S1E2 - Ancient Religion vs Scientific Knowledge Pt. 1
A look at how we judge the ancients compared to how they were.
In this episode we take an introductory look at how anthropologists access ancient man with regard to religion and or scientific understanding. Photo Credit: Martin B. Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis .
Hi! Welcome to Conversations With Cassi. I'm Cassi, your host.
Today, I thought we would discuss a couple preconceptions and a couple of theories that might finally be correcting those preconceptions. One of the things that you will find if you start studying and reading about the history of humanity and especially reading about it from an anthropological and or archaeological point of view, almost everything that is discovered is put either in to living and by living I mean, daily life. Your home or it's put in the context of religion. There doesn't seem to be a lot of room for cultural differences, for societal differences.
Everything has to be either a residence or a temple, with very few exceptions and even when you point out that there are maybe some exceptions the experts have some way of tying those exceptions directly to home or temple, thus limiting ancient man’s world. That being said, Priests tended to have a lot of power according to the story and I'm not totally denying that, as a matter of fact, I actually agree with that. However, I think the word priest is limiting to the responsibility and the influence and duties of this class of individuals within an ancient society. I think ancient societies had what we might consider more of a Renaissance approach to their duties and their positions and their responsibilities.
Therefore, a priest was not merely the spiritual leader, the spiritual ceremony overseer, the religious head in Society. I think what we identify as priests were actually more along the lines of, in some cases, the societal elders, in other cases they would be a cross between the bureaucrats and the pillars of morality, the wisdom keepers and wisdom information disseminators of a group. So, while they were Priests, by title, they were not merely a religious spiritual leader as we would assume based on that duty or occupational title today, which, actually meant something different in ancient history and that can create problems. Words, or certain word usage creates problems and that's a whole episode all in itself, and possibly, maybe even the next episode. So as I said, I'm not doubting the use of the word priest, and I am not doubting their affluence and influence within the community and history, I just think that it needs to be looked at in a more appropriate scope, and more individually for each community.
I just think that it should not be the first thought that we have when we study an ancient culture, especially one that no longer exist in the present day and thus there are no points of reference for how it might truly have been. The reason I bring this up is because there have been some new theories making it into the public arena and the public media that are broaching how we view certain complexes of ancient history and prehistory. And taking it quasay out of the automatic religious component, something that I've always questioned. Why did man in the past, uncivilized man, barbaric man, Stone Age man, prehistoric man, however you want to label him, have to be religious? Why did he have to be superstitious? That seems to be the mentality of most archaeologists and anthropologists. They're very very focused on that. There's a couple other things that they are also very focused on that I think may be over done as well.
But today we're going to stick to the religious component. I've often wondered why when you hear the myths or look at some of the carvings and some of the temples using the textbook term, it never suggests any logical or rational or scientific basis. Yet, a lot of the layouts of ancient sites and structures are based on science, math, numbers not all random or I don't want to say all willy nilly, or super religious, but the science aspect, the math aspect, the intellectual aspect, is ignored, overlooked, marginalized. I think that's wrong because time and time again you hear in some of the reports and the documentaries and studies, man's brain structure for thousands and thousands of years is accepted as being basically unchanged. Another words Neanderthals' brain, which looked just like ours to someone like you or me, except that it was by weight larger than ours. It also, had all the same basic parts as ours.
This is different than say comparing a human brain to a canine brain or to a dinosaur brain, where different parts of their brains are more developed and other parts are, I don't know that less developed is the right word, but, they are more compact in their size and structure so that the other parts that are more developed have the room and the power and have the ability to be as developed as they are, whether it's the olfactory or the auditory or whichever sense is their primary sense for survival and hunting.
They don't necessarily need as much what we call cortex or frontal capacity for thought and abstract thought and things like. But, within the species, that we commonly refer to as man or more scientific or proper would be to list it as hominins, man's brain has stayed roughly the same, so if Neanderthal, in this example, had a brain that was basically structured exactly like ours, and even was larger than ours, why do we assume that he had to be less intelligent and to think differently than us.
Why couldn't he be interested in science, engineering, nature, astronomy? Why does he have to be regulated to superstitions and religion and childlike pursuits?
As I said there have been some new studies coming out recently. They're not necessarily brand new studies, they're new in the fact that they're making it into the public forum. Unfortunately science is a very slow-moving machine much slower than the world around it and much slower than most things. So a lot of times by the time we hear about a new discovery, this discovery is actually, several years old, sometimes up to 20 years old. And sometimes by the time that the public hears about a new scientific theory or a new scientific fact, such as, a theory or hypothesis that has finally become accepted, due to evidence, it could have been at the scientific community for as much as 50 years or more, before it's actually heard by the common man, just one example, the concept of plate tectonics, and this is unfortunate because another impact that this has is in our education systems and in our textbooks. Our textbooks lag even more behind in the theories and hypothesises and facts that it prints and that our children read. So it literally can take generations before a new theory or a new idea is even allowed to be presented to new and future scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, by which time it could be invalid or so modified that it no longer resembles the original, now textbook version of itself. So we actually cut off our nose to spite our face, from an educational, research point of view by not providing our kids with the Latest and newest, and not teaching them how to analyze and debate these theories and ideas and concepts.
