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Thread: Prehistoric religion?

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    Default Prehistoric religion?

    Hello guys,
    This may not interest you, but I find it fascinating: the Neanderthals (lived between around 300.000 to 30.000 years ago) seem to have buried their dead. Now, if it's true that concern for the dead transcends daily life, then the Neanderthals may have believed in an afterlife, see this.

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    They also covered their dead in red clay as they saw blood as the life force, makes sense if you think about it, you hunt an animal, throw a spear, it hits the animal, red stuff comes out, the animal dies, therefore red stuff is the special thing that makes it alive.

    This is something that has stuck with us into modern times through the Christian Eucharist where Catholics ceremonially drink the 'blood' of Christ to receive his 'blessing / Life Force' and even with 'vampires'... yes of course they are things of legend but the myth of blood drinking creatures that live off the life of other beings is related to the Neanderthal / Eucharist belief.

    But what of the afterlife? I'd say the idea of going back into the maternal confines of the Mother (Earth) to meet ones ancestors seems appropriate. There is an ancient shrine in Ireland that's a man made cave that only allows light to go into the tunnel on Midwinters day (Yule 22nd December) The Sun is the vibrant male phallic power penetrating the fertile yet sleeping feminine Earth in order to give it life in spring time. I know this was probably built 1000's of years after the Neanderthals were either ethnically wiped out or encorporated into the invading Homo sapien populace but I think the same belief structure would've been there.

    They would've believed in an Earth mother, a sacrificial 'son' of the mother that manifests itself as animals for foodl; this of course is the central theme in most religions, Mary and Christ being the modern 'version'.

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    The idea of a sky god may have come a lot later, Zeus the 'shining sky' may have been the product of a more male orientated culture but again one that relied on agriculture than hunting as the sky with it's benevolent sun and rain would've been more important to them than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. Perhaps the religious beliefs of Australian Aborigines would've been on par with them. On a separate note, the images I have seen of neanderthals portray them as Caucasian, where there any other 'ethnic' group Neanderthals?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8660940.stm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Dog View Post
    They also covered their dead in red clay
    Their attraction to 'red' is known indeed, see this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Dog View Post
    The idea of a sky god may have come a lot later, Zeus the 'shining sky' may have been the product of a more male orientated culture but again one that relied on agriculture than hunting as the sky with it's benevolent sun and rain would've been more important to them than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. Perhaps the religious beliefs of Australian Aborigines would've been on par with them.
    Zeus belonged to the spiritual world of modern Homo sapiens (you and me) of around 1500 before Christ. Zeus is an invention of my own species, so I can somehow understand the world and thoughts of the ancient Greeks. They were like us.
    But my fascination is about (i) another species (Neanderthals and Homo sapiens are different species; Neanderthals are not our ancestors, see this) that (ii) lived a very very very long time ago (1500 before Christ is nothing compared to the time span separating 'now' from the time of the Neanderthals). Is it possible that different species may have (had) much more in common than we might think?

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    So now we can blame the Crusades on the Neanderthals?
    - John
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    Quote Originally Posted by jscheuer1 View Post
    So now we can blame the Crusades on the Neanderthals?
    Ha! That's funny.
    No, we cannot blame the Neanderthals. They had already gone extinct about 30.000 years earlier.

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    I just thought that, taken with your other posting on how Europeans have Neanderthal DNA . . .

    Anyways it was a joke, glad you laughed.
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    I'm very skeptical. There are much more practical reasons for burying the dead: 1) if they still live in the area, having a dead body (one that, I'd assume, they do not eat) is inconvenient-- smelly, attracts predators, etc. 2) Whether or not there's an afterlife, it seems reasonable to protect the body of those you care about. It's hard to imagine atheists today deciding to just leave dead bodies on the streets; so I can't see any correlation with religion. With deeper emotions/thoughts, sure. But afterlife? Not necessarily.
    A similar argument could be for the cultural invention of the concept of "gross!".


    Note that we don't have any evidence about Neanderthals building large sea-going boats, but if we imagine that they did (which is almost certainly false), then what would they have done with bodies then? Likely, they would have thrown them overboard. Does that relate to religion? In (relatively) modern culture it doesn't I don't think, but it's convenient.
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    Quote Originally Posted by djr33 View Post
    I'm very skeptical. There are much more practical reasons for burying the dead.
    Yes, I was cautious too by quoting this from the source on the web page: the attempt to reconstruct Neanderthal spirituality and comprehension through their tangible remains is an activity that, in the absence of written language, can never yield a definitive and unarguable answer.
    Quote Originally Posted by djr33 View Post
    A similar argument could be for the cultural invention of the concept of "gross!". .
    I don't know what that is.

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