Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago
75,000 – 70,000 Years Ago – (South Africa), found engraved pieces of sacralized rock art composed of red ochre and decorated with abstract pattern at Klein Kliphuis, Wonderwerk Cave, Klasies River Cave like those mentioned earlier at Blombos Cave. 70,000 Years Ago – Tsodilo Hills (Southern Africa), found the “first human worship” of a megalithic serpent/ python /snake-shaped rock with ritual carvings on it in python cave or rhino cave. The large python looking stone item monument comes out of a cave and links to mythology of modern local people like a mecca of sorts calling it mountain of the gods. The worship has a greater conformation of worship such as offerings such as 100 multicolored spear points some burned or smashed and 22 tips made from red stone, which leads to some kind of proto early religion, animistic mysticism or totemistic supernaturalism. Hunter-gatherer monuments occur on every inhabited continent, such communities commonly recognize natural features seeing mystical essence, physically altering them to ritual emphasis understood as veneration of natural things or places. African ethnography exposes the distinction through the contrast between ‘places of power’ and ‘shrines of the land’. Monuments of either ‘places of power’ or ‘shrines of the land’ connect not only to the landscapes but may indeed be a fundamental characteristic or tendency to anthropomorphism. I would like to highlight the possible continuing theme of shake sacralization that is seen at the first human worship of a megalithic stone snake located in South Africa; which is similar to the seeming snake reverence at Gobekli Tepe, the first human made temple located in southeast Turkey, with an extra significance of sacralized snakes, even some seeming to suggesting a believed magical connection to women and birth. This python cave with the megalithic snake-shaped rock in the Tsodilo Hills is a long list thing of worship but the theme is quite alive and well seen in how the area is still venerated as the “Mountains of the Gods” and python is one of the most important animals by the San people (or Bushmen), various indigenous hunter-gatherer people basically from Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa. What is similarly intriguing is how the San people’s myth of humanities conception involved a python (seeing to show a birth connection theme with snakes) and streams around the hills are sacralized as having been created by the python as it circled the hills endlessly searching for water. DNA tests show that the ancestors of today’s San hunter-gatherers seem to have separated from other human populations in Africa about 200,000 years ago, to then become genetically isolated around 100,000 years ago, when humans where still confined to the African continent. It is speculated the split involved two separate populations where the San hunter-gatherers evolved in isolation until they came started to come back together about 50, 000 to 40,000 years ago, reforming a single pan-African human population. Also of note found artifacts dating to around 44,000 years ago, demonstrating some of the earliest evidence for modern human behaviors, at a time close to the remerging of all humans demonstrates ancient hunter-gatherer’s tools of southern Africa are almost identical to ones used by modern San hunter-gatherers.
By Damien Marie AtHope
Insoll, T. (2012). The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of ritual and religion. Oxford, United Kingdom. Oxford University Press.)
Per .sciencedaily.com, “A startling archaeological discovery this summer changes our understanding of human history. While, up until now, scholars have largely held that man’s first rituals were carried out over 40, 000 years ago in Europe, it now appears that they were wrong about both the time and place. Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the University of Oslo, can now show that modern humans, Homo sapiens, have performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years. She has, in other words, discovered mankind’s oldest known ritual. The archaeologist made the surprising discovery while she was studying the origin of the Sanpeople. A group of the San live in the sparsely inhabited area of north-western Botswana known as Ngamiland. Coulson made the discovery while searching for artifacts from the Middle Stone Age in the only hills present for hundreds of kilometers in any direction. This group of small peaks within the Kalahari Desert is known as the Tsodilo Hills and is famous for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world. The Tsodilo Hills are still a sacred place for the San, who call them the “Mountains of the Gods” and the “Rock that Whispers”. The python is one of the San’s most important animals. According to their creation myth, mankind descended from the python and the ancient, arid streambeds around the hills are said to have been created by the python as it circled the hills in its ceaseless search for water. Sheila Coulson’s find shows that people from the area had a specific ritual location associated with the python. The ritual was held in a little cave on the northern side of the Tsodilo Hills. The cave itself is so secluded and access to it is so difficult that it was not even discovered by archaeologists until the 1990s. When Coulson entered the cave this summer with her three master’s students, it struck them that the mysterious rock resembled the head of a huge python. On the six meter long by two meter tall rock, they found three-to-four hundred indentations that could only