Definitions and Origins

Prehistoric Mythology

What happened after the Paleolithic Period?

With the development of agriculture in the Middle Stone Age (the Mesolithic, c. 10,000–8000 B.C.E.) and, eventually, established settlements and cities in the New Stone Age, the Neolithic (c. 8000–3000 B.C.E.), the evidence of early mythology becomes more evident. Stonehenge-like apparent temple sites such as Göbekli Tepe in Anatolian Turkey suggest a religious consciousness. It is believed that a new emphasis on agriculture and animal husbandry as opposed to hunting and gathering led naturally to rituals and artifacts related to fertility. We can probably safely assume that such statues as those of an apparently enthroned female figure and a female figure depicted in various stages of life in the seventh millennium B.C.E. site of Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia were of a fertility goddess—a Great Mother—and that accompanying figures of a bull represented her consort, a male divinity, suggesting symbolically the male role in the fertility process.

We also can assume that humans of the Neolithic created myths to accompany these figures: myths of Earth Mothers mating with bull gods; myths of seemingly magical and sacrificial acts by which bodies planted in the earth were resurrected as edible plants; stories of goddesses who passed through stages from maiden to crone, reflecting the seasons of the earth and of human life.


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