The Birth of Civilizations and the gods, part 2

See part one here:

Part 2

The conceptualization in our time by a mushrooming group of writer-scholars who see the ancient gods as extraterrestrials guiding us to civilization is undermined by the in-depth picture developed by academics in their examining the rise of civilized societies.

My part 2 examination will focus on our transition from a roaming, hunter-gathering people grouped in bands up to 150 with a basically egalitarian culture to large scale settlements of thousands living in a stratified order under a centralized authority.

Historian Jared Diamond notes how the pace for this varied throughout the world:

“Vanished states tended to leave visible archaeological hallmarks, such as ruins of temples with standardized designs, at least four levels of settlement sizes, and pottery styles covering tens of thousands of square miles. We thereby know that states arose around 3700 BC in Mesopotamia and around 300 BC in Mesoamerica, over 2,000 years ago in the Andes, China, and Southeast Asia, and over 1,000 years ago in West Africa….” [1]

In this part 2 of “the birth of civilizations and the gods” I will focus on the rise of Sumerian city states 5500 or so years ago, the Egyptian order manifesting 5000 years ago, and the people of Israel 4200 and then 2700 years ago. Particular attention will be placed on the gods of these peoples.

Before taking a detailed look of the progress of developments of our species during a critical time of transition in the so-called “fertile crescent” (from the eastern Mediterrean to Mesopotamia), beginning around 13,000 years ago, some key factors of paleothic life will be noted in order to see precursors to later developments.

Around 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals and Denisovans (a percent of whose DNA lives on us, due to interbreeding), disappeared, leaving us Sapiens alone as the intelligently creative species in the homo genus. With cave art and shamanism generally dated to 35,000 years ago and the oldest musical instrument (a flute made from animal bone) dated to 42,000 to 45,000 years ago, I will survey archaeologically based revelations from around 45,000 that shed light on later human cultural achievements. Stone tool use and the controlled use of fire date back to much earlier days among earlier species categorized as “hominins”. For the purpose of this paper, providing a context often missing in the presentation of ancient alien claims of ET engineering of our culture, I will focus on the developments that on the surface seem to be major and sudden leaps in our advancement.

Modern humans (sapiens) had significantly settled in Europe a couple of thousand years before a major climate change 40,000 years ago contributed to the long-settled Neanderthals in Europe and Denisovans in Siberia. Homo sapiens were not geographically limited and, being more dispersed world-wide, survived.

Historian David Christian provides an overview of noteworthy developments before this time:

“Evidence of technological and cultural change from before a hundred thousand years ago is foggy and difficult to interpret. Our own lineage began to spread within Africa starting at least 200,000 years ago, which may point to the advantages of collective learning. But in a world of small, scattered communities, most of them little larger than extended families, change was slow, erratic, and easily reversed. Whole groups could die out suddenly, along with the technologies, stories, and traditions they had built up over many centuries. The largest catastrophe of this kind occurred about 70,000 years ago. Genetic evidence shows that the number of humans suddenly fell to just a few tens of thousands…Our species came close to extinction. The catastrophe may have been triggered by a massive volcanic eruption on Mount Toba in Indonesia that pumped clouds of soot into the atmosphere, blocking photosynthesis for months or years and endangering many species of large animals. But then human numbers began to increase again; humans spread more widely, and the machinery of collective learning roared into life once more.” [2]

But, later a clearer picture:

“In the past one hundred thousand years, we get some glimpses of how our ancestors lived and find clearer evidence for collective learning……Collective learning meant that, over the generations, human communities hunted and gathered with growing efficiency.

“Some sites also give us intimate glimpses of how our ancestors lived. At Blombos Cave, on the Indian Ocean shores of South Africa, archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood and his collegues have excavated sites dating from 90,000 to 60,000 thousand years ago. The inhabitants of Blombos Cave ate shellfish, fish, and marine animals as well as land mammals and reptiles. They cooked in well-tended hearths. They made delicate stone blades and bone points that were probably hafted to wooden handles with specially prepared glues. But they were also artists. Archaeologists have found ocher stones with geometrical scratch marks on them that look for all the world like symbols or even writing. They also made different-colored pigments and ostrich-shell beads…..” [3]


[1] Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 20th edition 2018, p.267

[2] David Christian, Origin Story, 2018 p 176-177

[3] Christian, Origin Story, p 177