Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Art and info adapted from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)

I enjoy this book a lot. I liked the part about the seats and their relations. I see seating in art and archaeology can often seem to relate to hierarchy: elites, chiefdom/religious figures, or deities.

“We recognize that communities and constellations of practice entail activities that overlap, transcend, and defy categorization within conventional geographic or cultural boundaries. Indigenous peoples of the Americas include more than half a million speakers of indigenous languages. And while identity can sometimes to linked to indigenous languages, indigenous identities are further complicated for indigenous groups whose identities are not strictly tied to language.” – Info from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)

“Shellfish was a major source of protein, and shells also became tools and artifacts. In Pre-Colombia art and oral traditions, many animals that were not utilized for food, still feature prominently: birds (Vultures and Eagles), felids (Jaguars, Ocelots, Margays, and others), crocodiles (Crocodiles and Caymans), saurian (Iguanas and basilisks), anurans (Frogs and Toads), rodents (Agoutis and Rabbits), snakes (Pit vipers and Rattlesnakes), and simians (Spider, Howler, Capuchin, and Squirrel monkeys) .” – Info from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)  

The early Holocene period (“The Holocene: began approximately 9,700 BCE or 11,650 cal years ago, and corresponds with the rapid proliferation, growth, and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all of its written historytechnological revolutions, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition towards urban living in the present.ref), saw the first documented use of wild food plants.” – Info from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)   

Genetic diversity may have begun in the Late Pleistocene (“between 129,000 to 11,700 years agoref) as populations crossing the Isthmus (“Isthmus and land bridge are related terms, with isthmus having a broader meaning. A land bridge is an isthmus connecting Earth’s major land masses.ref) dispersing both eastward and south. According to the linguistic and genetic evidence, the Chibchan-speaking populations separated into distinct groups in the Early Holocene and maintained a significant level of identity and cohesion thought the archaeological record.” – Info from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)    

“People spoke Chibchan languages throughout the Isthmo-Colombian Area, from eastern Honduras to southern Colombia. There is no reason to characterize Chibchan languages as “South American” than there is to label them “Central American.” Furthermore, what some authors called “Mesoamerican influence” in Colombia may have come from southern Central America instead. New evidence confirms chthonous expansion beginning in the Late Pleistocene of populations, technologies, sociopolitical strategies, interregional interactions, and ideological systems.” – Info from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)  

I am not an academic though I work hard for accuracy and facts, I do this hard work of addressing prehistory and religion as activism (Pro-science and Atheist). I know quite a lot as I started researching the “Evolution of Religion” starting in 2006.

Chibchan Genetics

“Genetic differences between Chibcha and Non-Chibcha speaking tribes based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups from 21 Amerindian tribes from Colombia: Our results showed a high degree of mtDNA diversity and genetic heterogeneity. Frequencies of mtDNA haplogroups A and C were high in the majority of populations studied. The distribution of these four mtDNA haplogroups from Amerindian populations was different in the northern region of the country compared to those in the south. Haplogroup A was more frequently found among Amerindian tribes in northern Colombia, while haplogroup D was more frequent among tribes in the south. Haplogroups A, C and D have clinal tendencies in Colombia and South America in general. Populations belonging to the Chibcha linguistic family of Colombia and other countries nearby showed a strong genetic differentiation from the other populations tested, thus corroborating previous findings. Genetically, the Ingano, Paez and Guambiano populations are more closely related to other groups of south eastern Colombia, as also inferred from other genetic markers and from archeological data. Strong evidence for a correspondence between geographical and linguistic classification was found, and this is consistent with evidence that gene flow and the exchange of customs and knowledge and language elements between groups is facilitated by close proximity.” ref

Genetic Variation of the Y Chromosome (Q-M3 haplogroup) in Chibcha-Speaking Amerindians of Costa Rica and Panama

Genetic variation of the Y chromosome in five Chibchan tribes (Bribri, Cabecar, Guaymi, Huetar, and Teribe) of Costa Rica and Panama was analyzed using six microsatellite loci (DYS19, DYS389A, DYS389B, DYS390, DYS391, and DYS393), the Y-chromosome-specific alphoid system (αh), the Y-chromosome Alu polymorphism (YAP), and a specific pre-Columbian transition (C → T) (M3 marker) in the DYS199 locus that defines the Q-M3 haplogroup. Thirty-nine haplotypes were found, resulting in a haplotype diversity of 0.937. The Huetar were the most diverse tribe, probably because of their high levels of interethnic admixture. A candidate founder Y-chromosome haplotype was identified (15.1% of Chibchan chromosomes), with the following constitution: YAP-, DYS199*T, αh-II, DYS19*13, DYS389A*17, DYS389B*10 y DYS390*24, DYS391*10, and DYS393*13. This haplotype is the same as the one described previously as one of the most frequent founder paternal lineages in native American populations. Analysis of molecular variance indicated that the between-population variation was smaller than the within-population variation, and the comparison with mtDNA restriction data showed no evidence of differential structuring between maternally and paternally inherited genes in the Chibchan populations. The mismatch-distribution approach indicated estimated coalescence times of the Y chromosomes of the Q-M3 haplogroup of 3,113 and 13,243 years before present; for the mtDNA-restriction haplotypes the estimated coalescence time was between 7,452 and 9,834 years before present. These results are compatible with the suggested time for the origin of the Chibchan group based on archeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence.” ref

Q-M3 haplogroup

Possible time of origin: 10,000-15,000 years ago, Possible place of origin, Beringia: Either East Asia or North America. Q-M3 is present in some Siberian populations in Asia. It is unclear whether these are remnants of the founding lineage or evidence of back-migrations from Beringia to East Asia. Haplogroup Q-M3 is one of the Y-Chromosome haplogroups linked to the indigenous peoples of the Americas (over 90% of indigenous people in Meso & South America). Today, such lineages also include other Q-M242 branches (Q-M346Q-L54Q-P89.1Q-NWT01, and Q-Z780), haplogroup C-M130 branches (C-M217 and C-P39), and R-M207, which are almost exclusively found in the North America. Haplogroup Q-M3 is defined by the presence of the (M3) single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Q-M3 occurred on the Q-L54 lineage roughly 10-15 thousand years ago as the migration into the Americas was underway. There is some debate as to on which side of the Bering Strait this mutation occurred, but it definitely happened in the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.” ref

“Populations carrying Q-M3 are widespread throughout the Americas. Since the discovery of Q-M3, several subclades of Q-M3 bearing populations have been discovered in the Americas as well. An example is in South America where some populations have a high prevalence of SNP M19 which defines subclade Q-M19. M19 has been detected in 59% of Amazonian Ticuna men and in 10% of Wayuu men. Subclades Q-M19 and Q-M199 appear to be unique to South American populations and suggests that population isolation and perhaps even the establishment of tribes began soon after migration into the Americas. The Kennewick Man has a Y chromosome that belongs to the most common sub-clade Q1b1a1a-M3 while the Anzick’s Y chromosome belongs to the minor Q1b1a2-M971 lineage.” ref

“The current status of the polygentic tree for Q-M3 is published by pinotti et al. in the article Y Chromosome Sequences Reveal a Short Beringian Standstill, Rapid Expansion, and early Population structure of Native American Founders (2018). Calibrated phylogeny of Y haplogroup for Q-M3 and its relation to the branches within Q-L54.

  • L54
    • Q-L330
    • Q-MPB001 (18.9 kya)
      • Q-CTS1780
      • Q-M930 (15.0-17.0 kya) Ancient Beringians
        • Q-L804 (Scandinavian)
        • Q-M3 (Native American, 15.0 kya)
          • Q-Y4308
          • Q-M848 (14.9 kya)
            • Q-B48
            • Q-CTS11357
              • Q-M825
            • Q-MPB073
            • Q-MPB015
            • Q-MPB115
            • Q-Z6658
            • Q-Z5906
            • Q-Z19357
            • Q-MPB139
            • Q-MPB138
            • Q-M848*ref

“Q-M19 M19 This lineage is found among Indigenous South Americans, such as the Ticuna and the Wayuu. Origin: South America approximately 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.ref

“Q-M194 It has only been found in South American populations.ref

“Q-M199 This lineage has only been found in South American populations.ref

“Q-L663 This lineage was discovered by citizen scientists. It is linked to indigenous populations in Central Mexico and has been associated with the Otomies (Hñähñús, as they self-identify) from Hidalgo, Mexico (Gómez et al, 2021). Q-L663’s paternal line was formed around 550 BCE. The man who is the most recent common ancestor of this line is estimated to have been born around 1250 CE. Extensive research on this haplogroup is being conducted by members of the New Mexico Genealogical Society, with at least 16 NGS Y-DNA tests as of 2023. The earliest known genealogical records for a Q-L663 descendant were for a man named Nicolás de Espinosa, a native of the Villa de los Lagos, Nueva Galicia, Mexico, who was born circa 1673.ref

Haplogroup C

Haplogroup C is found in ancient populations on every continent except Africa and is the predominant Y-DNA haplogroup among males belonging to many peoples indigenous to East AsiaCentral AsiaSiberiaNorth America and Australia as well as a some populations in Europe, the Levant, and later Japan. Males carrying C-M130 are believed to have migrated to the Americas some 6,000-8,000 years ago, and was carried by Na-Dené-speaking peoples into the northwest Pacific coast of North America. According to Sakitani et al., haplogroup C-M130 originated in Central Asia. The haplogroup C-M217 is now found at high frequencies among Central Asian peoples, indigenous Siberians, and some Native peoples of North America. Haplogroup C-M217 is believed to have begun spreading approximately 34,000 [95% CI 31,500 <-> 36,700] years before present in eastern or central Asia. More precisely, haplogroup C2-M217 is now divided into two primary subclades: C2a-L1373 (sometimes called the “northern branch” of C2-M217) and C2b-F1067 (sometimes called the “southern branch” of C2-M217). The oldest sample with C2-M217 is AR19K in the Amur River basin (19,587-19,175 cal BP). C2a-L1373 (estimated TMRCA 16,000 [95% CI 14,300 <-> 17,800] ybp) has been found often in populations from Central Asia through North Asia to the Americas, and rarely in individuals from some neighboring regions, such as Europe or East Asia.” ref, ref

Haplogroup C2 (M217) – the most numerous and widely dispersed C lineage – was once believed to have originated in Central Asia, spread from there into Northern Asia and the Americas while other theory it originated from East Asia. C-M217 stretches longitudinally from Central Europe and Turkey, to the Wayuu people of Colombia and Venezuela, and latitudinally from the Athabaskan peoples of Alaska to Vietnam to the Malay Archipelago. Haplogroup C-M217 is the only variety of Haplogroup C-M130 to be found among Native Americans, among whom it reaches its highest frequency in Na-Dené populations. C-P39 (C2b1a1a) is found among several indigenous peoples of North America, including some Na-Dené-, Algonquian– and Siouan-speaking populations.” ref

“C2a-L1373 subsumes two subclades: C2a1-F3447 and C2a2-BY63635/MPB374. C2a1-F3447 includes all extant Eurasian members of C2a-L1373, whereas C2a2-BY63635/MPB374 contains extant South American members of C2a-L1373 as well as ancient archaeological specimens from South America and Chertovy Vorota Cave in Primorsky Krai. C2a1-F3447 (estimated TMRCA 16,000 [95% CI 14,700 <-> 17,400] ybp) includes the Y-DNA of an approximately 14,000-year-old specimen from the Ust’-Kyakhta 3 site (located on the right bank of the Selenga River in Buryatia, near the present-day international border with Mongolia) and C2a1b-BY101096/ACT1942 (found in individuals from present-day Liaoning Province of China, South KoreaJapan, and a Nivkh from Russia) in addition to the expansive C2a1a-F1699 clade. C2a1a-F1699 (estimated TMRCA 14,000 [95% CI 12,700 <-> 15,300] ybp) subsumes four subclades: C2a1a1-F3918, C2a1a2-M48, C2a1a3-M504, and C2a1a4-M8574. C2a1a1-F3918 subsumes C2a1a1a-P39, which has been found at high frequency in samples of some indigenous North American populations, and C2a1a1b-FGC28881, which is now found with varying (but generally quite low) frequency all over the Eurasian steppe, from Heilongjiang and Jiangsu in the east to Jihočeský krajPodlaskie Voivodeship, and Giresun in the west.” ref

Haplogroup C2a1a2-M48 is especially frequent and diverse among present-day Tungusic peoples, but branches of it also constitute the most frequently observed Y-DNA haplogroup among present-day Mongols in MongoliaAlshyns in western Kazakhstan, and Kalmyks in Kalmykia. Extant members of C2a1a3-M504 all share a relatively recent common ancestor (estimated TMRCA 3,900 [95% CI 3,000 <-> 4,800] ybp), and they are found often among MongolsManchus (e.g. Aisin Gioro), Kazakhs (most tribes of the Senior Zhuz as well as the Kerei tribe of the Middle Zhuz), Kyrgyz, and Hazaras. C2a1a4-M8574 is sparsely attested and deeply bifurcated into C-Y176542, which has been observed in an individual from Ulsan and an individual from Japan, and C-Y11990. C-Y11990 is likewise quite ancient (estimated TMRCA 9,300 [95% CI 7,900 <-> 10,700] ybp according to YFull or 8,946 [99% CI 11,792 – 6,625] ybp according to FTDNA) but rare, with one branch (C-Z22425) having been found sporadically in Jammu and KashmirGermany, and the United States and another branch (C-ZQ354/C-F8513) having been found sporadically in Slovakia (Prešov Region), ChinaTurkey, and Kipchak of the central steppe (Lisakovsk 23 Kipchak in Kazakhstan, medieval nomad from 920 +- 25 BP uncal or 1036 – 1206 CE).” ref

“Haplogroup C-M217 is the modal haplogroup among Mongolians and most indigenous populations of the Russian Far East, such as the Buryats, Northern Tungusic peoplesNivkhsKoryaks, and Itelmens. The subclade C-P39 is common among males of the indigenous North American peoples whose languages belong to the Na-Dené phylum. The frequency of Haplogroup C-M217 tends to be negatively correlated with distance from Mongolia and the Russian Far East, but it still comprises more than ten percent of the total Y-chromosome diversity among the ManchusKoreansAinu, and some Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Beyond this range of high-to-moderate frequency, which contains mainly the northeast quadrant of Eurasia and the northwest quadrant of North America, Haplogroup C-M217 continues to be found at low frequencies, and it has even been found as far afield as Northwest Europe, Turkey, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and adjacent regions of India, Vietnam, Maritime Southeast Asia, and the Wayuu people of South America.” ref 

C2b L1373, F1396

  • C2b L1373* Ecuador (Bolívar Province), USA
  • C2b F3447, F3914
    • C2b Y163913, ACT1932, BY75034
    • C2b1 F4032
      • C2b1a F1699, F6301
        • C2b1a* Japanese, Germany
        • C2b1a1 F3918, Y10418/FGC28813/F8894
          • C2b1a1* Yugurs
          • C2b1a1a P39 Canada, USA (Found in several indigenous peoples of North America, including some Na-Dené-, Algonquian-, or Siouan-speaking populations)” ref

Biological relationship between Central and South American Chibchan speaking populations: evidence from mtDNA

“Abstract: We examined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup and haplotype diversity in 188 individuals from three Chibchan (Kogi, Arsario, and Ijka) populations and one Arawak (Wayuú) group from northeast Colombia to determine the biological relationship between lower Central American and northern South American Chibchan speakers. mtDNA haplogroups were obtained for all individuals and mtDNA HVS-I sequence data were obtained for 110 samples. Resulting sequence data were compared to 16 other Caribbean, South, and Central American populations using diversity measures, neutrality test statistics, sudden and spatial mismatch models, intermatch distributions, phylogenetic networks, and a multidimensional scaling plot. Our results demonstrate the existence of a shared maternal genetic structure between Central American Chibchan, Mayan populations and northern South American Chibchan-speakers. Additionally, these results suggest an expansion of Chibchan-speakers into South America associated with a shift in subsistence strategies because of changing ecological conditions that occurred in the region between 10,000-14,000 years before present.” ref

Mitochondrial DNA analysis suggests a Chibchan migration into Colombia 

Haplogroups were determined by analysis of RFLPs. Most frequent was haplogroup A, with 338 individuals (48.3%). Haplogroup A is also one of the most frequent haplogroups in Mesoamerica, and we interpret our finding as supporting models that propose Chibchan-speaking groups migrated to northern Colombia from Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. Haplogroup C was found in 199 individuals (28.4%), while less frequent were B and D, with 113 and 41 (16% and 6%) individuals, respectively. The haplogroups of nine (9) individuals (1.3%) could not be determined due to the low quality of the samples of DNA. Although all the sampled populations had genetic structures that fit broadly into the patterns that might be expected for contemporary Central and South American indigenous groups, it was found that haplogroups A and B were more frequent in northern Colombia, while haplogroups C and D were more frequent in southern and south-western Colombia.” ref

South-to-north migration preceded the advent of intensive farming in the Maya region

The genetic prehistory of human populations in Central America is largely unexplored leaving an important gap in our knowledge of the global expansion of humans. We report genome-wide ancient DNA data for a transect of twenty individuals from two Belize rock-shelters dating between 9,600-3,700 calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. BP). The oldest individuals (around 9,600-7,300 years ago) descend from an Early Holocene Native American lineage with only distant relatedness to present-day Mesoamericans, including Mayan-speaking populations. After ~5,600 years ago a previously unknown human dispersal from the south made a major demographic impact on the region, contributing more than 50% of the ancestry of all later individuals. This new ancestry derived from a source related to present-day Chibchan speakers living from Costa Rica to Colombia. Its arrival corresponds to the first clear evidence for forest clearing and maize horticulture in what later became the Maya region.” ref

“Previous ancient DNA analyses have indicated that the earliest Central and South Americans, as well as present-day groups from the same regions, descend primarily from the more southerly of two founding Native American genetic lineages. Published early Holocene (9400–7300 years ago) individuals from Belize (N = 3) are consistent in deriving their ancestry from this same large-scale north-to-south movement of people, but they display only distant relatedness to present-day groups in Mexico and Central America, including local Maya-speaking populations. Instead, Maya people today show the greatest affinities to both South Americans and Indigenous Mexicans, suggesting the potential for further episodes of population movement and admixture in this region during the past 7300 years. The genetic history of the region is essential to understand the evolution of cultures, languages, and technologies, including domesticated plant crops that transformed the neotropics.” ref


The Chibcha, a group of South American natives, occupied the high valleys surrounding the modern cities of Bogotá and Tunja in Colombia before the Spanish conquest. The Chibcha religion was of both state and individual concern. Each political division had its own set of priests. Apparently some kind of hierarchy was recognized and the priests were a professional hereditary class. Priests, who were clearly distinguished from shamans, had as their functions the intercession at public ceremonies for the public good, the dispensing of oracles, and consultation with private individuals. Shamans served the individual more than the state and cured illnesses, interpreted dreams, and foretold the future. The Chibchas had an elaborate pantheon of gods headed by Chiminigagua, the supreme god and creator. In addition to the state temples and idols, many natural habitats were considered to be holy places. Ceremonial practices included offerings, public rites, pilgrimages, and human sacrifice. Human sacrifice was said to be fairly common and was made primarily to the sun.” ref

The esoteric world of socio-religious and political rituals related to seats and seating.

“Shaman Seats” 

Photo credits for the first Pic is John Hoopes. The objects are in the Real Alto site museum.

Seats of Power

It was common for ancient furniture to have religious or symbolic purposes. The Incans had chacmools which were dedicated to sacrifice. Similarly, in Dilmun they had sacrificial altars. In many civilizations, the furniture depended on wealth. Sometimes certain types of furniture could only be used by the upper class citizens. For example, in Egypt, thrones could only be used by the rich. Sometimes the way the furniture was decorated depended on wealth. For example, in Mesopotamia tables would be decorated with expensive metals, chairs would be padded with felt, rushes, and upholstery. Some chairs had metal inlays.” ref

“As some of the earliest forms of seat, stools are sometimes called backless chairs despite how some modern stools have backrests. The origins of stools are obscure, but they are known to be one of the earliest forms of wooden furniture. Several kingdoms and chiefdoms in Africa had and still have traditions of using stools in the place of chairs as thrones. One of the most famous of them, the Golden Stool of the Asantehene in Ghana, was the cause of one of the most famous events in the history of colonized Africa, the so-called War of the Golden Stool between the British and the Ashanti.” ref

“Some of the first people that Christopher Columbus met in the American continent were the Taino people. Duhos are carved seats found in the houses of Taino caciques or chiefs throughout the Caribbean region. Duhos “figured prominently in the maintenance of Taino political and ideological systems . . . [and were] . . . literally seats of power, prestige, and ritual.” The Taíno ritual seat is a Pre-Columbian wooden seat made in the form of a man on all fours. It was made by the Taino people and found in a cave near the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The seat was made before Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean and is an important remnant of the Taino culture and civilisation that existed before the arrival of Europeans.” ref

“In Akkad, Chairs would also have brightly colored wooden and ivory finials depicting arms and bull’s heads. Oftentimes the chairs would have bronze panels that had images of griffins and winged deities carved into them. The Royal Standard of Ur showcases the king of Ur on a low-back chair with animal legs. The seats depicted on the Royal Standard were likely made of Rush and Cane. During this period of Sumerian history chairs were not used by the majority of people. Most people simply sat on the floor. Low-backed chairs with curved or flat seats and turned legs were incredibly common in the Akkadian Empire.” ref 

“From the Assyrian records we learn that Mesopotamian furniture was similar to Egyptian furniture. There was a wide variety of Assyrian chairs. Some chairs had backs and arms, some resembled a footstool. Tombs dating back to the First Dynasty have wooden furniture. The chair developed from the stool in the second dynasty. A stele found in a tomb from this time period depicts Prince Nisuheqet sitting on a chair. The chair has a high back made of plain sawn boards. Suggesting that the earliest chairs were used by the wealthy. Egyptian chairs likely continued to be status symbols. In another tomb, this time from the third dynasty, more depictions of chairs are found.” ref

“Animal legs were usually supported on a small cone-shaped pedestal. In the Middle Kingdom of Egypt chairs were still straight legged with cushioned backs and upholstered vertical backs. During this period, chairs became more stylized. The legs of these chairs were animal shaped, however instead of bovine shaped, they were slender and gazelle shaped or lion shaped. Much of the old Egyptian furniture which still survives to this day has only survived due to the ancient Egyptians beliefs about the afterlife. Furniture would be placed in tombs, and a result would survive to the modern day.” ref

“The chairs from Tutankhamen’s tomb were highly decorated with imported ebony and ivory inlay. They were also made for ceremonial purposes. Funerary paraphernalia was common amongst these chairs. Stools did not come into being in Egypt until the 18th Dynasty. Still, the majority of people did not have chairs, so stools were most people’s only option for comfortable seating. Ceremonial stools would be blocks of stone or wood. If the stool was made out of wood it would have a flint seat. Footstools were made of wood. The Royal Footstool had enemies of Egypt painted on the footstool, so that way the pharaoh could symbolically crush them. Stools used by the upper-class would have upward sweeping corners and woven leather seats, with a padded cushion on top.” ref

“The modern word “throne” is derived from the ancient Greek thronos (Greek singular: θρόνος), which was a seat designated for deities or individuals of high status or honor. The colossal chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia, constructed by Phidias and lost in antiquity, featured the god Zeus seated on an elaborate throne, which was decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory, according to Pausanias. Less extravagant though more influential in later periods is the klismos (Greek singular: κλισμός), an elegant Greek chair with a curved backrest and legs whose form was copied by the Romans and is now part of the vocabulary of furniture design. A fine example is shown on the grave stele of Hegeso, dating to the late fifth century BCE. As with earlier furniture from the east, the klismos and thronos could be accompanied by footstools.” ref

“The most common form of Greek seat was the backless stool. These were known as diphroi (Greek singular: δίφρος) and they were easily portable. The Parthenon frieze displays numerous examples, upon which the gods are seated. Several fragments of a stool were discovered in the forth-century BCE. tomb in Thessaloniki, including two of the legs and four transverse stretchers. The Greek folding stool survives in numerous depictions, indicating its popularity in the Archaic and Classical periods; the type may have been derived from earlier Minoan and Mycenaean examples, which in turn were likely based on Egyptian models. Greek folding stools might have plain straight legs or curved legs that typically ended in animal feet. The sella curulis, or folding stool, was an important indicator of power in the Roman period.ref

“In one Mayan ceramic, a god who is possibly the God L is shown seated on a throne-like stool covered in cloth placed on a raised platform. Most likely, the only big furniture in a home would be wooden stools or benches. A quantity of furniture in an Aztec home would have been uncommon sight. Usually instead of beds or chairs, mats made of reeds or dirt platforms were used to sit or sleep on.” ref

Chair comes from the early 13th-century English word chaere, from Old French chaiere (“chair, seat, throne”), from Latin cathedra (“seat”). Chairs were in existence since at least the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt (c. 3100 BCE or around 5,100 years ago). In ancient Egypt, chairs appear to have been of great richness and splendor. Generally speaking, the higher ranked an individual was, the taller and more sumptuous was the chair he sat on and the greater the honor. On state occasions, the pharaoh sat on a throne, often with a little footstool in front of it. The average Egyptian family seldom had chairs, and if they did, it was usually only the master of the household who sat on a chair.” ref

According to the Hebrew Bible, the kaporet (Hebrewכַּפֹּרֶת kapōreṯ) or mercy seat was the gold lid placed on the Ark of the Covenant, with two cherubim beaten out of the ends to cover and create the space in which Yahweh appeared and dwelled. This was connected with the rituals of the Day of Atonement. The term also appears in later Jewish sources, and twice in the New Testament, from where it has significance in Christian theology. Two golden cherubim were placed at each end of the cover facing one another and the mercy seat, with their wings spread to enclose the mercy seat (Exodus 25:18–21). The cherubim formed a seat for Yahweh (1 Samuel 4:4). The Holy of Holies could be entered only by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. The high priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial bull onto the mercy seat as an atonement for the sins of the people of Israel.” ref

“Although the Holy See is sometimes metonymically referred to as the “Vatican“, the Vatican City State was distinctively established with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the word “see” comes from the Latin word sedes, meaning ‘seat’, which refers to the episcopal throne (cathedra). The Holy See is one of the last remaining seven absolute monarchies in the world, along with Saudi ArabiaEswatiniUnited Arab EmiratesQatarBrunei and Oman.” ref

“A sacrificial tripod, whose name comes from the Greek meaning “three-footed”, is a three-legged piece of religious furniture used in offerings and other ritual procedures. Tripods had two types and several functions. Firstly, some oracles sat on large tripods to pronounce. Far more common were the tripods and bowls in which smaller sacrifices were burnt. These are particularly associated with Apollo and the Delphic oracle in ancient Greece. These were also given to temples as votive offerings, awarded as prizes in contests associated with religious festivals, and just given as gifts between individuals. The most famous tripod of ancient Greece was the Delphic Tripod on which the Pythian priestess took her seat to deliver the oracles of the deity.” ref 

“Sacrificial tripods also were used as dedicatory offerings to the deities, and in the dramatic contests at the Dionysia the victorious choregus (a wealthy citizen who bore the expense of equipping and training the chorus) received a crown and a tripod. He would either dedicate the tripod to some deity or set it upon the top of a marble structure erected in the form of a small circular temple in a street in Athens, called the street of tripods, from the large number of memorials of this kind. According to Herodotus (The Histories, I.144), the victory tripods were not to be taken from the temple sanctuary precinct, but left there as dedications.” ref

Thrones: Seating of Power

Isaiah 40:22: 22 “God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth, and compared to him, people are like grasshoppers.” 

Matthew 23:22: “And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.”

Revelation 4:9: “When the living creatures give glory and honor to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever.”