have been man-made. “You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real python. The play of sunlight over the indentations gave them the appearance of snake skin. At night, the firelight gave one the feeling that the snake was actually moving”. They found no evidence that work had recently been done on the rock. In fact, much of the rock’s surface was extensively eroded. When they saw the many indentations in the rock, the archaeologists wondered about more than when the work had been done. They also began thinking about what the cave had been used for and how long people had been going there. With these questions in mind, they decided to dig a test pit directly in front of the python stone. At the bottom of the pit, they found many stones that had been used to make the indentations. Together with these tools, some of which were more than 70,000 years old, they found a piece of the wall that had fallen off during the work. In the course of their excavation, they found more than 13,000 artifacts. All of the objects were spearheads and articles that could be connected with ritual use, as well as tools used in carving the stone. They found nothing else. As if that were not enough, the stones that the spearheads were made from are not from the Tsodilo region but must have been brought from hundreds of kilometers away. The spearheads are better crafted and more colourful than other spearheads from the same time and area. Surprisingly enough, it was only the red spearheads that had been burned. “Stone age people took these colourful spearheads, brought them to the cave, and finished carving them there. Only the red spearheads were burned. It was a ritual destruction of artifacts. There was no sign of normal habitation. No ordinary tools were found at the site. Our find means that humans were more organised and had the capacity for abstract thinking at a much earlier point in history than we have previously assumed. All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape.” says Sheila Coulson. Sheila Coulson also noticed a secret chamber behind the python stone. Some areas of the entrance to this small chamber were worn smooth, indicating that many people had passed through it over the years. “The shaman, who is still a very important person in San culture, could have kept himself hidden in that secret chamber. He would have had a good view of the inside of the cave while remaining hidden himself. When he spoke from his hiding place, it could have seemed as if the voice came from the snake itself. The shaman would have been able to control everything. It was perfect.” The shaman could also have “disappeared” from the chamber by crawling out onto the hillside through a small shaft. While large cave and wall paintings are numerous throughout the Tsodilo Hills, there are only two small paintings in this cave: an elephant and a giraffe. These images were rendered, surprisingly, exactly where water runs down the wall. Sheila Coulson thinks that an explanation for this might come from San mythology. In one San story, the python falls into a body of water and cannot get out by itself. The python is pulled from the water by a giraffe. The elephant, with its long trunk, is often used as a metaphor for the python. “In the cave, we find only the San people’s three most important animals: the python, the elephant, and the giraffe. That is unusual. This would appear to be a very special place. They did not burn the spearheads by chance. They brought them from hundreds of kilometers away and intentionally burned them. So many pieces of the puzzle fit together here. It has to represent a ritual.” concludes Sheila Coulson. It was a major archaeological find five years ago that made it possible for Sheila Coulson to date the finds in this little cave in Botswana. Up until the turn of the century, archaeologists believed that human civilisation developed in Europe after our ancestors migrated from Africa. This theory was crushed by Archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood when he published his find of traces from a Middle Stone Age dwelling in the Blombos Cave in Southern Cape, South Africa.” – sciencedaily.com
Per Dr. Heather Lynn, “The Tsodilo Hills Site is known for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world. To this day, the Tsodilo Hills are sacred to the local San people, who call them the “Mountains of the Gods.” The San people also still consider the python as their most sacred animals. According to their creation myth, man descended from the python in the sky. The streambeds around the hills are believed to have been created by the python as it circled the hills looking for water. In order to get a San guide into the hills, one must first gain permission from the ancient serpent. Even after permission has been “granted” by the python god, reaching the cave is no easy feat. It is extremely difficult to access and so secluded, that it was not even discovered by archaeologists until the 1990s. At the site, there are two rock paintings on one side of the cave and a rock with a three-to-four hundred man-made indentations in it. This strange rock resembled the head of a large python, measuring six meters in length and two meters in height. With the sunlight glistening on the indentations, it gives the appearance of snake skin. An even more stunning site is at night, when the radiant glow of firelight bounces and flickers on the “scales” of the python, giving the feeling that the snake is undulating through the darkness. To find out more about what specific rituals may have been performed at the site, archaeologists dug a test