The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior

Part of the series The Frontiers Collection pp 127-141


The African Interregnum: The “Where,” “When,” and “Why” of the Evolution of Religion

  • Matt RossanoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University Email author 

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Anatomically modern humans (AMH) emerged about 200,000 years before present (ybp) in Africa , initially differing little from other hominin species . Sometime after 100,000 ybp, Neanderthals displaced AMH from the Levant region of the Middle East, ending their first excursion out of their African homeland. About 60,000 ybp, a more socially sophisticated strain of AMH expanded once again out of Africa and replaced all resident hominins worldwide. A crucial aspect of their increased social sophistication was religion. It was during the time between their retreat from the Levant to their conquest of the world (The African Interregnum) that religion emerged. Using archeological, anthropological, psychological, and primatological evidence, this chapter proposes a theoretical model for the evolutionary emergence of religion – an emergence that is pin-pointed temporally to the ecological and social crucible that was Africa from about 80,000 to 60,000 ybp, when Homo sapiens (but for the grace of God?) nearly vanished from the earth.