Archaeology of Eurasian Hunter/Gatherer Spirituality

(Feb 7, 2023) Spiritual paradigms reflect the security and social needs of the times. Find people's fears and emotional holes and their spiritual practices follow as they seek to compensate. After empires developed rulers also promoted those religions which supported their rule.

Chart above summarizes the cultural paradigm of the Eurasian hunter-gatherers as best can be determined from limited archaeological evidence and the extension of the Ancient Pagan Paradigm further back into the past. The Ancient Pagan Paradigm was revealed by the first ever translations of ancient European archaeological texts. The Mesolithic Pagan Paradigm is divided into two power classes, those which enable animal life and those which enable plant life.  

breathing cave
Caves were dark places which also breathed. During the day/night cycle as the temperature of the outside air changed air would flow in or out of caves. Breath and wind was the causal fluid of the divine motion powers.
The causal fluid of breath or wind has a significant ancient history. The English word “spirit” actually derives from the Latin “spiritus” meaning breath. In Akkadian it is represented by the word Gi meaning "emotional energy" from which English gets the word "energy." In Chinese culture this the similar sounding Chi which suggests this concept goes back to the dawn of humanity.
Image of a monograph published by West Virginia Caver about a well known breathing cave. Image from https://www.facebook.com/wvcaver/

Ancestral and Animal Spirits - Caves as One Source of Motion Power (43,000 to 24,000 BCE)

(Feb, 7 2023) Ancient people believed that every change on earth was caused by some divine power. They further observed that such changes eventually affected the cycle of life in some way and that all life required a masculine trigger and a feminine time of maturation and growth. Yet the natural division of the life powers would have been between the plant and animal kingdoms  

Caves generated a spooky feeling. It was dark and in the torchlight images of animals seemed to flicker in and out of existence on the walls. The earliest cave paintings in France and Spain were painted on these naturally formed wall patterns to bring out the animal spirits those patterns represented. 

Because of these visions and because caves breathed caves became the place of dead spirits awaiting to be reborn. These dead spirits were still alive but they had no form, no invisible "platonic" image. They were pure sparks of life and represented a motion source of the goddess Selu (Selene). Cave-like dark spaces such including space under the earth plane (the underdome) represent the dark place powers of the life goddess Kate (Hekate). The Hebrew word sheol translated as "the place of the dead" seems to derive from the Akkadian selu (šelû).  

Paleolithic cave art is found worldwide with the paintings in Europe being the most numerous and skilled. (See Don’s maps). These European cave paintings peaked around 30,000-28,000 BCE and around 25,000-24,000 BCE.  

Cave paintings were likely used in rituals to atone for the animal lives the tribe took during the hunt and to encourage the animals to return next year. Eventually the cave artists would paint animals on any cave surface as they ran out of room, even over older paintings so important was the ritual. Human spirits were represented more abstractly as hand prints probably because humans were not prey.

Evidence for ancestral human spirits is also found in caves in the form of painted hand and abstract figurines. They seem to have appeared later but lasted longer than the animal paintings having a date range of 30,000 to 12,000 BCE. 

Leang Tedongnge Cave in Indonesia

Leang Tedongnge Cave in Indonesia (43,000 BCE)


Cave art of pigs from the Leang Tedongnge cave in Indonesia dating to 43,000 BCE. Photo is color enhanced. (from Brumm and all, 2021)
Bison in Altamira Cave in Spain

Bison in Altamira Cave in Spain (30,000-24,000 BCE)

These European cave paintings peaked around 30,000-28,000 BCE and around 25,000-24,000 BCE.  https://donsmaps.com/altamirapaintings.html
Hands from Altamira Cave in Spain

Hands from Altamira Cave in Spain (30,000-24,000 BCE)

Hand images are rare compared to animal images. 
These European cave paintings peaked around 30,000-28,000 BCE and around 25,000-24,000 BCE.  
https://donsmaps.com/altamirapaintings.html
White Venus of Frasassi from Italy
White Venus of Frasassi from Italy. This shows the cave connection because it is made from a stalactite. It is 87 mm high. Its white color and hand not on breasts identify it as a source goddess. The White and Red Venus figurines are the most numerous of all the Mesolithic figurines. Their lack of faces indicates that these figurines represent powers and not a personified goddess. 
About 90% are carved from white rock like limestone, bone, or ivory. Yet some were carved from red rock or painted with red ocher indicating they were involved with the fertility of hunting because red is the color of life giving blood.
Photo: Don Hitchcock at Don's Maps, 2008 online at: https://donsmaps.com/venusindex.html)

