Religiosity to Archaeologists

A Myriad of Environments

Rev. Joshua Klaus | Religion in Pre-History | January 21, 2017


Uncovered artifacts help explore the beginnings of Humanity


For purpose of exploring cultural beginnings of Religion through Art & Archaeology I have chosen to look more closely into the Paleolithic Period. (The Old Stone Age) This is the period where human origin begins. The Paleolithic period dates from early time of 200,000 BCE (Before Common Era) to 10,000 BCE.  Neanderthals existed in the earlier parts of the Paleolithic period after global warming at around 10,000 BCE, Homo sapiens were human relatives of the Neanderthals. Unlike there primate relatives Neanderthals left behind nothing indicating a culture existed among them, let alone a belief system. Tools have been discovered they used for survival, but no Art. As for Homo sapiens Archaeologists have discovered and collected evidence that indicates otherwise. From artifacts to drawings, the first humans left plenty behind to be discovered and interpreted. With discovery comes lots of debate between Scholars of the religiosity of Archaeologists.

Neanderthals as a primate relative, as Archaeologists have discovered, used flake tools and tools for their survival. They did not draw or try and convey meanings through Art. There tools were not pieces of Art (Art being a form of language) There seems to be no evidence of a religious belief system. Even such basic human behavior as the creation of art and personal adornment does not seem to have appeared until just before the end of the Paleolithic and the same may be true of religion. (Harold L. Dibble, The Search for Our Human Heritage 1992, EXPEDITION) In some of the images of artifacts I have seen, there is a clear distinction of what the Neanderthals left behind for us to learn of and what the earliest humans have left behind for us to learn of their religious beliefs or spiritual beliefs. One primate relative shows the creation of tools to be used for hunting, to scraping and for cutting. The other creates Art through drawings, sketches, and statues for means of language or communication. Each culture of humans has different Art that has been discovered. Like today’s modern language, they did not write, our relatives produced art to convey a message or history ( Art being a language).

Homo sapiens lived with Neanderthals until about 26,000 years ago when they became extinct. Complete extinctions occurred at different times across the world. With this stated, there is conflicting research by Archaeologist regarding the migration of humans. The Mesolithic Period which dates to 12,000 – 5,000 BCE has no evidence of contemporary hominids in existence. As the Neolithic period arose (5,000-200 BCE) there was formation of Northern, Central and Southern cultures.  Archaeological images show drawings of humans, both male and female. Interestingly it’s been uncovered their belief systems from humans in higher beings or mysterious creatures. Can the basic instinct of survival from humans today be connected to our desire for believing in a “Supreme Being”, “God”, “Higher Power”, “Nature”, or nothing at all be connected?

It’s my belief; likely our earliest ancestors tried to leave their marks in history with the Art and images I have seen produced by Archaeologist from around the world. Modern cultural anthropology concerns the role of language and symbols, both of which are essential in the transmission of culture to each generation and the maintenance of cultural identity. Many cultures have a belief system. Our culture defines who we are for thousands and millions of years to come. Paleolithic life is very difficult and controversial to interpret. Stemming from nature and data, to cultures and communities documenting history through Art and language. Humans are always seeking the greater meaning in life. In doing so we seek evolutionary forces that shaped us spiritually and biologically. Paleolithic Archaeologists primary position and relationship to religion is to discover the greater meaning in life, therefore making a large part of their vocation, religious.


Author: revjoshuaklaus

Current Seminarian of Inter Religious Studies Masters of Divinity; Certificates in Divination and Pastoral Care. Pastor at St. Adele's Universal Life Church and Divine Ministry.