“A throne is the seat of state of a potentate or dignitary, especially the seat occupied by a sovereign (or viceroy) on state occasions; or the seat occupied by a pope or bishop on ceremonial occasions. “Throne” in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as “the power behind the throne“. A throne is a symbol of divine and secular rule and the establishment of a throne as a defining sign of the claim to power and authority. It can be with a high backrest and feature heraldic animals or other decorations as adornment and as a sign of power and strength.” ref

The throne of God is the reigning centre of God in the Abrahamic religions: primarily JudaismChristianity, and Islam. The throne is said by various holy books to reside beyond the Seventh Heaven which is called Araboth (Hebrewעֲרָבוֹת ‘ărāḇōṯ) in Judaism. The heavenly throne room or throne room of God is a more detailed presentation of the throne, into the representation of throne room or divine court. Micaiah‘s extended prophecy (1 Kings 22:19) is the first detailed depiction of a heavenly throne room in Judaism. Zechariah 3 depicts a vision of the heavenly throne room where Satan and the Angel of the Lord contend over Joshua the High Priest in the time of his grandson Eliashib the High Priest“The concept of a heavenly throne occurs in three Dead Sea Scroll texts.” ref

Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi (d. 429/1037) in his al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (The Difference between the Sects) reports that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, said: “God created the Throne as an indication of His power, not for taking it as a place for Himself.” The vast majority of Islamic scholars, including Sunnis (Ash’arisMaturidis and Sufis), Mu’tazilis, and Shi’is (Twelvers and Isma’ilis) believe the Throne (Arabicالعرش al-‘Arsh) as a symbol of God’s power and authority and not as a dwelling place for Himself, while some Islamic sects, such as the Karramis and the Salafis/Wahhabis believe that God has created it as a place of dwelling. The Quran depicts the angels as carrying the throne of God and praising his glory, similar to Old Testament images. Prophetic hadith also establish that The Throne is above the roof of Al-Firdaus Al-‘Ala, the highest level of Paradise where God’s closest and most beloved servants in the hereafter shall dwell.” ref

“The Quran mentions the throne some 25 times (33 times as Al-‘Arsh), such as in verse Q10:3 and Q23:116:

Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne (Arsh), arranging the matter [of His creation]. There is no intercessor except after His permission. That is Allah, your Lord, so worship Him. Then will you not remember? – Yunus 10:3

And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days – and His Throne had been upon water – that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed. But if you say, “Indeed, you are resurrected after death,” those who disbelieve will surely say, “This is not but obvious magic.” – Hud 11:7

So Exalted be Allah, the True King – None has the right to be worshipped but He – Lord of the Supreme Throne! – al-Mu’minoon 23:116ref

“A throne can be placed underneath a canopy or baldachin. The throne can stand on steps or a dais and is thus always elevated. The expression “ascend (mount) the throne” takes its meaning from the steps leading up to the dais or platform, on which the throne is placed, being formerly comprised in the word’s significance. Coats of arms or insignia can feature on throne or canopy and represent the dynasty. Even in the physical absence of the ruler an empty throne can symbolise the everlasting presence of the monarchical authority.” ref

“When used in a political or governmental sense, a throne typically exists in a civilization, nation, tribe, or other politically designated group that is organized or governed under a monarchical system. Throughout much of human history societies have been governed under monarchical systems, in the beginning as autocratic systems and later evolved in most cases as constitutional monarchies within liberal democratic systems, resulting in a wide variety of thrones that have been used by given heads of state. These have ranged from stools in places such as in Africa to ornate chairs and bench-like designs in Europe and Asia, respectively.” ref

“Often, but not always, a throne is tied to a philosophical or religious ideology held by the nation or people in question, which serves a dual role in unifying the people under the reigning monarch and connecting the monarch upon the throne to his or her predecessors, who sat upon the throne previously. Accordingly, many thrones are typically held to have been constructed or fabricated out of rare or hard to find materials that may be valuable or important to the land in question. Depending on the size of the throne in question it may be large and ornately designed as an emplaced instrument of a nation’s power, or it may be a symbolic chair with little or no precious materials incorporated into the design. When used in a religious sense, throne can refer to one of two distinct uses. Many of these thrones—such as China’s Dragon Throne—survive today as historic examples of nation’s previous government.” ref

The first use derives from the practice in churches of having a bishop or higher-ranking religious official (archbishoppope, etc.) sit on a special chair which in church referred to by written sources as a “throne”, or “cathedra” (Latin for ‘chair’) and is intended to allow such high-ranking religious officials a place to sit in their place of worship. The other use for throne refers to a belief among many of the world’s monotheistic and polytheistic religions that the deity or deities that they worship are seated on a throne. Such beliefs go back to ancient times, and can be seen in surviving artwork and texts which discuss the idea of ancient gods (such as the Twelve Olympians) seated on thrones. In the major Abrahamic religions of JudaismChristianity, and Islam, the Throne of God is attested to in religious scriptures and teachings, although the origin, nature, and idea of the Throne of God in these religions differs according to the given religious ideology practiced.” ref

“Thrones were found throughout the canon of ancient furniture. The depiction of monarchs and deities as seated on chairs is a common topos in the iconography of the Ancient Near East. The word throne itself is from Greek θρόνος (thronos), “seat, chair”, in origin a derivation from the PIE root *dher- “to support” (also in dharma “post, sacrificial pole”). Early Greek Διὸς θρόνους (Dios thronous) was a term for the “support of the heavens”, i.e. the axis mundi, which term when Zeus became an anthropomorphic god was imagined as the “seat of Zeus”. In Ancient Greek, a “thronos” was a specific but ordinary type of chair with a footstool, a high status object but not necessarily with any connotations of power. The Achaeans (according to Homer) were known to place additional, empty thrones in the royal palaces and temples so that the gods could be seated when they wished to be. The most famous of these thrones was the throne of Apollo in Amyclae.” ref

“The word “throne” in English translations of the Bible renders Hebrew כסא kissē’. The pharaoh of the Exodus is described as sitting on a throne (Exodus 11:5, 12:29), but mostly the term refers to the throne of the kingdom of Israel, often called the “throne of David” or “throne of Solomon“. The literal throne of Solomon is described in 1 Kings 10:18–20: “Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.. The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.” In the Book of Esther (5:3), the same word refers to the throne of the king of Persia.” ref

“The God of Israel himself is frequently described as sitting on a throne, referred to outside of the Bible as the Throne of God, in the Psalms, and in a vision Isaiah (6:1), and notably in Isaiah 66:1, YHWH says of himself “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (this verse is alluded to by Matthew 5:34-35). In the Old TestamentBook of Kings I explicits the throne of Solomon: “Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step” in Chapter 10 18-20. Jesus promised his apostles that they would sit upon “twelve thrones”, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). John‘s Revelation states: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away” (Revelation 20:11).” ref

“In the Indian subcontinent, the traditional Sanskrit name for the throne was siṃhāsana (lit., seat of a lion). In the Mughal times the throne was called Shāhī takht ([ˈʃaːhiː ˈtəxt]). The term gadi or gaddi (Hindustani pronunciation: [ˈɡəd̪ːi], also called rājgaddī) referred to a seat with a cushion used as a throne by Indian princes. That term was usually used for the throne of a Hindu princely state‘s ruler, while among Muslim princes or Nawabs, save exceptions such as the Travancore State royal family, the term musnad ([ˈməsnəd]), also spelt as musnud, was more common, even though both seats were similar.” ref

“The Dragon Throne is the term used to identify the throne of the emperor of China. As the dragon was the emblem of divine imperial power, the throne of the emperor, who was considered a living god, was known as the Dragon Throne. The throne of the emperors of Vietnam are often referred to as ngai vàng (“golden throne”) or ngôi báu (大寳/寶座) literally “great precious” (seat/position). The throne is always adorned with the pattern and motif of the Vietnamese dragon, which is the exclusive and privileged symbol of the Vietnamese emperors. In Vietnamese folk religion, the gods, deities and ancestral spirits are believed to seat figuratively on thrones at places of worship. Therefore, on Vietnamese altars, there are various types of liturgical “throne” often decorated with red paint and golden gilding.” ref

Chatting with John Hoopes

“The oldest known “shaman seats” are small ceramic models from the Valdivia culture in Ecuador that date to about 2500 BCE. Seats and their relations are such a rich source of information. I could do a whole book on just seats, stools, duhos, and thrones. Donald Lathrap thought this modeled spout was an early representation (ca. 2500 BCE) of a shaman wearing a jaguar pelt. You’ll be interested to know that I’m returning to more scholarship on shamanism.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

My response, Wonderful, I look forward to learning more from you. I support you and all you do. I want to understand what is actually true. And I think it is an interesting topic as what seems like the emergence of male god/elite: socio-political or religious all are sitting around 7,000 years ago in the Balkins.

“Archaeology is all about getting as close as we can to the best possible approximation of the truth without actually declaring that we know it. We are always tinkering and fine-tuning as well as trying to answer more questions. As technical as those books from Dumbarton Oaks are, they do have art as the central focus. I’ve always felt that art is a more successful path to truth than science. It’s nice to combine the two. On the jadeite and gold objects: for the people who made and used them, they were tools for creating both magic and power. And together, the books help tell the story of peoples who have been largely forgotten but deserve to be remembered.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

“The Isthmo-Colombian Area was the first part of the mainland to be colonized by the Spanish. As a consequence, its peoples were the first—after the Taíno of the Antilles—to suffer genocide and see their ancient cultures destroyed. However, because they did not build pyramids, they tend to be overlooked, even by archaeologists. The first Spanish colony on the mainland was in Panama in 1500. Cortes didn’t arrive in Mexico until 1519 and Pizarro didn’t reach Peru until 1532. The first place Columbus’s men set foot on the mainland was in southern Costa Rica.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

Conquest, Imagination, and the Dawn of the Modern Age: The Gold of Panama In Its Historical Context, this article helps put things in context. A lot of what shapes our world right now has roots in what happened back then. The anticipation of vast quantities of stolen gold from the Americas is the story that Charles V took to his bankers in order to get massive loans to underwrite the Spanish conquest. Ultimately, much less loot was found than was expected. Charles V ultimately stepped down because of his massive debts.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

However, in the meantime, these loans allowed Charles V to equip armies that successfully prevented Muslim armies from invading Central Europe. Ironically, the promise of gold from the Americas is what kept Europe Christian. And, of course, allowed the spread of Christianity in the Americas. It was the beginning of massive international debt and its consequences. The engine of capitalism. The beginning of the Modern Age. The notion of progress is highly overrated. For me, progress is discovering, recovering, and learning from what was destroyed long ago.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

The intimate relationship between European conquests of the Americas and the Protestant Reformation is worth exploring. Martin Luther was doing his thing as Cortes and his men were dismantling the Aztec empire. Jean Cauvin (John Calvin) was doing his thing as the Pizarros and their thugs were destroying the Inca empire. These big events of long ago shaped the world we have now.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

My response, You have a lot to teach. I think you are great.

Yes, and teachers gonna teach. Thanks. I do what I can but without getting all commercial about it. I get zero royalties from those books and don’t have anything to sell. In our capitalist society, that confuses people about the issue of value.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

My response, I like how open you are to teaching for free. I do the same. I do plan on finishing writing my book, The Tree of Lies and its Hidden Roots: exposing the evolution of religion and removing the rationale of faith.” I have been working on it for years. I will make something on it but will not try that hard to push it all the time. Rather, I will do a little promoting, and then I plan on transitioning to making my own Jewelry and doing that commercially. But still will do most things for free as I want to make my stuff available for anyone and money is not stopping them.

The compensation that academic archaeologists get comes in the form of our salaries. In my case, that’s from a state university. So, public funds pay for my labor. I’m grateful for that and try to give back what I can.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America

My response, I am happy John, that public funds, pay for your labor as you are working on understanding humanity, from the past.

“Shaman Wearing a Jaguar Pelt” 

Photo credits for the second Pic come from an Ecuadorian book about Valdivia.

shape-shift·​erone that seems able to change form or identity at will. especially: a mythical figure that can assume different forms (as of animals) ref


I am going eventually to do a blog post on shape-shifting beliefs, and how I see them likely emerging out of shamanism and then was often adopted when deity beliefs emerged. 

“In mythologyfolklore, and speculative fictionshapeshifting is the ability to physically transform oneself through unnatural means. The idea of shapeshifting is in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest existent literature and epic poems such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad.” ref

“Popular shapeshifting creatures in folklore are werewolves and vampires (mostly of European, Canadian, and Native American/early American origin), ichchadhari naag and ichchadhari naagin (shapeshifting cobras) of India, the huli jing of East Asia (including the Japanese kitsune and Korean kumiho), and the gods, goddesses, and demons and demonesses like succubus and incubus and other numerous mythologies, such as the Norse Loki or the Greek Proteus. Shapeshifting to the form of a gray wolf is specifically known as lycanthropy, and such creatures who undergo such change are called lycanthropes. Therianthropy is the more general term for human-animal shifts, but it is rarely used in that capacity. It was also common for deities to transform mortals into animals and plants.ref

“Other terms for shapeshifters include metamorph, the Navajo skin-walker, mimic, and therianthrope. The prefix “were-“, coming from the Old English word for “man” (masculine rather than generic), is also used to designate shapeshifters; despite its root, it is used to indicate female shapeshifters as well. While the popular idea of a shapeshifter is of a human being who turns into something else, there are numerous stories about animals that can transform themselves as well.ref

“Examples of shapeshifting in classical literature include many examples in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, Circe‘s transforming of Odysseus‘ men to pigs in Homer‘s The Odyssey, and Apuleius‘s Lucius becoming a donkey in The Golden Ass. Proteus was noted among the gods for his shapeshifting; both Menelaus and Aristaeus seized him to win information from him, and succeeded only because they held on during his various changes. Nereus told Heracles where to find the Apples of the Hesperides for the same reason.ref

“The Oceanid Metis, the first wife of Zeus and the mother of the goddess Athena was believed to be able to change her appearance into anything she wanted. In one story, she was so proud, that her husband, Zeus, tricked her into changing into a fly. He then swallowed her because he feared that he and Metis would have a son who would be more powerful than Zeus himself. Metis, however, was already pregnant. She stayed alive inside his head and built armor for her daughter. The banging of her metalworking made Zeus have a headache, so Hephaestus clove his head with an axe. Athena sprang from her father’s head, fully grown, and in battle armor.ref

“In Greek mythology, the transformation is often a punishment from the gods to humans who crossed them.

  • Zeus transformed King Lycaon and his children into wolves (hence lycanthropy) as a punishment for either killing Zeus’ children or serving him the flesh of Lycaon’s own murdered son Nyctimus, depending on the exact version of the myth.
  • Ares assigned Alectryon to keep watch for Helios the sun god during his affair with Aphrodite, but Alectryon fell asleep, leading to their discovery and humiliation that morning. Ares turned Alectryon into a rooster, which always crows to signal the morning and the arrival of the sun.
  • Demeter transformed Ascalabus into a lizard for mocking her sorrow and thirst during her search for her daughter Persephone. She also turned King Lyncus into a lynx for trying to murder her prophet Triptolemus.
  • Athena transformed Arachne into a spider for challenging her as a weaver and/or weaving a tapestry that insulted the gods. She also turned Nyctimene into an owl, though in this case it was an act of mercy, as the girl wished to hide from the daylight out of shame of being raped by her father.
  • Artemis transformed Actaeon into a stag for spying on her bathing, and he was later devoured by his hunting dogs.
  • Galanthis was transformed into a weasel or cat after interfering in Hera‘s plans to hinder the birth of Heracles.
  • Atalanta and Hippomenes were turned into lions after making love in a temple dedicated to Zeus or Cybele.
  • Io was a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph who was raped by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection.
  • Hera punished young Tiresias by transforming him into a woman and, seven years later, back into a man.
  • King Tereus, his wife Procne, and her sister Philomela were all turned into birds (a hoopoe, a swallow and a nightingale respectively), after Tereus raped Philomela and cut out her tongue, and in revenge she and Procne served him the flesh of his murdered son Itys (who in some variants is resurrected as a goldfinch).
  • Callisto was turned into a bear by either Artemis or Hera for being impregnated by Zeus.
  • Selene transformed Myia into a fly when she became a rival for the love of Endymion.ref

“While the Greek gods could use transformation punitively – such as Medusa, who turned to a monster for having sexual intercourse (raped in Ovid’s version) with Poseidon in Athena‘s temple – even more frequently, the tales using it are of amorous adventure. Zeus repeatedly transformed himself to approach mortals as a means of gaining access:

Vertumnus transformed himself into an old woman to gain entry to Pomona‘s orchard; there, he persuaded her to marry him. In other tales, the woman appealed to other gods to protect her from rape, and was transformed (Daphne into laurel, Corone into a crow). Unlike Zeus and other gods’ shapeshifting, these women were permanently metamorphosed. In one tale, Demeter transformed herself into a mare to escape Poseidon, but Poseidon counter-transformed himself into a stallion to pursue her, and succeeded in the rape. Caenis, having been raped by Poseidon, demanded of him that she be changed to a man. He agreed, and she became Caeneus, a form he never lost, except, in some versions, upon death.ref

Clytie was a nymph who loved Helios, but he did not love her back. Desperate, she sat on a rock with no food or water for nine days looking at him as he crossed the skies, until she was transformed into a purple, sun-gazing flower, the heliotropium. As a final reward from the gods for their hospitality, Baucis and Philemon were transformed, at their deaths, into a pair of trees. Eos, the goddess of the dawn, secured immortality for her lover the Trojan prince Tithonus, but not eternal youth, so he aged without dying as he shriveled and grew more and more helpless. In the end, Eos transformed him into a cicada. In some variants of the tale of Narcissus, he is turned into a narcissus flower.ref

“Sometimes metamorphoses transform objects into humans. In the myths of both Jason and Cadmus, one task set to the hero was to sow dragon’s teeth; on being sown, they would metamorphose into belligerent warriors, and both heroes had to throw a rock to trick them into fighting each other to survive. Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulated the world after a flood by throwing stones behind them; they were transformed into people. Cadmus is also often known to have transformed into a dragon or serpent towards the end of his life. Pygmalion fell in love with Galatea, a statue he had made. Aphrodite had pity on him and transformed the stone into a living woman.ref

Fairieswitches, and wizards were all noted for their shapeshifting ability. Not all fairies could shapeshift, some having only the appearance of shapeshifting, through their power, called “glamour”, to create illusions, and some were limited to changing their size, as with the spriggans, and others to a few forms. But others, such as the Hedley Kow, could change to many forms, and both human and supernatural wizards were capable of both such changes, and inflicting them on others.ref

“In Celtic mythology, Pwyll was transformed by Arawn into Arawn’s shape, and Arawn transformed himself into Pwyll’s so that they could trade places for a year and a day. Llwyd ap Cil Coed transformed his wife and attendants into mice to attack a crop in revenge; when his wife is captured, he turns himself into three clergymen in succession to try to pay a ransom.ref

Math fab Mathonwy and Gwydion transform flowers into a woman named Blodeuwedd, and when she betrays her husband Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who is transformed into an eagle, they transform her again, into an owl. Gilfaethwy committed rape on Goewin, Math fab Mathonwy’s virgin foothold, with help from his brother Gwydion. Both were transformed into animals, for one year each. Gwydion was transformed into a stag, sow, and wolf, and Gilfaethwy into a hind, boar, and she-wolf. Each year, they had a child. Math turned the three young animals into boys.ref

Gwion, having accidentally taken some of the wisdom potions that Ceridwen was brewing for her son, fled from her through a succession of changes that she answered with changes of her own, ending with his being eaten, a grain of corn, by her as a hen. She became pregnant, and he was reborn in a new form, as Taliesin.ref

“Tales abound about the selkie, a seal that can remove its skin to make contact with humans for only a short amount of time before it must return to the sea. Clan MacColdrum of Uist‘s foundation myths include a union between the founder of the clan and a shape-shifting selkie. Another such creature is the Scottish selkie, which needs its sealskin to regain its form. In The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry the (male) selkie seduces a human woman. Such stories surrounding these creatures are usually romantic tragedies.ref

Scottish mythology features shapeshifters, which allows the various creatures to trick, deceive, hunt, and kill humans. Water spirits such as the each-uisge, which inhabit lochs and waterways in Scotland, were said to appear as a horse or a young man. Other tales include kelpies who emerge from lochs and rivers in the disguise of a horse or woman to ensnare and kill weary travelers. Tam Lin, a man captured by the Queen of the Fairies is changed into all manner of beasts before being rescued. He finally turned into a burning coal and was thrown into a well, whereupon he reappeared in his human form. The motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is a common thread in folktales.ref

“Perhaps the best-known Irish myth is that of Aoife who turned her stepchildren, the Children of Lir, into swans to be rid of them. Likewise, in the Tochmarc Étaíne, Fuamnach jealously turns Étaín into a butterfly. The most dramatic example of shapeshifting in Irish myth is that of Tuan mac Cairill, the only survivor of Partholón‘s settlement of Ireland. In his centuries-long life, he became successively a stag, a wild boar, a hawk, and finally a salmon before being eaten and (as in the Wooing of Étaín) reborn as a human.ref

The Púca is a Celtic faery, and also a deft shapeshifter. He can transform into many different, terrifying forms. Sadhbh, the wife of the famous hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, was changed into a deer by the druid Fer Doirich when she spurned his amorous interests. There is a significant amount of literature about shapeshifters that appear in a variety of Norse tales. In the Lokasenna, Odin and Loki taunt each other with having taken the form of females and nursing offspring to which they had given birth. A 13th-century Edda relates Loki taking the form of a mare to bear Odin’s steed Sleipnir which was the fastest horse ever to exist, and also the form of a she-wolf to bear Fenrir.ref

Svipdagr angered Odin, who turned him into a dragon. Despite his monstrous appearance, his lover, the goddess Freyja, refused to leave his side. When the warrior Hadding found and slew Svipdagr, Freyja cursed him to be tormented by a tempest and shunned like the plague wherever he went. In the Hyndluljóð, Freyja transformed her protégé Óttar into a boar to conceal him. She also possessed a cloak of falcon feathers that allowed her to transform into a falcon, which Loki borrowed on occasion.ref

“The Volsunga saga contains many shapeshifting characters. Siggeir‘s mother changed into a wolf to help torture his defeated brothers-in-law with slow and ignominious deaths. When one, Sigmund, survived, he and his nephew and son Sinfjötli killed men wearing wolfskins; when they donned the skins themselves, they were cursed to become werewolves. The dwarf Andvari is described as being able to magically turn into a pike. Alberich, his counterpart in Richard Wagner‘s Der Ring des Nibelungen, using the Tarnhelm, takes on many forms, including a giant serpent and a toad, in a failed attempt to impress or intimidate Loki and Odin/Wotan.ref

Fafnir was originally a dwarf, a giant, or even a human, depending on the exact myth, but in all variants, he transformed into a dragon—a symbol of greed—while guarding his ill-gotten hoard. His brother, Ótr, enjoyed spending time as an otter, which led to his accidental slaying by Loki. In Scandinavia, there existed, for example, the famous race of she-werewolves known by the name of Maras, women who took on the appearance of huge half-human and half-wolf monsters that stalked the night in search of human or animal prey. If a woman gives birth at midnight and stretches the membrane that envelopes the child when it is brought forth, between four sticks and creeps through it, naked, she will bear children without pain; but all the boys will be shamans, and all the girls Maras.ref

“The Nisse is sometimes said to be a shapeshifter. This trait also is attributed to HulderGunnhild, Mother of Kings (Gunnhild konungamóðir) (c. 910  –  c. 980), a quasi-historical figure who appears in the Icelandic Sagas, according to which she was the wife of Eric Bloodaxe, was credited with magic powers – including the power of shapeshifting and turning at will into a bird. She is the central character of the novel Mother of Kings by Poul Anderson, which considerably elaborates on her shapeshifting abilities.ref

In Armenian mythology, shapeshifters include the Nhang, a serpentine river monster that can transform itself into a woman or seal, and will drown humans and then drink their blood; or the beneficial Shahapet, a guardian spirit that can appear either as a man or a snake. Tatar folklore includes Yuxa, a hundred-year-old snake that can transform itself into a beautiful young woman, and seeks to marry men to have children.ref


  • Shapeshifting cobra: A common male cobra will become an ichchadhari naag (male shapeshifting cobra) and a common female cobra will become an ichchadhari naagin (female shapeshifting cobra) after 100 years of tapasya (penance). After being blessed by Lord Shiva, they attain a human form of their own, can shapeshift into any living creature, and can live for more than a hundred years without getting old.
  • Yoginis were associated with the power of shapeshifting into female animals.
  • In the Indian fable The Dog Bride from Folklore of the Santal Parganas by Cecil Henry Bompas, a buffalo herder falls in love with a dog that has the power to turn into a woman when she bathes.
  • In Kerala, there was a legend about the Odiyan clan, who in Kerala folklore are men believed to possess shapeshifting abilities and can assume animal forms. Odiyans are said to have inhabited the Malabar region of Kerala before the widespread use of electricity.ref

Chinese mythology contains many tales of animal shapeshifters, capable of taking on human form. The most common such shapeshifter is the huli jing, a fox spirit that usually appears as a beautiful young woman; most are dangerous, but some feature as the heroines of love stories. Madame White Snake is one such legend; a snake falls in love with a man, and the story recounts the trials she and her husband faced.” ref

“In Japanese folklore obake are a type of yōkai with the ability to shapeshifting. The fox, or kitsune is among the most commonly known, but other such creatures include the bakeneko, the mujina, and the tanuki. Korean mythology also contains a fox with the ability to shapeshift. Unlike its Chinese and Japanese counterparts, the kumiho is always malevolent. Usually its form is of a beautiful young woman; one tale recounts a man, a would-be seducer, revealed as a kumiho. The kumiho has nine tails and as she desires to be a full human, she uses her beauty to seduce men and eat their hearts (or in some cases livers where the belief is that 100 livers would turn her into a real human).” ref

Philippine mythology includes the Aswang, a vampiric monster capable of transforming into a bat, a large black dog, a black cat, a black boar, or some other form to stalk humans at night. The folklore also mentions other beings such as the Kapre, the Tikbalang, and the Engkanto, which change their appearances to woo beautiful maidens. Also, talismans (called “anting-anting” or “birtud” in the local dialect), can give their owners the ability to shapeshift. In one tale, Chonguita the Monkey Wife, a woman is turned into a monkey, only becoming human again if she can marry a handsome man.” ref

“In Somali mythology Qori ismaris (“One who rubs himself with a stick”) was a man who could transform himself into a “Hyena-man” by rubbing himself with a magic stick at nightfall and by repeating this process could return to his human state before dawn. ǀKaggen is a demi-urge and folk hero of the ǀXam people of southern Africa. He is a trickster god who can shape shift, usually taking the form of a praying mantis but also a bull eland, a louse, a snake, and a caterpillar. The Ligahoo or loup-garou is the shapeshifter of Trinidad and Tobago’s folklore. This unique ability is believed to be handed down in some old creole families, and is usually associated with witch-doctors and practitioners of African magic.” ref

Mapuche (Argentina and Chile), The name of the Nahuel Huapi Lake in Argentina derives from the toponym of its major island in Mapudungun (Mapuche language): “Island of the Jaguar (or Puma)”, from nahuel, “puma (or jaguar)”, and huapí, “island”. There is, however, more to the word “Nahuel” – it can also signify “a man who by sorcery has been transformed into a puma” (or jaguar). In Slavic mythology, one of the main gods Veles was a shapeshifting god of animals, magic and the underworld. He was often represented as a bear, wolf, snake or owl. He also became a dragon while fighting Perun, the Slavic storm god.ref


Therianthropy is the mythological ability or affliction of individuals to metamorphose into animals or hybrids by means of shapeshifting. It is possible that cave drawings found at Cave of the Trois-Frères, in France, depict ancient beliefs in the concept. The best-known form of therianthropy, called lycanthropy, is found in stories of werewolves. Therianthropy was used to describe spiritual beliefs in animal transformation in a 1915 Japanese publication, A History of the Japanese People from the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era.” ref

“Therianthropy refers to the fantastical, or mythological, ability of some humans to change into animals. Therianthropes are said to change forms via shapeshifting. Therianthropy has long existed in mythology, and seems to be depicted in ancient cave drawings such as The Sorcerer, a pictograph executed at the Palaeolithic cave drawings found in the Pyrenees at the Cave of the Trois-Frères, France, archeological site. Theriocephaly (Greek “animal headedness”) refers to beings that have an animal head attached to an anthropomorphic, or human, body; for example, the animal-headed forms of gods depicted in ancient Egyptian religion (such as Ra, Sobek, Anubis).” ref

Skin-walkers and naguals

“Some Native American and First Nation legends talk about skin-walkers—people with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal they desire. To do so, however, they first must be wearing a pelt of the specific animal. In the folk religion of Mesoamerica, a nagual (or nahual) is a human being who has the power to magically turn themselves into animal forms—most commonly donkeys, turkeys, and dogs—but can also transform into more powerful jaguars and pumas.” ref

Animal Ancestors

Stories of humans descending from animals are found in the oral traditions of many tribal and clan origins. Sometimes the original animals had assumed human form in order to ensure their descendants retained their human shapes; other times the origin story is of a human marrying a normal animal. North American indigenous traditions mingle the ideas of bear ancestors and ursine shapeshifters, with bears often being able to shed their skins to assume human form, marrying human women in this guise. The offspring may be creatures with combined anatomy, they may be very beautiful children with uncanny strength, or they may be shapeshifters themselves.” ref

“P’an Hu is represented in various Chinese legends as a supernatural dog, a dog-headed man, or a canine shapeshifter that married an emperor’s daughter and founded at least one race. When he is depicted as a shapeshifter, all of him can become human except for his head. The race(s) descended from P’an Hu were often characterized by Chinese writers as monsters who combined human and dog anatomy. In Turkic mythology, the wolf is a revered animal. The Turkic legends say the people were descendants of wolves. The legend of Asena is an old Turkic myth that tells of how the Turkic people were created. In the legend, a small Turkic village in northern China is raided by Chinese soldiers, with one baby left behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane named Asena finds the baby and nurses him. She later gives birth to half-wolf, half-human cubs who are the ancestors of the Turkic people.” ref

In Melanesian cultures there exists the belief in the tamaniu or atai, which describes the animal counterpart to a person. Specifically among the Solomon Islands in Melanesia, the term atai means “soul” in the Mota language and is closely related to the term ata, meaning a “reflected image” in Maori and “shadow” in Samoan. Terms relating to the “spirit” in these islands such as figona and vigona convey a being that has not been in human form The animal counterpart depicted may take the form of an eel, shark, lizard, or some other creature. This creature is considered to be corporeal and can understand human speech. It shares the same soul as its master. This concept is found in similar legends which have many characteristics typical of shapeshifter tales. Among these characteristics is the theory that death or injury would affect both the human and animal form at once.” ref

