Middle Paleolithic Religion


Religion is the creation of spiritual beliefs, ceremonies that ties a culture together. Spiritual beliefs are designed to explain phenomena that cannot at the time be explained in any rational way. It is a behavioral mechanism to make one feel good about any event they find themselves in.

The middle paleolithic epoch stretches back to around 300,000 to 50,000 thousand BC. It is during this era we have the earliest evidence of religious practices mainly in the way they buried their dead and the material objects found buried with the deceased.

The distribution of grave goods is an indicator of the social stratification of a society. In the early Neolithic era graves tend to show an equal distribution of material goods buried with the dead indicating more or less a classless society. Homo-sapiens were concentrated into family units of hunter gathers and did not gather into cities for thousands of years till the late stone age.

The earliest undisputed grave sites come from two sites dating back to around 100 thousand years ago. Skeletal remains were found stained with red ochre, stone tools and at one site the mandible of a wild boar. The average age of these skeletons has been dated to about 30 years old.

The staining of the body with red ochre can be found in grave sites in Africa. What symbolism they may pose remains only in speculation it might have been for spiritual reasons.

The first site is the Skhul cave located on slopes of Mt. Carmel in the northern part of Israel.

The second site is the Qafzeh cave located in a rock shelter near modern day Nazareth in Lower Galilee.

These are considered the first automatically correct hominids with no kinship to Neanderthals.

The simple outlay of grave goods would suggest either the wealth of the person that died or that it was to help the deceased in the afterlife to survive the harshness of life or both.

In the Chalcolithic and Bronze age this is where we start to see rich grave goods concentrated in chieftain graves indicating a shift in social stratification from the commoner to the elite.

We also start seeing more and more emphases placed on deities and their role in society. They were portrayed and believed to be living amongst the people. The first priests 3500 BC fostered the belief that god put man here so we could serve him and his family clan.

The practice of placing grave goods with the dead body has an uninterrupted history beginning in the Middle Paleolithic era and has been upheld comparatively in recent times, in many parts of the world ceasing only with Christianization. When it was mandated in the early 3rd century that all wealth went to the church.

So, the simple burial by what would seem coming from an unsophisticated being’s reflects a cognitive thought on how to deal with death a ceremony perhaps religious in nature. They looked at creation surrounding them and through trial and error had to learn how to survive. In that regards they were sophisticated people for their time.

The concept of the Son inheriting the Fathers nation came from this time just a thought. A nation is a family unit in its singularity.
Nov 11, 2019
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Interesting that the idea of "divine right" as a governmental type may have originated from early Bronze Age burial rights!

What do you think about the more modern shift away from burial at all? The National Funeral Directors Association put out a stat recently that indicated that cremation rates are hitting 54%, and expected to reach 80% by 2035. Cost is a driving factor, but there might be a cultural consideration in the idea of trying not to leave behind a beefy corpse that takes up space.
In any society you have only 3 factors that govern people.

  • A form of government
  • A form of economics
  • A form of social organization
The economics of a society controls both the government and society. Cultural consideration are always controlled by the economics, GDP, by the prevailing form of government.

A median cost of a funeral in America today is conservatively 7000 thousand to 12000 thousand dollars.

Me and my wife just filed our taxes today combined salary is around 26 thousand dollars a year. It would be more economically feasible for me to be cremated and for the wife at around 1500 hundred dollars a shot.

On your front page you have an article about a child’s skull found down around Johannesburg, South Africa dated to about 2 million years old. They found the remains in a cave. Homo sapiens have been burying their own for millions of years and to date it does not take up much space.

As far as divine rights. I do not think that this child or his parents 2 million years ago had aspirations of divine rights. That ideology spilled out from the late stone age to the Bronze age when the people became agrarian and people started gathering into cities.

Each city had a temple usually in the center of the city and the wealth of the people was taken and provided for the upkeep of the spiritual leader and his staff. He claimed divine right and passed the torch when he died down to one of the sons.

This ideology of divinity the Father passes the torch to the son has been passed down from ancient Mesopotamia to the Egyptian Pharaohs to the Roman Caesars to the Popes of the Roman Empire. You see the same construct in the Eastern religions they are all tied to economics, cultural considerations.

Cultural considerations are always economic.