. In an archaeological context, ‘places of power’ might be manifest as sites of offerings and without the medium of any built structure. Monuments of either ‘places of power’ or ‘shrines of the land’ connect not only to the landscapes in which they were built but also to the people who built and experienced them. The veneration of natural landscape features must stretch far back into the human past and may indeed be a fundamental characteristic of modern human cognition along with the tendency to anthropomorphism.

Progressed Religion

50,000 Years Ago – Marking the transition from earlier in prehistory there is evidence of burial with grave goods and the appearance of anthropomorphic images and cave (like a pseudo womb) paintings may suggest that humans had begun to believe in supernatural beings. Likewise, at this time humans have evolved the traits associated with modern human behavior. Much of the evidence comes from the Late Stone Age sites in Africa. Modern human behavior includes abilities such as modern language, abstract thought, symbolism, and religion. Like most behaviors that are found in societies throughout the world, religion must have been present in the ancestral human population before the dispersal from Africa.

Primal Organized Religion

13,000 – 9,370 Years Ago – Gobekli Tepe, Turkey,  found the “first human made temple” at a Southeast Anatolian site and north of the Harran plain consisting of three circular structures of ritualistically engraved monolithic standing stones making a temple complex. The tall “T” shaped stones are elaborately carved with boars, felines, bovines, scorpions, vultures, and snakes abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars’ broad sides. There is a set of arms and hands seen on the pillars that could be related to a birth, but how it is represented; it seems to allude to possibly showing the concept of a birth through three states or realms. Likewise, the other reliefs (artistic representations) on the T shaped stones may be stylized animal spirits, with the seemingly most symbolically used animal being snakes, which are 28% of the engravings and shows it is more important than other animals. The sacred status of snakes goes back to the oldest place of worship in Africa; it was a natural stone snake rock being worshiped as well as there is a common connection in many mythologies to snakes goddess, part of goddesses, or a familiar for such. That is not to say there are not many snake gods as well. Gobekli Tepe proves proof of complex societies involved in some kind of organized religion before settling into more concentrated sedentary communities. The place where Gobekli Tepe resides is also known as “belly hill” and could have also held a significance long ago, possibly a reference to pregnancy; an interesting thought as a female figure was found connected with felines that may express a connection to one of the later themes associated with an ancestor mother or goddess cult. The throne seated female figure, made probably no later than 10,000 years ago, is carved in containing depictions of felines; this could maybe a proto-Kubaba. Kubaba is a prominent goddess and in Sumerian called Kug-Bau who is the only queen on the Sumerian King list.

