The Religious Mind and the Evolution of Religious Forms

In recent years a substantial evolutionary literature has emerged in two related areas: religion and the religious mind. The purpose of this paper is to draw connections between these two areas. The connections found suggest the following conclusions: (1) the earliest forms of religion would have been focused on using ecstatic mental states as a means of social bonding. (2) As societies evolved from egalitarian to more complex and stratified, ecstatic rituals and supernatural accesses were increasingly dominated by social elites. Elite sponsored public feasting replaced public ecstatic ritual as a social bonding mechanism, while domestic, home-based cults served as a buffer against existential stress for the common folk.

The Evolved Religious Mind: Mental Attributes Giving Rise to Religion

Considerable research recently has focused on the mental attributes that incline humans toward religious belief and the evolutionary background of that inclination (Arglye, 2000; Atran, 2002; Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993; Boyer, 2001; Hayden, 2003; Hinde, 1999). Though investigators vary in their perspectives, they converge on four mental attributes that appear to provide the cognitive foundations for the emergence of religion: (1) agency detection and causal attribution, (2) the social and emotional commitments of group living, (3) narrative formation and the emergence of existential anxieties, and (4) the ecstatic or mystical experience. Each of these attributes is an evolutionary extension, built upon precursors found in many other species, especially our nonhuman primate relatives. From this perspective, religion is not seen as a single adaptation, but a highly likely pattern of thought based on a number of related inferences humans’ draw about how the world—especially the human social world – works.

Agency Detection and Causal Attribution

Determining cause-effect relations is an adaptive mental function found in many creatures (e.g. Hunt, 1996; O’Connell & Dunbar, 2005; Premack, 1976; Premack & Premack, 1994). Agency detection is a form of causal attribution whereby an organism assigns another’s actions to an internal state such as a belief, desire, or motive. A rudimentary form of this mental capacity was likely present in our earliest hominin ancestors and may be present in great apes today (Byrne & Whiten, 1990; Gallup, 1970; 1982; Hare, Call, & Tomasello, 2001, however see also Ponvinelli & Eddy, 1996; Ponvinelli & Prince, 1998 for a more cautious assessment).

Developmental studies have shown that by the age of four or five, humans have a sensitivity to another’s mind in that they understand that another can have ideas that are incongruent with reality (Wimmer & Perner, 1983). Even prior to this, infants show evidence of understanding human actions as goal-directed (Baldwin, Baird, Saylor, & Clark, 2001; Meltzoff, 1995). These findings suggests that from a very early age humans treat other humans as intentional agents, whose actions are directed by mental constructs such as beliefs, desires, and goals. Tomasello and Call (1997) have, in fact, argued that this is the critical cognitive distinction separating humans from other primates.

For our hominin ancestors, the ability to attribute agency to another would have been highly adaptive. By the time of Homo erectus/ergaster (about 2 million years ago) hominins had reached a physical size and a level of technical and social sophistication where their primary competitors were most likely other hominins (Alexander, 1989; Lewin, 1998). This competition would have encouraged the formation of larger groups with increasing numbers of non-kin, as well as the formation of coalitions and alliances both within and between groups. In this vastly complicated social world the ability to “read” the goals and intentions of others would have been crucial. A distinct advantage would have gone to those of our ancestors who could quickly and accurately recognize the signals associated with others who intended to harm or help. Thus, we would expect predator/protector agency detection mechanisms to be “trip-wired” such that only partial or scant input is required to engage the mechanism. It makes considerable adaptive sense to over-assign agency given that the “false alarm” cost would be far outweighed by the benefit of the occasional “hit.” For example, incorrectly assuming that a rustling leaf sound is the approach of a dangerous predator could cause embarrassment. Embarrassment, however, is not life-threatening. A single failure to correctly identify an approaching predator could be. Therefore, survival is always better served by over-assigning agency than under-assigning.

Since it is by evolutionary design prone to over-assignment, the human agency-detecting capacity was ripe for cultural manipulation and supernatural extension. In other words, individual minds are readily accepting of cultural teachings concerning the pervasiveness of agency. The notion of powerful animal spirits and animal/human spiritual chimeras is nearly universal in traditional and shamanistic religions (Hayden, 2003, p. 57-60). Evidence from Upper Paleolithic cave paintings suggests that these ideas may extend back tens of thousands of years (Clottes & Louis-Williams, 1998; Dickson, 1990; Leroi-Gourhan, 1968). Animal or ancestral spirits who monitor people’s actions for moral integrity and punish those who offend (often through acts of nature) are equally common motifs (Atran, 2002, Boyer, 2001; Hayden, 2003).