Life Source Power (Feminine) - White Venus (30,000 to 10,000 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) The White Venus figurines emphasize the womb because they show women who have had children. Hence these women are presented with exaggerated post-children features such as an extended womb, obesity, sagging breasts, and vulva. Those found outside of the first agricultural cities date to between 30,000 and 20,000 BCE which was also the peak time of the cave paintings.

The Willendorf Venus is unique in that it has an acorn crown “hat” which seems to be taken from the acorn of the Sessile Oak. This Venus figurine was carved from oolitic limestone and was covered with a thick layer of red ochre which represents blood. The figurine was unearthed during the Wachau railway construction in 1908. It dates to between 28,000 - 25,000 BCE based on radiocarbon dating of items found in the same assemblage.

Many lines of later evidence indicate that the oak tree was sacred to the ancient people of Europe. The Alphabetic Akkadian texts mention that an irrigation network was thought to distribute the fertility fluids from the divine realm to the earth. Pictures of such a network are also found at Göbekli Tepe and at Catalhoyuk. Because oak trees have the broadest crown of any tree that crown would have corresponded to this network. The Willendorf Venus then is the earliest evidence for this network concept. 

ancestor figurine from Pope’s Cave in Brassempouy, France
Ancestor figurine from Pope’s Cave in Brassempouy, France where the arm is clearly visible. An enlarged version of this figurine is Pillar 18 at Gobekli Tepi.
(Photo from White, R., 2006: The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 13, No. 4, December 2006 as found at: https://donsmaps.com/brassempouy.html#reference

Life Source Power (Masculine) Ancestor/Penis Figurine (25,000 BCE)

(Feb 7, 2023) Ancestor/Penis figurines tend to be rather simplistic in shape. This made them easy to make but most have probably been misidentified. Those like the one found in figure 7 found at Pope’s cave were just called “caped figurines.” Yet the discovery of large sized figurines of this type surrounding the dark, cave-like, ritual circles at Göbekli Tepe indicate that these same shapes were adapted at the dawn of agriculture to represent ancestral powers. These figurines have no face or human form so they are not a persona.

These do not seem to represent a deity because several of them always surround a circular ritual area where some even have arms. If these represented a deity only one would be expected. Being phallic shaped they belong to the life power class and not the motion power class. These are not a connective life power represented by the sun or storm bull. Therefore they must represent the manifestations of the masculine life manifestation power Yahu. Interestingly, the epithet for "penis" is Akkadian is straight thing" or IŠR [Akkadian išaru, išeru] which also means "righteous"). This is the root of Israel as IŠR.AL meaning the "righteous of Alu" and probably the source of the rite of circumcision.

Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Front view of ancestor figurine from Pope’s Cave in Brassempouy, France showing parallels with the large ones surrounding ritual circles at Göbekli Tepe which merged life powers with ancestral powers. Pope’s cave also had many Venus figurines and a few Hermaphrodite figurines as well. All were dated to around 25,000 BCE. 
(https://www.donsmaps.com/brassempouy.html#belt)
Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Photo showing right side of ancestor figurine from Pope’s Cave in Brassempouy, France where the arm has been broken off. An enlarged version of this figurine is Pillar 18 at Gobleki Tepi.
Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Ancestor Figurine from Pope’s Cave, France

Back side of ancestor figurine from Pope’s Cave in Brassempouy, France

Ancestor Figurine Called the Kilisik Sculpture

This was found in 1965 near Adıyaman in southeastern Turkey by a local farmer. It was purchased from him by two archaeology students working at the excavations in Arsameia “about an hour by horse north-west of the Roman bridge in the village of Kilisik” and later transferred to the Archaeological Museum in Adıyaman (Hauptmann 2012, 18-20). The stele  measures about 80 cm in height and is carved from limestone. So its date cannot be determined but it looks Mesolithic.