Proto Organized Religion

10,000 Years Ago – Turkey, Anatolian Cultural Evolution round this time there is no identifiable community buildings. Presumed family lineage, age- and gender-based social ranking; village management by council and/or chiefs; pottery production. Symbolisms relating to fecundity, life, and death in naturalistic human and animal forms. Local changes in pottery and lithic typologies and technologies reflect changes in subsistence modes. Then around 9,500 – 7,700 years ago – Catal Huyuk, Turkey, is the “first religious created city” settlement where evidence of religious civilization develop likely contains a spiritual center making it a religious temple city. Catal Huyuk which in Turkish Catal is for “fork”, Huyuk for “mound”. Inhabitant’s likely practicing worship in communal shrines, leaving behind numerous clay figurines and impressions of phallic, feminine, and hunting scenes. Catal Huyuk, a town in Southcentral Turkey with an estimated population of 5,000 -10,000 people, is the apparent center of fertility cult and goddess worship. The houses are accessed via their rooftops, were crammed tightly together, and with little evidence of specialization, hierarchy, or elite. A site of this size might be expected to produce evidence of specialization, elite, and large communal areas, rather than the evidence for a fairly even distribution of labor and resource. However, the site does reveal evidence of rich symbolic and artistic actions, including shrine areas, plastered features, bucrania, wall-paintings, figurines, and burials, focused on particular houses, and described as ‘history houses’. Along with goddess and bull cults has been a broader perception of a ‘cult of skulls’ or skull cult. The skull cult has its roots in the Levantine PPNB, with plastered skulls recovered from sites including Jericho, ‘Ain Ghazal, Kfar HaHoresh, and Tell Aswad. Recent excavations have extended this phenomenon into Anatolia, with plastered skulls recovered from Catal Huyuk, and one skull of an adult male, buried in the arms of an adult female at Catal Huyuk. Such plastered skulls were originally believed to venerate elder, male ancestors. However, recent analysis has revealed that many plastered skulls were of children and females which suggest that these were related to ancestors, the ‘ancestor’ category was not one limited to the elder male image. On this same site, one of the oldest known representation of a drum was discovered in a fresco with more than thirty characters, some of which playing percussions, dancing around a huge bull. Two characters hold what looks like musical instruments similar to the malunga or berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument or musical bow, originally from southern parts of Africa. Although the bow is now thought of as a weapon, a 15,000 years old cave painting in France, displays a bow being played as a musical instrument. Also of relevance in Catal Huyuk is a mural where the color of the dancers’ skin seems to say they might belong to different ethnic groups. Some are black, others white, and others half black and white. Blacks are sometimes covered with a leopard skin. Also found at Catal Huyuk are stone and bone figures shaped in the form of feminine and rooms with altars of veneration.  In fact, over 25% of the rooms have altars to a feminine deity. Many of them are linked with images of horns, the horns of the bull. It is a curious anomaly. At first sight, the mother goddess is a symbol of fertility. The horns of the bull are identified with male potency. Yet both are linked in an altar which is seemingly of primary honor to a feminine deity. In Building 42, there was a burial in which a woman held the head of a man. The man’s head had been plastered to create the features of his face and had been painted red; indeed, it had been plastered several times, suggesting that the plastered skull had been retained for some time before burial with the woman. This was a highly charged event, as suggested by the fact that this is the only example of a plastered skull found at the site, and indeed there is only one other example from anywhere in Turkey. The burial was in fact a foundation burial: it had not been dug through the floors of the house, but the floors of the house had been built up above the burial. So this highly charged event had a social significance, the founding of a new house. The event had both practical and religious significance. The religious significance was heightened by the placing in the grave of another remarkable object, the claw of a leopard. The detailed study of the figurines at Catal Huyuk has shown that removable heads and dowel holes in torsos to contain heads were much more prevalent than had been thought. The paintings too show headless bodies associated with vultures. The art from Gobekli Tepe also shows a headless body with an erect penis associated with birds. Overall, it is possible to argue that myths circulated in which heads were removed and carried upward by birds of prey. This process could be reenacted in the removal and replacement of heads on figurines. It seems possible that the process of removing and circulating human heads created ancestors that could communicate with the world of animal spirits (as seen in the artistic renderings of humans interacting with oversized animals at Catal Huyuk) as well as be communicated with by humans (in the caring for and replastering of skulls, and in the reenactment of head removal on figurines). Those studying the figurines have increasingly noted the fascination with body parts, buttocks, breasts, navels and so on. Indeed, the more examples of art found, the more the focus on the human form. It has long been assumed that the primary focus of symbolism at early village sites in the Middle East is a nurturing ‘mother goddess’ who embodies notions of birth and rebirth. But