Social/Emotional Commitments

A second important aspect of the evolved religious mind is the capacity for social commitment—a capacity that in humans has reach the unprecedented level of subjective commitment to social norms (Dugatkin, 2001). A number of researchers have argued that certain emotions appear to be unique to humans and may have evolved to enhance social cohesion (Barrett, 1995; Parker, 1998; Trivers, 1985). Self-conscious emotions such as embarrassment, pride, envy, guilt and shame require cognitive evaluation of our behavior against an abstract (group-based) standard (Parker, 1998). These emotions inform us about the quality of our interpersonal relationships and often drive us to behave in ways that further the establishment, maintenance, and reparation of social bonds. Humans also appear to posses an irrational tendency toward moralistic aggression, which also serves to strengthen social cooperation (Bingham, 1999). Erst Fehr (Fehr & Gochter, 2002; Fehr & Tyran, 1996) has shown that humans are quite willing to engage in moralistic punishment of perceived “freeloaders” even when to do so goes against one’s self interest.

Empathizing with others, feeling guilty when letting others down or prideful when having fulfilled or exceeded other’s expectations, and raging with righteous indignation against perceived cheaters, all appear to be essential elements of the human social regulatory psyche. These emotions help to build and maintain strong social bonds while curbing the self-interested behavior that can erode community spirit.

In the past, religion very likely harnessed powerful social emotions to reinforce social unity and to isolate and ostracize deviants. The religious feasts and ceremonies of hunter-gatherers often involve rhythmic dancing and the ingestion of psychotropic substances producing ecstatic emotional states that promote social bonding (Hayden, 2003, p. 30-32). Furthermore, Irons (1996; 2001) argues that religious rituals often serve as “costly-to-fake” signs of social commitment. The nearly ubiquitous initiation rituals of hunter-gatherers frequently involve rigorous physical and emotional trials (Power, 1998, p.122-125; Hayden, 2003, p.143-145). These trials serve as a public demonstration of an individual’s commitment to the group, its values, and to the spiritual forces governing them. Failure to live up to the group’s standards brings both profound shame and potential divine retribution.

Individuals who unambiguously demonstrate a belief in ever-vigilant supernatural agents who monitor the moral integrity of their actions may be viewed as more reliable by other group members and therefore worthy of enhanced trust and cooperation. Even in modern societies, a person who regularly attends church and openly insists on a religious wedding ceremony may be viewed as committed to the principles of monogamy and fidelity and therefore more desirable as a mate. Irons (2001, p. 304) notes that Honduran men whose work requires prolonged separation from their wives, frequently express a preference for a religious wife whom they believe will be less likely to cheat. Additionally, empirical evidence exists confirming that religious communities, in general, tend to be more socially cohesive and enduring than comparable secular ones (Sosis, 2000).

Episodic Memory and Narrative Construction

Endel Tulving (1983) has argued for a distinction between episodic and semantic memory. Semantic memory refers to one’s stored knowledge of facts, concepts, and general principles of how the world operates. It need not be linguistic and is therefore common to humans and many other animals. Episodic memory is an autobiographic store of life experiences. It is context and time sensitive and allows one to mentally travel back in time to past personal past events and to project into the future, a form consciousness known as autonoetic consciousness. Evidence for episodic memory in animals is questionable, and falls well short of human capabilities, thus suggesting that it may be unique to humans (Roberts, 2002; Tulving & Lepage, 2001).

Closely related to episodic memory and autonoetic consciousness is language, another cognitive capacity largely (if not entirely) restricted to humans. A number of researchers have drawn the connection between human consciousness and left hemisphere linguistic function (Gazzaniga, 1995; McPhail, 1998; Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998). Using language, humans are able to construct a personal narrative that unifies our experience and provides a stable, coherent sense of self that penetrates across time. This uniquely human, narrative-based, autonoeticly-aware sense of self, however, brings with it a somber companion – existential anxiety – knowledge of inevitable self-suffering and death. To some, religion represents an adaptation to mollify this anxiety (e.g. Bloom, 1992; Feuerbach, 1843/1972; Geertz, 1966: Malinowski, 1922/1961). For others religion is simply a likely inference that helps to resolve the mental contradictions and ambiguities surrounding death and dead bodies (Atran, 2003; Boyer, 2001).