“Among a sampled set of psychiatric patients, the belief of being part animal, or clinical lycanthropy, is generally associated with severe psychosis but not always with any specific psychiatric diagnosis or neurological findings. Others regard clinical lycanthropy as a delusion in the sense of the self-disorder found in affective and schizophrenic disorders, or as a symptom of other psychiatric disorders.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük

“The Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük (also Çatal Höyük) is a baked-clay, nude female form, seated between feline-headed arm-rests. It is generally thought to depict a corpulent and fertile Mother goddess in the process of giving birth while seated on her throne, which has two hand rests in the form of feline (lioness, leopard, or panther) heads in a Mistress of Animals motif. The statuette, one of several iconographically similar ones found at the site, is associated to other corpulent prehistoric goddess figures, of which the most famous is the Venus of Willendorf. It is a neolithic sculpture shaped by an unknown artist, and was completed in approximately 6000 BCE.” ref


“Kubaba is the only queen on the Sumerian King List, which states she reigned for 100 years – roughly in the Early Dynastic III period (ca. 2500–2330 BCE) of Sumerian history. A connection between her and a goddess known from HurroHittite and later Luwian sources cannot be established on the account of spatial and temporal differences. Kubaba is one of very few women to have ever ruled in their own right in Mesopotamian history. Most versions of the king list place her alone in her own dynasty, the 3rd Dynasty of Kish, following the defeat of Sharrumiter of Mari, but other versions combine her with the 4th dynasty, that followed the primacy of the king of Akshak. Before becoming monarch, the king list says she was an alewife, brewess or brewster, terms for a woman who brewed alcohol.” ref

“Kubaba was a Syrian goddess associated particularly closely with Alalakh and Carchemish. She was adopted into the Hurrian and Hittite pantheons as well. After the fall of the Hittite empire, she continued to be venerated by Luwians. A connection between her and the similarly named legendary Sumerian queen Kubaba of Kish, while commonly proposed, cannot be established due to spatial and temporal differences. Emmanuel Laroche proposed in 1960 that Kubaba and Cybele were one and the same. This view is supported by Mark Munn, who argues that the Phrygian name Kybele developed from Lydian adjective kuvavli, first changed into kubabli and then simplified into kuballi, and finally kubelli. However, such an adjective is a purely speculative construction.” ref


“Cybele (Phrygian: “Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess; she may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations. Phrygia‘s only known goddess, she was probably its national deity. Greek colonists in Asia Minor adopted and adapted her Phrygian cult and spread it to mainland Greece and to the more distant western Greek colonies around the 6th century BCE. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She became partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, of her possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea, and of the harvest–mother goddess Demeter. Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following.” ref

“Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a eunuch mendicant priesthood. Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele became associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions. In Rome, Cybele became known as Magna Mater (“Great Mother”). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle in 205 BCE recommended her conscription as a key religious ally in Rome’s second war against Carthage (218 to 201 BCE). Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. As Rome eventually established hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanized forms of Cybele’s cults spread throughout Rome’s empire. Greek and Roman writers debated and disputed the meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods, which remain controversial subjects in modern scholarship.” ref

“Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion believed to help the dead enter the afterlife. She was usually portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head. During the New Kingdom (3,550–3,070 years ago), as she took on traits that originally belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor’s headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow. Likewise, the expression of moon disks headdress: a moon disk between the horns of a cow. Her reputed magical power was greater than that of all other gods, and she was said to protect the kingdom from its enemies, govern the skies and the natural world, and have power over fate itself. Whereas some Egyptian deities appeared in the late Predynastic Period (before 5,100 years ago), neither Isis nor her husband Osiris were clearly mentioned before the Fifth Dynasty (4,494–4,345 years ago). The hieroglyphic writing of her name incorporates the sign for a throne, which Isis also wears on her head as a sign of her identity. Like other goddesses, such as Hathor, she also acted as a mother to the deceased, providing protection and nourishment. Thus, like Hathor, she sometimes took the form of Imentet, the goddess of the west, who welcomed the deceased soul into the afterlife as her child.” ref

“Isis is treated as the mother of Horus even in the earliest copies of the Pyramid Texts. Yet there are signs that Hathor was originally regarded as his mother, and other traditions make an elder form of Horus the son of Nut.” ref

Egyptian mythology, Nut was the goddess of the sky, she was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the earth, or as a cow. The ancient Egyptians believed that Nut swallowed the sun-god, Ra, every night and gave birth to him every morning. In direct contrast to most other mythologies which usually develop a sky father associated with an Earth mother (or Mother Nature), she personified the sky and he the Earth. Nut was Mistress of All or “She who Bore the Gods”: Originally, Nut was said to be lying on top of Geb (Earth) and continually having intercourse. Nut was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies, a symbol of protecting the dead when they enter the afterlife. According to the Egyptians, during the day, the heavenly bodies—such as the sun and moon—would make their way across her body. Then, at dusk, they would be swallowed, pass through her belly during the night, and be reborn at dawn. Nut is also the barrier separating the forces of chaos from the ordered cosmos in the world. She was pictured as a woman arched on her toes and fingertips over the earth; her body portrayed as a star-filled sky. Nut’s fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points or directions of north, south, east, and west.” ref

“The first piece of domestic furniture seen in use is the stool with a rectangular frame. It is found over and over again on early Egyptian cylinder seals. These seals, short and fat, usually of black steatite (soapstone), are peculiar to the earliest dynastic period 5,100 years ago. The inscriptions they bear – among the first exam-pies of writing – often give the name and title of some priest or official, followed by a group of signs that represent the deceased seated on a stool behind a pile of offerings (Figures 2, 3). For the stool, or the chair, has always been the mark of an important personage: it raises him above the level of his inferiors. (Most people in Egypt and other parts of the Near East seem to still sit/squatting on the ground) This sign, scarcely changing, remained the determinative for a person of rank in Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.” ref

“The stools on the seals are seen either from the side (Figure 2), or from the top (Figure 3) in what was to become a characteristic Egyptian mode of illustration: the representation of each separate part of the whole in its most recognizable aspect. Many of these early seals show a feature retained in pictures of stools throughout the dynastic period and much exaggerated in late times: the frames end in projections shaped like papyrus umbels, suggesting that the first Egyptian furniture was of wickerwork and that the frames were made of bundles of reeds bound together. Sometimes the legs of the stools shown on the seals were carved in the form of bulls’ legs.” ref

“And when the legs of lions began to replace those of bulls, about the end of the III Dynasty, the idea was similar: the sitter was to share the characteristic qualities of the King of Beasts; spool-like supports under the animal hooves or paws. Known as casters, even though rigid, they were always present with animal feet. Although, as one might expect, stools were made before chairs, there is a picture of a royal throne of about the same period as the cylinder seals. Narmer, the first king of Egypt, dedicated a giant mace head – symbolizing the weapon with which he had conquered his enemies and united Upper and Lower Egypt – in the temple at Hierakonpolis.” ref

‘One of the scenes carved on its surface pictures Narmer seated on a canopy-sheltered throne mounted on a high stepped dais (Figure 4). The throne seems to be a rectangular block scooped out to fit the king’s posterior and offer support for his back. But possibly he is really shown suspended, as it were, above curving arms, and this, accordingly, would be one of the first examples of the Egyptian artist’s reluctance to conceal any part of an object by another closer to the spectator. There is no indication of the material of the throne, but the dais, to judge by its Egyptian name, was of wood. A couch of the I Dynasty was actually more a commodious stool and several beds. The couch also has the familiar bull legs.” ref

“The stool, no matter how it is embellished, remains a raised seat without back or arms. But as early as the II Dynasty, officials, as well as kings, seemed to feel the need of support behind them, and the world’s first chairs were born. A hieroglyph in the pyramid of Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty (4,323-4,150 years ago) implies that his “shining throne” had lions’ heads and constitute the Old Kingdom of Dynastic Egypt with a pyramid built at Saqqara. (Figure 5) Arm panel of the throne of Tuthmosis iv, from his tomb, Thebes, xviii Dynasty, about 3,420 years ago, Cedar, height 94 inches.” ref

What is Isis’ Connection with the Throne?

“The symbol of the throne has an intimate connection with Isis because “Throne” is the meaning of Her name. The Great Goddess Isis is the Great Goddess Throne. Many Egyptologists explain this by saying that Isis was originally the personification of the royal throne.” ref

“It is certainly true that Isis was associated with the kingship—as were all the major Deities and most of the minor ones. The living king, seen as the embodiment of the God Horus, was considered the son of Isis (and of many other Goddesses). After death, the king became an Osiris so naturally Isis became his mourning widow. As the personification of the royal throne, Isis is the institution of the kingship itself. If we seek a feminist interpretation, we could rightly say that no king could take his place on the throne unless he had a close relationship with the Goddess Throne. To rule, the king must sit in the lap of the Goddess as Her child and husband.” ref

“Yet for me, this explanation of the origin of the Goddess Who is the greatest Goddess of Egypt—and arguably the greatest Goddess of all time—is bloodless and boring.  And it is a vast understatement of the true meaning of the Throne.” ref

“As many readers know, Isis is the Greek version of the Goddess’ name. In Egyptian, She is Iset (Eset; Aset; Auset). One of the meanings of iset is throne. More generally, it means seat. The ancient Egyptians seemed to have had a flexible, idiomatic use for the word similar to its use in English. For example, when we say “he is in the seat of power,” we are not often referring to an actual seat, but mean that he is in charge. Similarly, iset smeter means judgment seat and the term referred to a tribunal of judges. Just as we say we have our heart set (a word that comes from seat) on something, the Egyptian wished for her iset ib—literally the seat of the heart—but meaning her heart’s desire.” ref

I think most represent a Goddess as well as it is possible, a some could relate to a Demigoddesses/Grandmother-Mother Ancestor Spirits.

 A demigoddess or demi-goddess is a minor deity, or a mortal or immortal who is the offspring of a god and a human, or a figure who has attained divine status after death.” ref

Many figures were found in, under, or in the walls or foundations of houses.

“A household deity is a deity or spirit that protects the home, looking after the entire household or certain key members. It has been a common belief in pagan religions as well as in folklore across many parts of the world. Household deities fit into two types; firstly, a specific deity – typically a goddess – often referred to as a hearth goddess or domestic goddess who is associated with the home and hearth, with examples including the Greek Hestia and Norse Frigg. The second type of household deities are those that are not one singular deity, but a type, or species of animistic deity, who usually have lesser powers than major deities. This type was common in the religions of antiquity, such as the Lares of ancient Roman religion, the Gashin of Korean shamanism, and Cofgodas of Anglo-Saxon paganism.” ref

“These survived Christianisation as fairy-like creatures existing in folklore, such as the Anglo-Scottish Brownieand Slavic Domovoy. Household deities were usually worshipped not in temples but in the home, where they would be represented by small idols (such as the teraphim of the Bible, often translated as “household gods” in Genesis 31:19 for example), amulets, paintings or reliefs. They could also be found on domestic objects, such as cosmetic articles in the case of Tawaret. The more prosperous houses might have a small shrine to the household god(s); the lararium served this purpose in the case of the Romans. The gods would be treated as members of the family and invited to join in meals, or be given offerings of food and drink.” ref 

“Sumerian religion was the religion practiced and adhered to by the people of Sumer, the first literate civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians regarded their divinities as responsible for all matters pertaining to the natural and social orders. Before the beginning of kingship in Sumer, the city-states were effectively ruled by theocratic priests and religious officials. Later, this role was supplanted by kings, but priests continued to exert great influence on Sumerian society. In early times, Sumerian temples were simple, one-room structures, sometimes built on elevated platforms.” ref

“The Sumerians believed that the universe had come into being through a series of cosmic births. First, Mother Goddess Nammu, the primeval waters, gave birth to An (the sky) and Ki (the earth), who mated together and produced a son named Enlil. Enlil separated heaven from earth and claimed the earth as his domain. Humans were believed to have been created by Enki, the son of An and Nammu. Heaven was reserved exclusively for deities and, upon their deaths, all mortals’ spirits, regardless of their behavior while alive, were believed to go to Kur, a cold, dark cavern deep beneath the earth, which was ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and where the only food available was dry dust. In later times, Ereshkigal was believed to rule alongside her husband Nergal, the god of death.” ref

“Deities in ancient Mesopotamia were almost exclusively anthropomorphic, ( attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions). The Anunnaki were believed to be the offspring of An and his consort, the earth goddess Ki, has been identified with the Sumerian mother goddess Ninhursag, stating that they were originally the same figure. The oldest of the Anunnaki was Enlil, the god of air and chief god of the Sumerian pantheon. The deities typically wore melam, an ambiguous substance which “covered them in terrifying splendor”. Melam could also be worn by heroes, kings, giants, and even demons. The effect that seeing a deity’s melam has on a human is described as ni, a word for the physical tingling of the flesh. Deities were almost always depicted wearing horned caps, consisting of up to seven superimposed pairs of ox-horns.” ref

“The ancient Mesopotamians believed that their deities lived in Heaven, but that a god’s statue was a physical embodiment of the god himself. As such, cult statues were given constant care and attention and a set of priests were assigned to tend to them. These priests would clothe the statues and place feasts before them so they could “eat”. A deity’s temple was believed to be that deity’s literal place of residence. The gods had boats, full-sized barges which were normally stored inside their temples and were used to transport their cult statues along waterways during various religious festivals.  Virtually every major deity in the Sumerian pantheon was regarded as the patron of a specific city and was expected to protect that city’s interests. The deity was believed to permanently reside within that city’s temple.” ref

“One text mentions as many as fifty Anunnaki associated with the city of Eridu. In Inanna’s Descent into the Netherworld, there are only seven Anunnaki, who reside within the Underworld and serve as judges. Inanna stands trial before them for her attempt to take over the Underworld; they deem her guilty of hubris and condemn her to death. Major deities in Sumerian mythology were associated with specific celestial bodies. Inanna was believed to be the planet Venus. In the mythologies of the Hurrians and Hittites (which flourished in the mid to late second millennium BC in Turkey not that far from Catal Huyuk), the oldest generation of gods was believed to have been banished by the younger gods to the Underworld, where they were ruled by the goddess Lelwani. Hittite scribes identified these deities with the Anunnaki. In ancient Hurrian, the Anunnaki are referred to as karuileš šiuneš, which means “former ancient gods”, or kattereš šiuneš, which means “gods of the earth. The old gods had no identifiable cult in the Hurrio-Hittite religion; instead, the Hurrians and Hittites sought to communicate with the old godsthrough the ritual sacrifice of a piglet in a pit dug in the ground. The old gods were often invoked to perform ritual purifications. ”  ref

 Grandmother-Mother Ancestor Spirits

“Ancestor worship is perhaps the world’s oldest religion. Some anthropologists theorize that it grew out of belief in some societies that dead people still exist in some form because they appear in dreams. Ancestor worship involves the belief that the dead live on as spirits and that it is the responsibility of their family members and descendants to make sure that are well taken care of. If they are not they may come back and cause trouble to the family members and descendants that have ignored or disrespcted them. Unhappy dead ancestors are greatly feared and every effort is made to make sure they are comfortable in the afterlife. Accidents and illnesses are often attributed to deeds performed by the dead and cures are often attempts to placate them.” ref

“In some societies, people go out of their way to be nice to one another, especially older people, out of fear of the nasty things they might do when they die. Ancestor worship is found in many forms in cultures throughout the world; veneration of ancestors is regarded as a means through which an individual can assure his or her own immortality. Children are valued because they could provide for the spirits of their parents after death. Family members who remained together and venerated their forebears with strict adherence to prescribed ritual find comfort in the belief that the souls of their ancestors are receiving proper spiritual nourishment and that they are ensuring their own soul’s nourishment after death.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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The Hamangia culture began around 7,250-7,200 years ago and lasted until around 6,550-6,500 years ago It was absorbed by the expanding Boian culture in its transition towards the Gumelnitsa. Its cultural links with Anatolia suggest that it was the result of a settlement by people from Anatolia, unlike the neighboring cultures, which appear descended from an earlier Neolithic settlement. ref 

“The Hamangia culture is a Late Neolithic archaeological culture of Dobruja (Romania and Bulgaria) between the Danube and the Black Sea and Muntenia in the south. It is named after the site of Baia-Hamangia. The Hamangia culture began around 5250/5200 BCE and lasted until around 4550/4500 BCE. It was absorbed by the expanding Boian culture in its transition towards the Gumelniţa. Pottery figurines are normally extremely stylized and show standing naked faceless women with emphasized breasts and buttocks. Cernavodă, the necropolis where the famous statues “The Thinker” and “The Sitting Woman” were discovered.” ref

“The Boian culture emerged from two earlier Neolithic groups: the Dudeşti culture that originated in Anatolia (present-day Turkey); and the Musical note culture (also known as the Middle Linear Pottery culture or LBK) from the northern Subcarpathian region of southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. There have not been many artifacts found in Boian culture sites of sculptures or figurines. There is evidence that the Boian culture acquired the technology for copper metallurgy; as a result, this culture bridged the change from the Neolithic to the Copper Age.” ref

 Hamangia culture and then Boian culture was followed or taken over by the Varna culture. Burials at Varna have the oldest human-modified gold artifacts in history jewelry. There are crouched and extended inhumations. Some graves do not contain a skeleton, but grave gifts (cenotaphs). The symbolic (empty) graves are the richest in gold artifacts. 3000 gold artifacts were found, with a weight of approximately 6 kilograms. Grave 43 contained more gold than has been found in the entire rest of the world for that epoch. The culture had sophisticated religious beliefs about afterlife and developed hierarchical status differences: it constitutes the oldest known burial evidence of an elite male. The end of the fifth millennium BC is the time that Marija Gimbutas, founder of the Kurgan hypothesis claims the transition to male dominance began in Europe. The high-status male was buried with remarkable amounts of gold, held a war axe or mace, and wore a gold penis sheath. The bull-shaped gold platelets perhaps also venerated virility, instinctive force, and warfare. ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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From the Evidence, I Speculate, the First Human-Male God was Created in the Balkans around or after 7,000 years ago following Harsher climate, Emerging social hierarchy, and Fear of violence.

Fear of Wars Violence and the Creation of Male God: Hamangia culture around 7,250-6,500 years ago (Romania and Bulgaria)?

Central America

Central America is a subregion of the Americas. Its political boundaries are defined as bordering Mexico to the north, Colombia to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Central America is usually defined as consisting of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Within Central America is the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala to central Panama. Due to the presence of several active geologic faults and the Central America Volcanic Arc, there is a high amount of seismic activity in the region, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, which has resulted in death, injury, and property damage.” ref

“In the pre-Columbian era, Central America was inhabited by the Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica to the north and west and the Isthmo-Colombian peoples to the south and east. Following the Spanish expedition of Christopher Columbus‘ voyages to the Americas, Spain began to colonize the Americas. From 1609 to 1821, the majority of Central American territories (except for what would become Belize and Panama, and including the modern Mexican state of Chiapas) were governed by the viceroyalty of New Spain from Mexico City as the Captaincy General of Guatemala. On 24 August 1821, Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba, which established New Spain’s independence from Spain. On 15 September 1821, the Act of Independence of Central America was enacted to announce Central America’s separation from the Spanish Empire and provide for the establishment of a new Central American state. Some of New Spain’s provinces in the Central American region (i.e. what would become Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) were annexed to the First Mexican Empire; however in 1823 they seceded from Mexico to form the Federal Republic of Central America until 1838.” ref

“In the Pre-Columbian era, the northern areas of Central America were inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Most notable among these were the Mayans, who had built numerous cities throughout the region, and the Aztecs, who had created a vast empire. The pre-Columbian cultures of eastern El Salvador, eastern Honduras, Caribbean Nicaragua, most of Costa Rica and Panama were predominantly speakers of the Chibchan languages at the time of European contact and are considered by some culturally different and grouped in the Isthmo-Colombian Area.” ref

Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies)

by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)

“Archaeologists, art historians, ethnohistorians, and ethnographers have long been captivated by the expressive material culture of the prehispanic indigenous peoples in the lands between Mesoamerica and the Andes. Interconnected communities of practice that were active from central Honduras in the north to coastal Ecuador in the south, with networks of interaction that included the Antilles and Amazonia, made this area essential for understanding long-term culture change.” ref

Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach presents twenty chapters on current research in this central area of Latin America. Over two dozen specialists have contributed to this lavishly illustrated book, on topics ranging from historical and theoretical perspectives to analytical studies, reports on recent excavations, and evaluations of material such as ceramics, stone sculpture, gold artifacts, and ceremonial seats from various contexts in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. Edited by Colin McEwan and John W. Hoopes, this book is an essential addition to the library of any scholar fascinated by the diverse indigenous peoples of the Americas.” ref


About the Authors:

Colin McEwan (1951–2020) was Director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

John W. Hoopes is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas.

Isthmo-Colombian Area

The Isthmo-Colombian Area is defined as a cultural area encompassing those territories occupied predominantly by speakers of the Chibchan languages at the time of European contact. It includes portions of the Central American isthmus like eastern El Salvador, eastern Honduras, Caribbean NicaraguaCosta RicaPanama, and northern Colombia. It is a portion of what has previously been termed the Intermediate Area, and was defined in a chapter by John W. Hoopes and Oscar Fonseca Z in the 2003 book Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.” ref

“The concept draws upon multidisciplinary perspectives, including linguistic reconstructions by Costa Rican anthropological linguist Adolfo Constenla Umaña and observations on Chibchan genetics by Costa Rican anthropological geneticist Ramiro Barrantes Mesén. It is currently being refined through ongoing studies of the linguisticsgeneticsarchaeologyart historyethnography, and ethnohistory of this part of the Americas. This includes more recent study of the relationships between this area and the Antilles within a Pan-Caribbean framework.” ref

The Isthmo-Colombian Area was and is still home to a wide variety of indigenous peoples. A large number of them were speakers of Chibchan languages. These include (but are not limited to) the Pech, the Rama, the Maleku, the Bribri, the Cabécar, the Guaymí, the Naso, the Kuna, the Kogi, the Motilon, the U’wa, and the Muisca.” ref

“Archaeological knowledge of this area has received relatively little attention compared to its adjoining neighbors to the north and south, despite the fact that scholars such as Max UhleWilliam Henry HolmesC. V. Hartman, and George Grant MacCurdy undertook studies of archaeological sites and collections here over a century ago that were augmented by further research by Samuel Kirkland LothropJohn Alden MasonDoris Zemurray StoneWilliam Duncan StrongGordon Willey, and others in the early 20th century. One of the reasons for the relative lack of attention is the lack of research by locals themselves into the ancestral monuments and architecture characteristic of communities such as those found in the neighboring culture areas of Mesoamerica and the Andes areas, and a long history of Eurocentric perceptions by Western scholars of what represented civilization.” ref

“There are a large number of sites with impressive platform mounds, plazas, paved roads, stone sculpture, and artifacts made from jadegold, and ceramic materials. These include Las MercedesGuayabo de TurrialbaCutrís, and Cubujuquí in Costa Rica and Pueblito (in Tayrona National Natural Park) and Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia. Research at sites such as Rivas, Costa Rica helps to document the configurations of large settlements in the centuries prior to the Spanish Conquest. Some of the best-known Isthmo-Colombian sculptures are the stone spheres of Costa Rica. Another area that has provided valuable archaeological information is the Gran Coclé region in Panama, largely coinciding with the modern-day Coclé Province.” ref

Chibchan languages

The Chibchan languages (also ChibchanChibchano) make up a language family indigenous to the Isthmo-Colombian Area, which extends from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia and includes populations of these countries as well as NicaraguaCosta Rica, and Panama. The name is derived from the name of an extinct language called Chibcha or Muysccubun, once spoken by the people who lived on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense of which the city of Bogotá was the southern capital at the time of the Spanish Conquista. However, genetic and linguistic data now indicate that the original heart of Chibchan languages and Chibchan-speaking peoples might not have been in Colombia, but in the area of the Costa RicaPanama border, where the greatest variety of Chibchan languages has been identified.

A larger family called Macro-Chibchan, which would contain the Misumalpan languages, Xinca, and Lenca, was found convincing by Kaufman (1990). The Misumalpan languages (also Misumalpa or Misuluan) are a small family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples on the east coast of Nicaragua and nearby areas.” ref, ref

“Based primarily on evidence from grammatical morphemes, Pache (2018, 2023) suggests a distant relationship with the Macro-Jê languages. Macro-Chibchan is a proposed grouping of the languages of the LencanMisumalpan, and Chibchan families into a single large phylum (macrofamily).ref, ref

Isthmo-Colombian: Intermediate Area?

The Intermediate Area is an archaeological geographical area of the Americas that was defined in its clearest form by Gordon R. Willey in his 1971 book An Introduction to American Archaeology, Vol. 2: South America (Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ). It comprises the geographical region between Mesoamerica to the north and the Central Andes to the south, including portions of Honduras and most of the territory of the republics of NicaraguaCosta RicaPanama and Colombia. As an archaeological concept, the Intermediate Area has always been somewhat poorly defined.” ref

Because it was not home to ancient state societies but was predominated by early chiefdoms at the time of the Spanish conquest, it was sometimes regarded as a kind of cultural backwater that contributed little to the emergence of Pre-Columbian civilization in the New World. However, recent archaeological research has demonstrated that this part of the Americas had some of the earliest agriculture, pottery, and metallurgy in the hemisphere. Given new findings, it is likely to have played a critical role in the transmission of culture both to and between neighboring regions to the north and south. Recently, concepts such as that of the Isthmo-Colombian Area have been offered as an alternative to the Intermediate Area with the intention of creating a neutral term.ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Art and info adapted from: Pre-Columbian Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador: Toward an Integrated Approach (Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Pre-Columbian Studies) by Colin McEwan (Editor), John W. Hoopes (Editor)

Layer 1 Grave 5 at Sito Conte, Panama

Sitio Conte is an archaeological site located in the Coclé province of Panama near Parita Bay. It can best be described as a necropolis and a “paradigmatic example of a ranked or chiefdom society”. Based on dates from the goldwork and polychrome ceramics found at the site, its use is dated from approximately CE 450–900. While the site has remained untouched since the final excavations in 1940, its mortuary remains are considered to be a critical resource to archaeologists, as they aid in the interpretation of the social dynamics in the region between CE 500 and 1500.” ref

“The site itself is located on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande de Coclé. From its core, it spreads east, north and south along the river. Surrounding the site are grasslands and a number of small hills. To the north of Sitio Conte are the Tabasará Mountains; to the south lies Parita Bay. The most significant features at the site are the graves themselves. Architectural features are few in number and include two rows of large, roughly shaped vertical stones that measured 2 meters in height. These were associated with smaller stones with flat tops, which archaeologist Samuel Kirkland Lothrop referred to as “altars”. Also included among these features were two floors and a large pile of roughly worked stones.” ref

Little is known about Sitio Conte and the individuals who are interred therein. A number of theories as to the function of the site have been offered, ranging from a “summer residence,” to a shared burial ground. Those interred within the graves have been identified as either “chiefly families” or “chiefs and warriors slain in a single battle”. Archaeologists have a good understanding as to when the site was in use, ascertained by dates associated with the goldwork and polychrome ceramics in the graves. From these artifacts, it has been revealed that the site was used from approximately CE 450 to 900. Around CE 900, the cemetery was abandoned; however, based on household refuse, it appears that domestic occupation of the site continued.ref

Prominent graves

Grave 1

“Grave 1 is considered to be one of the more prominent unearthed during the Peabody excavation. It dates to CE 400-500. Those who were interred have been interpreted to be a “chief and three of his retainers”. The primary occupant, skeleton 1, was interred in a seated position and lavishly adorned with grave goods. Among these were eight effigy vessels and 112 plates or bowls, all of which were spread along the edge of the grave.ref

“Also included were gold or tumbaga beads, pendants, greaves and chisels, a canine teeth apron, mirror backs, whale teeth and carved manatee ribs with gold overlay, seventeen hundred serpentine beads and several bundles of stingray spines. Skeleton two also had many of these same objects in association, as well as a small quantity of celts and stone blades. The remaining skeletons had similar grave goods, although fewer in number.ref

Grave 5

“Dating to around CE 700/800-900, Grave 5 contained fifteen skeletons and a number of grave goods. Interred in the seated position, the primary skeleton (15) was originally housed in a “makeshift hut,” that had long since decomposed. His grave goods included a carved whale tooth pendant, stone mirror backs, gold or tumbaga greaves, cuffs, plaques, and a helmet. On the floor were stone slabs, tortoise shells, and various ceramics.ref

“Of the other fourteen skeletons that were included in the grave, eight were located along the south and west sides of the grave, and the other six were found on the northern edge. Lothrop felt that the northern group likely belonged to an earlier burial.  Some of their grave goods included bone, gold, and stone pendants.ref

Grave 26

One of the richest graves of the Peabody excavations, Grave 26 contained 22 skeletons and dates to the same period as Grave 5. The primary occupant, skeleton 12, was interred in a seated position and was once enclosed in a makeshift hut. Forming the floor of the grave were a number of ceramics, a stone slab and the remainder of the grave’s occupants.ref

“Some of the grave goods that are associated with the primary interment include gold or tumbaga plaques, cuffs, greaves, beads, carved whale teeth and manatee ribs, stingray spines and an emerald. Of the 126 ceramic pieces found in Grave 26, a majority of them lined the walls of the grave. These included thirty-six effigy vessels and ninety polychrome plates. The other occupants had a few grave goods, including several gold ear rods, which were associated with Skeleton 8.ref

Grave 74

“Excavated during the 1940 expedition led by J. Alden Mason, Grave 74 dates to CE 700/800-900 and is one of richest known graves at Sitio Conte. The primary occupants, skeletons 15 and 16, were found lying on top of one another in the center of the middle layer. Also known as Burial 11, this grave contained over 7500 mortuary furnishings, as well as twenty-three interments that were placed on three levels.