recent finds at both Gobekli Tepe and Catal Huyuk have suggested a link to death and violence as much as to birth and rebirth. Recent finds at Catal Huyuk include a figurine that looks like a typical ‘mother goddess’ from the front, with full breasts and extended belly, but at the back she is a skeleton, with ribs, vertebrae, scapulae, and pelvic bones clearly shown. And in 2004 a grave was found in which a woman held a plastered skull of a man in her arms; she was also found with the only leopard bone ever found onsite, worn as a claw pendant. In fact, there is much imagery and symbolism of death and violence at Catal Huyuk. There are bulls’ heads fixed to walls, and other installations on and in walls, including the tusks of wild boars, vulture skulls, and the teeth of foxes and weasels. The new finds from the earlier sites of Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori in Southeastern Anatolia indicate that this focus on dangerous, wild animals is a central theme of the development of early villages and settled life. Death acted as a focus of transcendent religious experience during the transitions of the early Holocene in the Middle East and that it was central to the creation of social life in the first large agglomerations of people. This is because of the role of dead ancestors in the creation of ‘houses’. Certain houses at Catal Huyuk had many more complete skeletons than there were people who could have lived in those houses. For example, Building 1, which was inhabited for only 40 years by a family-sized group, had 62 burials beneath the floors. It was clear that people had been buried into this house from other houses. So while some houses have no burials in them, the average is 5-8, there appear to be a small number of houses that have 30-62 burials and therefore seem to have a special nature and in the upper levels, there are more representations of women in the figurine corpus. Social status early in the site seems to have focused on wild animals, associated feasts and male prowess, whereas in the upper levels the success of the house was represented by the size of the house, by the centrality of the hearth and by representations of women. The teeth of foxes and weasels, the tusks of wild boars, the claws of bears and the beaks of vultures were placed in protrusions on the walls and also found was a leopard claw and the talons of raptors in burials. So there is a focus on parts of animals that are dangerous or piercing; there is little symbolic emphasis on femurs, humeri, molar teeth, and so on. Dangerous or flesh-eating wild animals and birds are also chosen for representation. The economy at Catal Huyuk is based on domestic sheep and goats, but these hardly appear in the symbolism. At Catal Huyuk many figurines are found without heads, and in one case there is evidence for the intentional severing of a stone figurine head by cutting, probably using an obsidian blade. Archeologists have found numerous obsidian tools that show flattened and abraded edges from working stone surfaces. About a dozen clay figurines have dowel holes, suggesting that the process of removing and keeping heads could be played out in miniature. The ability to remove and replace certain heads might allow for multiple identities and potential narrativization, it has been argued that detachable heads at Catal Huyuk ‘were used to portray a range of emotions, attitudes, or states of being’. There are several bodies with dowel holes than heads made for attachment, which could suggest that the head is more determinative and the bodies are deemed more generic, although this may not imply a hierarchy. Among the figurines, almost all of the examples have detachable heads, are large female forms and depict breasts, and one is androgynous. At lower levels of the site, as already noted, obsidian is present in hoards or caches below the floors. In the upper levels these hoards cease and obsidian becomes more bound by new specialist technologies. Pottery too becomes more complex and more specialized after Level V. It gradually becomes more decorated until, by the time of Catal Huyuk West, 8,000 years ago, it is heavily decorated with complex designs. By this time of the West Mound as well, burial in houses of adults largely ends. It is presumed that burials are offsite and perhaps in cemeteries. Catal Huyuk acts as a bridge between societies in the Fertile Crescent to the east where agriculture and settled life began the earliest, and in societies in Western Anatolia, Greece, and Southeast Europe where agriculture and settled life did not begin until 9,000 years ago with economies that quickly included domestic cattle. To the east, there is more evidence of collective ritual and there are more claims for social differentiation related to ritual. Scholars agree that the major monuments of this area and period from 12,000 – 9,000 years ago, such as the temples of Gobekli Tepe, the towers of Jericho and of Tell Qaramel, the large circular buildings at Jerf el Ahmar and the Skull Building of Cayonu, indicate collective rituals. There is little clear evidence of concentrations of power that depend on or are related to the control of production of the temples. To the west of Catal Huyuk, there is less evidence for large scale rituals, temples, or religious monuments. Indeed, early Neolithic sites to the west of Catal Huyuk are more similar to Catal Huyuk in that the symbolism is often house-based and associated with clearly egalitarian villages. These societies had a fully fledged agriculture in which domestic cattle and sheep played key roles, allowing smaller scale societies to spread over a diversity of environmental zones. It seems that the shifts made at Catal Huyuk around 10,500 years ago contributed to the ability of societies to break out of “history making” toward more flexible and individual house-based production.

