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A Story Told Backwards

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Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR,volume 10)

Abstract

Archeological and paleoanthropological evidence which might relate to prehistoric religion is outlined in exemplary form and sorted by age. The earliest plausible examples are ritual burials from archaic Homo sapiens, and from Neanderthals. Later, figurative art (paintings, Venus figurines, animal figurines) can be interpreted as expressions of religious concepts analogical with historic animalism. Handprints (positive images) and stencils (negative images) are of comparable age and are interpreted as traces of shamanistic rituals. Among extant indigenous cultures, animism is the most widespread religious concept. This might hint at its synapomorphic (primal) position in religious evolution. However, the scant evidence allows for widely different hypotheses: ranging from the proposal that religion started with concepts of survival after death around 90,000 BCE, to the suggestion that, at that time, religious performances were already similar to those of extant hunter-gatherer societies.

Keywords

  • Archeology
  • Paleoanthropology
  • Ritual burials
  • Cave art
  • Venus figurines
  • Animal figurines
  • Animism
  • Animalism

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    In this book, the archaeological and paleontological record is not verified by a comprehensive list of research literature. Some exemplary citations suffice for the purpose of the argument; literature concerning all finds mentioned is readily available in a digital format.

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Hemminger, H. (2021). A Story Told Backwards. In: Evolutionary Processes in the Natural History of Religion. New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion , vol 10. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70408-7_8

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