Upper level

“As Mason and his team were digging, they uncovered eight skeletons, all of which were lying face down and parallel to one another. Six of these skeletons were identified as old or mature males, while the other two were unsexed. Among their grave goods were ceramics, stone projectile points, celts, and a winged agate pendant. Skeleton 4 had a cache of stone points at its feet, a cache of gold beads and five repoussé gold plaques, which lay atop the individual. Intact vessels and ceramic sherds lined the north and south ends of the burial, which continued down into the second level.ref

Middle level

“Proceeding further into the excavation, the team began to reveal a 2nd level of burials. This level contained twelve skeletons that were accompanied by thousands of grave goods.  The primary occupants of the grave, skeletons 15 and 16, were located in the center of this level with five skeletons on the pair’s east side, three on the west and single skeletons on the north and south ends.ref

“Associated with the central individuals were a large number of grave goods, including a large number of repoussé and plain gold plaques, ear rods, bells, greaves and beads. There were also a number of stone projectile points and celts. The most famous of the goods associated with these individuals is the cast gold composite effigy animal pendant with an emerald embedded in its back. This was found lying bottom up atop the gold plaques that covered the two central individuals.ref

“Numerous items were placed with the other occupants of this grave: gold triangles, a pair of whale teeth, a carved figure covered with gold, canine teeth, several green projectile points and a stone celt. It was on this level that the “ceramic wall” reached both its thickest point, 30 centimeters, and its end. The excavators began to become overwhelmed by the large quantity of ceramics and removed many of the vessels without recording any information. Mason (n.d.: 64) noted that the field team got “gold fever” and “were anxious to get [the] vessels removed from above [the] gold objects, so began removing vessels before making list.ref

Lower level

“After clearing the second level, the team reached the lowest point of the grave. As they removed the layer of ceramic sherds and surrounding dirt, they uncovered three skeletons. The individual in the center, skeleton 21, lay on its side, while the other two lay face down. Two of the skeletons, 21 and 22, had a few objects associated with them, including a gold bat effigy pendant, ear rods, some stone celts, and a large embossed gold plaque.ref

The art of Sitio Conte

The iconography of the gold and ceramic pieces at Sitio Conte reflects a highly refined artistry. While some figures are abstract representations of animals, others appear to be therianthropic in nature. These figures mostly appear in two basic designs, single or paired. There are exceptions to this as some ceramics contain multiple images as well. The iconography of the gold pieces varies from animals such as bats, deer, sharks, crocodiles, and saurians to human and therianthropic figures. Many of these subjects are represented in the iconography of the Coclé style ceramics that appear within the burials. They also include images of snakes, birds, turtles, crabs, insects, frogs, stingrays, armadillos and monkeys. It has been suggested that the inclusion of these gold and ceramic pieces may represent the rank of the individuals with whom they are associated.ref


This art is a “Display at Chucalissa Mounds in Memphis showing all the elements involved in the Path of Souls death journey, a widely held belief system among the mound builders of America.” ref

“Artist Jack Johnson’s interpretation of southeastern Native cosmology, showing the tripartite division of the world. The axis mundi is depicted as a tree or post connecting the fire symbol of this world, the sun symbol of the upper world and the ‘swastika’ symbol of the lower world.” ref

“It should be remembered that the Mississippian culture that built Cahokia may have considered a cedar tree or a striped cedar pole to be a symbol of the Axis Mundi (also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, the center of the world, or world tree – has been greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms), the pillar connecting the above, middle, & below worlds, & around which the cosmos turns An American Yggdrasil (Norse tree of life). Some work has gone into reconstructing the woodhenge, and it is one of the sites around Cahokia that you can visit today. (The Solar Calendar of Woodhenge in Cahokia | Native America: Cities of the Sky).” – Vulpine Outlaw @Rad_Sherwoodism

“Items adduced as examples of the axis mundi by comparative mythologists include plants (notably a tree but also other types of plants such as a vine or stalk), a mountain, a column of smoke or fire, or a product of human manufacture (such as a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagodatemple mountminaretchurch) or secular (obelisklighthouserocketskyscraper). The image appears in religious and secular contexts. The axis mundi symbol may be found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced “urban centers.” ref

Do we know what the symbols represent?

 “Yes. It’s a bit more than I’d want to post on TwiX right now. It’s showing the 3-part universe, an upper, lower, and middle world, & the Milky Way is shown as well as Orion the Hand Constellation, Scorpius the ruler of the underworld, and Cygnus, the Judge. Also the main powers of the upper & lower worlds.” – Gregory L Little, Ed.D. @DrGregLittle2

Gregory L Little, Ed.D. BA/MS Psychology, Ed.D. Counseling/Ed. Psych Author since ’84 (70+ books/workbooks). Mound Builder Society: Be Kind; Respect Everything; Honor the Ancient Ones. 


My speculations on Turtle shells in burials

Turtle shells in burials in Central America likely relate to both Shamanism and Earth Diver mythology. The mound of creation is built onto the turtle’s back. This is why I think they make mounds: Mounds of Creation, also related to axis mundi – also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, the center of the world, or world tree – has been greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms”. Egyptians also thought the top of the pyramids was the mound of creation in their mythology. And Sumerians thought of their platform like pyramids were the mountains/mounds/homes on top of/for gods.

I think that around or just before the Early Neolithic time, it seems Turtles/Tortoises became part of, or associated with Shamanism.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“Grave VIII also included very fragmentary tibia and fibula, in articulation, and a left humerus, scapula, radius and ulna, representing an articulated arm of an adult. Discriminant analysis of humeral metrics suggests that these elements represent an adult female.” ref 

Natufian culture “Evidence for immigration”

The appearance of complex art: At the same time as the appearance of the Natufian culture there is a noticeable rise in the number of artistic objects in the Levant. These include bone and stone animal carvings, colored stone beads, some of the stones coming from over 100km/63 miles away, and complex abstract carvings that may represent code.” ref 

“As well as these there are many burials, often beneath the houses. These burials often contain peculiar objects to accompany the dead. Many burials include beads but one recently discovered included bits of dead wild animals. As mentioned above, materials such as stone from Arabia, obsidian from Anatolia/Turkey, and shell from the Nile valley show contacts with people over several hundred kilometers away. But other evidence, such as stone blade shaping techniques derived from north Africa and some evidence for north African genes in the population suggests that people may also have come in from some distance. Additionally, there is tenuous evidence for the import of a type of fig from north Africa.” ref

“The early Levantine Natufian people shared craniometric affinity with North Africans and in some respects with Sub-Saharan Africans. However, according to Lazaridis et al., Natufians did not share a greater amount of alleles with Sub-Saharan Africans than other ancient Eurasians, and the Basal Eurasian ancestry in Natufians is consistent with originating from the same population as Neolithic Iranians and Mesolithic Iranians.” ref

Mesolithic Iranians (66±13%), Neolithic Iranians (48±6%), and Epipaleolithic Natufians (44±8% or 63%) share Basal-Eurasian ancestry. Another estimate given for Holocene-era Near Easterners (e.g., Mesolithic Caucasian Hunter Gatherers, Mesolithic Iranians, Neolithic Iranians, Natufians) is that they possess up to 50% Basal Eurasian ancestry.] Additionally, while the Taforalt individuals were considered likely direct descendants of Basal Eurasians, they were shown to not be genetically closer to Basal Eurasians than Holocene-era Iranians.” ref

“The early spread of ancestry from Basal Eurasians spanned from Georgia, dated to 26,000 years ago, to Morocco, dated to 15,000 years ago. Amid the Holocene, the spread of ancestry from Basal Eurasians expanded more broadly into the regions of South Asia and West Eurasia.” ref

This is the oldest Turtle burial. 17,000 to 14,000 years old in the middle east.

12,000 years ago Israel, Turtle burial.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


The Shaman’s Secret: 9,000 years ago, two people were buried in Germany with hundreds of ritual objects—who were they? – By ANDREW CURRY 2023

Bad Dürrenberg is a modest spa town in eastern Germany, perched on a bluff overlooking the Saale River. Among the finds that emerged from the grave that afternoon was a second, tiny skull belonging to an infant of less than a year old, found between the thighs of the adult burial. Other unusual items included the delicate antlers of a roe deer, still attached to part of the skull, that could have been worn as a headdress. Henning also unearthed a polished stone ax similar to a type known from other sites in the area and 31 microliths, small flint blades barely an inch long.” ref 

“In the 1950s, researchers reexamined the skeleton and, based on the shape of the pelvis and other bones, suggested that they belonged to a woman. The copious grave goods—in addition to the antler headdress, blades, mussel shells, and boar tusks there were hundreds of other artifacts, including boars’ teeth, turtle shells, and bird bones—clearly marked the burial as special. The flints and other finds were firmly rooted in the world of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who lived between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago. The few Mesolithic graves that had been unearthed in Europe contained a flint blade or two, at most. In comparison, the Bad Dürrenberg grave was uniquely rich for the period.” ref

“It wasn’t until the late 1970s that radiocarbon dating showed that the bones were 9,000 years old, predating farming in central Europe by about 2,000 years and confirming earlier suspicions that the grave dated to the Mesolithic period. Surrounded by tall steel shelves storing artifacts and remains from other graves in the region, they set about excavating the blocks. They worked slowly, sieving the soil from the original dig, and recovered hundreds of additional artifacts. The new finds included dozens more microliths, and additional bird, mammal, and reptile bones. The team also found missing pieces of the woman’s skeleton and more tiny bones belonging to the baby buried with her.” ref

The shaman lived at a pivotal point in Europe’s past when the climate was changing, pushing people to adapt. People adapted quickly, becoming less mobile and more specialized in response to the changing environment. In the absence of herds of mammoth and reindeer to hunt, such specialization let them wrest more fish and game out of rivers and forests while remaining in a smaller territory. Meller believes that the Bad Dürrenberg burial is proof that human spirituality became more specialized at this time, too, with specific people in the community delegated to interact with the spirit world, often with the help of trances or psychoactive substances. Combined with the earlier analysis of the woman’s grave, the team’s new finds and meticulous look at her bones painted a more complete picture of the shaman. They conjectured that, from an early age, she had been singled out as different from other members of her community.” ref

“Even in death, her unusually rich grave marked her as exceptional. Earlier scholars, including Grünberg, had speculated that she was a shaman who served as an intermediary between her community and the spirit world, and Meller says that the new finds prove it beyond a doubt. In her role as a shaman, the woman would have interceded with supernatural powers on behalf of the sick and injured or to ensure success in the hunt. “You travel in other worlds on behalf of your people with the help of your spirit animal,” says Meller. Just as some people in the Mesolithic specialized in fishing or carving, the Bad Dürrenberg woman specialized in accessing the spirit world. “She must have had talents or skills that were highly esteemed in society,” Jöris says.” ref

“As part of the new archaeological project that started with the reexcavation of the grave in 2019, researchers took yet another look at the woman’s skeleton. A closer examination of her teeth showed that they had been deliberately filed down, exposing the pulp inside. This would have been extremely painful and would have produced a steady flow of blood as the pulp died. The woman would have had to keep the now hollow teeth scrupulously clean to avoid deadly infections. This excruciating procedure, Meller says, might have been a pain ritual to establish her as an interlocutor with the spirit world. Upon close inspection, the woman’s spine revealed a deformity that may have further enhanced her mystical aura.” ref

“According to Orschiedt and Walter Wohlgemuth, head of radiology at Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, the woman had an unusual nub of bone on the inside of her second cervical vertebra that would have compressed a vital artery when she tilted her head back and to the left, cutting off blood flow to her brain. The result was likely an extremely rare condition called nystagmus, a rhythmic twitch of the eyeball that is impossible to deliberately reproduce and would have appeared uncanny to the people in her community. She would have been able to switch it off by angling her head forward to relieve pressure on the artery. “She could deliberately put her head back and induce nystagmus,” Meller says. “It must have added greatly to her credibility as a shaman.” ref

The woman’s skeleton and the remains of the baby she cradled also contain invisible clues to their identities. Techniques of ancient DNA analysis unavailable just a decade ago have made it possible to answer other questions. Among the finds recovered from the soil by Meller’s team was an inner ear bone belonging to the baby. Not much bigger than a fingernail, this pyramid-shaped bone, which protects fragile parts of the ear, is unusually dense and preserves genetic material particularly well. The shaman’s inner ear bone, too, was preserved along with her skull, which was found during the original excavation. DNA analysis conducted by geneticist Wolfgang Haak of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology confirmed that the shaman was female, as had first been suggested by researchers in the 1950s, and added color to her portrait. Genes for skin pigmentation and hair and eye color showed she was probably dark-skinned, dark-haired, and light-eyed, a far cry from the blond Aryan man imagined by the original excavators. The baby, the researchers found, was a boy.” ref

“DNA extracted from the inner ear bones of the woman and the baby also helped establish their relationship to each other, which was more complex than supposed. They were not, in fact, mother and child, as archaeologists had expected. “It was always assumed the baby was hers,” says Haak. “And it turns out that he’s not.” Instead, the two were distantly related on the mother’s side, second cousins, perhaps, or the woman may have been the baby’s great-great grandmother. Because she was only in her 30s when she died, the latter would mean the baby was placed inside the grave long after her death. “Maybe she took care of the baby in her role as a healer,” Meller says, and was buried with him after they both died at the same time.” ref

The grave itself, along with the objects deposited inside, provided the final clues to understanding the power of the shaman’s mystical abilities. Researchers believe that the animal remains placed in the burial might have had symbolic meaning. Prey species such as deer and bison or aurochs may have been meant to evoke shamanic rituals intended to provide luck in the hunt. Marsh birds such as cranes, whose bones were also found in the grave, were the ultimate boundary-crossers, capable of flying in the heavens, nesting on the ground, and swimming underwater—a power the shaman might have called upon in her efforts to cross into the spirit world. The birds’ annual migration might also have had mystical significance, as they disappeared in winter and returned each spring. Turtles, whose shells were found by the dozen among the grave offerings, also cross from land to water. “It’s mind-boggling the spectrum of animal remains there are,” Haak says. “It’s a bit of a zoo.” ref

“The team’s analysis of the grave goods further showed that the shaman was connected to a wider community. The flints they found in the block were fashioned from more than 10 different rock sources, some located more than 50 miles away. “What goes in the grave is about how highly regarded she was and how big her community was,” Jöris says. “There were probably people who came from a long distance away for her burial.” During the reexcavation of the shaman’s grave, the team also turned their attention to the area surrounding the burial. As part of preparations for planting trees for the garden show, researchers dug dozens of test holes, but unearthed no other bones or Mesolithic artifacts.” ref

“Barely three feet away from the location of the shaman’s carefully arranged grave, however, they did uncover another small pit containing a pair of red deer antler headdresses. Both headdresses were pointed toward the shaman’s grave, a position scholars believe is unlikely to have been accidental. The fact that an offering had been made to the departed shaman came as no surprise. But radiocarbon dates the team gathered in 2022 indicate that these gifts are around 600 years younger than the woman’s grave, meaning they were placed there more than 20 generations after her death. This antler offering was made around 8,400 years ago and coincided with a dramatic cold spell in prehistoric Europe. Perhaps, Meller says, later shamans called on their distant ancestor for help in troubled times.” ref

“That a preliterate society may have preserved not only the woman’s memory but also recalled the precise location of her grave for so long is a display of sophistication not usually associated with hunter-gatherers. Meller believes that the idea that Mesolithic peoples lacked social complexity does these cultures a great disservice. The impressive level of attention to her grave, in her own time as well as centuries later, speaks to the significance of the shaman herself. “She was so charismatic and powerful,” Meller says, “that people were still talking about this woman six centuries after she died.” With a book on the team’s research published last year and plans for an updated exhibition in the museum in the works, people are talking about her nearly 10,000 years later, too.” ref

9,000 years ago Europe, Turtle burial.

8,000 years ago China, Turtle burial.

World Turtle

“The World Turtle, also called the Cosmic Turtle or the World-bearing Turtle, is a mytheme of a giant turtle (or tortoise) supporting or containing the world. It occurs in Hindu mythologyChinese mythology, and the mythologies of some of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The comparative mythology of the World-Tortoise discussed by Edward Burnett Tylor (1878:341) includes the counterpart World Elephant.” ref


Further information: Kurma

The World Turtle in Hindu mythology is known as Akūpāra (Sanskrit: अकूपार), or sometimes Chukwa. An example of a reference to the World Turtle in Hindu literature is found in Jñānarāja (the author of Siddhantasundara, writing c. 1500): “A vulture, whichever has only little strength, rests in the sky holding a snake in its beak for a prahara [three hours]. Why can [the deity] in the form of a tortoise, who possesses an inconceivable potency, not hold the Earth in the sky for a kalpa [billions of years]?ref

“The British philosopher John Locke made reference to this in his 1689 tract, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which compares one who would say that properties inhere in “substance” to the Indian, who said the world was on an elephant, which was on a tortoise, “but being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied—something, he knew not what”. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable lists, without citation, Maha-pudma and Chukwa as names from a “popular rendition of a Hindu myth in which the tortoise Chukwa supports the elephant Maha-pudma, which in turn supports the world.ref


North America

“The Lenape creation story of the “Great Turtle” was first recorded between 1678 and 1680 by Jasper Danckaerts. The belief is shared by other indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands, most notably those of the Haudenosanee confederacy, and the Anishinaabeg.ref

“The Jesuit Relations contain a Huron story concerning the World Turtle:

“When the Father was explaining to them [some Huron seminarists] some circumstance of the passion of our Lord, and speaking to them of the eclipse of the Sun, and of the trembling of the earth which was felt at that time, they replied that there was talk in their own country of a great earthquake which had happened in former times; but they did not know either the time or the cause of that disturbance. ‘There is still talk,’ (said they) ‘of a very remarkable darkening of the Sun, which was supposed to have happened because the great turtle which upholds the earth, in changing its position or place, brought its shell before the Sun, and thus deprived the world of sight.ref

Turtle Island (Indigenous North American folklore)

Turtle Island is a name for Earth or North America, used by some Indigenous peoples, as well as by some Indigenous rights activists. The name is based on a creation story common to several Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands of North America. A number of contemporary works continue to use and/or tell the Turtle Island creation story.” ref


The Lenape story of the “Great Turtle” was first recorded by Europeans between 1678 and 1680 by Jasper Danckaerts. The story is shared by other Northeastern Woodlands tribes, notably the Iroquois peoples. The Lenape believe that before creation there was nothing, an empty dark space. However, in this emptiness, there existed a spirit of their creator, Kishelamàkânk. Eventually in that emptiness, he fell asleep. While he slept, he dreamt of the world as we know it today, the Earth with mountains, forests, and animals.ref

“He also dreamt up man, and he saw the ceremonies man would perform. Then he woke up from his dream to the same nothingness he was living in before. Kishelamàkânk then started to create the Earth as he had dreamt it. First, he created helper spirits, the Grandfathers of the North, East, and West, and the Grandmother of the South. Together, they created the Earth just as Kishelamàkânk had dreamt it. One of their final acts was creating a special tree. From the roots of this tree came the first man, and when the tree bent down and kissed the ground, woman sprang from it.ref

“All the animals and humans did their jobs on the Earth, until eventually a problem arose. There was a tooth of a giant bear that could give the owner magical powers, and the humans started to fight over it. Eventually, the wars got so bad that people moved away, and made new tribes and new languages. Kishelamàkânk saw this fighting and decided to send down a spirit, Nanapush, to bring everyone back together. He went on top of a mountain and started the first Sacred Fire, which gave off a smoke that caused all the people of the world to come investigate what it was. When they all came, Nanapush created a pipe with a sumac branch and a soapstone bowl, and the creator gave him Tobacco to smoke with. Nanapush then told the people that whenever they fought with each other, to sit down and smoke tobacco in the pipe, and they would make decisions that were good for everyone.ref

“The same bear tooth later caused a fight between two evil spirits, a giant toad and an evil snake. The toad was in charge of all the waters, and amidst the fighting he ate the tooth and the snake. The snake then proceeded to bite his side, releasing a great flood upon the Earth. Nanapush saw this destruction and began climbing a mountain to avoid the flood, all the while grabbing animals that he saw and sticking them in his sash. At the top of the mountain there was a cedar tree that he started to climb, and as he climbed he broke off limbs of the tree. When he got to the top of the tree, he pulled out his bow, played it and sang a song that made the waters stop. Nanapush then asked which animal he could put the rest of the animals on top of in the water. The turtle volunteered saying he’d float and they could all stay on him, and that’s why they call the land turtle island.ref

“Nanapush then decided the turtle needed to be bigger for everyone to live on, so he asked the animals if one of them would dive down into the water to get some of the old Earth. The beaver tried first, but came up dead and Nanapush had to revive him. The loon tried second, but its attempt ended with the same fate. Lastly, the muskrat tried. He stayed down the longest, and came up dead as well, but he had some Earth on his nose that Nanapush put on the Turtles back. Because of his accomplishment, Nanapush told the muskrat he was blessed and his kind would always thrive in the land.ref

“Nanapush then took out his bow and again sang, and the turtle started to grow. It kept growing, and Nanapush sent out animals to try to get to the edge to see how long it had grown. First, he sent the bear, and the bear returned in two days saying he had reached the end. Next, he sent out the deer, who came back in two weeks saying he had reached the end. Finally, he sent the wolf, and the wolf never returned because the land had gotten so big. The Lenape claim that this is why the wolf howls, that it is really a call for their ancestor to come back home.ref


“According to the oral tradition of the Haudenosaunee (or “Iroquois”), “the earth was the thought of [a ruler] of a great island which floats in space [and] is a place of eternal peace.” Sky Woman fell down to the earth when it was covered with water, or more specifically, when there was a “great cloud sea”. Various animals tried to swim to the bottom of the ocean to bring back dirt to create land. Muskrat succeeded in gathering dirt, which was placed on the back of a turtle. This dirt began to multiply and also caused the turtle to grow bigger. The turtle continued to grow bigger and bigger and the dirt continued to multiply until it became a huge expanse of land. Thus, when Iroquois cultures refer to the earth, they often call it Turtle Island.ref

“According to Converse and Parker, the Iroquois faith shared with other religions the “belief that the Earth is supported by a gigantic turtle.” In the Seneca language, the mythical turtle is called Hah-nu-nah, while the name for an everyday turtle is ha-no-waIn other versions of the story, such as Susan M. Hills’s, the muskrat or other animals die in their search for land for the Sky Woman (named Mature Flower in Hills’s telling). This is a representation of the Haudenosaunee beliefs of death and chaos as forces of creation, as we all give our bodies to the land to become soil, which in turn continues to support life.ref

“This concept plays out again when the Mature Flower’s daughter dies during childbirth, becoming the first person to be buried on the turtle’s back and whose burial post helped grow various plants such as corn and strawberries. This, according to Hill, also shows how soil, and the land itself, has the ability to act and shape creation. Some tellings do not include this expanded edition as part of the Creation Story, however, these differences are important to note when considering Haudenosaunee traditions and relationships.ref

Indigenous rights activism and environmentalism

“The name Turtle Island has been used by many Indigenous cultures in North America, and both native and non-native activists, especially since the 1970s when the term came into wider usage. American author and ecologist Gary Snyder uses the term to refer to North America, writing that it synthesizes both indigenous and colonizer cultures, by translating the indigenous name into the colonizer’s languages (the Spanish “Isla Tortuga” being proposed as a name as well). Snyder argues that understanding North America under the name of Turtle Island will help shift conceptions of the continent. Turtle Island has been used by writers and musicians, including Snyder for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poetry, Turtle Island; the Turtle Island Quartet jazz string quartet; Tofurky manufacturer Turtle Island Foods; and the Turtle Island Research Cooperative in Boise, Idaho.ref

“The Canadian Association of University Teachers has put into practice the acknowledgment of indigenous territory and claims, particularly at institutions located within unceded land or covered by perpetual decrees such as the Haldimand Tract. At Canadian universities, many courses, student and academic meetings, as well as convocation and other celebrations begin with a spoken acknowledgement of the traditional Indigenous territories, sometimes including reference to Turtle Island, in which they are taking place.ref

Names in Indigenous American languages

Turtles in North American Indigenous Mythology

North America

“In the stories of many Indigenous groups of North America, the World Turtle carries the Earth upon its back. Many North American Indigenous groups, mostly in the northern and eastern areas of the continent, have in common a type of creation story called the Earth-Diver Myth in which a supreme being usually sends an animal into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land; in many stories these are then used to build that land upon the base of a turtle’s back. For this reason many Indigenous peoples of the continent refer to it as Turtle Island. Use of term “Turtle Island” for the North American continent expanded beyond those groups carrying these story traditions into more widespread pan-Indigenous use during Indigenous rights activism in the 1970s.ref

“Most turtles have thirteen scales, or scutes, on the backs of their shells. In many Native American cultural traditions these scutes represented the thirteen full moons in each year, including those of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe other related Algonquian peoples, and the Wabanaki/Abenaki. In Cheyenne tradition, the great creator spirit Maheo kneads some mud he takes from a coot‘s beak until it expands so much that only Old Grandmother Turtle can support it on her back.ref

“In Haudenosaunee tradition, the trembling or shaking of the Earth is thought of as a sign that the World Turtle is stretching beneath the great weight that she carries. In the Anishinaabe creation story, Gchi-Mikinaak (“The Great Turtle”) offers his back as a base in order to (re)build the world from mud brought up from the bottom of the great waters covering the world by another animal, usually by Wazhashk (“Muskrat”).) In most versions of this story, this takes place after a Great Flood covers the world, and the land created on Turtle’s back is the first to re-emerge, on which the Anishinaabeg will live from then on.ref

South America

Turtles are beloved by many Indigenous South American cultures and have thus entered their mythologies. According to many of these myths, the Jebuti (Portuguesejabutipronounced [ʒabuˈtʃi], “land turtle”) obtained its mottled shell in a fall to earth as it attempted to reach the heavens with the help of an eagle in order to play a flute at a celebration there.ref


In the Tahitian islands, the tortoise is the shadow of the gods and the lord of the oceans. In Polynesia the tortoise personifies the war god Tu. Drawing tattoo marks of a tortoise was a traditional custom among warriors. In a story from Admiralty Islands, people are born from eggs laid by the World Turtle. There are many similar creation stories throughout Polynesia.ref


“For the Chinese, the tortoise is sacred and symbolizes longevity, power, and tenacity. It is said that the tortoise helped Pangu (also known as P’an Ku) create the world: the creator goddess Nuwa or Nugua cuts the legs off a sea turtle and uses them to prop up the sky after Gong Gong destroys the mountain that had supported the sky. The flat plastron and domed carapace of a turtle parallel the ancient Chinese idea of a flat earth and domed sky. For the Chinese as well as the Indians, the tortoise symbolizes the universe. Quoting Pen T’sao, “the upper dome-shaped part of its back has various signs, which correspond with the constellations on the sky, and this is Yan; the lower part has many lines, which relate to the earth and is the Yin.ref

“The tortoise is one of the “Four Fabulous Animals“, the most prominent beasts of China. These animals govern the four points of the compass, with the Black Tortoise the ruler of the north, symbolizing endurance, strength, and longevity. The tortoise and the tiger are the only real animals of the four, although the tortoise is depicted with supernatural features such as dragon ears, flaming tentacles at its shoulders and hips, and a long hairy tail representing seaweed and the growth of plant parasites found on older tortoise shells that flow behind the tortoise as it swims. The Chinese believe that tortoises come out in the spring when they change their shells, and hibernate during the winter, which is the reason for their long life.ref

“The Chinese Imperial Army carried flags with images of dragons and tortoises as symbols of unparalleled power and inaccessibility, as these animals fought with each other but both remained alive. The dragon cannot break the tortoise and the latter cannot reach the dragon. In Tibet, the tortoise is a symbol of creativity.ref

“The tortoise is of the feng shui water element with the tiger, phoenix, and dragon representing the other three elements. According to the principles of feng shui the rear of the home is represented by the Black Tortoise, which signifies support for home, family life, and personal relationships. A tortoise at the back door of a house or in the backyard by a pond is said to attract good fortune and many blessings. Three tortoises stacked on top of each other represent a mother and her babies. In Daoist art, the tortoise is an emblem of the triad of earth-humankind-heaven.ref

“The tortoise is a symbol of longevity. Due to its longevity, a symbol of a turtle was often used during burials. A burial mound might be shaped like a turtle, and even called a “grave turtle.” A carved turtle, known as bixi was used as a plinth for memorial tablets of high-ranking officials during the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE) and the Ming periods (1368-1644 CE). Enormous turtles supported the memorial tablets of Chinese emperors and support the Kangxi Emperor‘s stele near Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, China. Tortoise shells were used for witchcraft and future forecasting. There are innumerable tales on the longevity of the tortoises and their ability to transform into other forms.ref


“In Judaism, according to Torah Leviticus 11, the turtle is considered unclean and cannot be eaten. In Sufism, the hatching and return of baby turtles to the sea is a symbol for returning to God through God’s guidance. There are Quranic verses related to turtles such as “Extol the name of your Lord, the Highest, who has created and regulated, and has destined and guided” [87:1-3]. The early Christian scholar St Jerome recounted that the tortoise moves sluggishly because it is “burdened and heavy with its own weight … signifying the grievous sin of the heretics”. An early Christian curse tablet has been found that addresses “the most unclean spirit of a tortoise”. In art turtles and tortoises were depicted as the “embodiment of evil in combat.ref

See also


“Iroquois Creation Myth NSky Woman A Depiction Of The Iroquois Creation Myth Oil On Canvas 1936 By Ernest Smith Poster” ref

Earth-diver myth

(creation myth or cosmogonic myth, which is a type of cosmogony, 

symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it.)

