Soc Lecture 9
Pre history phase
Rise of the state phase
Flow chart polytheism (textbook has detail on it, journey east and journey west) download.
Orient- features contemplation- focused on thy-self
wisdom-exemplary, holy figures
salvation- through gnosis, illumination,
transcending- the self,
pantheism- cyclical cosmology
validation- of the social order
Occident- features asceticism- focused on conduct, must follow certain rules, prophets have been told
messages to give to us ‘the people’- we listen to these messages and hold the ones that received them
first hand to be sacred.
revelation- emissaries, prophets,
salvation through conduct- ethical submit to God’s commands,
monotheism- historical eschaton
Phase One- Pre-history
From 2.5 million to 3500 BCE
Evidence- cave paintings, burial sites and cultural survivals. No signs that pre-human hominids were
capable of religious thought. Assumption: similar social organization = similar cultures
Neanderthals c 230 000 to 30 000 BCE
Burial customs- deliberate placement of some bodies in natural and excavated sites, arranged in
crouching, fetal positions? With floral bouquets? This placement of bodies means some sort of
tradition and respect- symbolic activity going on. But they may not believe in an after-life.
Cult of cave bear- arrangement of bear skulls, on elevated slabs/altars- a form of cultic activity
Contemporary example- Pygmies of the Congo- must prepare for the hunt: they leave camp at
sunrise- clear a patch of ground- finger trace in the sand- pray- the suns rays hit the patch- they
step in a shoot an arrow in the sky- run off and kill an antelope. Prayer of the hunt- magic of the
hunt- flow into Malinowski theory! Homo Sapiens c 250 000 BCE
Burial customs- deceased interred near their shelters or camps, or in grottos. Stone slab cover-
show respect. Evidence for reburial of the bones after decomposition- use of red ochre (earth
from iron ore) for colouring- red as a symbol of blood= the life force?
Cave paintings- a rich artistic display, typically located in the deepest recesses of caves (so not
likely for home decoration)
Scenes: animals of the hunt with spears and darts Magical-religious?
Superimposed images- to renew control, power? By doing the same paintings over and over
again it is assumed more magical because through them they are enforcing their power over the
animals they are hunting, increasing luck to catch and live off the animal.
A shaman- masked figure, long beard, wearing stag antlers- custodian of spirit power, a
mediator, as ‘one who knows’
Fertility symbols- clay figurines
What accounts for these developments? Evolutionary Psychology
Archaeologists speak of an Upper Paleolithic Revolution, marked by 1) new tool making, 2) tools
to make tools, 3) personal ornaments, like jewellery, body painting, portable art objects,
These are dependent upon our greater mental capacity to ‘symbolize’, to cross reference, think
1) analogically, by categories (ex. things safe, dangerous) 2) metaphorically- which expands
dramatically with the development of human language (=verbal symbolization, then writings)
(the word clock is connected to the physical thing- a clock)
Human cognitive fluidity or modularity- human brain