Reference

Tepe Telegram: Reports from the Göbekli Tepe Research program: https://www.dainst.blog/the-tepe-telegrams/2019/03/20/a-rather-odd-figure-the-so-called-kilisik-sculpture-from-adiyaman-turkey/

Shining bull from Brittany, France
Shining bull from Brittany, France. This was dated to 11,700 BCE by its discoverer, archeologist Nicolas Naudinot (2017).

Reference


Naudinot, N. and all (2017) Divergence in the evolution of Paleolithic symbolic and technological systems: The shining bull and engraved tablets of Rocher de l'Impératrice, Plos One. Online at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173037

Connective Life Power (Masculine) Power – Shining Sun Bull (11,700 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) This image shown in figure 14 date to 11,700 BCE. It is quite mysterious to those not familiar with the Pagan Paradigms because it shows a bull head radiating sunlight.  

This image was discovered in 2017 and shows that the chaotic bull concept for the connective masculine power dates back to the proto-agriculture Azilian culture. This culture emerged after the cold spell of the Younger Dryas Period which ended around 11,700 BCE. This warming climate allowed the cultural shift from pure hunter/gatherer to proto-agriculture. 

In the Mesolithic Pagan Paradigm, the sky powers connected the earth to the divine space. This connection was accomplished by its connective fluids which were sun light and rain. These fluids were essentially two sides to the same coin and the ancients considered them as one power with two forms. The visible sun represented order and healing while the hidden sun represented the chaos of the thunder storm because storm clouds did the hiding. For whatever reason, the ancients saw the auroch or wild bull as the correspondence for the rain storm. We can only speculate as to why this was. Perhaps it was due to the auroch’s bellowing during a storm buts its exact reasons are lost to history. 

Life Manifestation Goddess 1 - Willendorf Red Venus

Life Manifestation Goddess 1 - Willendorf Red Venus (26,000 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) The Willendorf Venus is unique in that it has an acorn crown “hat” which seems to be taken from the acorn of the European Sessile Oak. This Venus figurine was carved from oolitic limestone but it was covered with a thick layer of red ochre which represents the life power of blood. Also its hands are holding its breasts. These two characteristics identify it as a life source goddess who manifests life on earth by providing the initial nourishment to fill the invisible life form image manifested by the masculine manifestation power (Green Man).

The figurine was unearthed during the Wachau railway construction in 1908. It dates to between 28,000 - 25,000 BCE based on radiocarbon dating of items found in the same assemblage.

The oak tree was sacred because its broad crown most closely resembled the life network which distributed the divine fertility fluids to earth which triggered life.  The Willendorf Venus then is the earliest evidence for this network concept. (Photo: Don Hitchcock, 2008 online: https://donsmaps.com/venusindex.html)

Acorn of European Sessile Oak

The lower image is that of the European Sessile Oak acorn. This is the inspiration for the hat on the Willendorf Venus.
The Venus of Laussel is a limestone bas-relief

Life Manifestation Goddess 2 - Raised Arm Red Venus of Laussel (25,000 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) The Venus of Laussel is a limestone bas-relief, 46 cm high, painted with red ochre and holding a horn apparently for drinking. It was carved into a large block of fallen limestone in a rock shelter (Abri de Laussel) in the commune of Marquay, in the Dordogne department of southwestern France. The carving is associated with the Gravettian Upper Paleolithic culture (approximately 25 000 years old). It is currently displayed in the Musée d'Aquitaine in Bordeaux, France.

Other red manifestation goddesses of this type with raised arms would be seen on Minoan Crete.

(from Don's Maps at: https://donsmaps.com/lacornevenus.html)

Life Manifestation God - Galgenberg Green Man
Galgenberg Green Man. Photo from Don Hitchcock at https://donsmaps.com/galgenbergvenus.html
Man carrying a gazelle from Sardinia
Man carrying a gazelle from Sardinia (700-800 BCE). This figurine is made from copper and dates to a period called Nuraghic. This shows a cultural linkage with Mesopotamia.
Image from Ashmolian Museum at Oxford.https://images.ashmolean.org/search/?searchQuery=sardinia

Life Manifestation God - Galgenberg Green Man (30,000 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) Transition powers represent the transition between the male state and the female state. For vegetation powers that is the transition between the sky and earth.

