Religiosity and Burials in the Neolithic Period

Bird GoddessIn the Neolithic period (6.000-35000 BC), the "naturalistic" aspects still prevail in religious manifestations, inevitably the development of agriculture has repercussions on religious sentiments. It is likely that the cult related to the stage totemistics come now to interest not only animals but also some plants necessary for man's sustenance.

balkan bird goddess1Bird Goddess of the Balkans

mnajdra-3000-bcMaltese Mother Goddess

The cult of mother goddess undergoes transformations, also becoming the goddess of agriculture, protector of crops, the land itself is associated with the concept of mother. At the "mother Earth”Is soon associated with the pig, which is probably sacrificed in his honor in the festivities that occur in particular periods such as sowing or harvesting. The discovery of female statuettes in the Grotta dell'Uzzo (Trapani), in the cave of the Stufe di S. Calogero (Agrigento) and Piano Vento (Agrigento) refer to the cult of the mother goddess; in particular for the last two, the cult probably refers to one of the many aspects of the mother goddess, the Bird goddess.

goddessucellosancaloggero015Idoletto with bird mask head Mid 3th millennium BC - Grotta delle Stufe di S. Caloggero (Agrigento) XNUMX

goddessuccellopianovento012Idoletto in the shape of a bird 4th millennium BC - Piano Vento (Agrigento) XNUMX

In the Neolithic period, human sacrifices are no longer attributable to ritual cannibalism but is also linked to some forms of magical rituals. A particular form of human sacrifice that probably spread in the Neolithic period is that relating to the so-called "building sacrifices" in which, on the occasion of new constructions, victims were buried under the structures of the new building. Archaeological finds testify to the presence of building sacrifices among the prehistoric peoples of Europe. The barbaric custom was slowly abandoned, or in any case replaced with simulacra that made the rite assume a purely symbolic character. In Italy, in the territory of Praglia near the Euganean Hills, under the structures of a Neolithic village, a wooden figure of a person was found [1]. According to some archaeologists this would be the testimony that in some areas the building sacrifice took on a less bloody character, unlike others where, however, this custom was maintained until historical times.

iphigenia-poetatragic-pompIphigenia led to sacrifice in the Pompeian fresco of the House of the Tragic Poet

polyxeneSacrifice of Polyxena, slaughtered by Neoptolemus in memory of his father Achilles (Iliad).

The Neolithic burials do not differ greatly from the Paleolithic ones, they occurred by burial, almost always in shallow pits or in the so-called "lithic cysts", box-shaped containers that were buried in the ground. The corpse was often placed lying on the left side and with the legs curled up, as if to remember the fetal position [2]. We wanted to represent, with this position, the return to the mother, where the mother is in this case the earth that generates life.

lovers_mantova_2The so-called "Lovers of Mantua" two skeletons dating back to the Neolithic period found in 2007 

The first collective depositions begin to appear, even if the Neolithic is still characterized by an individual burial.

[1] Vincenzo Manzini: Human sacrifices and ritual murders in antiquity p.2

[2] Jacques Hergoun: The Western Mediterranean pag. 24.

[3] First Sicily - at the origins of Sicilian society - by Sebastiano Tusa - 1997 Sicilian Region Vol. II Fig. II.7 II

[4] First Sicily - at the origins of Sicilian society - by Sebastiano Tusa - 1997 Sicilian Region Vol. II Fig. III.6 II

Adapted from History of Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero

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