Progressed Organized Religion

7,500 Years Ago – Turkey, Anatolian Cultural Evolution round this time animal husbandry and herding become more important economic component. In addition, around 7,500 – 6,500 years ago – The Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) which is more a reconstructed reference grouping concept of similar culture emerged what later would be just Indo-Europeans (IE). The point must be emphasized that PIE is a purely theoretical construct of Comparative Linguistics, and should be treated as such. Though the approach to reconstructing proto-languages was inspired by methods from the pure sciences of the nineteenth century, such as anatomy and biology, the end result cannot be considered in the same scientific light. Pure science involves the independent verification of experiments through a reduplication of their results. The safe estimate for original IE language was spoken around or some time before 7,000 years ago by a people who lived between the Vistula River in Poland and the Caucasus Mountains in the Southwestern USSR (traditional) or in Anatolia in modern day Turkey. Some linguists agreed that they could trace back the origins of this language about 8,000 to even 9,000 years ago. However, researchers at the University of Reading published a report, which finds that Indo-European languages came from a common root, about 15,000 years ago. The origin of this proto-language probably was spoken in and around the area, which is modern-day Turkey, and in to Iraq, which was then known as Mesopotamia. For both the scholar and the amateur, it is always advisable to keep in mind the inherent limitations of PIE studies. Every attempt, then to give absolute dates for ‘PIE’ (or dates for alleged different stages of ‘PIE’) is either based on the speculative identification of an archaeological culture with the speakers of the ‘language of the PIEs’ or on what may be called ‘intelligent guesses’, deliberations of probability and feelings of appropriateness. In other words, the reconstruction of a PIE lexicon and grammar does not necessarily give us the linguistic picture of a group of PIE speakers at one point in time, or even in one location in space. Even an approximate reconstruction of its semantic content may be very difficult. Any given PIE form may have had different meanings at different points in time within the time frame posited for the PIE language. So I am only offer interesting ideas and I am in no way trying to confirm a theoretical construct which would be an over reach but we can utilize to conceive what a seemingly shared set of attributes among peoples entails such as seen in the PIE developed a religion focused on sacrificial ideology, which would influence the religions of the descendent Indo-European cultures throughout Turkey, Europe, and the Indian sub-continent. Proto-Indo-Europeans marked the patriarchalization of agrarian culture. The earliest extant written sources demonstrate that these invading patriarchal peoples accommodated their divinities to those of the indigenous goddess-worshiping cultures, and they did not immediately belittle the importance of the great mother. Instead, the literature from the 5,000 years ago, recorded after the invasions, demonstrates the fusion of the goddess worshiping with the god worshiping culture. Proto-Indo-European religion is the hypothesized religion of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) peoples based on the existence of similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples which we now can hypothesize originates at least to a large extent from Turkey. The Proto-Indo-Europeans were polytheists. They believed in many gods that was referred by one name as well as several different names for a singular god meaning ‘the celestial one, the shining one’. This word is related to another PIE word with the meaning ‘sky, day’ and both of them ultimately stem from a meaning ‘to shine’. There are also other terms for ‘god’ some of the proposed deity names are more readily accepted among scholars than others. The term for “a deity” was deiwos, reflected in Hittite, sius; Latin, deus, Sanskrit deva; Avestan, daeva (later, Persian, divs); Welsh duw; Irish dia, Lithuanian, Dievas; Latvian, Dievs. One common myth, which can be found among almost all Indo-European mythologies, is a battle ending with the slaying of a serpent, or dragon of some sort. Thor vs. Jormungandr, Sigurd vs. Fafnir and Beowulf vs. the dragon in Germanic mythology; Zeus vs. Typhon, Kronos