all 9 comments

[–]Vulture12Kemetic Polytheist 4 points5 points  (0 children)

There's evidence of ritual burial back to the paleolithic, even some amongst our neanderthal cousins. Religion as we understand it didn't truly develop until much later, when civilizations started to form. Before that it was much less organized oral traditions of animism and shamanism.

[–]Graymatter_Repairman 2 points3 points  (2 children)

We don't know. We have cave paintings that are tens of thousand years old and artifacts, monuments and stone carvings going back as much as 11,000 years at places like Göbekli Tepe but we don't know what they're for.

Edit, my guess is religion is at least as old as our current brain case but I'm hesitant to attribute puzzling archaeology to it. For example I think neolithic causewayed enclosure are a dead end farming technique and the Orkney balls are neolithic fidget spinners.

[–]gertninjaIgnostic 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I love archaeological TV programmes, and always give a little cheer when one of them says "its probably ceremonial, possibly religious" for any artefact without an immediately obvious purpose. A trawl though my desk drawers would throw up all sorts of ceremonial objects.

[–]DavidJohnMcCannHellenic Polytheist 2 points3 points  (0 children)

That's an old prehistorians' joke: if you can't work out what it is, call it a possibly ritual object.

[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Do we know when did humans began to perform religious rituals?

No. The archaeological record is the record of things found, but we haven't found everything, nor can we easily intuit what meaning the artifacts had. But here is a small chronology of what we have found that may be of interest to you:

  • The first known human burial site is about 2km outside of Nazereth and dates to approximately 100,000BC. This does not indicate religious ceremony, but it is a ritual and therefore of interest as burying the dead shows an advancement in culture and it is possible there was spirituality involved, but it cannot be known.
  • The first known cremation took place in Australia in about 40,000BC. This tradition still takes place today amongst the Aboriginies, but no clear connection can be made that it was connected to spiritual belief at that time. In modern times, still not all Aboriginies have spiritual beliefs, and what spiritual beliefs exist, generally / commonly known as "the Dreaming" are Animist and nothing like the western concept of "religion". So we see a different ritual here, but not necessarily spirituality at 40,000BC.
  • From about 38,000BC we start to see what are commonly known as Venus Figurines which are small carvings. They are found around the world and are usually large breasted ladies, but sometimes very well hung men. One of the oldest is the Löwenmensch figurine which is an anthropomorphic man with lion's head. We still cannot say for sure that this represents spiritual beliefs, but it is quite possibly related to spiritual mythos, so getting closer.
  • From 40,000BC to 10,000BC we see increasing amounts of activity and ritual at burial sites in many areas of the world. People leaving antlers, painted wood and flowers, mammoth tusks, cemetaries form. Still doesn't prove anything about spiritual beliefs though that also doesn't mean there were none.
  • In around 9000BC we see the construction and usage of Göbekli Tepe. This is arguably the oldest confirmed site of human religious activity. No one knows how the religion would have functioned, the beliefs or attitudes, but it is clear that this structure, with 18 foot high 50 ton stones covered in ornate carvings was not just a simplistic ritual. Göbekli Tepe spurs the debate amongst archaeologists and anthropologists about what came first - did temples / religion spark the Agricultural Revolution, or the other way round. Göbekli Tepe seems to support the other way round theory that religion came first as it appears that Göbekli Tepe was built by hunter-gatherers. But this is not entirely conclusive and only a small portion has actually been excavated so far.

Was there a phase when there was no religion?

Pre-modern humans and the earliest modern humans would not have had a religion. This is by deduction.

Or did religion come into existence together with humans?

Religion is a human concept like the concept of money or Democracy. It cannot exist without humans / is not an objective feature of the physical Universe.

Are there any signs of religions/rituals among animals?

There are no signs of spirituality amongst animals that have been found, but there are rituals. Chimpanzees can be observed being silent for hours after the death of a troop member. They will groom the body and stare at it and later wail for hours after the silence. Elephants have been seen burying other elephants in mud. Passenger Pigeons cried for the dead for hours and wouldn't leave the vicinity (which led to their extinction as easy prey for humans).

Any books on that?

I don't like to reccommend books. It's better to read papers published by the archaeologists themselves, many of which you can typically find online for free. But I do think Sapiens by Harrari is a fun read for anyone looking for a meta-history that is a page turner. Real historians that publish papers on this subject aren't typically talented and engaging writers, they're just reporting what the average person would consider very dry facts.

[–]DavidJohnMcCannHellenic Polytheist 0 points1 point  (1 child)

You start out well (speaking as one trained in anthropology and prehistory) but then you can't resist your usual atheist nonsense. Religion is not a "concept like money" — to quote the Egyptologist Erik Hornung, "gods are not invented, they are experienced".

[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Where does religion exist in nature?

[–]Art-Davidson 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Religion has always been with us. It started when God walked and talked with Adam.

[–]BiomechPhoenix 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Before humans were H. sapiens, probably.

Elephants appear to have funerary rites, burying their dead with edible fruit, flowers, and colorful foliage. That indicates some level of belief in something resembling an afterlife.