Recently Atran (2003, p.177-181) has shown that religious sentiments are heightened when subjects are primed using stories that evoke existential anxiety. It is doubtful, however, that this anxiety turns us directly to the gods. Long-standing social science research shows that psychological stress, including existential stress, increases affiliative behavior and group/cultural identification (Aronson & Mills, 1959; Gerard & Mathewson, 1966; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, Solomon, Rosenblatt, Veeder, Kirkland, & Lyon, 1990; Kulik & Mahler, 1989; Kulik, Mahler & Earnest, 1994; Mills & Mintz, 1972; Schachter, 1959). Existential stress more likely turns us to the community, whose definition of the gods we accept in order to gain the physical and psychological support needed to assuage these fears.

Ecstatic States and Mystical Experiences

An ecstatic state is an altered state of consciousness typically brought on by some form of sensory deprivation or over-stimulation, physical or emotional stress, and/or ingestion of psychotropic substances. Altered states of consciousness may be present in animals other than humans and may help them to cope with deprivation and stress (Prince, 1982). However, it appears that only humans can voluntarily facilitate ecstatic states or mystical experiences using meditative practices or religious rituals. Achieving this state is a key feature of Shamanistic religions (see Hayden, 2003, chapter 3).

William James (1961/1902) argued that ecstatic states or mystical experiences constituted the fundamental basis for religion. He identified four qualities that characterized this experience: (1) ineffability – the fact that the mystical experience cannot be adequately described in words; (2) noetic quality or enlightenment– this refers to the fact that while mystical experiences are profoundly emotional, they also provide deep insights to the individual involved. The individual believes that authoritative truths have been revealed through the mystical experience. Often these insights involve an awakening to the unity and of all things and a deep sense of “oneness” with the divine. (3) Transience – refers to the fleeting and temporary nature of the experience, rarely do they last longer than a few moments. (4) Passivity – though mystical experiences can be facilitating through meditative practices, rituals, and other techniques, their actual occurrence is spontaneous and unpredictable. The person accepts the experience and cannot “will” it to occur. Since James’s work other qualities such as realness and unusual percepts have been proposed as additional qualities (Farthing, 1992, pp. 442-443). Mystical states may occur in purely secular settings as well as in sacred rituals and are open to a variety of culturally and personally influenced interpretations (See Hinde, 1999, p. 185-198 for review).

The religious rituals that can bring about ecstatic states, such as those involving rhythmic dancing, chanting, stressful initiations, and the ingestion of intoxicants are also commonly used to establish ritual bonds among hunter-gatherers (Hayden, 1987). Furthermore, some research has suggested that the brain opioids released during ecstatic states can promote social bonding (Hayden, 2003, p. 31). All of this opens ups the possibility that ritually induced ecstatic states provide not only enlightenment to the individual involve, but may help to form strong social alliances within and among groups.

A Model of the Evolved Religious Mind

What kind of mind does it take to be religious? The attributes just discussed give us an outline of just such a mind. The human mind is, first and foremost, a highly social mind with an elaborated set of emotions that promote inter-personal bonding. For good evolutionary reasons, the human mind promiscuously assigns agency to natural forces and objects producing supernatural agency. Supernatural agency combined with our powerful social emotions incline us to envision ever-vigilant spiritual agents who monitor us for trustworthiness and reliability. Exhibiting costly-to-fake signs of belief in these ever-vigilant supernatural agents and commitment to group moral standards provide individual benefits in the form enhanced opportunities for cooperative arrangements and access to important group resources. Our narrative capacity awakens in us the disturbing awareness of inevitable suffering and death. The individual’s good standing within the group and the group’s special status with the supernatural can offer both a buffer against the calamities of life and the hope for a redemptive afterlife. Finally, ecstatic experiences offer not only compelling validation of the supernatural realm our agency-detector envisions, but also, a social bonding mechanism among those who share its affects.

The Evolution of Religion: The Hayden Model

In his recent book, Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints archeologist Brian Hayden presents a comprehensive review of the archeological and anthropological evidence regarding the prehistory of religion (Hayden, 2003). He argues for a three stage model in the evoluti n of religion: (1) a generalized hunter-gatherer stage, (2) a complex hunter-gatherer stage and, (3) a Neolithic domestication stage that ultimately set the conditions for classic paganism. The following presents a brief review of Hayden’s model, the evidence used to support it, and its connection to the religious mind.