“The earth-diver is a common character in various traditional creation myths. In these stories, a supreme being usually sends an animal (most often a type of bird, but also crustaceans, insects, and fish in some narratives) into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land. Some scholars interpret these myths psychologically while others interpret them cosmogonically. In both cases, emphasis is placed on beginnings emanating from the depths.” ref

According to Gudmund Hatt and Tristram P. Coffin, Earth-diver myths are common in Native American folklore, among the following populations: ShoshoneMeskwakiBlackfootChipewyanNewetteeYokuts of California, MandanHidatsaCheyenneArapahoOjibweYuchi, and Cherokee. American anthropologist Gladys Reichard located the distribution of the motif across “all parts of North America”, save for “the extreme north, northeast, and southwest.” ref 

“In a 1977 study, anthropologist Victor Barnouw surmised that the earth-diver motif appeared in “hunting-gathering societies“, mainly among northerly groups such as the HareDogribKaskaBeaverCarrierChipewyanSarsiCree, and Montagnais. Similar tales are also found among the Chukchi and Yukaghir, the Tatars, and many Finno-Ugric traditions, as well as among the Buryat and the Samoyed. In addition, the earth-diver motif also exists in narratives from Eastern Europe, namely Romani, Romanian, Slavic (namely, Bulgarian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian), and Lithuanian mythological traditions.” ref

“The pattern of distribution of these stories suggest they have a common origin in the eastern Asiatic coastal region, spreading as peoples migrated west into Siberia and east to the North American continent. However, there are examples of this mytheme found well outside of this boreal distribution pattern, for example the West African Yoruba creation myth of Ọbatala and OduduwaCharacteristic of many Native American myths, earth-diver creation stories begin as beings and potential forms linger asleep or suspended in the primordial realm. The earth-diver is among the first of them to awaken and lay the necessary groundwork by building suitable lands where the coming creation will be able to live. In many cases, these stories will describe a series of failed attempts to make land before the solution is found.” ref

“Among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the earth-diver cosmogony is attested in Iroquois mythology: a female sky deity falls from the heavens, and certain animals, the beaver, the otter, the duck, and the muskrat dive in the waters to fetch mud to construct an island. In a similar story from the Seneca, people lived in a sky realm. One day, the chief’s daughter was afflicted with a mysterious illness, and the only cure recommended for her (revealed in a dream) was to lie beside a tree and to have it be dug up. The people do so, but a man complains that the tree was their livelihood, and kicks the girl through the hole. She ends up falling from the sky to a world of only water, but is rescued by waterfowl.” ref

“A turtle offers to bear her on its shell, but asked where would be a definitive dwelling place for her. They decide to create land, and the toad dives into the depths of the primal sea to get pieces of soil. The toad puts it on the turtle’s back, which grows larger with every deposit of soil. In another version from the Wyandot, the Wyandot lived in heaven. The daughter of the Big Chief (or Mighty Ruler) was sick, so the medicine man recommends that they dig up the wild apple tree that stands next to the Lodge of the Mighty Ruler, because the remedy is to be found on its roots.” ref

“However, as the tree has been dug out, the ground begins to sink away, and the treetops catch and carry down the sick daughter with it. As the girl falls from the skies, two swans rescue her on their backs. The birds decide to summon all the Swimmers and the Water Tribes. Many volunteer to dive into the Great Water to fetch bits of earth from the bottom of the sea, but only the toad (female, in the story) is the one successful.” ref

“Ayotl (turtle-shell drum) common throughout ancient Mesoamerica.”

“Here we try to give as comprehensive an introduction as we can to one of the oldest percussion instruments in the world, common throughout ancient Mesoamerica and still played today in coastal regions. We have been playing ours in school history workshops on the Aztecs and Maya for decades, and it remains one of our most treasured artefacts: the turtle-shell drum… (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore).” ref

“Simple though it may sound – you tap the underside of a tortoise or turtle shell with a brittle beater – there’s more to this humble instrument than meets the eye. Just how was it played in ancient times? How widespread is its use today? Many associations have been ascribed to it in the past – are they all true? Do we know for sure it’s the ancestor of the ubiquitous two-toned tongue drum?” ref

“First, its name. In Nahuatl ayotl refers commonly to the turtle and to the instrument. It’s conceivable that the word is a composite of a(tl) – water – and -yotl – living thing or ‘pertaining to…’; this would be logical given the creature’s aquatic environment – by far the most common ayotl instruments are fresh-water (river) turtle shells (Contreras 1988). One or two Nahuatl dictionaries list ayotapalcatl (meaning something like ‘tiled tortoise’) rather than ayotl as the name of the instrument.” ref

“Though the entire instrument consists of organic material, turtle shells ‘are in fact fairly common burial furniture in the Classic period’ (Coe: 1988: 231) – to which we can add evidence from iconography, sculptures, and the testimony of 16th century chroniclers – Spaniard and native alike. There’s plenty to go on…” ref

“Whilst the ayotl is not shown in the inventory of instruments in the palace of Emperor Motecuhzuma Xocoyotzin, it is specifically mentioned in three separate chapters in Book 2 (‘The Ceremonies’) of the great Florentine Codex. Two references are made to it (chapter 24) during the festival of Toxcatl (‘They beat turtle shells; they struck turtle shells; they sat using turtle shells’), and during the ‘serpent dance’ performed by seasonal warriors; subsequently in chapters 25 (Etzalqualiztli) and 26 (Atemoztli) the instrument is named.” ref

“One of the ‘classic’ images of the ayotl being played can be seen in the Codex Magliabechiano (pic 2) – part of the final section of the Codex dealing with a miscellany of gods, rites and customs; five death rites are depicted, in one of which the ayotl plays a prominent role.” ref

“Though not illustrated individually, the ayotl is mentioned in the midnight funeral procession of the Tarascan king (cazonci) in Part 3, Chapter XVI of the Relación de Michoacán, on ‘how the king died and the ceremonies by which he was buried’: Iban tañendo delante: uno, unos huesos de caimanes; otros, unas tortugas (‘in front they went playing: one, alligator bones, others tortoises’).” ref

“It’s references such as these that have led outstanding scholars of Mexica/Aztec music over the years (Martí, Stevenson, Both…) to conclude that turtle shells ‘were primarily used in funeral contexts and ceremonies dedicated to the afterlife’ (Both 2006: 323). Their conclusions have been reinforced by several historical allusions to the allegedly ‘sad and lugubrious sounds’ of the instrument (Kurath and Martí 1964: 31, quoting a Yucatán history from 1896; a similar comment – ‘giving a mournful, sad sound’ – was made by Diego de Landa in the 16th. century.)” ref

“More recent historians of Mexican music (Castañeda & Mendoza, Contreras…), of course, take a far more scientific and unbiased approach, pointing out that by its nature the turtle shell offers quite a large soundbox, producing a sound that is ‘potente, limpio y con peculiar oquedad’ (Contreras 1988: 35). The most interesting aspect of the sound is the two-tone effect, derived from the fact that one end of the plastron (the nearly flat underbelly, as opposed to the rounded upper part known as the carapace) tends to be thinner – and, importantly, shorter – than the other – the same applies to the carapace. The thicker end is usually towards the front (for the head). Different tonal shades can be produced according to which part of the plastron is struck.” ref

“This strikes an immediate parallel with one of the two most sacred and ancient of Mesoamerican drums, the two-toned tongue or slit drum, teponaztli in Nahuatl, tunkul in Mayan languages. Understandably, scholars suggest the connection is more than skin deep: in describing the ayotl as one of the principal West Mexican percussion instruments, John Burkhalter III (noted for his recreation of the Maya jaguar-growl-imitating string and bow rasp drum – follow the ‘Ancient Maya Music’ link below) has written: ‘The skeletal underbelly plate of the turtle shell produces essentially two different tones, one higher than the other. Since turtle shell instruments have a wide geographic distribution in the ancient Americas, and are made of a natural material linked to various ecosystems, it is possible to conclude that this instrument could be the original tonal concept for the two-toned horizontal wood slit drums of the Maya and the later Aztec’ (2004: 6) As if to symbolise this link, one of the three magnificent original teponaztlis on display in the British Museum, in the shape of a crouching human figure, bears the icon of a turtle on the right armband.” ref

“We have more examples of turtle-shell instruments being played depicted on Maya artefacts than those from Central Mexico: indeed, Stevenson (1968: 36) suggests that ‘the ayotl was a favourite instrument of the Mayas, who gave it the name of kayab…’ For this he quotes the 19th. century German scholar Eduard Seler, who claimed that the glyph for the 17th. winal (20-day ‘month’ in the Maya calendar) features a tortoise, from which he deduced that kayab ‘seems to refer to the musical use of its shell’ (Stevenson 1968: 26). This seems something of a leap of faith, and modern Maya glyph dictionaries give ak as the Maya equivalent of ayotl.” ref

“From the earliest colonial references to the instrument – and to some extent from the iconography available to us – disagreement arises as to exactly how the turtle-shell was played. Hammond (1972: 131) gives two contrasting examples: Bishop Diego de Landa (extending the quote above) wrote that ‘having taken out the flesh they strike it with the palm of the hand’, whereas ‘its use at the time of the Conquest is attested by Lopez de Cogolludo [writing in 1688] who describes an ambush at Ake in Yucatán in 1528 where the Maya “beat the shells of large turtles with deer horns”’. Hammond points out that, in proportion to the human players holding them, the shell drums depicted at Bonampak measure ‘just over fifty centimetres long and about thirty-five centimetres wide’ (ibid) – large by any standard, and likely to be seawater turtle shells.” ref

“So is this instrument a drum, a rasp, a gong…? Stevenson, a longstanding expert on ancient Mexican music, deduces from de Landa’s statement and from Seler’s comments that ‘we should infer that the tortoise shell was more of a gong than a rasp’ (1952: 48). Both (2006: 323) and Houston, Stuart & Taube (2006: 265) refer to a rasp. Izikowitz (1934: 9) calls it a ‘stroke idiophone’, and it’s interesting that Houston et al include the Mayan term lahb in their list of Yucatec words for playing instruments, the word meaning to ‘stroke with the dexterity of the tortilla maker’ (!) (2006: 255). Weinberg (1982: 79) quotes Curt Sachs – a respected music historian but non-Mexican specialist, writing in 1968: ‘It certainly was erroneous to interpret this playing as a gonglike striking; on miniatures as well as on clay figures the antler is represented as being so close to the shell that it must have been used to scrape the uneven surface rather than to strike it’. But Weinberg contradicts this view, referring to the notoriously ambiguous image in the Codex Becker which appears to show ‘a player of the ayotl using a forked antler being held about six to eight inches from the shell’ (ibid) (pic 8). Of course it’s quite possible that both techniques – scraping and striking – were used.” ref

“More clues are to be found in terra cotta votive figures excavated from tombs and offering sites over the centuries, from several different cultures – such as the ceramic figure of a seated ayotl-player from West Mexico (pic 9) found in a deep shaft tomb – one of many ceramic objects produced in distinctive local styles to accompany the dead. In his pioneering survey published in 1934 the eminent ethnomusicologist Karl Gustav Izikowitz noted that, apart from a single reference to one played by the Tikuna people of the Brazilian Amazon, ‘I do not know of any instances of such instruments occurring anywhere else in South America, but they have existed in Mexico’ (1934:9). Well, that’s an understatement! Respected historians of Mexican folklore, including Carl Lumholtz, Miguel Covarrubias, Frances Toor, Daniel Castañeda and Vicente Mendoza, all draw attention to the ayotl’s presence – from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Chiapas, from the Yucatán to Nayarit, and from Oaxaca to Michoacán.” ref

“In the collection of ceramic figures of Franco-Mexican ethnologist Auguste Génin, photographed in the 1920s, six of the fourteen musicians depicted (see picture 10, centre – figs d, e, f, h, j and n) are playing ayotls. Commenting on his own photo of two such musicians also from Ixtlán del Río, Nayarit (pic 10, bottom), Lumholtz notes that they play turtle-shell drums ‘como muchas tribus surianas de México solían hacer’ (Castañeda & Mendoza 1933: 212).” ref

“It’s worth noting here that, unlike the Aztec examples (see pictures 2 and 11), in the case of the Tarascan, Ixtlán del Río and Maya musicians the instrument is not placed on the ground but is held by hand, with one hand inside the shell to hold it steady. Be that as it may, the overall conclusion must surely be that the ayotl was sounded, in Mary Miller’s words, by ‘people knocking deer antlers against turtle carapaces’ (2006: 258).” ref

“We now know that the brittle rattling or clattering sound of antler on shell was important in invoking supernatural forces, in ritual activities. ‘Their symbolic meaning probably originated in the association of natural sounds, such as pattering rain or the warning sound of rattlesnakes, and therefore was related to Aztec deities of the rain and wind. Clattering sounds were related to the underworld. The role that these and other associations played in the function and meaning of musical instruments cannot be sufficiently emphasised’ (Both 2003: 21).” ref

“Rattles exert, in musicological jargon, ‘agency’, and it’s very possible that the heavy tapping sounds of bone on shell imitated – and hence invoked, through what’s called sympathetic magic – the sounds of heavy raindrops landing on the ground. There is a strong connection in Mesoamerican cosmology between turtles, the earth, fertility and life-giving water. ‘The turtle carapace… may be the idealised image of a cosmic house; it resembles rocks, which are often sacred, and has the rugged texture of the earth’ (Benson 2001: 277). The Maya maize god is famously depicted sprouting out of the turtle-earth (itself believed to be a gigantic reptilian creature floating on primordial waters), a number of late Classic Maya altars were carved in the form of turtles, and ‘turtles are said to weep when there is drought, and their tears bring rain; if a turtle is harmed, drought may ensue…’ (ibid: 278)” ref

“Given their musical qualities, it’s not surprising that from ancient times ‘turtles may have been identified with music in central Mexico’ (Miller & Taube 1993: 174) – picture 13 shows the god of music in the guise of a turtle (Mendoza 1959: 328). Referring specifically to the turtle carapace and deer-antler rasp, Houston, Stuart & Taube leave us in no doubt: ‘The connection of deities with song and music is strengthened by an evident association with the most robust noisemakers of all, the many Chaak, or storm gods’ (2006: 265); so we’re talking here not just of the invocation of rain but of thunder too. Houston et al suggest that ‘the rasping noises probably filled the sonic spaces between rattles and drums’ (ibid) – Mary Miller, in her classic study ‘The Boys in the Band’, was the first to point out that in Maya iconography there appears to be a set sequence of musicians, of rattlers followed by flautists and then drummers and ayotl players (moreover, they are often grouped in threes).” ref

“Centuries ago, de Landa identified the ‘turtle star’ ac ek as one of the most important constellations in the Maya calendar (Milbrath 1999: 267), which most scholars today identify with either Gemini or Orion. Given their longevity (up to 150 years) it’s also hardly surprising that turtles have long held associations with gods, ancestors and kings, whose status was marked by magnificent jewellery. A fine example of a (gold) necklace in the form of a chain of tortoise shells, made by a particularly talented Mixtec artisan, now in the Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Collection, can be seen in picture 15. It consists of 16 spheres decorated with incised zigzags and circles in the stylised shape of a tortoiseshell, each shell cast from a separate mould using the lost-wax technique. A bell is attached to each tassel.” ref

“‘When worn, the reflections cast by the moving parts would have animated the necklace while the bells would have produced a distinctive metallic tinkling’ (McEwan & López Luján 2009: 95) – a sound that some scholars believe imitated the sound of gentle rain, further suggesting the association with fertility (see Toby Evans 2010: 97). Even the colour used to depict turtle shells could be significant: Stone & Zender point out (2011: 127, 207) that the turtle shells held by the Bonampak musicians (see picture 7) are painted yellow – ‘a probable reference to the k’an sign [representing yellow] that frequently marks turtles in [Maya] art.” ref

“In conclusion, we return to the principal context for these unusual instruments to be played in ancient Mesoamerica, that we indicated at the start – in funerary processions – and we leave the last word to Mary Miller, who, in carrying out the first detailed study of the musicians in the Bonampak murals, concluded that the evidence ‘suggests to me that musicians accompanied the body to the tomb, laying down instruments as offerings’ (1988: 322) – which is why, of course, we’re lucky to have so many sources of evidence today.” ref

“And finally, what of our own ayotl?! We were privileged to have it studied by staff at the Zoological Society of London recently: they suggested that it’s probably a (female) freshwater turtle, but much beyond that they couldn’t say. We used to let children play it in our workshops, but as the years go by and we get more nervous of an accident occurring, it’s now only handled and played by our team. it wasn’t the first artefact we began taking to schools (that was Graciela’s family metate), but it comes in pretty close – we think we got it in Mexico on a field trip in 1981: she’s been accompanying us to schools ever since…” ref

Earth Diver myth, the Mound of Creation/World Mound, and the World Turtle/Mound of Creation/World Mound

  1. Medicine Wheel
  2. Serpent Mound
  3. Mesa Verde
  4. Chaco Canyon
  5. Casas Grandes/Paquime
  6. Ciudad Perdida “lost city”; Teyuna
  7. Ingapirca “Inca”
  8. Chavín de Huántar “pre-Inca”
  9. Sacred City of Caral-Supe *Caral culture developed between 3000 – 1800 BCE*
  10. Machu Picchu
  11. Nazca Lines
  12. Sacsayhuamán
  13. Tiwanaku/Tiahuanaco
  14. Atacama Giant/Lines
  15. Pucará de Tilcara “pre-Inca”

Bleera Kaanu-Shell Mound Nicaragua 5,900 years ago human-made shell mound

Watson Brake Louisiana 5,500 years ago human-made mounds

Caral culture 5,000 years ago pyramids, large earthwork platform mounds, and sunken circular plazas

Poverty Point  Louisiana 3,700 years ago human-made mounds 

Olmec La Venta Great pyramid 2,394 years ago human-made earth and clay mound

Maya 3,000 years ago mounds, raised platforms, pyramids

“In the Americas, middens are represented by radiocarbon dates of 5000–2000 BCE from Panama and eastern North America. Middens of South America and California probably antedate 2000 BCE.” ref

“The oldest pottery of northern Europe, eastern North America, and Central America occurs in shell mounds.” ref

A 5,000-year-old Earth Pyramid a human-made earth mound is found in North China as well. I actually think the thinking that leads to pyramid/Step Platform mounds is all related to North Asia, Southern Siberia/North China area. To me there are shared ideas related to the people’s movements that spread ideas including mounds/pyramids/step platform mounds. Platform Mounds/Pyramids, to me, relate to several kinds of mythology, creation myths, deity beliefs, heaven/spirits/afterlife/stars/moon/sun, etc. Along with power/elites/inequality/hierarchy. 

Mound groups in Amazonia. The revelation of thousands of mounds and ditch-and-embankment structures (unfortunately named “geoglyphs”) is radically changing our understanding of ancient South America. James Q. Jacobs’ work in Google Earth is amazing. If you don’t know it, you really should check it out. And, thanks for YOUR help in getting correct and accurate information out to a wide audience!” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (Anthropologist with broad training in the archaeology of pre-Hispanic indigenous cultures in Latin America)

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

California-Peruvian connection

“The Cell study also revealed a surprising connection between ancient people living in California’s Channel Islands and the southern Peruvian Andes at least 4,200 years ago. It appears that these two geographically distant groups have a shared ancestry, the researchers found. It’s unlikely that people living in the Channel Islands actually traveled south to Peru, the researchers said. Rather, it’s possible that these groups’ ancestors sallied forth thousands of years earlier, with some ending up in the Channel Islands and others in South America. But those genes didn’t become common in Peru until much later, around 4,200 years ago, when the population may have exploded, the researchers said. It could be that this ancestry arrived in South America thousands of years before and we simply don’t have earlier individuals showing it,” study co-lead researcher Nathan Nakatsuka, a research assistant in the Reich lab at Harvard Medical School, said in the statement. “There is archaeological evidence that the population in the Central Andes area greatly expanded after around 5,000 years ago. Spreads of particular subgroups during these events may be why we detect this ancestry afterward.” ref

Norte Chico civilization / Caral–Supe civilization

Caral–Supe (also known as Caral and Norte Chico) was a complex pre-Columbian era society that included as many as thirty major population centers in what is now the Caral region of north-central coastal Peru. The civilization flourished between the fourth and second millennia BCE, with the formation of the first city generally dated to around 3500 BCE, at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza area. It is from 3100 BCE onward that large-scale human settlement and communal construction become clearly apparent, which lasted until a period of decline around 1800 BCE. Since the early 21st century, it has been recognized as the oldest-known civilization in the Americas, and as one of the six sites where civilisation separately originated in the ancient world.ref

“This civilization flourished along three rivers, the Fortaleza, the Pativilca, and the Supe. These river valleys each have large clusters of sites. Farther south, there are several associated sites along the Huaura River. The alternative name, Caral–Supe, is derived from the city of Caral in the Supe Valley, a large and well-studied Caral–Supe site. Complex society in the Caral–Supe arose a millennium after Sumer in Mesopotamia, was contemporaneous with the Egyptian pyramids, and predated the Mesoamerican Olmec by nearly two millennia.ref

“In archaeological nomenclature, Caral–Supe is a pre-ceramic culture of the pre-Columbian Late Archaic; it completely lacked ceramics and no evidence of visual art has survived. The most impressive achievement of the civilization was its monumental architecture, including large earthwork platform mounds and sunken circular plazas. Archaeological evidence suggests use of textile technology and, possibly, the worship of common deity symbols, both of which recur in pre-Columbian Andean cultures. Sophisticated government is presumed to have been required to manage the ancient Caral. Questions remain over its organization, particularly the influence of food resources on politics.ref

“The dating of the Caral–Supe sites has pushed back the estimated beginning date of complex societies in the Peruvian region by more than one thousand years. The Chavín culture, c. 900 BCE, had previously been considered the first civilization of the area. Regularly, it still is cited incorrectly as such in general works.ref

“The discovery of Caral–Supe has also shifted the focus of research away from the highland areas of the Andes and lowlands adjacent to the mountains (where the Chavín, and later Inca, had their major centers) to the Peruvian littoral, or coastal regions. Caral is located in a north-central area of the coast, approximately 150 to 200 km north of Lima, roughly bounded by the Lurín Valley on the south and the Casma Valley on the north. It comprises four coastal valleys: the Huaura, Supe, Pativilca, and Fortaleza. Known sites are concentrated in the latter three, which share a common coastal plain. The three principal valleys cover only 1,800 km², and research has emphasized the density of the population centers.ref

“The Peruvian littoral appears an “improbable, even aberrant” candidate for the “pristine” development of civilization, compared to other world centers. It is extremely arid, bounded by two rain shadows (caused by the Andes to the east, and the Pacific trade winds to the west). The region is punctuated by more than 50 rivers that carry Andean snowmelt. The development of widespread irrigation from these water sources is seen as decisive in the emergence of Caral–Supe; since all of the monumental architecture at various sites has been found close to irrigation channels.ref

“The radiocarbon work of Jonathan Haas et al., found that 10 of 95 samples taken in the Pativilca and Fortaleza areas dated from before 3500 BCE. The oldest, dating from 9210 BCE, provides “limited indication” of human settlement during the Pre-Columbian Early Archaic era. Two dates of 3700 BCE are associated with communal architecture, but are likely to be anomalous. It is from 3200 BCE onward that large-scale human settlement and communal construction are clearly apparent. Mann, in a survey of the literature in 2005, suggests “sometime before 3200 BCE, and possibly before 3500 BCE” as the beginning date of the Caral–Supe formative period. He notes that the earliest date securely associated with a city is 3500 BCE, at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza area of the north, based on Haas’s dates.ref

“Haas’s early-third-millennium dates suggest that the development of coastal and inland sites occurred in parallel. But, from 2500 to 2000 BCE, during the period of greatest expansion, the population and development decisively shifted toward the inland sites. All development apparently occurred at large interior sites such as Caral, although they remained dependent on fish and shellfish from the coast. The peak in dates is in keeping with Shady’s dates at Caral, which show habitation from 2627 BCE to 2020 BCE. That coastal and inland sites developed in tandem remains disputed.ref

“By around 2200 BCE, the influence of Norte Chico civilization spread far along the coast. To the south, it went as far as the Chillon valley, and the site of El Paraiso. To the north, it spread as far as the Santa River valley. c. 1800 BCE, the Caral–Supe civilization began to decline, with more powerful centers appearing to the south and north along the coast, and to the east inside the belt of the Andes. The success of irrigation-based agriculture at Caral–Supe may have contributed to its being eclipsed. Anthropologist Professor Winifred Creamer of Northern Illinois University notes that “when this civilization is in decline, we begin to find extensive canals farther north. People were moving to more fertile ground and taking their knowledge of irrigation with them”. It would be a thousand years before the rise of the next great Peruvian culture, the Chavín.ref

“Cultural links with the highland areas have been noted by archaeologists. Ruth Shady highlights the links with the Kotosh Religious Tradition:

Numerous architectural features found among the settlements of Supe, including subterranean circular courts, stepped pyramids and sequential platforms, as well as material remains and their cultural implications, excavated at Aspero and the valley sites we are digging (Caral, Chupacigarro, Lurihuasi, Miraya), are shared with other settlements of the area that participated in what is known as the Kotosh Religious Tradition. Most specific among these features include rooms with benches and hearths with subterranean ventilation ducts, wall niches, biconvex beads, and musical flutes.ref

Research into Caral–Supe continues, with many unsettled questions. Debate is ongoing regarding two related questions: the degree to which the flourishing of the Caral–Supe was based on maritime food resources, and the exact relationship this implies between the coastal and inland sites. A broad outline of the Caral–Supe diet has been suggested. At Caral, the edible domesticated plants noted by Shady are squashbeanslúcumaguava, pacay (Inga feuilleei), and sweet potato. Haas et al. noted the same foods in their survey farther north, while adding avocado and achira. In 2013, good evidence for maize also was documented by Haas et al.ref

“There was also a significant seafood component at both coastal and inland sites. Shady notes that “animal remains are almost exclusively marine” at Caral, including clams and mussels, and large amounts of anchovies and sardines. That the anchovy fish reached inland is clear, although Haas suggests that “shellfish [which would include clams and mussels], sea mammals, and seaweed do not appear to have been significant portions of the diet in the inland, non-maritime sites.ref

“The role of seafood in the Caral–Supe diet has aroused debate. Much early fieldwork was conducted in the region of Aspero on the coast, before the full scope and inter-connectedness of the several sites of the civilization were realized. In a 1973 paper, Michael E. Moseley contended that a maritime subsistence (seafood) economy had been the basis of the society and its remarkably early flourishing, a theory later elaborated as a “maritime foundation of Andean civilization” (MFAC). He confirmed a previously observed lack of ceramics at Aspero, and he deduced that “hummocks” on the site constituted the remains of artificial platform mounds.ref

“This thesis of a maritime foundation was contrary to the general scholarly consensus that the rise of civilization was based on intensive agriculture, particularly of at least one cereal. The production of agricultural surpluses had long been seen as essential in promoting population density and the emergence of complex society. Moseley’s ideas would be debated and challenged (that maritime remains and their caloric contribution were overestimated, for example), but have been treated as plausible as late as 2005, when Mann conducted a summary of the literature.ref

“Concomitant to the maritime subsistence hypothesis was an implied dominance of sites immediately adjacent to the coast over other centers. This idea was shaken by the realization of the magnitude of Caral, an inland site. Supplemental to a 1997 article by Shady dating Caral, a 2001 Science news article emphasized the dominance of agriculture and also suggested that Caral was the oldest urban center in Peru (and the entire Americas). It rejected the idea that civilization might have begun adjacent to the coast and then moved inland. One archaeologist was quoted as suggesting that “rather than coastal antecedents to monumental inland sites, what we have now are coastal satellite villages to monumental inland sites.ref