pit in front of the python stone. There, they uncovered a number of the stones that were likely used in the making of the indentations. These stones, as well as ancient tools, dating to at least 70,000 years ago, were found with more than 13,000 artifacts. An even more interesting detail, is that the spearheads were made from material not from the Tsodilo region, but from areas much further away, indicating these were indeed, special. Additionally, the spearheads found were of better quality and more colorful than other spearheads from the same region and era. Archaeologist found that only the red colored spearheads had been burned. They theorized that the early inhabitants of this site took an assortment of colored spearheads to the cave where they would finish carving them. Then, they would perform a ritual burning of the red ones. Given the absence of any other artifact type at the site, it is believed that no one lived here. Much like Göbekli Tepe, there are no signs of cooking hearths or other evidence of domestic life at the site. Rather, it points to the site as serving a special ritual purpose. All of this points to the idea that early humans were capable of abstract thinking, much earlier than previously accepted. Moreover, behind the python rock is a secret chamber, believed to be accessed only by a shaman. It is there, that he may very well have hidden and spoke to pilgrims from his hiding place. From his vantage point, he would have had keen view of the comings and goings of people around him. He would also be in complete control, as the illusion would have been mesmerizing to an early human ancestor, having never before seen our experienced such a thing. Just imagine for a moment you are an early human ancestor, approaching the summit after a long journey. Here, you catch a glint of light jutting off of what appears to be one of the most universally dreaded creatures in natural human history; the serpent. Although trembling in fear, you proceed. After all, this is what you came here for. Perhaps you are bringing your spearheads to be blessed so that you have luck in the hunt. Maybe you seek healing; a common association with serpent symbolism. As you stand in awe and reverence at the serpent, a low, cavernous voice bellows out to you. You would be in a highly suggestible state, having been scared and manipulated into submission to the will of the great serpent. Had you been a cleverer fellow, you may have had some suspicion. Maybe you are brave and decide to go directly into the belly of the beast to see from where this voice was emanating. Alas, you would have likely been tricked, as the shaman would have disappeared from the chamber by way of the small shaft leading out onto the hillside! There is so much yet to learn about early man and his religions. Sites like Göbekli Tepe are still being researched and many more have yet to be discovered. In time, I believe we will find evidence of an even earlier, advanced civilization in the region. On a recent radio interview, I was asked about the idea of a “Civilization X,” an idea sometimes proposed by Graham Hancock and others. I am not an adherent to any one Atlantis-like lost civilization theory, as I feel that it is too Reductionist in nature. I would hedge my bets on there being more than an X, but perhaps Civilizations A, B, and C; all of which having their own derivative sub-civilizations. I think the desire to find a Civilization X is no different than that of the Evolutionist’s desire to find a “missing link.” It is so alluring because of its simplicity. It is as if there is a promise that if you search far enough, you will find the one puzzle piece that can provide us with the complete picture of human origins. I happen to think that there are more than just one puzzle piece. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is more than one puzzle completely. If you think you have compelling evidence to support the idea of a Civilization X, please email me. I would genuinely love to take a look. Like most of you, I am just a humble truth-seeker, lover of knowledge, and explorer on this mystery quest.” – Dr. Heather Lynn
Rhino Cave, located at the World Heritage site of Tsodilo Hills, is one of the three main Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in Botswana. Initial investigations during the mid-1990s left unanswered a number of key questions regarding the early use of the cave. This prompted the current investigations, which have unearthed a wealth of MSA artifacts from a lag deposit. Results of a selectively employed chaîne opératoire analysis have revealed a very special set of behavioral patterns. It will be argued that the best-fit interpretation of the results from this investigation lies within the realm of ritualized behavior. The assemblage is characterized by an unexpectedly large number of MSA points, which are for the most part produced in non-locally acquired raw materials. These points are colorful, carefully and often elaborately made, and, once complete, never left the cave. They were either deliberately burned to the point where they could no longer be used, abandoned, or intentionally smashed. These artifacts were found together with tabular grinding slabs and pieces of the locally available pigment, specularite. This assemblage was recovered directly beneath a massive, virtually free-standing rock face that has been carved with hundreds of cupules of varying sizes and shapes. A section of the carved rock face was recovered from well within the MSA deposits in association with handheld grinding stones.
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