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Old 07-12-2017, 05:15 PM   #1
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Religion Caused Civilization: archaeological evidence & the Baha'i theory of history

Religion Caused Civilization: archaeological evidence & the Baha'i theory of history


This post is long and a bit rambling but I hope folks here read it because the significance of this is important:

Recent archaeological evidence from two pivotal cites - one the oldest example of megalithic architecture in human history and the other the earliest of its kind in the Americas - has overturned earlier assumptions and essentially confirmed that the general Baha'i view of human history is the correct one.

As described by Abdu'l-Baha (and I say this as a Catholic, because the Catholic understanding is fairly similar in this respect, although Baha'is have hit upon this more directly):


Quote:
"...The greatest bestowal of God in the world of humanity is religion; for assuredly the divine teachings of religion are above all other sources of instruction and development to man. Religion confers upon man eternal life and guides his footsteps in the world of morality. It opens the doors of unending happiness and bestows everlasting honor upon the human kingdom. It has been the basis of all civilization and progress in the history of mankind..."

- Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Section Only), p270 - 280

It used to be taken for granted by anthropologists in the early 20th century, influenced by enlightenment thought, that the need for a consistent food source led to the invention of agriculture and spurred humans to abandon hunter-gatherer society and embrace sedentary living, which enabled settlements, civilisation, art and religion to ultimately develop - a sequential progression in the following manner:


Agriculture > Sedentary societies > Religion


According to this view, which was standard until the 21st century, Abdu'l-Baha would have been considered as voicing an error in understanding.

But then a German archaeologist, one Mr Klaus Schmidt, uncovered Göbekli Tepe, a monumental structure in southern Turkey established nearly 12, 000 years ago at the end of the Younger Dryas, the oldest known example of megalithic architecture in the world: crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery, let alone agriculture.

According to Gobekli, it was religion that originally brought human beings together to construct elaborate centres for cultic worship long before the invention of agriculture, sedentary living, pottery, written language or the wheel. As one archaeologist working on the site explained:


Quote:
"...The realisation that these still highly mobile people invested time and effort into rather large-scale communal projects and thus may have triggered a whole slew of development subsequently leading into the so-called Neolithic lifestyle with larger settled communities, agriculture, and husbandry, is an important contribution to our understanding of the Anatolian Neolithic.

Food would need to have been made available for workers gathered there, and demands may soon have exceeded returns of prevailing hunting and foraging strategies – and thus may well have been led to the exploration and exploitation of new food sources. This somehow turned around cause and effect of our earlier picture of these line of events..."

Another expert explained in a peer-reviewed article about the site how, “religious belief generated a need for constant costly building activity, which could only be accomplished by cooperation,” and the evidence is suggestive of a religious cult within the T-shaped pillar spaces, which helped to foster a group identity reinforced during ritually repeated events that included feasting.

Restriction of the access to knowledge and participation in rituals is attestable at Göbekli Tepe; indicative, perhaps, of a priestly class overseeing religious rituals millennia before such hierarchies were thought to have come into existence. To this end Klaus Schmidt, the scientist who led the initial excavations of the site, argued: “first came the temple, then the city”.

Göbekli Tepe and other PPN sites now suggest the order of religion and agriculture runs as follows:


Religion > Sedentary societies > Agriculture


The idea that religion led to modernity is thus gaining momentum in the fields of anthropology and archaeology. Before the discovery of the "temple", hunter-gatherers had not been thought capable of having either the social sophistication, manpower or resources to create monumental construction, let alone the gargantuan engineering effort involved in creating Gobekli Tepe. It was the religious impulse and the sense of community it facilitated which enabled this to become possible.

The Neolithic Revolution, the progenitor of the first human civilizations, was a profoundly religious event. Some secularist thinkers dislike the idea that religious needs drove the rise of civilisation but its true, even if you don't hear about it often. So the radical suggestion now is that it was not agriculture that drove the revolution, but religion.

It's positively primordial, like the family and the tribe.

Only, even 12, 000 years ago, religion was already serving a "supranational" function of sorts by drawing hunter-gatherers from many different "tribes" together in a colossal building-project to worship, or ceremonialize.

Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt had found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believed that it was a place of worship - like a prehistoric pilgrimage site:





There is vast evidence for people from a catchment area of roughly 200km around the site congregating at Göbekli Tepe. Several diverse groups had to come together and collaborate from over vast distances for a period of time to carry out building activities and to supply for the builders. And it was shared religion that motivated them to do it. As an archaeologist notes:

Quote:
"With traces of permanent settlement absent, for Göbekli Tepe this readily leads to the idea of large, ritualized work feasts rooted in the belief systems of the people congregating there. Constant building activity generated a need for cooperation that was met by large work feasts that produced social cohesion. However, there are further social practises attestable that generate cohesion. The monuments served to memorize crucial knowledge, and, together with ritual performances that probably included smaller feasting events, to reaffirm group identity."

