Were Neanderthals Religious?


Religion is best understood across cultures and time periods as practice rather than only belief. Some religions, of course, feature sacred texts in which a set of beliefs is set forth. In these cases, what you believe about a god or other sacred forces may really matter. In many human societies past and present, though, no text exists, just everyday life — appeasing gods or spirits, honoring the ancestors — that is shot through with a sense of the sacred or the supernatural. It’s within this context that the case for Neanderthal religion — for ritual practices steeped in connecting to the sacred world — is most convincingly made.
— John Hawks, Anthropologist & Neanderthal expert

Did the Neanderthals practice religion? How would we know it, if they did? This past weekend, NPR's Cosmos & Culture commentator Barbara J. King looked into the subject. Listen here to this fascinating look at some of our earliest ancestors and the interpretation of some of their rituals.