I know gods from the iron and bronze age up till our time but are there any gods back in the day of the hunter gatherers?

1 Answer 1


According to Wikipedia We Homo sapiens were Hunter-Gatherers some 0.2 million or 200,000 years ago But this trait was even previously employed by Homo erectus some 1.8 million years ago. By definition a hunter gatherer were nomadic people who live chiefly by hunting and fishing, and harvesting wild food.

In my answer I am using the conclusions drawn by Hervey C. Peoples & Pavel Duda & Frank W. Marlowe in their article Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion.

As you have enquired about the Gods from hunter gatherers period. There were no active high gods or deities as we have today. For e.g. from Hinduism perspective Shiva-Vishnu-Devi , or Greek god's Zeus , Poseidon , Apollo etc. who are morally punishing. Instead they were following Animism. A way of life that believes in souls or spirits. These souls or spirits exists not only in humans, but also in animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains, rivers and other entities of natural environment like wind , fire , ice , rain etc. According to them all these elements were holding the power. In other words they were following “natural” religions " These natural elements were their gods as we today call a god. Often these forces or gods of Hunter-Gatherers were having very limited powers were not omniscient ,omnipotent and they do not very much concerning about human affairs and morality.

Below is a excerpt -:

Our results reflect Tylor’s belief that animism was the earliest and most basic trait of religion because it enables humans to think in terms of supernatural beings or spirits. Animism is not a religion or philosophy, but a feature of human mentality, a byproduct of cognitive processes that enable social intelligence, among other capabilities. It is a widespread way of thinking among hunter-gatherers .Animistic thought is a natural by-product of the human capacity for intentionality or “theory of mind mechanism” . This innate cognitive trait allows us to attribute a vital force to animate and inanimate elements in the environment .Once that vital force is assumed, attribution of other human characteristics will follow. Animistic beliefs are generally adaptive in the environments that prevail in hunter-gatherer societies -

According to the authors the hunter-gatherers do have religions . Each hunter gatherer society were having their own belief systems. It was reflected in their sacred healing dances and rituals marking life events , early painting etc. And also there were some similarities among those religions in cosmology, ritual, and belief etc..

Many hunter gatherer societies have little or no concept of religion per se, though a religious dimension often permeates normal activities and is continuous with daily life. Instead, each society focuses on maintaining its unique beliefs and culture, along with a sense of self-worth and the general health and well-being of the group . Simple egalitarian hunter-gatherer groups generally hold fewer religious beliefs and participate in less ritual than more hold fewer religious beliefs and participate in less ritual than more complex groups. But hunter-gatherers do have religion, embodied in . Although there is considerable variation in specific religious traits among hunter-gatherer societies, a cross-cultural view reveals underlying similarities in cosmology, ritual, and belief .These often include gods and spirits with limited powers who are typically not omniscient and usually lack concern for morality and human affairs

The authors in their article are mentioning that there is least possibility that the early hunter-gatherers is having adopted or accepted any concept of high god or supporting gods as stated below.

Belief in high gods appears to be a rather “stand-alone” phenomenon in the evolution of hunter-gatherer religion. Prior studies have shown that among the four modes of subsistence (hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, and agriculturalists) hunter-gatherers are least likely to adopt morally punishing active high gods, if any high gods at all Early egalitarian hunter-gatherers would rarely have acknowledged an active high god and would be the least likely to accept or benefit from the supernatural meddling and social constraints of deities who would be seen as “high rulers”

Conclusion -

Today we in our respected religions believe in afterlife, shamanism, ancestor worship, high god or supreme creator , ancestral spirits and creator deities etc. Even todays hunter-gatherers include these beliefs and share the oldest trait of religion i.e. animism. So most probably all the above concepts and apart from that the concept of creative gods or supreme creator , who remain active in human affairs was not present in ancestral hunter-gatherer societies, according to the reaserch of the authors.

Here is PDF link of the above article -

  • This is very interesting , thanks!
    – Dude
    Sep 21, 2019 at 22:59

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