In this respect I cannot help but think of the Maya civilization and the ancient settlement of Ceibal in Guatemala (circa. 950 B.C.), their oldest settlement, which seems to have begun life as a place where a diverse collection of hunter-gatherer groups assembled to build religious festival sites that were the origin of their later cities. The Maya developed in complete geographical isolation from the Old World, and many thousands of years after Gobekli Tepe (making contact, obviously, impossible) but I can’t help but be gripped by the impressive similarities from a sociological perspective.

As Inomata, one of the archaeologists working on this site has noted:


Quote:
“The ceremonial complex was the first architecture built at Ceibal. Durable residences were not built until two to six centuries later. The collective activity of building temples and worshipping eventually encouraged integration of the diverse traveller groups and the growth of an urban centre, rather than the other way round. Different peoples with diverse ways of life coexisted in apparent harmony for generations before establishing a uniform society.”

So here we can see that the exact same sequential progression occurred with Gobekli Tepe in terms of social function, with its social use being as a ceremonial complex for hunter-gatherers prior to the emergence of sedentary living/agriculture and indeed ultimately facilitating the latter, in the sense that religion spurred the need for building activity which in turn led to cooperation.

In simple terms: collaborative construction motivated by religious beliefs played the crucial role in facilitating social integration among these prehistoric hunter-gatherers, which in turn became the basis for the 'Neolithic Revolution' - the progenitor of human civilization itself:


Quote:
"...The Neolithic Revolution was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human pre-history into sedentary (non-nomadic) societies based in built-up villages and towns.

These developments provided the basis for densely populated settlements, specialization and division of labour, trading economies, the development of non-portable art and architecture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g. writing), and property ownership.

The Levant is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC, followed by sites in wider Fertile Crescent. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture."..."


As Abdu'l-Baha tells us: "Religion has been the basis of all civilization and progress in the history of mankind".

How right and far-sighted he was and how wrong the intellectuals in the West of his time were by comparison.

Now to link this in further to Baha'i belief: might an ancient, primordial Manifestation of God have been behind this first trace of megalithic, religious architecture and the Neolithic Revolution it spawned?

From a Baha'i perspective could the Neolithic Revolution really have been the result of what Bahai's would call "the revelation of a Manifestation of God"?

Last edited by Yeshua; 07-12-2017 at 06:22 PM.
 
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Old 07-12-2017, 07:34 PM   #2
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Very, very interesting, Yeshua. Faith does not require proof, nor does belief in the written word of Abdu'l-Baha', but it is fascinating to see examples of scientific "proof." Thank you for sharing this information.

Loving regards,
Becky
 
Old 07-13-2017, 01:51 AM   #3
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Thank you Yeshua, that was very interesting.

Yes I have no doubt Manifestations of God have been giving message on this Earth for a very Long time, it is in the writings. The reason that our records are limited to the Adamic Cycle, may never be found.

I like that we now have a greater vision. That of Manifestations of God on other planets in other Solar Systems.

How small we are and how limited we have made God and His Message!

Regards Tony
 
Old 07-13-2017, 08:54 AM   #4
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Religion causes civilization (not Religion caused civilization).

As anyone who has served at the Baha'i World Center will tell you, the center of the Faith is the shrines, not the other buildings. It's the reason why Baha'i temples don't include preachers, but only reciters of the Word from the different religions' Scriptures.
 
Old 07-13-2017, 04:44 PM   #5
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"Now to link this in further to Baha'i belief: might an ancient, primordial Manifestation of God have been behind this first trace of megalithic, religious architecture and the Neolithic Revolution it spawned? "

I think the answer to this is yes, Baha'u'llah taught that Manifestations of God have appeared throughout mankind's development. It would be fascinating if some clues as to the religious beliefs and practices of the people who build Golbekli Tepe can be discerned from the site, unlikely as it may be that we could discover their true nature and origins.

Anthropologists and archaeologists have tended to assume that forms of ancient worship which appear to deify forces of nature, the sun, etc., were actually about worshiping those forces of nature. Could it be that the ancient people were aware that these physical signs were only metaphorical representations of a Creator God Who is entirely spirit, and Who we worship in the modern monotheistic religions? Or, if an ancient Prophet taught about the one true God using the physical signs and metaphors, and for many generations people knew and worshipped God as distinct from the physical signs, but that over time their worship devolved into worshiping the metaphors instead?
 
Old 07-13-2017, 05:55 PM   #6
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To me it is all very simple. Unity is required in order to establish a civilization, and organize large numbers of people into complex societies. A unifying force is required to bring this about, people do not and cannot simply get together and organize themselves in these ways.