“These assertions were quickly challenged by Sandweiss and Moseley, who observed that Caral, although being the largest and most complex preceramic site, it is not the oldest. They admitted the importance of agriculture to industry and to augment diet, while broadly affirming “the formative role of marine resources in early Andean civilization”. Scholars now agree that the inland sites did have significantly greater populations, and that there were “so many more people along the four rivers than on the shore that they had to have been dominant.ref

“The remaining question is which of the areas developed first and created a template for subsequent development. Haas rejects suggestions that maritime development at sites immediately adjacent to the coast was initial, pointing to contemporaneous development based on his dating. Moseley remains convinced that coastal Aspero is the oldest site, and that its maritime subsistence served as a basis for the civilization. The use of cotton (of the species Gossypium barbadense) played an important economic role in the relationship between the inland and the coastal settlements in this area of Peru. Nevertheless, scholars are still divided over the exact chronology of these developments.ref

“Although not edible, cotton was the most important product of irrigation in the Caral–Supe culture, vital to the production of fishing nets (that in turn provided maritime resources) as well as to textiles and textile technology. Haas notes that “control over cotton allows a ruling elite to provide the benefit of cloth for clothing, bags, wraps, and adornment”. He is willing to admit to a mutual dependency dilemma: “The prehistoric residents of the Norte Chico needed the fish resources for their protein and the fishermen needed the cotton to make the nets to catch the fish.” Thus, identifying cotton as a vital resource produced in the inland does not by itself resolve the issue of whether the inland centers were a progenitor for those on the coast, or vice versa. Moseley argues that successful maritime centers would have moved inland to find cotton.ref

“In a 2018 publication, David G. Beresford-Jones with coauthors have defended Moseley’s (1975) Maritime Foundations of Andean Civilization (MFAC) hypothesis. The authors modified and refined the Maritime Foundations of Andean Civilization hypothesis of Moseley. Thus, according to them, the MFAC hypothesis now “emerges more persuasive than ever”. It was the potential for increased quantities of food production that the cultivation of cotton allowed that was the key in precipitating revolutionary social change and social complexity, according to the authors. Previous to that, the gathering of bast fibers of wild Asclepias was used for fiber production, which was far less efficient.ref

“Beresford-Jones and others also offered further support for their theories in 2021. The degree of centralized authority is difficult to ascertain, but architectural construction patterns are indicative, at least in certain places at certain times, of an elite population who wielded considerable power: while some of the monumental architecture was constructed incrementally, other buildings, such as the two main platform mounds at Caral, appear to have been constructed in one or two intense construction phases. As further evidence of centralized control, Haas points to remains of large stone warehouses found at Upaca, on the Pativilca, as emblematic of authorities able to control vital resources such as cotton.ref

“Haas suggests that the labour mobilization patterns revealed by the archaeological evidence, point to a unique emergence of human government, one of two alongside Sumer (or three, if Mesoamerica is included as a separate case). While in other cases, the idea of government would have been borrowed or copied, in this small group, government was invented. Other archaeologists have rejected such claims as hyperbolic.ref

“In exploring the basis of possible government, Haas suggests three broad bases of power for early complex societies:

  • economic,
  • ideology, and
  • physical.ref

“He finds the first two present in ancient Caral–Supe. Economic authority would have rested on the control of cotton, edible plants, and associated trade relationships, with power centered on the inland sites. Haas tentatively suggests that the scope of this economic power base may have extended widely: there are only two confirmed shore sites in the Caral–Supe (Aspero and Bandurria) and possibly two more, but cotton fishing nets and domesticated plants have been found up and down the Peruvian coast. It is possible that the major inland centers of Caral–Supe, were at the center of a broad regional trade network centered on these resources.ref

“Citing Shady, a 2005 article in Discover magazine suggests a rich and varied trade life: “[Caral] exported its own products and those of Aspero to distant communities in exchange for exotic imports: Spondylus shells from the coast of Ecuador, rich dyes from the Andean highlands, hallucinogenic snuff from the Amazon.” (Given the still limited extent of Caral–Supe research, such claims should be treated circumspectly.) Other reports on Shady’s work indicate Caral traded with communities in the jungle farther inland and, possibly, with people from the mountains.ref

“Haas postulates that ideological power exercised by leadership was based on apparent access to deities and the supernatural. Evidence regarding Caral–Supe religion is limited: in 2003, an image of the Staff God, a leering figure with a hood and fangs, was found on a gourd that dated to 2250 BCE. The Staff God is a major deity of later Andean cultures, and Winifred Creamer suggests the find points to worship of common symbols of deities. As with much other research at Caral–Supe, the nature and significance of the find has been disputed by other researchers.ref

“Mann postulates that the act of architectural construction and maintenance at Caral–Supe may have been a spiritual or religious experience: a process of communal exaltation and ceremony. Shady has called Caral “the sacred city” (la ciudad sagrada) and reports that socio-economic and political focus was on the temples, which were periodically remodeled, with major burnt offerings associated with the remodeling.ref

“Haas notes the absence of any suggestion of physical bases of power, that is, defensive construction, at Caral–Supe. There is no evidence of warfare “of any kind or at any level during the Preceramic Period“. Mutilated bodies, burned buildings, and other tell-tale signs of violence are absent and settlement patterns are completely non-defensive. The evidence of the development of complex government in the absence of warfare contrasts markedly to archaeological theory, which suggests that human beings move away from kin-based groups to larger units resembling “states” for mutual defense of often scarce resources. In Caral–Supe, a vital resource was present: arable land generally, and the cotton crop specifically, but Mann noted that apparently, the move to greater complexity by the culture was not driven by the need for defense or warfare.ref

“Caral–Supe sites are known for their density of large sites with immense architecture. Haas argues that the density of sites in such a small area is globally unique for a nascent civilization. During the third millennium BCE, Caral–Supe may have been the most densely populated area of the world (excepting, possibly, Northern China). The Supe, Pativilca, Fortaleza, and Huaura River Valleys of Caral–Supe each have several related sites.ref

“Evidence from the ground-breaking work during 1973 at Aspero, at the mouth of the Supe Valley, suggested a site of approximately 13 hectares (32 acres). Surveying of the midden suggested extensive prehistoric construction activity. Small-scale terracing was noted, along with more sophisticated platform mound masonry. As many as eleven artificial mounds were estimated to exist at the site. Moseley calls these “Corporate Labor Platforms”, given that their size, layout, and construction materials and techniques would have required an organized workforce.ref

“The survey of the northern rivers found sites between 10 and 100 ha (25 and 247 acres); between one and seven large platform mounds—rectangular, terraced pyramids—were discovered, ranging in size from 3,000 m3 (110,000 cu ft) to more than 100,000 m3 (3,500,000 cu ft). Shady notes that the central zone of Caral, with monumental architecture, covers an area of just greater than 65 hectares (160 acres). Also, six platform mounds, numerous smaller mounds, two sunken circular plazas, and a variety of residential architecture were discovered at this site.ref

“The monumental architecture was constructed with quarried stone and river cobbles. Using reed “shicra-bags”, some of which have been preserved, laborers would have hauled the material to sites by hand. Roger Atwood of Archaeology magazine describes the process:

Armies of workers would gather a long, durable grass known as shicra in the highlands above the city, tie the grass strands into loosely meshed bags, fill the bags with boulders, and then pack the trenches behind each successive retaining wall of the step pyramids with the stone-filled bags.ref

“In this way, the people of Norte Chico achieved formidable architectural success. The largest of the platforms mounds at Caral, the Piramide Mayor, measures 160 by 150 m (520 by 490 ft) and rises 18 m (59 ft) high. In its summation of the 2001 Shady paper, the BBC suggests workers would have been “paid or compelled” to work on centralized projects of this sort, with dried anchovies possibly serving as a form of currency. Mann points to “ideology, charisma, and skilfully timed reinforcement” from leaders.ref

“When compared to the common Eurasian models of the development of civilization, Caral–Supe’s differences are striking. In Caral–Supe, a total lack of ceramics persists across the period. Crops were cooked by roasting. The lack of pottery was accompanied by a lack of archaeologically apparent art. In conversation with Mann, Alvaro Ruiz observes: “In the Norte Chico we see almost no visual arts. No sculpture, no carving or bas-relief, almost no painting or drawing—the interiors are completely bare. What we do see are these huge mounds—and textiles.ref

“While the absence of ceramics appears anomalous, Mann notes that the presence of textiles is intriguing. Quipu (or khipu), string-based recording devices, have been found at Caral, suggesting a writing, or proto-writing, system at Caral–Supe.  (The discovery was reported by Mann in Science in 2005, but has not been formally published or described by Shady.) The exact use of quipu in this and later Andean cultures has been widely debated. Originally, it was believed to be a simple mnemonic technique used to record numeric information, such as a count of items bought and sold. Evidence has emerged, however, that the quipu also may have recorded logographic information in the same way writing does. Research has focused on the much larger sample of a few hundred quipu dating to Inca times. The Caral–Supe discovery remains singular and undeciphered.ref

“Other finds at Caral–Supe have proved suggestive. While visual arts appear absent, the people may have played instrumental music: thirty-two flutes, crafted from pelican bone, have been discovered. The oldest known depiction of the Staff God was found in 2003 on some broken gourd fragments in a burial site in the Pativilca River Valley and the gourd was carbon dated to 2250 BCE. While still fragmentary, such archaeological evidence corresponds to the patterns of later Andean civilization and may indicate that Caral–Supe served as a template. Along with the specific finds, Mann highlights

“the primacy of exchange over a wide area, the penchant for collective, festive civic work projects, [and] the high valuation of textiles and textile technology” within Norte Chico as patterns that would recur later in the Peruvian cradle of civilization.ref


The Olmecs (/ˈɒlmɛks, ˈl-/) were the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization. Following a progressive development in Soconusco, they occupied the tropical lowlands of the modern-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It has been speculated that the Olmecs derived in part from the neighboring Mokaya or Mixe–Zoque cultures.” ref

“The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands on the Gulf of Mexico in the present-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The name Olmec is a Nahuatl—the Aztec language—word; it means the rubber people.” ref

The Olmecs flourished during Mesoamerica’s formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE, early Olmec culture had emerged, centered on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other “firsts”, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies. The aspect of the Olmecs most familiar now is their artwork, particularly the colossal heads.” ref, ref

“The term “Rubber People” refers to the ancient practice, spanning from ancient Olmecs to Aztecs, of extracting latex from Castilla elastica, a rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create rubber as early as 1600 BCE. It is not known what name the ancient Olmec used for themselves; some later Mesoamerican accounts seem to refer to the ancient Olmec as “Tamoanchan“. A contemporary term sometimes used for the Olmec culture is tenocelome, meaning “mouth of the jaguar.” ref, ref

“The Olmec heartland is the area in the Gulf lowlands where it expanded after early development in Soconusco, Veracruz. This area is characterized by swampy lowlands punctuated by low hills, ridges, and volcanoes. The Sierra de los Tuxtlas rises sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche. Here, the Olmec constructed permanent city-temple complexes at San Lorenzo TenochtitlánLa VentaTres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros. In this region, the first Mesoamerican civilization emerged and reigned from c. 1400–400 BCE.” ref, ref

“The beginnings of Olmec civilization have traditionally been placed between 1400 BCE and 1200 BCE. Past finds of Olmec remains ritually deposited at the shrine El Manatí near the triple archaeological sites known collectively as San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán moved this back to “at least” 1600–1500 BCE. It seems that the Olmec had their roots in early farming cultures of Tabasco, which began between 5100 BCE and 4600 BCE. These shared the same basic food crops and technologies of the later Olmec civilization.” ref, ref

“This highly productive environment encouraged a densely concentrated population, which in turn triggered the rise of an elite class. The elite class created the demand for the production of the symbolic and sophisticated luxury artifacts that define Olmec culture. Many of these luxury artifacts were made from materials such as jadeobsidian, and magnetite, which came from distant locations and suggest that early Olmec elites had access to an extensive trading network in Mesoamerica. The source of the most valued jade was the Motagua River valley in eastern Guatemala, and Olmec obsidian has been traced to sources in the Guatemala highlands, such as El Chayal and San Martín Jilotepeque, or in Puebla, distances ranging from 200 to 400 km (120–250 miles) away, respectively.” ref, ref

“The state of Guerrero, and in particular its early Mezcala culture, seem to have played an important role in the early history of Olmec culture. Olmec-style artifacts tend to appear earlier in some parts of Guerrero than in the Veracruz-Tabasco area. In particular, the relevant objects from the Amuco-Abelino site in Guerrero reveal dates as early as 1530 BCE.” ref, ref

Great Olmec pyramid in La VentaTabasco

“Unlike later Maya or Aztec cities, La Venta was built from earth and clay—there was little locally abundant stone for the construction. Large basalt stones were brought in from the Tuxtla Mountains, but these were used nearly exclusively for monuments including the colossal heads, the “altars” (actually thrones), and various stelae. For example, the basalt columns that surround Complex A were quarried from Punta Roca Partida, on the Gulf coast north of the San Andres Tuxtla volcano. “Little more than half of the ancient city survived modern disturbances enough to map accurately.” La Venta was a civic and ceremonial center. While it may have included as-yet-undiscovered regal residences, habitation for the non-regal elite and the commoners were located at outlying sites such as San Andrés. Instead of dwellings, La Venta is dominated by a restricted sacred area (Complex A), the Great Pyramid (Complex C), and the large plaza to their south.ref, ref

“As a ceremonial center, La Venta contains an elaborate series of buried offerings and tombs, as well as monumental sculptures. These stone monuments, stelae, and “altars” were carefully distributed amongst the mounds and platforms. The mounds and platforms were built largely from local sands and clays. It is assumed that many of these platforms were once topped with wooden structures, which have long since disappeared.ref, ref

“The first Olmec center, San Lorenzo, was all but abandoned around 900 BCE at about the same time that La Venta rose to prominence. A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurred c. 950s BCE, which may indicate an internal uprising or, less likely, an invasion. The latest thinking, however, is that environmental changes may have been responsible for this shift in Olmec centers, with certain important rivers changing course.ref, ref

“In any case, following the decline of San Lorenzo, La Venta became the most prominent Olmec center, lasting from 900 BCE until its abandonment around 400 BCE. La Venta sustained the Olmec cultural traditions with spectacular displays of power and wealth. The Great Pyramid was the largest Mesoamerican structure of its time. Even today, after 2500 years of erosion, it rises 34 m (112 ft) above the naturally flat landscape. Buried deep within La Venta lay opulent, labor-intensive “offerings” – 1000 tons of smooth serpentine blocks, large mosaic pavements, and at least 48 separate votive offerings of polished jade celts, pottery, figurines, and hematite mirrors.ref, ref

“Scholars have yet to determine the cause of the eventual extinction of the Olmec culture. Between 400 and 350 BCE, the population in the eastern half of the Olmec heartland dropped precipitously, and the area was sparsely inhabited until the 19th century. According to archaeologists, this depopulation was probably the result of “very serious environmental changes that rendered the region unsuited for large groups of farmers”, in particular changes to the riverine environment that the Olmec depended upon for agriculture, hunting and gathering, and transportation. These changes may have been triggered by tectonic upheavals or subsidence, or the siltation of rivers due to agricultural practices.” ref, ref

“Whatever the cause, within a few hundred years of the abandonment of the last Olmec cities, successor cultures became firmly established. The Tres Zapotes site, on the western edge of the Olmec heartland, continued to be occupied well past 400 BCE, but without the hallmarks of the Olmec culture. This post-Olmec culture, often labeled the Epi-Olmec, has features similar to those found at Izapa, some 550 kilometres (340 mi) to the southeast. Complex C, “The Great Pyramid,” is the central building in the city layout, is constructed almost entirely out of clay, and is visible from a distance. The structure is built on top of a closed-in platform—this is where Blom and La Farge discovered Altars 2 and 3, thereby discovering La Venta and the Olmec civilization. A carbon sample from a burned area of the Structure C-1’s surface resulted in the date of 394 ± 30 BCE.ref, ref

“One of the earliest pyramids known in Mesoamerica, the Great Pyramid is 110 ft (34 m) high and contains an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of earth fill. The current conical shape of the pyramid was once thought to represent nearby volcanoes or mountains, but recent work by Rebecca Gonzalez Lauck has shown that the pyramid was in fact a rectangular pyramid with stepped sides and inset corners, and the current shape is most likely due to 2,500 years of erosion. The pyramid itself has never been excavated, but a magnetometer survey in 1967 found an anomaly high on the south side of the pyramid. Speculation ranges from a section of burned clay to a cache of buried offerings to a tomb.ref, ref

“Complex A is a mound and plaza group located just to the north of the Great Pyramid (Complex C). The centerline of Complex A originally oriented to Polaris (true north) which indicates the Olmec had some knowledge of astronomy. Surrounded by a series of basalt columns, which likely restricted access to the elite, it was erected in a period of four construction phases that span over four centuries (1000 – 600 BCE). Beneath the mounds and plazas were found a vast array of offerings and other buried objects, more than 50 separate caches by one count, including buried jade, polished mirrors made of iron-ores, and five large “Massive Offerings” of serpentine blocks. It is estimated that Massive Offering 3 contains 50 tons of carefully finished serpentine blocks, covered by 4,000 tons of clay fill.ref, ref

“Also unearthed in Complex A were three rectangular mosaics (also known as “Pavements”) each roughly 4.5 by 6 metres (15 by 20 feet) and each consisting of up to 485 blocks of serpentine. These blocks were arranged horizontally to form what has been variously interpreted as an ornate Olmec bar-and-four-dots motif, the Olmec Dragon, a very abstract jaguar mask, a cosmogram, or a symbolic map of La Venta and environs. Not intended for display, soon after completion these pavements were covered over with colored clay and then many feet of earth. Five formal tombs were discovered within Complex A, one with a sandstone sarcophagus carved with what seemed to be an crocodilian earth monster. Diehl states that these tombs “are so elaborate and so integrated to the architecture that it seems clear that Complex A really was a mortuary complex dedicated to the spirits of deceased rulers.ref, ref

“The Olmec culture was first defined as an art style, and this continues to be the hallmark of the culture. Wrought in a large number of media – jade, clay, basalt, and greenstone among others – much Olmec art, such as The Wrestler, is naturalistic. Other art expresses fantastic anthropomorphic creatures, often highly stylized, using an iconography reflective of a religious meaning. Common motifs include downturned mouths and a cleft head, both of which are seen in representations of werejaguars. In addition to making human and human-like subjects, Olmec artisans were adept at animal portrayals. While Olmec figurines are found abundantly in sites throughout the Formative Period, the stone monuments such as the colossal heads are the most recognizable feature of Olmec culture.ref, ref 

“These monuments can be divided into four classes:

  • Colossal heads (which can be up to 3 m (10 ft) tall);
  • Rectangular “altars” (more likely thrones) such as Altar 5 shown below;
  • Free-standing in-the-round sculpture, such as the twins from El Azuzul or San Martín Pajapan Monument 1; and
  • Stele, such as La Venta Monument 19 above. The stelae form was generally introduced later than the colossal heads, altars, or free-standing sculptures. Over time, the stele changed from simple representation of figures, such as Monument 19 or La Venta Stela 1, toward representations of historical events, particularly acts legitimizing rulers. This trend would culminate in post-Olmec monuments such as La Mojarra Stela 1, which combines images of rulers with script and calendar dates.ref, ref

Mesoamerican Language Area

The Mesoamerican language area is a sprachbund containing many of the languages natively spoken in the cultural area of Mesoamerica. This sprachbund is defined by an array of syntactic, lexical and phonological traits as well as a number of ethnolinguistic traits found in the languages of Mesoamerica, which belong to a number of language families, such as Uto-AztecanMayanTotonacanOto-Manguean and Mixe–Zoque languages as well as some language isolates and unclassified languages known to the region.” ref

“Many of the Mesoamerican languages show a particular kind of construction for possession of nominals. The commonly found construction is “his noun1 noun2” meaning “noun2’s noun1” (“his” often is a prefix in this construction). For example, in the Kʼicheʼ language, a Mayan languageu-tzi’ le achih “the man’s dog” literally means “his-dog the man”. The similar construction in Nahuatl would be i:-itskʷin in tɬaːkatɬ.” ref

“Another trait shared by nearly all Mesoamerican languages is relational nouns. Relational nouns are used to express spatial and other relations, much like prepositions in most Indo-European languages but composed of a noun and possessive affixes.

For example in Pipil (Uto-Aztecan):
nu-wa:n “with me” (nu– means “my”)
mu-wa:n “with you” (mu– means “yours”)
i-wa:n “with her” (i– means “his/her/its”)
Or in Mam (Mayan):
n-wits-a “on me” (n– means “my”)
t-wits “on her” (t– means “his/her/its”).ref

Pied-piping with inversion is a special word order found in wh-questions. It appears to be found in all Mesoamerican languages, but is rare outside Mesoamerica. All the languages of Mesoamerica have vigesimal, or base twenty numeral systems. This system has also spread to some languages just outside the Mesoamerican cultural area. A strong evidence of diffusion throughout Mesoamerica is provided by a number of semantic calques widely found throughout the area. For example, in many Mesoamerican languages the words for specific objects are constructed by compounding two different stems, and in many cases these two stems are semantically identical although linguistically unrelated.ref

“Among these calques are:

  • leg-head meaning “knee”
  • deer-snake meaning “boa constrictor”
  • stone-ash meaning “limestone”
  • hand-neck meaning “wrist”
  • bird-stone meaning “egg”
  • blood-road meaning “vein”
  • grind-stone meaning “molar”
  • mouth meaning “edge”
  • god-excrement or sun-excrement meaning “precious metal”
  • hand-mother meaning “thumb”
  • water-mountain meaning “townref

Pre-Columbian art

“Many types of perishable artifacts that were once very common, such as woven textiles, typically have not been preserved, but Precolumbian monumental sculpture, metalwork in gold, pottery, and painting on ceramics, walls, and rocks have survived more frequently. The first Pre-Columbian art to be widely known in modern times was that of the empires flourishing at the time of European conquest, the Inca and Aztec, some of which was taken back to Europe intact. Gradually art of earlier civilizations that had already collapsed, especially Maya art and Olmec art, became widely known, mostly for their large stone sculpture.” ref

“Many Pre-Columbian cultures did not have writing systems, so visual art expressed cosmologies, world views, religion, and philosophy of these cultures, as well as serving as mnemonic devices. Artisans of the Ancient Americas drew upon a wide range of materials (obsidian, gold, spondylus shells), creating objects that included the meanings held to be inherent to the materials. These cultures often derived value from the physical qualities, rather than the imagery, of artworks, prizing aural and tactile features, the quality of workmanship, and the rarity of materials.” ref

“Various works of art have been discovered large distances from their location of production, indicating that many Pre-Columbian civilizations interacted amongst each other. Many societies used raw materials carried from far away, suggesting difficulty of acquisition as a source of value. For many of these cultures, the visual arts went beyond physical appearance and served as active extensions of their owners and indices of the divine. As spirituality was very prevalent among pre-columbian cultures, themes of the deities and ritual worship were often the subjects of artwork.” ref

“The Mesoamerican cultures are generally divided into three periods (see Mesoamerican chronology):

  • Pre-classic (up to 200 CE)
  • Classic (ca. 200–900 CE)
  • Post-classic (ca. 900 to 1580 CE).” ref

“The Pre-classic period was dominated by the highly developed Olmec civilization, which flourished around 1200–400 BCE. The Olmecs produced jade figurines, and created heavy-featured, colossal heads, up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) high, that still stand mysteriously in the landscape. The Mesoamerican tradition of building large ceremonial centres appears to have begun under the Olmecs.” ref

“During the Classic period the dominant civilization was the Maya. Maya royalty commissioned artwork that commemorated their achievements and secured their place in time. Scenes depicting various rituals and historical events are embedded with hieroglyphic text to enable the viewer to identify the important figures, times and places instead of relying upon physical features that could be forgotten over time. The interpretation of the actions represented in the artwork goes hand in hand with understanding the decorative text that is woven into the picture. Unlocking this hieroglyphic text is vital as it removes anonymity and mystery from the scenes and reveals detailed records of those who held power throughout the timeline of the civilization.” ref 

“Like the Mississippian peoples of North America such as the Choctaw and Natchez, the Maya organized themselves into large, agricultural communities. They practised their own forms of hieroglyphic writing and even advanced astronomy. Mayan art consequently focuses on rain, agriculture, and fertility, expressing these images mainly in relief and surface decoration, as well as some sculpture. Glyphs and stylized figures were used to decorate architecture such as the pyramid temple of Chichén Itzá. Murals dating from about 750 CE were discovered when the city of Bonampak was excavated in 1946.” ref

“The Post-classic period (10th–12th centuries) was dominated by the Toltecs who made colossal, block-like sculptures such as those employed as free-standing columns at Tula, Mexico. The Mixtecs developed a style of painting known as Mixtec-Puebla, as seen in their murals and codices (manuscripts), in which all available space is covered by flat figures in geometric designs. The Aztec culture in Mexico produced some dramatically expressive artworks, such as the decorated skulls of captives and stone sculpture, of which Tlazolteotl (Woods Bliss Collection, Washington), a goddess in childbirth, is a good example.” ref

“Aztec art, similar to other Mesoamerican cultures also focused on deity worship and portraying values in their society. In creating their art, Aztecs also were interested in naturalism, as making something life-like better conveyed their message through the artwork. For example, the Eagle Warrior statues are life-sized ceramic sculptures that show this sense of naturalism. The Aztecs believed these eagle warriors showed the value of youthful beauty, this can be seen in the sculpture with the Warriors young and soft features of his face.” ref

“In the central Peruvian Andes, the Chavín civilization flourished from around 1000 BCE to 300 BCE. The Chavín produced small-scale pottery, often human in shape but with animal features such as bird feet, reptilian eyes, or feline fangs. Representations of jaguar are a common theme in Chavín art. The Chavin culture is also noted for the spectacular murals and carvings found its main religious site of Chavín de Huantar; these works include the Raimondi Stele, the Lanzón, and the Tello Obelisk.” ref

“Contemporary with the Chavín was the Paracas culture of the southern coast of Peru, most noted today for their elaborate textiles. These amazing productions, some of which could measure ninety feet long, were primarily used for as burial wraps for Paracas mummy bundles. Paracas art was greatly influenced by the Chavín cult, and the two styles share many common motifs.” ref 

“On the south coast, the Paracas were immediately succeeded by a flowering of artistic production around the Nazca river valley. The Nazca period is divided into eight ceramic phases, each one depicting increasingly abstract animal and human motifs. These period range from Phase 1, beginning around 200 CE, to Phase 8, which declined in the middle of the eighth century. The Nasca people are most famous for the Nazca Lines, though they are usually regarded as making some of the most beautiful polychrome ceramics in the Andes.” ref

“On the north coast, the Moche succeeded the Chavín. The Moche flourished about 100–800 CE, and were among the best artisans of the Pre-Columbian world, producing delightful portrait vases (Moche ware), which, while realistic, are steeped in religious references, the significance of which is now lost. For the Moche, ceramics functioned as a primary way of disseminating information and cultural ideas. The Moche made ceramic vessels that depicted and re-created a plethora of objects: fruits, plants, animals, human portraits, gods, demons, as well as graphic depictions of sexual acts. The Moche are also noted for their metallurgy (such as that found in the tomb of the Lord of Sipán), as well as their architectural prowess, such as the Huaca de la Luna and the Huaca del Sol in the Moche River valley.” ref

“Following the decline of the Moche, two large co-existing empires emerged in the Andes region. In the north, the Wari (or Huari) Empire, based in their capital city of the same name. The Wari are noted for their stone architecture and sculpture accomplishments, but their greatest proficiency was ceramic. The Wari produced magnificent large ceramics, many of which depicted images of the Staff God, an important deity in the Andes which during the Wari period had become specifically associated with the Lake Titicaca region on the modern Peru-Bolivia border. Similarly, the Wari’s contemporaries of the Tiwanaku empire, also centered around a capital city of the same name, held the Staff God in similar esteem. Tiwanaku’s empire began to expand out of Titicaca around 400 BCE, but its “Classic Period” of artistic production and political power occurred between 375 and 700 CE. Tiwanaku is currently known for its magnificent imperial city on the southern side of Lake Titicaca, now in modern-day Bolivia. Especially famous is the Gate of the Sun, which depicts a large image of the Staff God flanked by other religious symbols which may have functioned as a calendar.” ref

“Following the decline of the Wari Empire in the late first millennium, the Chimú people, centered out of their capital city of Chimor began to build their empire on the north and central coasts of Peru. The Chimú were preceded by a simple ceramic style known as Sicán (700–900 CE) which became increasingly decorative until it became recognizable as Chimú in the early second millennium. The Chimú produced excellent portrait and decorative works in metal, notably gold but especially silver. The Chimú also are noted for their featherwork, having produced many standards and headdresses made of a variety of tropical feathers which were fashioned into bired and fish designs, both of which were held in high esteem by the Chimú. The Chimú are best known for their magnificent palatial complex of Chan Chan just south of modern-day Trujillo, Peru; now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chimú went into decline very quickly due to outside pressures and conquest from the expanding Inca Empire in the mid-15th century.” ref