The Galgenberg Green Man dates to 30,000 BCE and is carved out of green serpentine (amphibolite slate). Like the Venuses it has no face. It is carrying the leg of a large elk over its left shoulder with its bent arm. Its green color is the color of vegetation. 

All this indicated it is a merged power icon. It is male for representing fertility trigger power yet it is green and is shown carrying a leg of an elk slung over its shoulder indicating it is also representing the feminine maturation power of plants and animals. It is an icon for promoting successful food gathering. During the latter agricultural era many images from the near east would represent the general fertility of the earth with a man holding a gazelle over his shoulders (fig. 10).

It was found on September 23, 1988 during the excavation of a habitation of Mesolithic hunters at Galgenberg near Stratzing (Lower Austria). During excavation it was broken into several pieces. Incredibly, it has been mistakenly identified as a Venus and called the Galgenberg Venus. It is now at the Vienna Natural History Museum.

This symbology of environmental plenty of a hunter bringing home food on his shoulders continued into historical times as shown by the Sumerian Cylinder Seal image below (2100 BCE) and the figurine from the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy (800 BCE). This seal shows a man holding a young gazelle on his shoulders. The man is being presented to the life source god Anu by a priest (deities and priests have horn hats). As a source god Anu is represented by the sky and that is what is shown above the priest and gazelle holder. Below that are three swords which represent power. Between the seated and standing deities is a wooden scratch plow on its end which represents farming. The text reads by column (personal translation to be justified in a future paper): 

    1. Wiggling-open the land's scented openings    2. An is delivering    3. the abundance from songs    4. making-large the bodies.
Man carrying a gazelle from Sumeria
Etruscan hermaphrodite deity Thu

Etruscan hermaphrodite deity Thu. This tomb painting dates to  . Its text like all Etruscan texts is Alphabetic Akkadian.

Connective Motion Power - Hermaphrodites

(July 4, 2022) A number of hermaphrodite figurines exist which foreshadow the Greek hermaphrodite deity Hermes (the crosser of boundaries) and like Hermes they represent a power which connects the divine source with the earthly manifestation. They are colored in both feminine bone white (fig 11) and masculine blood red (fig 13). Some are even earth feminine dark green like figure 12 suggesting this icon was representing all life sustaining powers. Unlike the Venus figurines these figurines are not obese and do not show a vulva. They instead show a scrotum and sometimes a bas relief penis (figure 12).  

The “Undescribed Venus” from Balzi Rossi (fig. 14) may have had its masculine parts deliberately destroyed later in history. This figurine is “undescribed” because it has never been described in a journal article probably because it does not fit the standard Venus model. It is on display at the French Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye. It is 37.5 millimeter high, 12 mm wide and 13 mm thick.

Near the end of the Mesolithic era around 12,00 BCE these figurines lost their hermaphrodite features in favor of showing a different mix of masculine and feminine. The figurine of figure 12 found near Tolentino, Italy is one such example. The material is dark chert. This female image has the head of gazelle calf. In later eras a gazelle calf carried on a man’s shoulders would be a symbol of animal fertility. Peaking around on the backside is the calf of a bull or auroch which by this time was a symbol of masculine power (see Shining Bull section below).

The Tolentino figurine is now owned by the Italian National Archaeological Museum of the Marche Region (Museo archeologico nazionale delle Marche) in Ancona, Italy. It was found in a clay pit east of Tolentino, Italy in 1883, and then donated to the Museum by Count Aristide Silverj Gentiloni.

Green Hermaphrodite Figurine from Balzi Rossi, Italy

Green Hermaphrodite Figurine from Balzi Rossi, Italy (30,000 BCE?)

