Re: Spiritual awareness

Glenn Morton (
Fri, 18 Jul 1997 22:37:58 -0500

At 06:42 PM 7/18/97 -0700, Robert Wahl wrote:

>Glenn says that the mortuary practices of the Sima de los Huesos people
>dates to 800 kyr ago and
>probably indicates some type of spiritual belief. He says the other
>evidence of spiritual belief is not likely to be preserved. This seems a
>trifle scant, is there more such evidence from the neolithic?

There is more evidence of religious activity. From the Neolithic, back into
the Middle Paleolithic, people made statues of naked females. During the
Neolithic, these were used as fertility Goddesses and worshipped. Since we
have no historical records of what the Upper Paleolithic peoples did with
their naked lady statues, one must make assumptions. The late Upper
Paleolithic statues are stylistic not that much different from those used in
the neolithic, so it is a fairly safe assumption that these were used
similarly. But then those statues are not that different from even earlier
statues in turn. But the further one goes back in time, the more
differences there are between the statues made and those for which we
actually know the use. This takes us back to 30,000 BC. Prior to that,
there are only two examples of female Goddess type statuary. The
PseudoVenus, was a bear bone, which had the resemblance to a head and was
found, stuck in a bone stand, and placed in a niche in a cave wall. The
item was believed to be made by Neanderthal. It was found at
Wildmannlisloch, Switzerland.
The earliest man-made statue of a naked lady (quite crude) was the Golan
Venus, which was the only volcanic rock found at the site. It had been
altered to improve its reseblance to the female form. This is 330,000 years
old and was made by Homo erectus.

As to the Neanderthals, there is lots of evidence for a bear cult, similar
to that engaged in this century by the Ainu of Japan and many other Siberian
tribes. Each year a bear is sacrificed and its skull is placed in
ceremonial places. Drachenloch, Switzerland and other places, like Mt.
Circeo, Italy, show evidence of the ritual arrangement of bear skulls. At
Drachenloch, Lissner, an expert on the religion of the Siberian peoples, wrote:

"Though unknown to the world at large, the Drachenloch has provided the
key to innumerable secrets. Its discoverer, Emil Bachler, spent a lifetime
fighting for scientific recognition of his cave. His realization that,
seventy or eighty thousand years ago, man had been doing sacrifice there,
opened a chink in the thick and all but impenetrable curtain which had
hitherto denied us a glimpse into the spiritual life of Stone-Age man. also
in Drachenloch were found a number of stone kists or chests. When the side
wall of one of one large kist was removed, seven well-preserved bear skulls
were found in the cavity, carefully piled on top of one another with their
muzzles pointing toward the cave's exit."~Ivars Lissner, Man, God and Magic,
(New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1961), p. 183

The caves exit was to the east, the direction that neanderthal made his own
dead eyes face. Thirty broken fibulas were laid out on top of a slab of
stone, with the jointed ends facing one way and the broken (but polished)
ends facing the other. An unlikely occurrence without human arrangement of
the bones. A bear's skull was found ringed by small stones. Most of the
unbroken cave bear skulls lacked jaws. Heinze Bachler, the son of the
discoverer reported finding many cut moarks on the bones.

"There are other implications of religious beliefs held by Neanderthals
in the collections of bear skulls found in their caves. The mere preservation
of skulls need not suggest anything religious, but in some cases special
attention was given to their placement. In one cave, five bear skulls were
found in niches in the cave wall. The skulls of several cave bears in a group
have been found surrrounded by built-up stone walls, with some skulls having
little stones placed around them, while others were set out on slabs.
"All this suggests some kind of bear cult, like that practiced until
quite recently by the Chippewa and other North American Indians. After a
Chippewa hunter had killed a bear, he would cut off the head, which was then
decorated with beads and ribbons (in the period after contact with Europeans).
Some tobacco was placed before its nose. The hunter would then make a little
speech, apologizing to the bear for having had to kill it. Bear skulls were
preserved and hung up on trees so that dogs and wolves could not get at them.
Bear ceremonialism of this and related kinds had a wide circumpolar
distribution--from the Great Lakes to the Ainu of northern Japan through
various Siberian tribes, such as the Ostyaks and the Orochi, to the Finns and
Lapps of Scandinavia. So wide a distribution of this trait, associated as it
was with other apparently very early circumpolar traits, suggests great age.
It is possible, therefore, that some aspects of this bear ceremonialsim go back
to Middle Paleolithic times."~Victor Barnouw, An Introduction to Anthropology:
Physical Antrhopology and Archaeology, Vol. 1, (Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey
Press, 1982) p. 156-157

At Regourdou, France, special treatment of bear and man was found.

"The diversity in the treatment of the dead would appear upon
examination in the burial place of Regourdou (Dordogne) where a young adult
male was found at one end of a stone-lined pit, with what is thought to be
carefully arranged bones of a brown bear at the other; or of the Shanidar Cave
in Iraq, where the body of one of the nine Neandertals discovered was
supposedly buried within a pit lined with pine boughs and covered with
flowers, according to the interpretation provided by pollen analysis."~Michael
Barbaza, "From the Middle Paleolithic to the Epipaleolithic in the Old World,"
in Jean Guilaine, Prehistory,, (New York: Facts on File, 1991), p. 59-60

The placement of the bear remains is very reminiscent of the ritualistic
laying out of an elephant carcass, well, not the entire carcass, just half
of it. The original report says,

"The most striking feature in this level is the half skeleton of a
straight-tusked elephant lying in the extreme northern sector of the exposure.
The bones of this individual, spread over 50 sq m, were found in semi-
articulated position, lying skin-side up, head to the west. Only the bones of
the left side of the animal and some of the vertebrae seem to be represented.
The cranium is missing, except for the tusks. The pelvis is also missing.
The mandible, broken across both ascending rami, is present but it was found
on the east side of the main bone accumulation, which comprises the hind part
of the skeletal distribution. A single Equus molar is the only bone in Area 1
from an animal other than Elephas. In the fact that most of the contents of
the cluster are bones from a single individual, Area 1 differs from adjacent
areas."~L.G. Freeman and K. W. Butzer, "The Acheulean Station of Torralba
(Spain): A Progress Report," Quaternaria 8(1966):9-21, p. 15-16

Why would Homo erectus nearly 400,000 years ago, lay an elephant out in this
fashion? This certainly smacks of ritual. Ritual is most often associated
with religion.

The use of red ochre, a mineral with no known use except for body painting,
goes back more than 1.5 million years to Olduvai Gorge. It is found in the
bed with Homo habilis, who was the first creature showing the brains
structures which control speech! In primitive tribes, body painting is
always associated with the spiritual beliefs. I believe that this is
evidence for religion that long ago.

(see D. Bruce Dickson, The Dawn of Belief, (Tuscon: The University of
Arizona Press, 1990), p. 42-43)

>Is it
>possible that real religious activity doesn't "take off" as it were until
>6000 - 10.000 years ago? Did Adam represent the introduction of a new gene
>into the human gene pool?

Not unless these things above were not evidence of religion. While the
evidence is scanty, it is there. One cannot ignore the evidence for
religious and ritual activity just because there is little of it.
Quantitatively, there is very little evidence left on the moon of man's
visit. What, maybe 6 or seven places on all the moon have human footprints?
Does this lack of quantity enable one to conclude that man never visited the
moon? Consider Jupiter. There is no evidence that we actually landed
something on Jupiter. Can I conclude that that probe last year never
happened? One must deal with the evidence which does exist. Religion is to
be found among the ancients.


Foundation, Fall and Flood