“At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu in Quechua, the “Land of the Four Quarters”) was the largest and wealthiest empire in the world, and this was depicted in their art. Most Inca sculpture was melted down by the invading Spanish, so most of what remains today is in the form of architecture, textiles, and ceramics. The Inca valued gold among all other metals, and equated it with the sun god Inti. Some Inca buildings in the capital of Cusco were literally covered in gold, and most contained many gold and silver sculptures. Most art was abstract in nature. Inca ceramics were primarily large vessels covered in geometric designs. Inca tunics and textiles contained similar motifs, often checkerboard patterns reserved for the Inca elite and the Inca army.” ref

“Today, due to the unpopularity of abstract art and the lack of Inca gold and silver sculpture, the Inca are best known for the architecture – specifically the complex of Machu Picchu just northwest of Cusco. Inca architecture makes use of large stone blocks, each one cut specifically to fit around the other blocks in a wall. These stones were cut with such precision that the Incas did not need to make use of mortar to hold their buildings together. Even without mortar, Inca buildings still stand today; they form many of the foundations for even modern-day buildings in Cusco and the surrounding area. The Incas produced thousand of large stone structures, among them forts, temples, and palaces, even though the Inca Empire lasted for only 95 years.” ref

Pre-Columbian Ceramics

Ceramics of Indigenous peoples of the Americas is an art form with at least a 7500-year history in the Americas.” ref

The earliest ceramics made by humans were pottery objects (pots, vessels, or vases) or figurines made from clay, either by itself or mixed with other materials like silica, hardened and sintered in fire. The word ceramic comes from the Ancient Greek word κεραμικός (keramikós), meaning “of or for pottery” (from κέραμος (kéramos) ‘potter’s clay, tile, pottery’). The earliest known mention of the root ceram- is the Mycenaean Greek ke-ra-me-we, workers of ceramic, written in Linear B syllabic script. The word ceramic can be used as an adjective to describe a material, product, or process, or it may be used as a noun, either singular or, more commonly, as the plural noun ceramics.” ref

“Human beings appear to have been making their own ceramics for at least 26,000 years, subjecting clay and silica to intense heat to fuse and form ceramic materials. The earliest found so far were in southern central Europe and were sculpted figures, not dishes. The earliest known pottery was made by mixing animal products with clay and firing it at up to 800 °C (1,500 °F). While pottery fragments have been found up to 19,000 years old, it was not until about 10,000 years later that regular pottery became common. Ceramic artifacts have an important role in archaeology for understanding the culture, technology, and behavior of peoples of the past. They are among the most common artifacts to be found at an archaeological site, generally in the form of small fragments of broken pottery called sherds.” ref

In art history and archaeology, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, pottery often means vessels only, and sculpted figurines of the same material are called terracottas. Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, originating before the Neolithic period, with ceramic objects such as the Gravettian culture Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine discovered in the Czech Republic dating back to 29,000–25,000 BCE. However, the earliest known pottery vessels were discovered in Jiangxi, China, which date back to 18,000 BCE. Other early Neolithic and pre-Neolithic pottery artifacts have been found, in Jōmon Japan (10,500 BCE), the Russian Far East (14,000 BCE), Sub-Saharan Africa (9,400 BCE), South America (9,000s–7,000s BCE), and the Middle East (7,000s–6,000s BCE).” ref

“It is valuable to look into pottery as an record of potential interaction between peoples. When pottery is placed within the context of linguistic and migratory patterns, it becomes an even more prevalent category of social artifact. A great part of the history of pottery is prehistoric, part of past pre-literate cultures. Therefore, much of this history can only be found among the artifacts of archaeology. Because pottery is so durable, pottery and shards of pottery survive for millennia at archaeological sites, and are typically the most common and important type of artifact to survive. Many prehistoric cultures are named after the pottery that is the easiest way to identify their sites, and archaeologists have developed the ability to recognize different types from the chemistry of small shards.” ref

“The potter’s wheel was invented in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BCE (Ubaid period), and revolutionised pottery production. The earliest-known ceramic objects are Gravettian figurines such as those discovered at Dolní Věstonice in the modern-day Czech Republic. The Venus of Dolní Věstonice is a Venus figurine, a statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE (Gravettian industry). But there is no evidence of pottery vessels from this period. Weights for looms or fishing-nets are a very common use for the earliest pottery. Sherds have been found in China and Japan from a period between 12,000 and perhaps as long as 18,000 years ago. As of 2012, the earliest pottery vessels found anywhere in the world, dating to 20,000 to 19,000 years before the present, was found at Xianrendong Cave in the Jiangxi province of China.” ref

Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16,000 BCE, and those found in the Amur River basin in the Russian Far East, dated from 14,000 BCE. The Odai Yamamoto I site, belonging to the Jōmon period, currently has the oldest pottery in Japan. Excavations uncovered earthenware fragments which have been dated as early as 14,500 BCE. The term “Jōmon” means “cord-marked” in Japanese. This refers to the markings made on the vessels and figures using sticks with cords during their production. Recent research has elucidated how Jōmon pottery was used by its creators.” ref

“Early type of pottery, also found at the site of Lahuradewa, is currently the oldest known pottery tradition in South Asia, dating back to 7,000–6,000 BCE. Wheel-made pottery began to be made during the Mehrgarh Period II (5,500–4,800 BCE) and Merhgarh Period III (4,800–3,500 BCE), known as the ceramic Neolithic and chalcolithic. Most evidence points to an independent development of pottery in the Native American cultures, with the earliest known dates from Brazil, from 9,500 to 5,000 years ago and 7,000 to 6,000 years ago. Further north in Mesoamerica, dates begin with the Archaic Era (3500–2000 BCE), and into the Formative period (2000 BCE – CE 200). These cultures did not develop the stoneware, porcelain or glazes found in the Old World. Maya ceramics include finely painted vessels, usually beakers, with elaborate scenes with several figures and texts. Several cultures, beginning with the Olmec, made terracotta sculpture, and sculptural pieces of humans or animals that are also vessels are produced in many places, with Moche portrait vessels among the finest.” ref

“The clay body is a necessary component of pottery. Clay must be mined and purified in an often laborious process, and certain tribes have ceremonial protocols to gathering clay. Different tribes have different processes for processing clay, which can include drying in the sun, soaking in water for days, and repeatedly running through a screen or sieve. Acoma and other Pueblo pottery traditionally pound dry clay into a powder and then remove impurities by hand, then running the dry powder through a screen, mixing it with a dry temper, and then mixing water to create a plastic paste. In preparing the clay, potters spend hours wedging it to remove air pockets and humidity that could easily cause it to explode during firing. The clay then needs to “cure” over time.” ref

Coiling is the most common means of shaping ceramics in the Americas. In coiling, the clay is rolled into a long, thin strands that are coiled upon each other to build up the shape of the pottery. While the potter builds the coils up, she also blends them together until there was no trace of the ropes of clay entwined to form the pot, no deviation in the thickness of the walls, and therefore no weaknesses. Potter’s wheels were not used prior to European contact and are only used today by a limited number of Native American artists. Pinch pots and other small clay objects could be formed directly by hand. Hohokam potters and their descendants in the American Southwest employed the paddle-and-anvil technique, in which the interior clay wall of a pot was supported by an anvil, while the exterior was beaten with a paddle, smoothing the surface. In precontact South America, ceramics were mass-produced using molds.” ref

Slip is a liquid clay suspension of mineral pigments applied to the ceramics before firing. Slips are typically red, buff, white, and black; however, Nazca culture ceramic artists in Peru perfected 13 distinct colors of slips. They also used a hand-rotated turntable that allowed all sides of a ceramic piece to be painted with ease. These were first used in 500 BCE and continue to be used today. Slips can be applied overall in washes, creating large color fields, often with cloth, or they can be painted in fine detail with brushes. Yucca leaves, chewed slightly to loosen fibers, make excellent brushes that are still in use today in the American Southwest. Negative painting is a technique employed by precontact Mississippian potters in the Eastern Woodlands, Mayan potters in Mesoamerica, and others, which involves covering the ceramic piece in beeswax or another resist, incising a design in the resist, then soaking the piece with a slip. In the firing process the resists melts away, leaving the colored design.” ref

“While still green, pottery can be incised with designs. Cords, textiles, baskets, and corncobs have been rolled over wet clay, both as a decoration and to improve heat dispersion in cooking pots. Carved wood or ceramic stamping paddles are used throughout the Southeastern Woodlands to create repeating designs. Clay can also be added to the main ceramic structure to build up designs. Before firing, ceramics can be burnished or polished to a fine sheen with a smooth instrument, usually a stone. Glazes are seldom used by indigenous American ceramic artists. Grease can be rubbed onto the pot as well. Prior to contact, pottery was usually open-air fired or pit fired; precontact Indigenous peoples of Mexico used kilns extensively. Today many Native American ceramic artists use kilns. In pit-firing, the pot is placed in a shallow pit dug into the earth along with other unfired pottery, covered with wood and brush, or dung, then set on fire whereupon it can harden at temperatures of 1400 degrees or more. Finally, the ceramics surface is often polished with smooth stones.” ref

“Not all Indigenous American pottery requires added tempers; some Hopi potters use pure kaolin clay that does not require tempering. Some clays naturally contain enough temper that they do not required additional tempers. This includes mica or sand in clays used in some Taos Pueblo, Picuris Pueblo, and Hopi pottery, and sponge spicules in the clay used to produce the “chalky ware” of the St. Johns cultureCeramics are often used to identify archaeological cultures. The type of temper (or mix of tempers) used helps to distinguish the ceramics produced by different cultures during particular time periods. For example, the Hohokam used schist containing silver mica as a temper in their plainware; the shiny particles of the mica gave the pottery a mystical shimmer.” ref 

“Grog, sand, and sandstone were all used by Ancestral Pueblo people and other Southwestern cultures. Crushed bone was used as temper in at least some ceramics at a number of sites in Texas. In the Southeastern United States, the earliest ceramics were tempered with fiber such as Spanish moss and palmetto leaves. In Louisiana, fiber as tempering was replaced first by grog and later by shell. In peninsular Florida and coastal Georgia sand replaced fiber as tempering. Still later, freshwater sponge spicules became an important temper in the “chalky ware” of the St. Johns culture in northeastern Florida. Locally produced ceramics of the Lucayan people in the Bahamas were characterized by crushed conch shell tempering, as opposed to the quartz sand-tempered ware imported from Hispaniola.” ref

“The choice of temper used in ceramics was constrained by what was available, but changes in the choice of temper can provide clues to influence and trade relations between groups. Shell-tempered ware was produced sporadically in various places across the eastern United States, but in the late Woodland and early Mississippian periods it became the predominant temper used across much of the Mississippi Valley and middle gulf coast, and a major defining characteristic of Mississippian culture pottery.” ref

“The earliest ceramics known from the Americas have been found in the lower Amazon Basin. Ceramics from the Caverna da Pedra Pintada, near Santarém, Brazil, have been dated to between 7,500 and 5,000 years ago. Ceramics from Taperinha, also near Santarém, have been dated to 8,000 to 7,000 years ago. Some of the sherds at Taperinho were shell-tempered, which allowed the sherds themselves to be radiocarbon dated. These first ceramics-making cultures were fishers and shellfish-gatherers.” ref

“Ceramics appeared next across northern South America and then down the western side of South America and northward through Mesoamerica. Ceramics of the Alaka culture in Guyana have been dated to 6,000 to 4,500 years ago. Ceramics of the San Jacinto culture in Colombia have been dated to about 4530 BCE, and at Puerto Hormiga, also in Colombia, to about 3794 BCE. Ceramics appeared in the Valdivia culture in Ecuador around 3200 BCE, and in the Pandanche culture in Peru around 2460 BCE.” ref

“The spread of ceramics in Mesoamerica came later. Ceramics from Monagrillo in Panama have been dated to around 2140 BCE, from Tronadora in Costa Rica to around 1890 BCE, and from Barra in the Soconusco of Chiapas to around 1900 BCE. Ceramics of the Purrón tradition in southcentral Mexico have been dated to around 1805 BCE, and from the Chajil tradition of northcentral Mexico, to around 1600 BCE.” ref

“The appearance of ceramics in the Southeastern United States does not fit the above pattern. Ceramics from the middle Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina (known as Stallings, Stallings Island, or St. Simons) have been dated to about 2888 BCE (around 4888 years ago), and ceramics of the Orange and Norwood cultures in northern Florida to around 2460 BCE (around 4460 years ago) (all older than any other dated ceramics from north of Colombia). Ceramics appeared later elsewhere in North America. Ceramics reached southern Florida (Mount Elizabeth) by 4000 years ago, Nebo Hill (in Missouri) by 3700 years ago, and Poverty Point (in Louisiana) by 3400 years ago.” ref

Eastern Woodlands

Southeastern Woodlands

“Geological studies show that certain areas of the southeastern portion of North America are rich in kaolins and ball clays (Hosterman, USGS), the types of plastic clays best suited for pottery. Clay beds which still produce ceramic clays are from primary and secondary deposits formed in the Late Paleocene and Early Miocene Epochs in formations that formed the Gulf Coastal Plain. According to all geological surveys the entire southeastern portion of the continent has abundant clay deposits, with the exception of all of south Florida and a portion of western central Florida (Calver) (Matson).” ref

“Fiber-tempered ceramics associated with shell middens left by Late Archaic hunter-fisher-gatherers appeared in the Atlantic coastal plain of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina starting in 2500 BCE. The earliest attested pottery is in the Stallings culture area, around the middle Savannah River. Fiber-tempered pottery of the Orange culture in northeast Florida has been dated to 2000 BC or a bit earlier. Fiber-tempered pottery of very similar form spread along coasts and river valleys of the Southeastern United States from the Atlantic coast into Alabama, reaching northwestern Florida (Norwood culture) and the Gulf coast by 1300 BC, the interior Middle South by 1100, and Poverty Point by 1000 BCE.” ref

“Thoms Creek ceramics closely resembled Stallings ceramics, but used more sand and less fiber as temper than Stalling or Orange ware. Thoms Creek ceramics were largely contemporary with Stalling and Orange ceramics, although no Thoms Creek ceramics have been found that are as early as the earliest Stallings. Thoms Creek ceramics overlapped Stallings ceramics in northern Georgia and southern South Carolina, but were the dominant tradition north of the Santee River into North Carolina.” ref

“The similarities of the Stallings series ceramics to the earlier Puerto Hormiga ceramics of Colombia, which were both associated with shell rings, and the presence of winds and ocean currents favoring journeys from South America to the Southeastern United States, led James A. Ford, among other archaeologists, to offer the hypothesis that the two areas had connections, and that the technology of fiber-tempered ceramics in the southeastern United States had been imported from Colombia. Other archaeologists have noted that there are no known archaeological sites between Colombia and Florida that are of a type or age consistent with such connections, and that the cultural traditions of the Southeastern United States show no significant changes associated with the appearance of ceramics, indicating that there was no migration or people, and no transfer of technology or other elements of culture, other than the appearance of ceramics.” ref

“Later significant developments in ceramics in the Southeastern Woodlands included Mississippian culture pottery in the Mississippi River valley, and Weedon Island pottery, a style of pottery used primarily in ceremonial contexts and high status burials, produced and traded along the Gulf of Mexico coast from southwestern Florida to the Florida panhandle.” ref

  • Swift Creek and Santa Rosa culture pottery post Deptford, northwest Florida, ceremonial decorative pottery, 1000 CE.
  • Glade and Belle Glade culture pottery fiber or sand-tempered crude pottery, south Florida to central Florida, 500 BCE until 1700 CE, reference four periods I, II, III and IV
  • Alachua culture pottery northeast, north central Florida, protohistoric period
  • Plaquemine culture pottery, ceramics of the Natchez people, a historic tribe known also to be one of the last of the Plaquemine culture chiefdoms in southwestern Mississippi
  • Fort Walton culture pottery distinctively Mississippi culture in Florida panhandle, developed out of the Weedon Island culture 1000 CE.” ref

Great Basin

Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin based their pottery on basketry. The Fremont culture of central Utah (700–1300 CE) developed pottery after adopting agriculture. Paiute and Washoe people in the western Great Basin developed plain, utilitarian ceramics separately, which was not burnished but occasionally featured red painted designs. The Owens Valley Brown Ware is an example of Paiute/Washoe ceramics, which was used for cooking, food storage, and water jugs. The jugs often featured clay handles that accommodated carrying straps.” ref

Mesoamerican pottery

Colombia and Venezuela

“Fiber-tempered ceramics associated with shell middens left by hunter-fisher-gatherers of the Early Northwest South American Literature appeared at sites such as Puerto Hormiga, Monsú, Puerto Chacho, and San Jacinto in Colombia by 3100 BCE. Fiber-tempered ceramics at Monsú have been dated to 5940 radiocarbon years before present. The fiber-tempered pottery at Puerto Hormiga was “crude”, formed from a single lump of clay. The fiber-tempered pottery at San Jacinto is described as “well-made”. Sand-tempered coiled ceramics have also been found at Puerto Horrible.” ref

Ráquira, a town in the Boyacá Department, Colombia, is a major ceramics center, where both indigenous techniques and those introduced by Europeans are employed to create primarily utilitarian pots based on Chibcha designs. Ceramic mobiles, nativity scenes, and animal figurines are popular, especially ceramic horses, which have been the symbol of Colombian pottery. La Chamba in the Tolima Department is known for its blackware. The women potters here also create brown and red ware.” ref

Andean region

“In the Andes, great civilizations had been created and flourished for thousands of years during the Andean preceramic period. Yet the ceramics appear only during the Initial Period around 1800 BCE. Their main purpose may have been for boiling agricultural produce. The earliest ceramics in the Andean area have been radiocarbon dated to about 1800 BC, although according to John H. Rowe the date may go back even to 2100 BC. Early ceramics have been found on the central coast at the large settlement of Las Haldas, at Huarmey, as well as at some other sites in the Casma River region, and in Lima area.” ref

Chavín potters (900–200 BCE) on the Peruvian coast created distinctive stirrup spout vessels, both incised and highly burnished. These thin-walled effigy pots were fashioned to resemble stylized humans, plants, and animals. Two substyles of Chavín stirrup spout pots include the thicker-walls, glossy-on-matte blackware Cupisnique style and red and black Santa Ana style, both featuring fanged heads. Subsequent Andean cultures revived these ancient ceramics styles and imagery.” ref

Paracas culture, from Peru’s desert south coast, created highly detailed ceramics, that were often painted after firing. Paints, made with an acacia resin binder, were commonly warm yellow, olive green, red-orange, white, and black in color. Paracas artists built upon Chavín styles and introduced the double spout-and-bridge vessel and distinctive masks portraying a supernatural “Oculate Being,” that combines human, owl, and double-headed snake forms.” ref

Nasca culture, another south coastal Peruvian culture, returned to the less fragile practice slip-painted their ceramics prior to firing. They created thirteen distinct colors, the larger palette found in Pre-Columbian ceramics in the Americas, which included rare pale purple, maroon, and bluish-grey. Nasca artists created ceremonial and utilitarian bowls and beakers, effigy jars, panpipes, and vessels of new designs, including the stepped-fret. These combined sculptural elements with surface painting, often with curvilinear designs emphasized by bold, black outlining. Painters used revolving turntables to paint all sides of a ceramic piece.” ref

“Dominating Peru’s north coast from 1–600 CE, the Moche culture excelled at the art of ceramics, which was characterized by symbolic, religious imagery. Moche artists produced some of the more naturalistic, i.e. faithfully representational, artwork of the precolumbian Americas. Moche portrait vessel were so realistic that individuals portrayed at different stages of their life are identifiable. Their paintings on ceramics were narrative and action-packed. Ceramics produced by two-press molds were identical in shape but individualized through unique surface painting. Tens of thousands of Moche ceramics have survived today. The stirrup-spout vessel continued to be the most common form of clay vessel, but Moche artists also created bowls, dippers, jars with long necks, spout-and-handle vessels, and double-chambered vessels that whistled when liquid was poured. Vessels were often effigies portraying elaborate scenes. A fineline painting tradition emerged, which resembles Greek black-figure pottery. A 29,000-square-foot Moche ceramics workshop with numerous kilns was discovered in at the mountain Mayal in the Chicama Valley. The workshop specialized in female figurines.” ref

“The Tiwanaku and Wari cultures shared dominance of the Andes, roughly from 500 to 1000 BCE. The Tiwanaku civilizations originated in Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia, and a staff-bearing deity figured largely in their artwork.  Tiwanaku artists continued the tradition of naturalistic, ceramic portrait vessels. The ubiquitous Wari ceramics carried over imagery from their textiles and metalwork, such as llama and alpaca imagery. Qunchupata in Peru was the epicenter of Wari ceramic production, featuring pit kilns and firing rooms. The stone floors of the firing rooms had rounded depressions for accommodating larger pots. Some Wari palaces had their own attached kilns. Broken potsherds were used as forms for building new pots and for scrapers. Evidence shows ceramics were often ritually destroyed.” ref

“Four Andean civilizations flourished in Late Intermediate Period: the Chancay, Chimú, Lambayeque, and Ica. Luxury goods, including elaborate ceramics, were mass-produced in vast quantities for the middle class as well as nobles. Identical ceramics created in molds took sway over individualized works. The Lambayeque culture of north coastal Peru created press-molded reliefs on blackware ceramics. Chimú ceramics, also predominantly blackware, often featured zoomorphic appliqués, such as monkeys or sea birds. They excelled at the doubled-chambered whistling vessels. Chancay ceramics, from the central coast, featured black-on-white designs on unique shapes, such as female effigies or elongated, oval jars. Their sand-tempered ceramics were hastily painted and left unpolished.  Ica culture ceramics, from the southern coasts, were the finest quality of their time. They were still handcrafted and had a wide range of polychrome slips, including black, maroon, orange, purple, red, white, and a glittery deep purple. Designs were abstract and geometric.” ref

“The Inca Empire or Tawantinsuyo spanned 3500 miles and controlled the world’s largest empire by 1500 CE. Artistically, they unified regional styles. Incan ceramics were geometric and understated, while color schemes remained regionally diverse. Mass-produced pottery, conformed to standardized measurements, such as the urpu, a long-necked jar with handles and a pointed bottom used to transport maize and chicha, maize beer. Qirus were Incan drinking vessels, made from wood or precious metals, as well as ceramics.” ref


“The pottery tradition at Pedra Pintada in Brazil represents the oldest known ceramics in the Americas. Dating back to 5630 BCE, this same tradition continued for 2500 years. Ceramics from the Taperinha site near Santarém, Brazil date back to 5130 BCE and include sand-tempered bowls and cooking vessels resembling gourds. Other ancient Amazonian ceramic traditions, Mina and Uruá-Tucumã featured shell- and sand-tempered pottery, that was occasionally painted red. Around 1000 CE, dramatic new ceramic styles emerged throughout Amazonia. Amazonian ceramics are geometric and linear in decoration. Polychrome pottery typically features red and black on white slips. Additionally ceramics were decorated by sculpting, incision, excision, and grooving. In the upper and central Amazon, the bark of the caraipé tree, Licania octandra, provided tempering material.” ref

“In regions of terra preta, or “black earth”, of the Amazon rainforest, an abundance of potsherds were used to develop the soil and build mounds, which protected buildings and cemeteries from seasonal flooding. Marajó Island, located at the mouth of the Amazon River was a major ceramic center, where the Marajoara Phase of polychrome ceramics last from around 400 to 1300 CE. In the central Amazon, the Mancapuru Phase, or Incised Rim Tradition, emerged in the 5th century CE. Marajoara ceramics, typically tempered with grog, were complex effigies of humans and animals, such as reptiles and birds. The dead were cremated and buried in elaborate ceramic urns. Ceramic artists are active in Marajó, using precontact styles for inspiration.” ref

“Women have traditionally been the ceramic artists in the Amazon. Female figures are common in anthropomorphic effigy vessels. Tangas are a unique Amazonian cultural item; they are triangular, concave ceramic pubic coverings held in place by strings, once worn by women of several Amazonian tribes. Today, they are still worn by girls during their puberty rites among Panoan-speaking peoples.” ref

Precolumbian Jade: The Most Precious Stone of Ancient Mesoamerica

Jade occurs naturally in very few places in the world, although the term jade has been often used to describe a variety of minerals used since ancient times to produce luxury items in many different regions of the world, such as China, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Neolithic Europe, and Mesoamerica. The only source of jadeite known so far in Mesoamerica is the Motagua River valley in Guatemala. Mesoamericanists debate over whether the Motagua river was the only source or ancient peoples of Mesoamerica used multiple sources of the precious stone.” ref

Chinese jade

Chinese jade refers to the jade mined or carved in China from the Neolithic onward. It is the primary hardstone of Chinese sculpture. In particular, its subtle, translucent colors and protective qualities caused it to become associated with Chinese conceptions of the soul and immortality. With gold, it was considered to be a symbol of heaven. Jade production began in China over seven millennia ago (c. 5000 BCE), yielding the largest body of intricately crafted jade artifacts created by any single civilization. A prominent early use was the crafting of the Six Ritual Jades, found since the 3rd-millennium  BCE Liangzhu culture: the bi, the cong, the huang, the hu, the gui, and the zhang. Since the meanings of these shapes were not mentioned prior to the eastern Zhou dynasty, by the time of the composition of the Rites of Zhou, they were thought to represent the sky, the earth, and the four directions. By the Han dynasty, the royal family and prominent lords were buried entirely ensheathed in jade burial suits sewn in gold thread, on the idea that it would preserve the body and the souls attached to it. Jade was also thought to combat fatigue in the living. The Han also greatly improved prior artistic treatment of jade.” ref

Pre-Columbian Jade

“Possible sources under study are the Rio Balsas basin in Mexico and the Santa Elena region in Costa Rica. Pre-Columbian archaeologists working on jade, distinguish between “geological” and “social” jade. The first term indicates the actual jadeite, whereas “social” jade indicates other, similar greenstones, such as quartz and serpentine which were not as rare as jadeite but were similar in color and therefore fulfilled the same social function.” ref

Cultural Importance of Jade

“Jade was especially appreciated by Mesoamerican and Lower Central American people because of its green color. This stone was associated with water, and vegetation, especially young, maturing corn. For this reason, it was also related to life and death. Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Costa Rican elites particularly appreciated jade carvings and artifacts and commissioned elegant pieces from skillful artisans. Jade was traded and exchanged among elite members as a luxury item all over the pre-Hispanic American world.” ref

“It was replaced by gold very late in time in Mesoamerica, and around 500 CE in Costa Rica and Lower Central America. In these locations, frequent contacts with South America made gold more easily available. Jade artifacts are often found in elite burial contexts, as personal adornments or accompanying objects. Sometimes a jade bead was placed within the mouth of the deceased. Jade objects are also found in dedicatory offerings for the construction or ritual termination of public buildings, as well as in more private residential contexts.” ref

Ancient Jade Artifacts

“In the Formative period, the Olmec of the Gulf Coast were among the first Mesoamerican people to shape jade into votive celts, axes, and bloodletting tools around 1200-1000 BCE. The Maya achieved master levels of jade carving. Maya artisans used drawing cords, harder minerals, and water as abrasive tools to work the stone. Holes were made in jade objects with bone and wood drills, and finer incisions were often added at the end. Jade objects varied in size and shapes and included necklaces, pendants, pectorals, ear ornaments, beads, mosaic masks, vessels, rings, and statues. Among the most famous jade artifacts from the Maya region, we can include funeral masks and vessels from Tikal, and Pakal’s funeral mask and jewels from the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque.” ref

“Other burial offerings and dedication caches have been found at major Maya sites, such as Copan, Cerros, and Calakmul. During the Postclassic period, the use of jade dropped dramatically in the Maya area. Jade carvings are rare, with the notable exception of the pieces dredged out of the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá. Among Aztec nobility, jade jewelry was the most valuable luxury: partly because of its rarity, since it had to be imported from the tropical lowlands, and partly because of its symbolism linked to water, fertility, ​and preciousness. For this reason, jade was one of the most valuable tribute item collected by the Aztec Triple Alliance.” ref

Jade in Southeastern Mesoamerica and Lower Central America

“Southeastern Mesoamerica and Lower Central America were other important regions of the distribution of jade artifacts. In the Costa Rican regions of Guanacaste-Nicoya jade artifacts were mainly widespread between CE 200 and 600. Although no local source of jadeite has been identified so far, Costa Rica and Honduras developed their own jade-working tradition. In Honduras, non-Maya areas show a preference for using jade in building dedication offerings more than burials. In Costa Rica, by contrast, the majority of jade artifacts have been recovered from burials. The use of jade in Costa Rica seems to come to an end around CE 500-600 when there was a shift towards gold as the luxury raw material; that technology originated in Colombia and Panama.” ref

Costa Rican jade tradition

Jadeite is presumed one of the most precious materials of Pre-Columbian Costa Rica. It, along with other similar-looking greenstones (e.g. chalcedonyserpentine, and green jasper) were cherished and worked for years. Jadeite was used to decorate the body and was presumably a symbol of power. The end of the jade tradition in Costa Rica corresponds with the beginning of gold work. There are three main periods in Costa Rican Jade Tradition, they correspond with the second half of Mid-Preclassic to Late Classic Periods in Mesoamerica.

