Discuss the belief systems of Neolithic societies.
The most significant developments in religion during the Neolithic period occurred between 8,000-3,000 BC. There was a shift from the reverence of stone to the worship of the earth and celestial objects like the sun and moon. This evolution of thought obviously corresponds to the shift from hunting to the utilization of the land for farming.
Because there are no sacred texts or writings from this period, historians must examine the archaeological record to gain insight about religion from this epoch. This proves difficult at times and leads to great debate in the field of archaeology and anthropology. Because Asia Minor and Europe are the areas that have yielded the best archaeological data, these are the regions that are understood the best. It is apparent that most neolithic cultures worshipped a mother goddess or fertility goddess of some sort. The reverence of a female deity is most likely tied directly to the fertility of the earth as well as the fertility of the women of the society. A shift to a patriarchal religious system seems to have occurred during the Bronze Age.
There is also significant archaeological evidence of the worship of gods and goddesses that are connected to the sun, moon, or other natural objects. Neolithic societies were concerned about the movements of the celestial bodies because they understood the connection of those movements to seasons. Calendars were developed for religious ritual and to plan the agricultural activities of the community.
Because of the elaborate nature of burial mounds and pyramids from this period, it is also evident that the belief in an afterlife developed during the Neolithic era.