vs. Ophion, Apollo vs. Python, Heracles vs. the Hydra and Ladon, Perseus vs. Ceto, and Bellerophon vs. the Chimera in Greek mythology; Indra vs. Vrtra in the Rigveda; Krishna vs. Kaliya in the Bhagavata Purana; Oraetaona, and later Keresaspa, vs. Azi Dahaka in zoroastrianism and Persian mythology; Perun vs. Veles, Dobrynya Nikitich vs. Zmey in Slavic mythology; Fat-Frumos vs. Zmeu in Folklore of Romania ; Tarhunt vs. Illuyanka of Hittite mythology. Other similar or influenced analogous stories: Anu or Marduk vs. Tiamat in Mesopotamian mythology; Ra vs. Apep in Egyptian mythology; Baal or El vs. Lotan or Yam-Nahar in Levantine mythology; yahweh or Gabriel vs. Leviathan or Rahab or Tannin in jewish mythology; Michael the archangel and jesus vs. satan (in the form of a seven-headed dragon). The idea of the afterworld existed in many Indo-European traditions. Death was conceived as a journey, the expression of ‘going the way of no return’ is found both in Indian epics and in Greek and Latin poetry. Similarly, in a Hittite ritual text it is said of the underworld that ‘what goes in does not come out again’. The later Indian belief in reincarnation or transmigration of souls seems to be in contradiction with the above mentioned expressions. However, the idea of transmigration was known to Greek philosophers, e.g. Pythagoras, and according to Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico it existed also among the druids of Gaul. Therefore, it is difficult to establish if belief in reincarnation was present in Proto-Indo-European religion or not. In several traditions, it was believed that the afterworld was separated from the world of living by water and the soul was transported across the water. In some traditions, the ruler of the afterworld was the ‘twin’ of the cosmogonic myth. As far as the location of the afterworld is concerned, there was such variation that it could be located almost anywhere except east. Other details about the afterworld also varied considerably but it seems that originally there was no concept of punishment for sins or reward for virtue after death among Indo-Europeans. There are at least 40 PIE deities that can be reconstructed both Devi and Deva general words for deities mainly goddess are used in Sanskrit, Avestan and Hindi. Old Avestan (the most ancient scriptures of zoroastrianism) is closely related to Old Persian or Proto-Indo-Iranian religion which is an archaic offshoot of Indo-European religion and also in some extent close in nature to Vedic Sanskrit and Persian ether started the Vedic traditions (hinduism) or highly influenced them. The Indo-European languages are a family of 439 languages and dialects, and 221 belonging to the Indo-Aryan subbranch. Indo-European languages includes most major current and ancient languages of Turkey, languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the Indian Subcontinent. Moreover, the word deva (Sanskrit and Pali) in buddhism is one of many different types of non-human mystic beings who share the characteristics of being more powerful and other words used in buddhist texts to refer to similar supernatural beings are devata “deity” and devaputra (Pali: devaputta) “son of the gods”. In other languages, the derivative word deva “deity” is expressed, such as in Chinese it is tian, in Korean it is cheon, in Japanese it is ten, in Vietnamese it is thien, in Thai it is thevada, in Khmer iti s tep, in Tibetan it is lha, in Mongolian its tenger, and in Myanmar its nat. The concept of devas was adopted in Japan partly because of the similarity to the Shinto’s concept of kami. Nevertheless, when looking into the past one should be careful to not over interpret or engage in Romanticism instead of Rationalism. Unfortunately, there has been relatively cyclical set of thinking changes between rationalism and romanticism in archaeological/culture-historical interpretation, and the corresponding value attached to religion. The fact that the basic motifs in the narrative of the sun journey can be documented independently on metalwork and on rock art, indicates that we are dealing with a shared Bronze Age religion throughout the Nordic realm, albeit with some regional and local variations shared elements, constitute a basic mythological storyline from which local interpretations could be made when it was applied to different media and materials from rock art over metalwork to ship settings and burials.

By Damien Marie AtHope


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