Chapter

2. Ritual and the origins of culture

Barry Stephenson

in Ritual

Published in print January 2015 | ISBN: 9780199943524
Published online February 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199394432 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/actrade/9780199943524.003.0003

Series: Very Short Introductions

2. Ritual and the origins of culture

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  • Sociology and Anthropology of Religion
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From an ethological perspective, ritual must have been present at the beginnings of humanity and ritualization played an adaptive role in the course of both biological and cultural evolution. What was the role and function of ritual in the earliest period of cultural evolution? ‘Ritual and the origins of culture’ considers the diverse and speculative scholarly answers: shamanic trance and the emergence of advanced cognitive abilities; the construction of ritual sites as an expression of existential needs and interests, leading to the growth of large-scale, settled society and the separation of the sacred and profane; or sacrifice as a necessary mechanism to control violence and with it the birth of the sacred and religious systems.

Keywords: birth; control; Mircea Eliade; evolution; function; myth; religion; ritualization; sacrifice; smith

Chapter.  5182 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology and Anthropology of Religion ; Customs and Traditions ; Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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