Religion is primarily a force of love and unity, thereby allowing for the development of civilization itself.

It is no mere coincidence that there was a golden age of Judaism, a golden age of Christianity, a golden age of Islam, and indeed a golden age associated with every great world religion. Each was associated with a new and transformative civilization that only came about after the coming of a Manifestation of God.


I was in Guatemala not too long ago and had a chance to see some of the ancient Mayan ruins buried in various parts of some rainforests. After being there and learning about the Mayan civilization, including how they dragged massive stones weighing several tons into forests to build grand temples to glorify God, their technological achievements, and the sense of unity it became very obvious to me that the Mayan civilization came about only through the influence of a Manifestation of God.

As we are told in the Baha'i Writings, the process of man's spiritual development and education is an eternal and dynamic one. This is part of the Greater Covenant of God, meaning that man has always received spiritual education in some form from God. Whether today or 100,000 years ago.
 
Old 07-14-2017, 11:06 AM   #7
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I would encourage anyone who is interested to watch this national geographic documentary about Gobekli Tepe:


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IDXTmCwAETM


It's from a couple of years ago. 25 - 28 minutes into the documentary particularly gets to the very crux of what I was writing about in the OP, with respect to religion being the cause of later civilisation according to Gobekli. The documentary also speculates as to what the evidence suggests regarding the religion practised by these Neolithic, stone age people.

There was an even more recent documentary out this year by the Smithsonian channel but I can't find it online.

Last edited by Yeshua; 07-14-2017 at 11:12 AM.
 
Old 07-14-2017, 07:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
I would encourage anyone who is interested to watch this national geographic documentary about Gobekli Tepe:


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IDXTmCwAETM


It's from a couple of years ago. 25 - 28 minutes into the documentary particularly gets to the very crux of what I was writing about in the OP, with respect to religion being the cause of later civilisation according to Gobekli. The documentary also speculates as to what the evidence suggests regarding the religion practised by these Neolithic, stone age people.

There was an even more recent documentary out this year by the Smithsonian channel but I can't find it online.
Thank you, this provides a great deal of information, a lot more than I knew previously.

The speculation about the nature of the beliefs seems plausible, noting that in the images carved into stone the relationship between man and animals seems to be transformed in comparison with Neolithic cave paintings in Europe that are known to be 20,000 years old or more. Man appears to have dominance over animals rather than being small in comparison to animals seen in the cave paintings. There is a sense of the belief that all creatures have spirits, and the representations are of the spirit rather than the physical form. Similar in some respects to Native American beliefs I guess.

There is no mention here of a Prophet that may founded the ancient religions. That doesn't mean that there was no prophet. We know that within a few centuries before Columbus came to America there were prophets among the Native Americans, such as Deganawida of the Iroquois. Memory of the prophets of the Americas seems to have faded after some centuries, because other Native American tribes don't have living memory of such prophets by name. I wonder if this was the general case before writing was invented which could retain scripture and history for posterity.

Last edited by Jcc; 07-15-2017 at 02:53 AM.
 
Old 07-15-2017, 08:52 AM   #9
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I'm going to reply to a few posts here, especially Jcc's very germane (as usual!) points but before I do.....I come bearing gifts in the form of peer-reviewed literature; illustrating the details I sketched out in the OP.

First up, I would very much like you to read this article published in Volume 86, Issue 333 September 2012, pp. 674-695 of the "Antiquity" journal of the University of Cambridge:


https://www.cambridge.org/core/journ...9860D94CCD090E


Quote:
The role of cult and feasting in the emergence of Neolithic communities. New evidence from Göbekli Tepe, south-eastern Turkey

Abstract

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of modern times, pushing back the origins of monumentality beyond the emergence of agriculture. We are pleased to present a summary of work in progress by the excavators of this remarkable site and their latest thoughts about its role and meaning. At the dawn of the Neolithic, hunter-gatherers congregating at Göbekli Tepe created social and ideological cohesion through the carving of decorated pillars, dancing, feasting—and, almost certainly, the drinking of beer made from fermented wild crops."

It's lead contributor is the German archaeologist Oliver Dietrich, with secondary contributions by his colleagues Manfred Heun, Jens Notroff, Klaus Schmidt and others.