Anyways though the point of this is to talk about a couple of these. And a new approach that has been in the works for I would say probably 40 or 50 years maybe even longer depending on how broad you want to cast the nets of this concept. While it has been recognized that some of the ancient sites, like Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, and others are aligned to North or to the Rising Sun or to an equinox or a solstice, or some other astronomical event, it has still been regulated to oh, that's because it was a Sun cult or a Moon cult, or the Cult of Orion or the cult of Sirus. It's never been because they were smart enough to think scientifically and to understand. Yet, the first advance navigation that man used, and Ancient Man used it incredibly more accurately, effectively, efficiently and on a much wider scale than modern man, is Celestial navigation. There are devices and artifacts that have been found from the ancient Phoenicians and Greeks to the Vikings that helped them in their Celestial navigation, that in some instances, we still don't understand how they made them or how they use them, because we aren't that skilled. We have possibly better technology, but we don't have better individual skills, in those areas.
Ancient man did not separate science and fiction, to use modern terms, another words and you see this even up to ancient Greece, in the great philosophers that we venerate still today, Socrates, Pythagoras, Salon, Aristotle, they all understood that everything in the universe was connected and that our understanding of the universe, if we wanted an understanding of the universe had to understand and include those connections. That's not religion. That's intelligent. That's not superstition. That's comprehension on a higher level than most experts today. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is a societal shift. In a lot of ancient societies you had an understanding that the society as a whole was dependent on every part to survive. You had much more connectedness. This is seen in the city states of Greece, where all the citizens were actually included in major decisions. They had what's commonly referred to as pure democracy, it's not efficient, but it's actually accurate to how the universe works.
Every action by every individual part affects the whole. Then we got the bright idea that we had become enlightened. And with this, individuals mattered above all else and it was an enlightened man who thought pretty much only of himself or pursued only his wants, only his desires, or path without regard for the impact or consequences of his actions to anyone and everyone around him and in doing so we didn't create a better Society. We created a fractured world and that's clearly visible in our fields of study and research, we have even expertly fractured that.
In the Renaissance, you had artists that were some of the best engineers and scientists and anatomists and astronomers. Because they had rediscovered what, the ancient Greeks knew, everything is connected. If you want to try build a flying machine, you need to understand how flight works in the natural world. What are the components? How do birds do it? What makes them different from us in that aspect and how can we overcome that? You want to paint the most realistic examples of the world around you. Well, in order to do that you have to understand anatomy and human muscular and skeletal details, and lighting and shading and perception and distance and all these components that go into creating an artwork that looks real. Now, you don't have that. You have archaeologists that might claim to understand the astronomical component of the site that they are studying, but they don't. Or they only understand that the Sun rises in the East and the temple faces east. They don't truly understand all of the components of astronomy that might have mattered to the people that they’re studying.
This limits their perception it limits their ability to understand and comprehend. So ironically, some of the most amazing, most thought-provoking new theories in the field aren't being proposed by anthropologists, archaeologists, or historians. They're being proposed by geologists, engineers, physicists, and astronomers. Because they're looking at a whole different component. Now, I'm not saying that in and of themselves that these Outsiders are getting it right where the experts are getting it wrong, but they bring a new dimension to the table in the field and they do have sound research and sound ideas and they should be incorporated. Anthropology, archaeology and history should welcome geologists and physicists and Engineers into their world for better understanding, there is nothing wrong with that. We need to get back to realizing and accepting the truth, which is that anything and everything in the universe is connected and you cannot study any part in a vacuum on its own and hope to actually truly understand what it is.
Assuming that ancient man is superstitious and religious only and deny his intelligence and understanding of the stars is naive, arrogant and wrong, as some of these new studies are showing.
One of the ones that's very interesting that you can find easily on a Google search, is from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Kent, from a member of engineering department and the religious studies department, respectively. This study postulates and does a very good job of supporting their postulation, that as much as 40,000 years ago, using the constellations and astronomical alignments that they saw in the sky, ancient man could document important events in time using astronomical time, something that doesn't change. We use a calendar system, now, that outside of us, is not understandable to other peoples. It is also a recent version. Our calendar systems have changed over time. Thus, accurately documenting any historic even precisely is not precise at all via the calendar system, of which the current one has only been in use in some form since Roman times, and has changed forms several times since, and was one of many during Roman times.
It's also really really hard to accurately flip between various calendars and it would appear that ancient man that a much better job of making sure that everyone was on the same time page so to speak, by using something that while it does change, in aspect of where certain constellations are at certain times of the year, where constellations are in certain years of Earth's cycles, like its rotation, its orbit, or its precessional cycle, it is still a constant. It is something that, if you have the knowledge and understanding any person from anytime can identify the same point in time, given the proper astronomical information and this appears to be how the ancients kept time and documented time.
That's not religious. That's intelligent. That's scientific. That's advanced.
I hope this has given you some food for thought. I hope you will pursue some of
the studies on your own and gain more detailed information, analysis, and
concepts until next time keep your curiosity dusted off.
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This is Cassi. Thank you and have a great day.
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