Religion and Ritual in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic

Paul Pettitt

in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199232444
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Religion and Ritual in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic


This article discusses the archaeology of religion and ritual in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic, focusing on the pre-modern hominins of the genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and Homo. The history of current world religions carries two major observations for the emergence of extant religions over the course of human evolution. First, these ‘truths’ were ‘revealed’ only to Homo sapiens; and secondly, from the perspective of the longevity of humans on the planet they were revealed suddenly, and very late. The lesson is that religions will, over deep time, come and go, contextualized in specific societal constructs. All of the direct information we have pertaining to religion relates solely to one human species, and it may therefore not be justifiable to draw any specific conclusions from this that has relevance to cognitively pre-modern hominins.

Keywords: archaeology; pre-modern hominins; Australopithecus; Paranthropus; Homo; humans

Article.  7198 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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