Stage One: Generalized Hunter-Gatherer Stage

Three lines of evidence suggest the existence of ritualistic behaviors as far back as the Middle Paleolithic period (250,000 – 35, 000 years ago [ya]) and perhaps even earlier: (1) cannibalism, (2) the symbolic use of red ochre and, (3) deep cave exploration. Each shall be discussed in turn.


Evidence of cannibalism among our hominin ancestors provides some of the first possible hints of the emergence of religious sentiments. Among many hunter-gatherer societies eating the flesh, especially the brain, of another was tantamount to ingesting his spirit (Hogg, 1966; Sanday, 1986). This practice applied not just to enemies, but also (and more importantly) to relatives and fellow tribesmen. A loved one, kinsman, or fellow tribe member might be consumed so that his/her strength and skills would forever remain within the tribe. For example, among the Wari’ of South America it is considered far more respectful and compassionate to consume a beloved friend or relative so that he or she is literally reincorporated into the tribe rather than allowing the remains to decay into the ground (Conklin, 2001). Homo erectus skulls unearthed from the Choukoutien site near Bejing suggest that cannibalism among hominins may date back as far as half a million years. Many of these skulls were apparently broken open from the bottom in a manner similar to practices employed by more recent cannibals, suggesting that extraction and consumption of the brain might have been the goal (Hayden, 2003 p. 9697; Weidenreich, 1943). Even more intriguing is an erectus skull found in Bodo, Ethiopia dated to around 600,000 ya. This skull contains 25 stone-tool cut marks presumably incurred when the skin was removed (White, 1986). Skin removal would seem to have no practical purpose and therefore hints at possible symbolic or ritual significance. Similar finds strongly indicative of cannibalism and possible ritual (i.e. multiple skulls with broken bases and/or cut marks) have been documented at Neanderthal sites in Kapina, Croatia and Abri Moula in southeastern France (DeFluer, Dutour, Valladas, & Vandermeersch, 1993; DeFluer, White, Valensi, Slimak & Cregut-Bonnoure, 1999). While certainly not conclusive, this evidence points to the possibility that half a million years ago or more, our hominin ancestors were venerating their ancestors by consuming their spirit.

Red Ochre

Red ochre is a soft iron ixoide that easily pigments other surfaces. The first indication that red ochre might have been used to deliberately color tools or other items comes from its presence at early Oldowan sites and South African caves dated to nearly 1 million years ago (Bednarik, 1994; Lorblancher, 1999). By 200,000 – 100,000 years ago, red ochre, along with other colors (yellow, brown, and also black manganese) had become more common at many hominin sites and was apparently being purposely mined and transported to habitation sites (Knight, Power, & Watts, 1995; Mcbreartry & Brooks, 2000). There is also some indication that red pigmentation may have been added to early symbolic artifacts to enhance their appearance and possibly their meaningfulness (Bednarik, 1995). The importance of all this lies in the fact that among present-day hunter-gatherers, red ochre carries significant symbolic meaning often associated with blood, life, or death, and is used extensively in rituals (Power & Watts, 1996). Its presence in the archeological record coupled with the effort that our ancestors were expending for its acquisition and its relatively low practical value suggests that its use was more symbolic than utilitarian.

Deep Cave Rituals

Ritualized behavior is also suggested by the use of deep cave environments that appear to be devoid of any practical utility. For example, consider the Bruniquel Cave remains dated to around 50,000 years old. About a quarter of a kilometer deep in this cave found in southwestern France, Neanderthals apparently arranged broken stalagmites into a two circles, one of which surrounded the remains of a fire (Rouzaud, Soulier, & Lignereaux, 1996). Though the site requires further investigation, as of yet no evidence of tools, food, or other indications of regular habitation have been found. This pitch dark deep cave site may have been used for ritualistic purposes aimed at creating the altered states of consciousness necessary for a shaman’s journey into the supernatural (Hayden, 2003, p. 101-102). Similar deep cave sites associated with Neanderthals have been reported at Galerie Schoepflin at Arcy-sur-Cure in France (Farizy, 1990; Baffier & Girard, 1998) and at Congnac and Grotta della Barura (Lorblancher, 1999).