Secondly, I invite you to read this article published on 28 Jun 2017 in Vol. 3, no. 6, e1700564 of the "Science Advances" journal by a different set of archaeologists: Julia Gresky,, Juliane Haelm, and Lee Clare:


Modified human crania from Göbekli Tepe provide evidence for a new form of Neolithic skull cult | Science Advances


Quote:
"Modified human crania from Göbekli Tepe provide evidence for a new form of Neolithic skull cult

Abstract

Archaeological excavations at Göbekli Tepe, a transitional Neolithic site in southeast Turkey, have revealed the earliest megalithic ritual architecture with characteristic T-shaped pillars. Although human burials are still absent from the site, a number of fragmented human bones have been recovered from fill deposits of buildings and from adjacent areas. We focus on three partially preserved human skulls, all of which carry artificial modifications of a type so far unknown from contemporaneous sites and the ethnographic record. As such, modified skull fragments from Göbekli Tepe could indicate a new, previously undocumented variation of skull cult in the Early Neolithic of Anatolia and the Levant."

Finally, I would like you to read this peer-reviewed article published in: 'Approaching Monumentality in the Archaeological Record., Chapter: Building Monuments – Creating Communities. Early monumental architecture at Pre-Pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe' in 2014 and available from ResearchGate:


https://www.researchgate.net/publica...c_Gobekli_Tepe


Quote:
"Abstract

The meaning of monumental buildings as an indicator of social complexity and the visible expression of power and authority has been a lasting topos in the field of archaeology. Now new evidence is coming from southeastern Turkey, showing that the origins of monumental architecture have to be sought as early as with the hunter-gatherer groups at the end of the last Ice Age in the Near East twelve thousand years ago. At Göbekli Tepe, monumental, monolithic T-shaped pillars were erected by mobile groups of the Early Neolithic constituting large circular enclosures and indicating a degree of coordination and cooperation among these people hitherto not suspected."

Happy reading!

I am intending to extract a few paragraphs from these articles and write some little bit on them. All in good time.
 
Old 07-21-2017, 11:33 AM   #10
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Nice to see you post this here as well as Planet Baha'i. I have promoted that thread.
 
Old 08-02-2017, 06:39 AM   #11
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Gobekli Tepe: "Neolithic Gathering and Feasting" in earliest ritual centre/temple

The latest update from the archaeologists working on this fascinating 12,000 year old Neolithic "temple" (or cult/ritual centre as they call it). Some extracts:


https://tepetelegrams.wordpress.com


Quote:
A few kilometres northeast of modern Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey, the tell of Göbekli Tepe is situated on the highest point of the otherwise barren Germus mountain range. Rising 15 metres and with an area of about 9 hectares, the completely man-made mound covers the earliest known monumental cult architecture in the ancient Near East.

Constructed by hunter-gatherers right after the end of the last Ice Age, they also intentionally buried it about 10,000 years ago.

No typical domestic structures have yet been found, leading to the interpretation of Göbekli Tepe as a ritual centre for gathering and feasting. The people creating these megalithic monuments were still highly mobile hunter-foragers and the site’s material culture corroborates this.

In the centre two colossal pillars, measuring about 5.5 m, are founded in shallow pedestals carved out of the carefully smoothed bedrock. This central pair of pillars is surrounded by a circle formed of similar, but slightly smaller pillars which are connected by stone walls and benches.

While these surrounding pillars often are decorated with depictions of animals like foxes, aurochs, birds, snakes, and spiders, the central pair in particular illustrates the anthropomorphic character of the T-pillars. They clearly display arms depicted in relief on the pillars’ shafts, with hands brought together above the abdomen, pointing to the middle of the waist. Belts and loincloths underline this impression and emphasize the human-like appearance of these pillars.

Their larger-than-life and highly abstracted representation is intentionally chosen and not owed to deficient craftsmanship, as other finds like the much more naturalistic animal and human sculptures clearly demonstrate. This suggests that whatever the larger-than-life T-pillars are meant to depict and embody is on a different level than the life-sized sculptures in the iconography of Göbekli Tepe and the Neolithic in Upper Mesopotamia.

Furthermore, these objects are not restricted to Göbekli Tepe and the few other sites with T-shaped pillars in its closer vicinity, but are known from places up to 200 km around the site.

A spiritual concept seems to have linked these sites to each other, suggesting a larger cultic community among PPN mobile groups in Upper Mesopotamia, tied in a network of communication and exchange.

Ethnologic and historic analogies emphasize the importance of regular gatherings and collective activities as means of maintaining social cohesion in hunter-gatherer communities. Gatherings also serve other purposes like the exchange of information, goods, and marriage partners. Such large-scale gatherings naturally need to be established in locations that are known and easily accessible for the participating groups.

In this scenario, the early appearance of monumental religious architecture motivating work feasts to draw as many hands as possible for the execution of complex, collective tasks is changing our understanding of one of the key moments in human history: the emergence of agriculture and animal husbandry – and the onset of food production and the Neolithic way of live.

Last edited by Yeshua; 08-02-2017 at 06:42 AM.
 
Old 08-02-2017, 06:40 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Duane View Post
Nice to see you post this here as well as Planet Baha'i. I have promoted that thread.

Thank you Duane, I appreciate this!!
 
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