As the climate warmed, food sources became more plentiful and population numbers grew. An enormous communal effort and new inventions were required to assist and impress the spirit world to maintain cosmic and terrestrial harmony, and prevent a return of the perilous Ice Age.
Shamans became the specialists in transcendence and the stability of the community rested on their ability to engage the whole group by connecting it to the spirit world. How would they do this?
Neolithic shamans no longer had to rely on the natural topography of each cave, but designed and built structures that repeated the cave experience.
As land became exhausted people were obliged to move to newer pastures.
At the foot of Sicily are two islands, Malta and Gozo, where more than 23 megalithic temples once stood. The construction of these temples spanned over a thousand years of continuous building and elaboration.
In Britain about 1,300 Neolithic mega-sites appear to have been built within little more than a century.
Pyramid-shaped structures are yet another example of how human beings expressed their psychological understanding of our place in the universe as three-tiered.
Part of the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia (“the land between the rivers” in Greek), was by its geographical location and development influential in the region from at least 2500 BCE to the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE.
In the Mesopotamian worldview, illnesses and strife were caused by evil demons or by divine displeasure.
The ziggurat, the “mountain of God” or “hill of Heaven” was the center of the temple complex. Built of clay bricks, it was a massive, solid, pyramidal stepped structure, the summit of which housed the God.
During the reign of Hammurabi in the 18th century BCE, Babylon became the principal city of southern Mesopotamia, and the patron deity of Babylon, the god Marduk, was elevated to the level of supreme god.
In 1872, the Assyriologist George Smith astounded the London Society for Biblical Archaeology with the news that he had discovered on a cuneiform tablet an account of the Flood that was so similar to that of the biblical Book of Genesis that its influence could not be denied.
From their cuneiform writings on clay tablets scholars know that the Mesopotamians, like the later Greeks, attempted to understand their world and the universe in any way they could.
The Aryans or “Noble Ones” were thought to have remained together on the Caucasian steppes from about 4500 BCE until about 2500 BCE when groups began to migrate.
By 2,500 BCE the Indus-Sarasvati or Harappan civilization became the largest civilization of the Ancient world, extending over more than 386,000 square miles across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges.
The Neolithic site of Mehrgarh is located to the west of the Indus-Sarasvati flood plain, in Baluchistan east of the mountain city of Quetta in Pakistan.
Damage under Colonial rule and looting by local people likely set back our knowledge of this civilization.
Located between the two vast river valleys of the Indus and the Sarasvati, Mohenjo-Daro was one of the most important cities of the Indus civilization.
By about 3900 years ago (1900 BCE), the monsoons had shifted east causing the Sarasvati to gradually change from a perennial to a seasonal river.
We know almost nothing of the Indus-Sarasvati people or their religion. Speculations on the meaning of figurines, depictions on seals, etc., are just that.
“There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities...."
Crete sits at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe and was the hub of a cosmopolitan world that included Egypt, the Levant, Anatolia, and the Greek mainland.
In 1900, the famed archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans provided the first evidence of an extraordinary civilization. He named it Minoan, after the legendary King Minos, son of Zeus.
Earthquakes, often severe and ruinous, were frequent in Minoan times.
The Mycenaeans were closely related to the Minoans - both descended from early farmers who lived in Greece and southwestern Anatolia.
Could a series of catastrophes over a century or more, have led to the final collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations in the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East after nearly two thousand years of growth and prosperity?
After nearly two thousand years of growth and prosperity, (ca 3000–1200 BCE) the civilizations in the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East unraveled. What happened?
Is what happened in the ancient world over 3,000 years ago likely to happen again, but on a much larger scale?
Evidence of very early settlement on the Greek Islands comes from the Franchthi cave, overlooking the Argolid Sea in the Peloponnese.
Statis or conflict was a continuous and ever present condition in the steps towards the polis or city-state – the political community which would become characteristic of Greece.
With no first handwritten documents of their past, survivors turned to traditional storytellers.
Like other pre-Axial cultures, Greeks believed in a pantheon of Gods who presided over every aspect of life and nature.
Chinese civilization dates back 5,000 years to mythical and legendary individuals who ruled the fertile Yellow River valley of what we know today as China.
Three Sage Kings, or Three August Ones, were said to be god-kings or demigods. Because of their superior virtue they lived to a great age and ruled over a long period of peace.
The Five Emperors may be thought of more as supreme beings, rather than “emperors.” They were morally perfect.
Historians note that the Shang dynasty was itself believed to be mythological until written evidence was found in the 1920’s.
“As the problems and challenges facing humankind have changed, so have their religious and ideological solutions. We live among the wreckage of once-potent solutions. If we neglect them, they may become barriers to thought and action. If we understand them, they are a treasure house for all of us to share.”
The Unseen World: The Rise of Gods and Spirits
The Institute for Cultural Research