Green hermaphrodite figurine from Balzi Rossi, Italy showing crossed arms.
https://www.donsmaps.com/hermaphrodite.html
Hermaphrodite Figurine from Balzi Rossi, Italy

Hermaphrodite Figurine from Balzi Rossi, Italy

A likely hermaphrodite figurine with bottom part destroyed. It seems to have crossed arms. From Balzi Rossi, Italy.
https://www.donsmaps.com/undescribedvenus.html
Hermaphrodite “Figurine with a Belt” from Cave at Brassempouy, France

Hermaphrodite “Figurine with a Belt” from Cave at Brassempouy, France

Hermaphrodite figurine called “Figurine with a Belt” from cave at Brassempouy, France. The belt is actually the crossed arms commonly found on hermaphrodites from this era. Its breasts have been deliberately destroyed.
https://www.donsmaps.com/brassempouy.html#belt
Natufian Life Network at Raqefet Cave in Israel
Top image is a close-up of the life network scratches found inside a deep and narrow offering pit (like a vase) which likely held food grasses during the burial ritual when the deceased bones were laid in the cave. These magical offerings were to enable the rebirth of the deceased.
Bottom image shows the Raqefet Cave in Israel where the pit was located. (Images from Nadel and Rosenberg 2016)
Map showing location of Raqefet Cave in Israel

Life Network in an Funerary Offering Pit in a Natufian Cave (13,000-9,500 BCE)

(July 4, 2022) In the Levant, a culture known as the Natufians was making the transition to agriculture by growing cereals. At the time the environment of the area was an open woodland with more rain than today.

While some caves in the area were used as living spaces others were used for burials. The most famous burial cave is the Raqefet Cave on Mount Carmel in Israel. The limestone floor of this cave is covered with pits ranging from deep to shallow for holding offerings.   

Twenty-nine individuals were buried in this cave over time. Most are primary burials with many spaces being reused. In other cases, younger graves have been cut into older graves damaging them. Around these graves were placed the pits. Feasting intermittently occurred at the cave.

Among the wide variety of offering pits at Raqefet Cave there are only three that are deep and narrow, including pit C-XVIII which is the focus of this paper. They are all 40–60 cm deep, with a top diameter of 20–25 cm. However, they differ in their geometry and context.

Offering pit C-XVI is the only one with a funnel-like shape. Half way down, where the top wide part becomes a vertical narrow shaft, an isolated stone was found. It was set firmly, as if to serve as a cork. Below it, the shaft contained the typical Natufian red sediment with small animal bones, lunates (hallmark of Natufian flint industry), and phytoliths of large seed grasses. The walls of the shaft are badly eroded.

Offering pit C-XXI is the deepest of the three and has a narrow vertical shaft ca. 60 cm deep. The walls of the shaft are preserved only in several small patches. It is located near the largest man-made bedrock basin ever reported from a Natufian site (C-XXIII). Furthermore, there are several small cupules or holes near this pit, and one even carved on its rim.

Offering Pit C-XVIII which has the network drawing is located on the western edge of the floor of the first chamber in Raqefet Cave, just above a large depression in the bedrock. In contrast to the other two pits, there are no adjacent bedrock features with the nearest pit being about  0.8 m away. The pit is 53 cm deep, it is 25 cm wide at the rim, and about 8 cm wide near its base.

References

Nadel, Dani and Rosenberg, Danny (2016) Journal of Lithic Studies, vol. 3, nr. 3, p. 337-357
Funerary Offering Pits in Raqefet Cave

Funerary Offering Pits in Raqefet Cave

Dense hole pattern in chamber 1 of Raqefet Cave. The largestNatufian bedrock pit (C-XXIII) is on the right; the deep narrow pit C-XXI is in the center. Pit C-XVIII is to the left, beyond the photo. (Photo from Nadel and Rosenberg 2016)
Funerary Offering Pits in Raqefet Cave with bones

Pit C-XVIII with Split Boulder Pit and Human Bones Behind

Not all offering pits were scrapped into the cave floor. Here one was scapped into a rock.
Pit C-XVIII with the split boulder mortar behind it, and a Natufian skeleton below.(Photo in Nadel and Rosenberg 2016)
Funerary Offering Pit life network in Raqefet Cave

All the Scratches in Offering Pit C-XVIII

A complete drawing of the scratches found inside the offering pit. These would have been hard to make with the pit only being about 14 cm (7 inches) in diameter where it was placed.
(Images from Nadel and Rosenberg 2016)