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Çatalhöyük, a window on life 9,500 years ago


At her blog, Oscillations, Suzan Mazur reflects on what we have learned to date (it is only 5% excavated). One of the issues is whether there was any religion at Çatalhöyük:

Suzan Mazur: I’m asking this because Templeton has come under fire for putting its fingers all over science from the investigation of the origin and evolution of life to space science. It’s perceived that the foundation is compromising the work of scientists and retarding science.

Maurice Bloch, one of your own Çatal book authors has said pursuing a religion angle at Çatal is “a misleading wild goose chase” because humans only thought up religion 5,000 years ago at the earliest. Bloch says humans largely live in their reflective imagination, something that first arose 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Here’s the Bloch quote:

“The Templeton initiative that led to the publication of this book was about religion at Çatalhöyük, yet this chapter has not mentioned the word once. This is no accident. The reason is that I am confident that there was no religion in Çatalhöyük, any more than there was among the Zafimaniry before Christianity arrived there. Looking for religion is therefore a misleading wild goose chase. . . . The kind of phenomena that the English word “religion,” and the associated word “belief,” can be made to evoke have, at most, a history of five thousand years. This is thousands of years after the establishment of Çatalhöyük.”

What is your response to this?

Ian Hodder: Yes, well that’s fine. That’s Maurice’s view. I just think he’s wrong. He’s one author. I don’t know how many authors came to Çatalhöyük to discuss this issue. It must be well over 30 by now. He’s the only one who takes this extreme position.

Suzan Mazur: Many of those authors are religious scholars.

Ian Hodder: We’ve had many fascinating seminars about this, in which he [Maurice Bloch] has taken one view and other people have taken another view. Many scholars find his definition overly narrow and I certainly do. He’s a wonderful scholar and I have great respect for him, but he’s defining religion in a really narrow way. He’s really talking about religious institutions.

Suzan Mazur: I think it’s important that you included his chapter in the book.

Ian Hodder: He said in that chapter that there’s no religion in Çatalhöyk, only houses or some such phrase like that. But he goes on to say that these houses have great spiritual power. It’s all really a matter of a word game, as far as I’m concerned.  – Suzan Mazur, “Winged Genius at Christie’s, Wall Euphoria at Çatalhöyük: Revisiting Conversation with Ian Hodder” at Oscillations

Considerable frustration must arise from the fact that the inhabitants of the Neolithic settlement did not write things down. What we usually mean by religion today is concepts we could (and do) write down, whether it is Akhenaten’s Great Hymn to the Aten or the Buddha’s Fire Sermon. Apart from that, there are certainly very old burial customs that imply that the loved one will need tools in another life. One could quibble that we don’t know whether this is a “religious” belief, of course. Possibly, people just assumed that the buried person might wake up one day. We’d need a lot more excavations to get a fuller picture.

Origin of Life Circus Suzan Mazur is the author of The Origin of Life Circus and The Paradigm Shifters: Overthrowing ‘the Hegemony of the Culture of Darwin’

See also: Suzan Mazur on mechanobiology, the next level of understanding of the cell

Suzan Mazur talks with Fermilab associate Craig Hogan at Oscillations about the current state of the hologram universe


Astrophysicist Niayesh Afshordi explains the holograph universe to Suzan Mazur at Oscillations

I'm guessing that the "young religion" guys insist on defining "religion" as having a professional priesthood, which is nonsense. Shamanism is, and always was, a religion. It is VERY (mostly like VERY very) old. At least 40,000 years old and most likely as old as humans in social groups. Shamanists believe in immortal souls, heaven, and God. But they don't have (or need) buildings solely dedicated to performing religious ceremonies, and, although some shamans may get some benefits from their special role in their manpack, on most days they live and work just like everybody else. The key idea is "first you get professional priests, THEN you get kings". And so Civilization, humans dwelling in permanent cities, assumes a religion recognizable by its kings and professional priests. vmahuna

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