  1. Beginning Period: 500 BCE- 300 CE
  2. Fluorescent Period: 300-900 CE
  3. Decadent Period: 700-900 CE” ref

“Most of the jade objects recorded are from looted context, but when found in situ the objects are primarily in graves. The bulk of Costa Rican jades contain drilled holes so they can be utilized to decorate the body in bead and pendant form. There are three main types of objects listed here.” ref

1. “Axe Gods: Generally these are stylized figure pendants that look like they were made from axes or celts. They are two-dimensionally decorated on the front with three main segments. The first is the top of the head to the top of the shoulders, where holes are drilled to suspend the object. The second is from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the wings or arms. The third section is the blade of the pendant, it goes from the bottom of the wings or arms to the base, which consists of 30-40% of the entire pendant. There are two types of Axe god figurines, Avian and Anthropomorphic. The earliest known jade work is the Avian axe god celt found at the site of La Regla, dated at 500 BCE.” ref

2. “Beak Birds: These are characteristic for their large, stylized beak. All were drilled through their neck so when strung to hang the beak would be projecting. The figures are very diverse in size and shape. The beaks are either straight, or curved pointing up or down. Some of the beaks are curved into a spiral, and attached to the body presenting the string saw technique.” ref

3. “Bar Pendants: These are horizontal and usually winged. They are drilled with two holes through the length of the pendant or drilled parallel to each other through the width of the pendant. Examples of this type are open-winged bats, double headed winged bats, double headed bar with reptile heads at either end, opened winged bats with reptile heads at both ends, or plain with no incised decoration.” ref

“Most of the jade work in Costa Rica was done with a particular type. It was a deep, blue-green color, and the same type the Olmecs used. In 1998 an enormous region of this particular jade was uncovered after a hurricane in Guatemala. The area is located in south east Guatemala In the Motagua River Valley. It is about the size of Rhode Island, and has evidence of ancient mining. This is the likely source of both the Olmec and Costa Rican jade.” ref

“This implies a significant long-distance trade. Postulated by David Mora-Marín there was a direct exchange network between the previously mentioned area in Guatemala (in the Mayan lowlands) and the northwestern/ central areas of Costa Rica between 300 BCE and 800 CE, in which Costa Ricans obtain jade. The jade tradition died down after the collapse of the Olmec city of Copan, the presumed trade center for the jade.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

People don’t commonly teach religious history, even that of their own claimed religion. No, rather they teach a limited “pro their religion” history of their religion from a religious perspective favorable to the religion of choice. 

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Do you truly think “Religious Belief” is only a matter of some personal choice?

Do you not see how coercive one’s world of choice is limited to the obvious hereditary belief, in most religious choices available to the child of religious parents or caregivers? Religion is more commonly like a family, culture, society, etc. available belief that limits the belief choices of the child and that is when “Religious Belief” is not only a matter of some personal choice and when it becomes hereditary faith, not because of the quality of its alleged facts or proposed truths but because everyone else important to the child believes similarly so they do as well simply mimicking authority beliefs handed to them. Because children are raised in religion rather than being presented all possible choices but rather one limited dogmatic brand of “Religious Belief” where children only have a choice of following the belief as instructed, and then personally claim the faith hereditary belief seen in the confirming to the belief they have held themselves all their lives. This is obvious in statements asked and answered by children claiming a faith they barely understand but they do understand that their family believes “this or that” faith, so they feel obligated to believe it too. While I do agree that “Religious Belief” should only be a matter of some personal choice, it rarely is… End Hereditary Religion!

Opposition to Imposed Hereditary Religion

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey 

“How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different animisms.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

We are like believing machines we vacuum up ideas, like Velcro sticks to almost everything. We accumulate beliefs that we allow to negatively influence our lives, often without realizing it. Our willingness must be to alter skewed beliefs that impend our balance or reason, which allows us to achieve new positive thinking and accurate outcomes.

My thoughts on Religion Evolution with external links for more info:

“Religion is an Evolved Product” and Yes, Religion is Like Fear Given Wings…

Atheists talk about gods and religions for the same reason doctors talk about cancer, they are looking for a cure, or a firefighter talks about fires because they burn people and they care to stop them. We atheists too often feel a need to help the victims of mental slavery, held in the bondage that is the false beliefs of gods and the conspiracy theories of reality found in religions.

“Understanding Religion Evolution: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, Paganism & Progressed organized religion”

Understanding Religion Evolution:

“An Archaeological/Anthropological Understanding of Religion Evolution”

It seems ancient peoples had to survived amazing threats in a “dangerous universe (by superstition perceived as good and evil),” and human “immorality or imperfection of the soul” which was thought to affect the still living, leading to ancestor worship. This ancestor worship presumably led to the belief in supernatural beings, and then some of these were turned into the belief in gods. This feeble myth called gods were just a human conceived “made from nothing into something over and over, changing, again and again, taking on more as they evolve, all the while they are thought to be special,” but it is just supernatural animistic spirit-belief perceived as sacred.


Quick Evolution of Religion?

Pre-Animism (at least 300,000 years ago) pre-religion is a beginning that evolves into later Animism. So, Religion as we think of it, to me, all starts in a general way with Animism (Africa: 100,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in supernatural powers/spirits), then this is physically expressed in or with Totemism (Europe: 50,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in mythical relationship with powers/spirits through a totem item), which then enlists a full-time specific person to do this worship and believed interacting Shamanism (Siberia/Russia: 30,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in access and influence with spirits through ritual), and then there is the further employment of myths and gods added to all the above giving you Paganism (Turkey: 12,000 years ago) (often a lot more nature-based than most current top world religions, thus hinting to their close link to more ancient religious thinking it stems from). My hypothesis is expressed with an explanation of the building of a theatrical house (modern religions development). Progressed organized religion (Egypt: 5,000 years ago)  with CURRENT “World” RELIGIONS (after 4,000 years ago).

Historically, in large city-state societies (such as Egypt or Iraq) starting around 5,000 years ago culminated to make religion something kind of new, a sociocultural-governmental-religious monarchy, where all or at least many of the people of such large city-state societies seem familiar with and committed to the existence of “religion” as the integrated life identity package of control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine, but this juggernaut integrated religion identity package of Dogmatic-Propaganda certainly did not exist or if developed to an extent it was highly limited in most smaller prehistoric societies as they seem to lack most of the strong control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine (magical beliefs could be at times be added or removed). Many people just want to see developed religious dynamics everywhere even if it is not. Instead, all that is found is largely fragments until the domestication of religion.

Religions, as we think of them today, are a new fad, even if they go back to around 6,000 years in the timeline of human existence, this amounts to almost nothing when seen in the long slow evolution of religion at least around 70,000 years ago with one of the oldest ritual worship. Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago. This message of how religion and gods among them are clearly a man-made thing that was developed slowly as it was invented and then implemented peace by peace discrediting them all. Which seems to be a simple point some are just not grasping how devastating to any claims of truth when we can see the lie clearly in the archeological sites.

I wish people fought as hard for the actual values as they fight for the group/clan names political or otherwise they think support values. Every amount spent on war is theft to children in need of food or the homeless kept from shelter.

Here are several of my blog posts on history:

I am not an academic. I am a revolutionary that teaches in public, in places like social media, and in the streets. I am not a leader by some title given but from my commanding leadership style of simply to start teaching everywhere to everyone, all manner of positive education. 

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

To me, Animism starts in Southern Africa, then to West Europe, and becomes Totemism. Another split goes near the Russia and Siberia border becoming Shamanism, which heads into Central Europe meeting up with Totemism, which also had moved there, mixing the two which then heads to Lake Baikal in Siberia. From there this Shamanism-Totemism heads to Turkey where it becomes Paganism.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Not all “Religions” or “Religious Persuasions” have a god(s) but

All can be said to believe in some imaginary beings or imaginary things like spirits, afterlives, etc.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Low Gods “Earth” or Tutelary deity and High Gods “Sky” or Supreme deity

“An Earth goddess is a deification of the Earth. Earth goddesses are often associated with the “chthonic” deities of the underworldKi and Ninhursag are Mesopotamian earth goddesses. In Greek mythology, the Earth is personified as Gaia, corresponding to Roman Terra, Indic Prithvi/Bhūmi, etc. traced to an “Earth Mother” complementary to the “Sky Father” in Proto-Indo-European religionEgyptian mythology exceptionally has a sky goddess and an Earth god.” ref

“A mother goddess is a goddess who represents or is a personification of naturemotherhoodfertilitycreationdestruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother. In some religious traditions or movements, Heavenly Mother (also referred to as Mother in Heaven or Sky Mother) is the wife or feminine counterpart of the Sky father or God the Father.” ref

Any masculine sky god is often also king of the gods, taking the position of patriarch within a pantheon. Such king gods are collectively categorized as “sky father” deities, with a polarity between sky and earth often being expressed by pairing a “sky father” god with an “earth mother” goddess (pairings of a sky mother with an earth father are less frequent). A main sky goddess is often the queen of the gods and may be an air/sky goddess in her own right, though she usually has other functions as well with “sky” not being her main. In antiquity, several sky goddesses in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Near East were called Queen of Heaven. Neopagans often apply it with impunity to sky goddesses from other regions who were never associated with the term historically. The sky often has important religious significance. Many religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, have deities associated with the sky.” ref

“In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a “father”, often the father of a pantheon and is often either a reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of “sky father” may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an “earth mother“. “Sky Father” is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity name as the Greek Zeûs Pater and Roman Jupiter and Germanic Týr, Tir or Tiwaz, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity’s name, *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr. While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, there are exceptions (e.g. In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the sky mother and Geb is the earth father).” ref

Tutelary deity

“A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture, or occupation. The etymology of “tutelary” expresses the concept of safety and thus of guardianship. In late Greek and Roman religion, one type of tutelary deity, the genius, functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) iKorean shamanismjangseung and sotdae were placed at the edge of villages to frighten off demons. They were also worshiped as deities. Seonangshin is the patron deity of the village in Korean tradition and was believed to embody the SeonangdangIn Philippine animism, Diwata or Lambana are deities or spirits that inhabit sacred places like mountains and mounds and serve as guardians. Such as: Maria Makiling is the deity who guards Mt. Makiling and Maria Cacao and Maria Sinukuan. In Shinto, the spirits, or kami, which give life to human bodies come from nature and return to it after death. Ancestors are therefore themselves tutelaries to be worshiped. And similarly, Native American beliefs such as Tonás, tutelary animal spirit among the Zapotec and Totems, familial or clan spirits among the Ojibwe, can be animals.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Austronesian beliefs such as: Atua (gods and spirits of the Polynesian peoples such as the Māori or the Hawaiians), Hanitu (Bunun of Taiwan‘s term for spirit), Hyang (KawiSundaneseJavanese, and Balinese Supreme Being, in ancient Java and Bali mythology and this spiritual entity, can be either divine or ancestral), Kaitiaki (New Zealand Māori term used for the concept of guardianship, for the sky, the sea, and the land), Kawas (mythology) (divided into 6 groups: gods, ancestors, souls of the living, spirits of living things, spirits of lifeless objects, and ghosts), Tiki (Māori mythologyTiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne and represents deified ancestors found in most Polynesian cultures). ” ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Mesopotamian Tutelary Deities can be seen as ones related to City-States 

“Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as Uruk and UrAncient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as AthensSpartaThebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a vast empire); the Italian city-states from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, such as FlorenceSienaFerraraMilan (which as they grew in power began to dominate neighboring cities) and Genoa and Venice, which became powerful thalassocracies; the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen ItzaTikalCopán and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coastRagusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others.” ref

“The Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BCE; also known as Protoliterate period) of Mesopotamia, named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization. City-States like Uruk and others had a patron tutelary City Deity along with a Priest-King.” ref

Chinese folk religion, both past, and present, includes myriad tutelary deities. Exceptional individuals, highly cultivated sages, and prominent ancestors can be deified and honored after death. Lord Guan is the patron of military personnel and police, while Mazu is the patron of fishermen and sailors. Such as Tu Di Gong (Earth Deity) is the tutelary deity of a locality, and each individual locality has its own Earth Deity and Cheng Huang Gong (City God) is the guardian deity of an individual city, worshipped by local officials and locals since imperial times.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Hinduism, personal tutelary deities are known as ishta-devata, while family tutelary deities are known as Kuladevata. Gramadevata are guardian deities of villages. Devas can also be seen as tutelary. Shiva is the patron of yogis and renunciants. City goddesses include: Mumbadevi (Mumbai), Sachchika (Osian); Kuladevis include: Ambika (Porwad), and Mahalakshmi. In NorthEast India Meitei mythology and religion (Sanamahism) of Manipur, there are various types of tutelary deities, among which Lam Lais are the most predominant ones. Tibetan Buddhism has Yidam as a tutelary deity. Dakini is the patron of those who seek knowledge.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) The Greeks also thought deities guarded specific places: for instance, Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens. Socrates spoke of hearing the voice of his personal spirit or daimonion:

You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me … . This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.” ref

“Tutelary deities who guard and preserve a place or a person are fundamental to ancient Roman religion. The tutelary deity of a man was his Genius, that of a woman her Juno. In the Imperial era, the Genius of the Emperor was a focus of Imperial cult. An emperor might also adopt a major deity as his personal patron or tutelary, as Augustus did Apollo. Precedents for claiming the personal protection of a deity were established in the Republican era, when for instance the Roman dictator Sulla advertised the goddess Victory as his tutelary by holding public games (ludi) in her honor.” ref

“Each town or city had one or more tutelary deities, whose protection was considered particularly vital in time of war and siege. Rome itself was protected by a goddess whose name was to be kept ritually secret on pain of death (for a supposed case, see Quintus Valerius Soranus). The Capitoline Triad of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva were also tutelaries of Rome. The Italic towns had their own tutelary deities. Juno often had this function, as at the Latin town of Lanuvium and the Etruscan city of Veii, and was often housed in an especially grand temple on the arx (citadel) or other prominent or central location. The tutelary deity of Praeneste was Fortuna, whose oracle was renowned.” ref

“The Roman ritual of evocatio was premised on the belief that a town could be made vulnerable to military defeat if the power of its tutelary deity were diverted outside the city, perhaps by the offer of superior cult at Rome. The depiction of some goddesses such as the Magna Mater (Great Mother, or Cybele) as “tower-crowned” represents their capacity to preserve the city. A town in the provinces might adopt a deity from within the Roman religious sphere to serve as its guardian, or syncretize its own tutelary with such; for instance, a community within the civitas of the Remi in Gaul adopted Apollo as its tutelary, and at the capital of the Remi (present-day Rheims), the tutelary was Mars Camulus.” ref 

Household deity (a kind of or related to a Tutelary deity)

“A household deity is a deity or spirit that protects the home, looking after the entire household or certain key members. It has been a common belief in paganism as well as in folklore across many parts of the world. Household deities fit into two types; firstly, a specific deity – typically a goddess – often referred to as a hearth goddess or domestic goddess who is associated with the home and hearth, such as the ancient Greek Hestia.” ref

“The second type of household deities are those that are not one singular deity, but a type, or species of animistic deity, who usually have lesser powers than major deities. This type was common in the religions of antiquity, such as the Lares of ancient Roman religion, the Gashin of Korean shamanism, and Cofgodas of Anglo-Saxon paganism. These survived Christianisation as fairy-like creatures existing in folklore, such as the Anglo-Scottish Brownie and Slavic Domovoy.” ref

“Household deities were usually worshipped not in temples but in the home, where they would be represented by small idols (such as the teraphim of the Bible, often translated as “household gods” in Genesis 31:19 for example), amulets, paintings, or reliefs. They could also be found on domestic objects, such as cosmetic articles in the case of Tawaret. The more prosperous houses might have a small shrine to the household god(s); the lararium served this purpose in the case of the Romans. The gods would be treated as members of the family and invited to join in meals, or be given offerings of food and drink.” ref

“In many religions, both ancient and modern, a god would preside over the home. Certain species, or types, of household deities, existed. An example of this was the Roman Lares. Many European cultures retained house spirits into the modern period. Some examples of these include:

“Although the cosmic status of household deities was not as lofty as that of the Twelve Olympians or the Aesir, they were also jealous of their dignity and also had to be appeased with shrines and offerings, however humble. Because of their immediacy they had arguably more influence on the day-to-day affairs of men than the remote gods did. Vestiges of their worship persisted long after Christianity and other major religions extirpated nearly every trace of the major pagan pantheons. Elements of the practice can be seen even today, with Christian accretions, where statues to various saints (such as St. Francis) protect gardens and grottos. Even the gargoyles found on older churches, could be viewed as guardians partitioning a sacred space.” ref

“For centuries, Christianity fought a mop-up war against these lingering minor pagan deities, but they proved tenacious. For example, Martin Luther‘s Tischreden have numerous – quite serious – references to dealing with kobolds. Eventually, rationalism and the Industrial Revolution threatened to erase most of these minor deities, until the advent of romantic nationalism rehabilitated them and embellished them into objects of literary curiosity in the 19th century. Since the 20th century this literature has been mined for characters for role-playing games, video games, and other fantasy personae, not infrequently invested with invented traits and hierarchies somewhat different from their mythological and folkloric roots.” ref

“In contradistinction to both Herbert Spencer and Edward Burnett Tylor, who defended theories of animistic origins of ancestor worship, Émile Durkheim saw its origin in totemism. In reality, this distinction is somewhat academic, since totemism may be regarded as a particularized manifestation of animism, and something of a synthesis of the two positions was attempted by Sigmund Freud. In Freud’s Totem and Taboo, both totem and taboo are outward expressions or manifestations of the same psychological tendency, a concept which is complementary to, or which rather reconciles, the apparent conflict. Freud preferred to emphasize the psychoanalytic implications of the reification of metaphysical forces, but with particular emphasis on its familial nature. This emphasis underscores, rather than weakens, the ancestral component.” ref

William Edward Hearn, a noted classicist, and jurist, traced the origin of domestic deities from the earliest stages as an expression of animism, a belief system thought to have existed also in the neolithic, and the forerunner of Indo-European religion. In his analysis of the Indo-European household, in Chapter II “The House Spirit”, Section 1, he states:

The belief which guided the conduct of our forefathers was … the spirit rule of dead ancestors.” ref

“In Section 2 he proceeds to elaborate:

It is thus certain that the worship of deceased ancestors is a vera causa, and not a mere hypothesis. …

In the other European nations, the Slavs, the Teutons, and the Kelts, the House Spirit appears with no less distinctness. … [T]he existence of that worship does not admit of doubt. … The House Spirits had a multitude of other names which it is needless here to enumerate, but all of which are more or less expressive of their friendly relations with man. … In [England] … [h]e is the Brownie. … In Scotland this same Brownie is well known. He is usually described as attached to particular families, with whom he has been known to reside for centuries, threshing the corn, cleaning the house, and performing similar household tasks. His favorite gratification was milk and honey.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“These ideas are my speculations from the evidence.”

I am still researching the “god‘s origins” all over the world. So you know, it is very complicated but I am smart and willing to look, DEEP, if necessary, which going very deep does seem to be needed here, when trying to actually understand the evolution of gods and goddesses. I am sure of a few things and less sure of others, but even in stuff I am not fully grasping I still am slowly figuring it out, to explain it to others. But as I research more I am understanding things a little better, though I am still working on understanding it all or something close and thus always figuring out more. 

Sky Father/Sky God?

“Egyptian: (Nut) Sky Mother and (Geb) Earth Father” (Egypt is different but similar)

Turkic/Mongolic: (Tengri/Tenger Etseg) Sky Father and (Eje/Gazar Eej) Earth Mother *Transeurasian*

Hawaiian: (Wākea) Sky Father and (Papahānaumoku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

New Zealand/ Māori: (Ranginui) Sky Father and (Papatūānuku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

Proto-Indo-European: (Dyus/Dyus phtr) Sky Father and (Dʰéǵʰōm/Plethwih) Earth Mother

Indo-Aryan: (Dyaus Pita) Sky Father and (Prithvi Mata) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Italic: (Jupiter) Sky Father and (Juno) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Etruscan: (Tinia) Sky Father and (Uni) Sky Mother *Tyrsenian/Italy Pre–Indo-European*

Hellenic/Greek: (Zeus) Sky Father and (Hera) Sky Mother who started as an “Earth Goddess” *Indo-European*

Nordic: (Dagr) Sky Father and (Nótt) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Slavic: (Perun) Sky Father and (Mokosh) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Illyrian: (Deipaturos) Sky Father and (Messapic Damatura’s “earth-mother” maybe) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Albanian: (Zojz) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Baltic: (Perkūnas) Sky Father and (Saulė) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Germanic: (Týr) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Colombian-Muisca: (Bochica) Sky Father and (Huythaca) Sky Mother *Chibchan*

Aztec: (Quetzalcoatl) Sky Father and (Xochiquetzal) Sky Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Incan: (Viracocha) Sky Father and (Mama Runtucaya) Sky Mother *Quechuan*

China: (Tian/Shangdi) Sky Father and (Dì) Earth Mother *Sino-Tibetan*

Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian: (An/Anu) Sky Father and (Ki) Earth Mother

Finnish: (Ukko) Sky Father and (Akka) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Sami: (Horagalles) Sky Father and (Ravdna) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Puebloan-Zuni: (Ápoyan Ta’chu) Sky Father and (Áwitelin Tsíta) Earth Mother

Puebloan-Hopi: (Tawa) Sky Father and (Kokyangwuti/Spider Woman/Grandmother) Earth Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Puebloan-Navajo: (Tsohanoai) Sky Father and (Estsanatlehi) Earth Mother *Na-Dene*



Sky Father/Sky Mother “High Gods” or similar gods/goddesses of the sky more loosely connected, seeming arcane mythology across the earth seen in Siberia, China, Europe, Native Americans/First Nations People and Mesopotamia, etc.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref

Hinduism around 3,700 to 3,500 years old. ref

 Judaism around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (The first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew” dated to around 3,000 years ago Khirbet Qeiyafa is the site of an ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley. And many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed around 2,500) ref, ref

Judaism is around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (“Paleo-Hebrew” 3,000 years ago and Torah 2,500 years ago)

“Judaism is an Abrahamic, its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Some scholars argue that modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions.” ref

“Yahwism is the name given by modern scholars to the religion of ancient Israel, essentially polytheistic, with a plethora of gods and goddesses. Heading the pantheon was Yahweh, the national god of the Israelite kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with his consort, the goddess Asherah; below them were second-tier gods and goddesses such as Baal, Shamash, Yarikh, Mot, and Astarte, all of whom had their own priests and prophets and numbered royalty among their devotees, and a third and fourth tier of minor divine beings, including the mal’ak, the messengers of the higher gods, who in later times became the angels of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yahweh, however, was not the ‘original’ god of Israel “Isra-El”; it is El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon, whose name forms the basis of the name “Israel”, and none of the Old Testament patriarchs, the tribes of Israel, the Judges, or the earliest monarchs, have a Yahwistic theophoric name (i.e., one incorporating the name of Yahweh).” ref

“El is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity“, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities. A rarer form, ‘ila, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic *ʔil-, meaning “god”. Specific deities known as ‘El or ‘Il include the supreme god of the ancient Canaanite religion and the supreme god of East Semitic speakers in Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic Period. ʼĒl is listed at the head of many pantheons. In some Canaanite and Ugaritic sources, ʼĒl played a role as father of the gods, of creation, or both. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “ʼĒl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad“. The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. In the Hebrew texts this word is interpreted as being semantically singular for “god” by biblical commentators. However the documentary hypothesis for the Old Testament (corresponds to the Jewish Torah) developed originally in the 1870s, identifies these that different authors – the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and the Priestly source – were responsible for editing stories from a polytheistic religion into those of a monotheistic religion. Inconsistencies that arise between monotheism and polytheism in the texts are reflective of this hypothesis.” ref


Jainism around 2,599 – 2,527 years old. ref

Confucianism around 2,600 – 2,551 years old. ref

Buddhism around 2,563/2,480 – 2,483/2,400 years old. ref

Christianity around 2,o00 years old. ref

Shinto around 1,305 years old. ref

Islam around 1407–1385 years old. ref

Sikhism around 548–478 years old. ref

Bahá’í around 200–125 years old. ref

Knowledge to Ponder: 


  • Possibly, around 30,000 years ago (in simpler form) to 6,000 years ago, Stars/Astrology are connected to Ancestors, Spirit Animals, and Deities.
  • The star also seems to be a possible proto-star for Star of Ishtar, Star of Inanna, or Star of Venus.
  • Around 7,000 to 6,000 years ago, Star Constellations/Astrology have connections to the “Kurgan phenomenon” of below-ground “mound” stone/wood burial structures and “Dolmen phenomenon” of above-ground stone burial structures.
  • Around 6,500–5,800 years ago, The Northern Levant migrations into Jordon and Israel in the Southern Levant brought new cultural and religious transfer from Turkey and Iran.
  • “The Ghassulian Star,” a mysterious 6,000-year-old mural from Jordan may have connections to the European paganstic kurgan/dolmens phenomenon.

“Astrology is a range of divinatory practices, recognized as pseudoscientific since the 18th century, that claim to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the apparent positions of celestial objects. Different cultures have employed forms of astrology since at least the 2nd millennium BCE, these practices having originated in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Most, if not all, cultures have attached importance to what they observed in the sky, and some—such as the HindusChinese, and the Maya—developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Western astrology, one of the oldest astrological systems still in use, can trace its roots to 19th–17th century BCE Mesopotamia, from where it spread to Ancient GreeceRome, the Islamicate world and eventually Central and Western Europe. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with systems of horoscopes that purport to explain aspects of a person’s personality and predict significant events in their lives based on the positions of celestial objects; the majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.” ref 

Around 5,500 years ago, Science evolves, The first evidence of science was 5,500 years ago and was demonstrated by a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world. ref

Around 5,000 years ago, Origin of Logics is a Naturalistic Observation (principles of valid reasoning, inference, & demonstration) ref

Around 4,150 to 4,000 years ago: The earliest surviving versions of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which was originally titled “He who Saw the Deep” (Sha naqba īmuru) or “Surpassing All Other Kings” (Shūtur eli sharrī) were written. ref


  • 3,700 years ago or so, the oldest of the Hindu Vedas (scriptures), the Rig Veda was composed.
  • 3,500 years ago or so, the Vedic Age began in India after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization.


  • around 3,000 years ago, the first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew”
  • around 2,500 years ago, many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed

Myths: The bible inspired religion is not just one religion or one myth but a grouping of several religions and myths

  • Around 3,450 or 3,250 years ago, according to legend, is the traditionally accepted period in which the Israelite lawgiver, Moses, provided the Ten Commandments.
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament is the first part of Christianity’s bible.
  • Around 2,400 years ago, the most accepted hypothesis is that the canon was formed in stages, first the Pentateuch (Torah).
  • Around 2,140 to 2,116 years ago, the Prophets was written during the Hasmonean dynasty, and finally the remaining books.
  • Christians traditionally divide the Old Testament into four sections:
  • The first five books or Pentateuch (Torah).
  • The proposed history books telling the history of the Israelites from their conquest of Canaan to their defeat and exile in Babylon.
  • The poetic and proposed “Wisdom books” dealing, in various forms, with questions of good and evil in the world.
  • The books of the biblical prophets, warning of the consequences of turning away from God:
  • Henotheism:
  • Exodus 20:23 “You shall not make other gods besides Me (not saying there are no other gods just not to worship them); gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.”
  • Polytheism:
  • Judges 10:6 “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:5 “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords.”
  • Monotheism:
  • Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

Around 2,570 to 2,270 Years Ago, there is a confirmation of atheistic doubting as well as atheistic thinking, mainly by Greek philosophers. However, doubting gods is likely as old as the invention of gods and should destroy the thinking that belief in god(s) is the “default belief”. The Greek word is apistos (a “not” and pistos “faithful,”), thus not faithful or faithless because one is unpersuaded and unconvinced by a god(s) claim. Short Definition: unbelieving, unbeliever, or unbelief.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Expressions of Atheistic Thinking:

  • Around 2,600 years ago, Ajita Kesakambali, ancient Indian philosopher, who is the first known proponent of Indian materialism. ref
  • Around 2,535 to 2,475 years ago, Heraclitus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor or modern Turkey. ref
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, according to The Story of Civilization book series certain African pygmy tribes have no identifiable gods, spirits, or religious beliefs or rituals, and even what burials accrue are without ceremony. ref
  • Around 2,490 to 2,430 years ago, Empedocles, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. ref
  • Around 2,460 to 2,370 years ago, Democritus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher considered to be the “father of modern science” possibly had some disbelief amounting to atheism. ref
  • Around 2,399 years ago or so, Socrates, a famous Greek philosopher was tried for sinfulness by teaching doubt of state gods. ref
  • Around 2,341 to 2,270 years ago, Epicurus, a Greek philosopher known for composing atheistic critics and famously stated, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?” ref

This last expression by Epicurus, seems to be an expression of Axiological Atheism. To understand and utilize value or actually possess “Value Conscious/Consciousness” to both give a strong moral “axiological” argument (the problem of evil) as well as use it to fortify humanism and positive ethical persuasion of human helping and care responsibilities. Because value-blindness gives rise to sociopathic/psychopathic evil.