Rituals, Religion, and Egalitarian Hunter-Gatherers

None of the evidence just reviewed is conclusive of ritualized or religious behavior and alternative explanations are certainly possible. However, each is consistent with known religious practices of extant hunter-gatherers and it is logical to assume that current practices have some evolutionary precursors. More importantly for Hayden’s model is his contention that whatever form of religious activity this pre-Upper Paleolithic evidence indicates, it would have been associated with people who were egalitarian hunter-gatherers – that is, people who were nomadic foragers who largely spent resources as they were acquired and whose social/economic condition was egalitarian with little or no ownership of property or economic competition (Hayden, 2003, p. 123-126; Lee & Daly, 1999). This means that whatever religious beliefs were held or rituals were being conducted they would have primarily focused on enhancing group cooperation.

Strong cooperative instincts exist across many species, especially among kin (Hamilton, 1964). However, over the course of hominin evolution, groups very likely expanded to include large numbers of distantly related or non-related individuals (Dunbar, 1996). Cooperation based on reciprocity can allow non-related individuals to establish and maintain social bonds, however, reciprocal relationships are vulnerable to cheating (where one accepts benefits from another without payback). Since cheating would appear to be an evolutionarily advantageous strategy for anyone who could get away with it, those who wish to reap the benefits of reciprocity must chose partners carefully (Trivers, 1971). Religious rituals may have helped to establish stable reciprocity within hominin groups by acting as costly-to-fake signs of reciprocal commitment (Irons, 2001). For example, recall the hunter-gatherer initiation rituals discussed earlier. These trials serve as a public demonstration of an individual’s commitment to the group, its values, and to the spiritual forces governing them. By enduring these trials, an individual signals to future potential cooperative partners that he/she puts the group’s standards of sharing, bravery, and respect for elders and ancestors above self-interests and therefore is worthy of trust. In this way, divisive individualism can be suppressed in favor of intragroup cooperation and stability.

Equally important, if not more important according to Hayden (2003, p. 29-32), would have been cooperation across group lines. In conditions of resource stress (which he argues would not have been infrequent in our ancestral past) a group’s survival would have depended on its ability to form alliances with neighboring groups who might be willing to (reciprocally) share resources. Highly emotional religious rituals that involve the attainment of ecstatic states can be a powerful social bonding event (Atran, 2003, pp. 163-164; Mills & Mintz, 1972). Hayden (2003, pp. 31-32) observes that among Australian Aborigines, rituals of this nature almost always involve members from more than one group. Among modern hunter-gatherers it is common for smaller family-based foraging bands to occasionally unite with other more distantly related bands for large scale feasts and ceremonies (Shostak, 1981). These ceremonies often include eating, drinking, ingestion of psychotropic substances, ritualized dances with masks and painted bodies, all which could induce the powerful altered states of consciousness that enhance social bonding.

Earliest Religion: Ecstatic States in Service to Social Unity

The body of evidence reviewed above leads to the following proposition: Harnessing the ecstatic mental state in service to social cohesion formed the primordial foundation of religion. The most potent reason for suspecting this is the fact that it represents a simple extension from behavioral patterns already present in our primate ancestors, while other aspects of religion such as ancestor worship, relief of existential anxiety and supernaturalism are more distance from that heritage. A precursor of the human ecstatic mental state may well exist in many animals in the form of the release of certain neurochemicals under conditions of stress or resources deprivation (Hayden, 2003, p. 33-34; Prince, 1982). The ensuing altered state of consciousness may help animals survive dire circumstances by concentrating metabolic resources and reducing unnecessary motor activity. A key difference that emerged among our ancestors is that ritual techniques were developed to voluntarily induced (and possibly intensify) what had otherwise been an involuntary reaction.

Social emotions and ritualized behaviors to enhance social bonding are also characteristics found in nonhuman species, especially our primate cousins. Behavioral indicators of empathy, attachment, anger, and other social regulatory emotions are present in great apes and other primates (de Waal, 1996). Furthermore, apes and other primates have a ritualized set of behaviors for expressing emotional states and establishing and maintaining social relationships. Much has been made of chimpanzee “rain dances” and other displays that suggest a religious expression directed at natural forces. However, rather than focusing on these interpretatively ambiguous actions as religious precursors, it seems more fruitful to direct attention to more mundane social behaviors such as the rituals that surround community reunions. Chimpanzees, bonobos, and spider monkeys live in fission-fusion societies where a larger community will often break into a series of smaller foraging parties. When these parties encounter each other after a period of separation, members will engage in “greeting” behaviors such as mutual embraces, kissing, group pant-hooting, and grooming (Goodall, 1986; van Roosmalen & Klein, 1988). Among bonobos, sexual stimulation will often be used to reduce tensions and allow food sharing even among members of distinct communities (de Waal, 1997). These ritualized greeting behaviors may induce a mental state conducive to social bonding which is similar to or approaching the ecstatic state. These behaviors may represent the nonhuman primate analogue to the reunion rituals and celebrations used when hunter-gatherer bands reunite. In sum then, all the elements for the harnessing of the ecstatic state via ritual in order to enhance intragroup and intergroup cooperation were likely present prior to the commencement of hominin evolution. The unique accomplishment of our ancestors was to consciously bring these elements together setting social life on path toward the supernatural.

Stage Two: The Complex Hunter-Gatherer Stage

The Upper Paleolithic period (35,000 – 10, 000 ya) coincides with the emergence of complex hunter-gatherer societies. Complex hunter-gatherers are distinguished from generalized hunter-gatherers by their exploitation of seasonally abundant resources that promote a more sedentary lifestyle and larger population densities (Hayden, 2003, p. 124126; Price & Brown, 1985). Technological advances that allow for the harvesting of seasonally abundant resources and the ability to store the surplus are key elements of the complex hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This ecological change brings with it other social changes as well including: increased private ownership especially of resource rich territories, increased social and economic inequalities, increased emphasis on human labor (and thus fertility) in order to expand resource harvests, and finally an increasing importance of family lineage (ancestors and descendants) as the proprietary basis for ownership and control of resource rich territories. In other words, a stretch of river (seasonally) teeming with salmon would be “owned” by a particular family within a tribe and that ownership would be preserved through the ages as ancestors bequeathed it to their descendants. Thus, in complex hunter-gatherers one would expect an increasing emphasis on ancestor worship (as “providers” of wealth and critical resources) as well as fertility (as the assurance of continued wealth and resources). Archeological evidence from the Upper Paleolithic confirms this. It falls into three categories: (1) ritual burial indicative of ancestor worship, (2) artifacts indicating concerns over fertility and, (3) deep cave ecstatic rituals of initiation into secret societies.

Ritual Burial

It is in the Upper Paleolithic that we find the clearest evidence of ritualized burial. Arguably the most impressive Stone Age burial site is that of Sungir about hour an from Moscow in Ukraine. Here three bodies were uncovered – an adult male and two adolescents. Each was elaborately adorned with thousands of fine ivory beads, necklaces, and bracelets. Additionally, ivory spears and other artifacts were interred with the bodies. White (1993) has estimated that the labor-hours necessary to produce the beads alone would have run into the thousands, per body! Though less elaborate than Sungir, the triple burial at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic features bodies lavished with necklaces of ivory and pierced canine teeth (Klima, 1988). All tolled, about two thirds of Upper Paleolithic grave sites contain offerings such as jewelry and other grave goods (Hayden, 2003, p. 130). These copious offerings are what would be expected if the living were paying homage to loved ones now turned powerful ancestors.

Artifacts Expressing Fertility Concerns

The ancestors provided wealth and descendants insured it. Thus, as predicted, the Upper Paleolithic also provides evidence of an increasing concern with fertility. Approximately 200 “Venus” figurines have been unearthed dated to Upper Paleolithic times (Hayden, 2003, p. 153). Venus figurines are small artifacts carved in ivory, bone, or stone that depict a naked, headless, female form with exaggerated breasts, buttocks, and abdomen. Sculptured, carved, and other graphic depictions of naked females and female body parts have also been found at such places as the rock shelter at La Madeleine and the caves at Les Combarelles (Hayden, p. 154; Hutton, 1991). Though less common, phallic carvings dated to the Upper Paleolithic have also been found (Soffer, 1985). Given the amount of effort and resources required to create these images, the likelihood that they simply represent “Stone Age pornography” seems remote. Instead, as numerous researchers have argued, they more likely reflect concerns over fertility and childbearing (Eliade, 1958; Wymer, 1982).

Deep Cave Ecstatic Initiation Rituals into Secret Societies

Finally, the stunning deep cave sites of the Upper Paleolithic, replete with their elaborate artwork and other artifacts strongly indicate the presence of secrete societies as ociated with powerful

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