This mound marks the grave of an adolescent boy from the “Maritime Archaic” people of Labrador. Roughly 7,500 years ago, his body was wrapped in a shroud of bark or hide and placed face down in the grave with his head facing to the west. At that point, a large mound of rocks was erected over his burial place.
Courtesy of Brian Bursey
Archaeologists working in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana in 2006 may have found the oldest evidence of a form of human ritual behavior. One cavern contains a large rock, roughly 20 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, that resembles a giant python, with the natural features of the stone forming its eye and mouth. While its resemblance to a reptile may be natural, there are also several hundred man-made grooves along its side, indicating an attempt to replicate scales with fashioned tools. Spearheads were also found at the site, and similar ones in the area have been dated to 77,000 years ago. Researchers have concluded that this was a worship site for the inhabitants of the region in this period.
Photograph by Sheila Coulson, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Norway. National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061222-python-ritual.html
Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams
Historian Clottes and anthropologist Lewis-Williams theorize that the painted caves (such as those of Lascaux and Niaux in France) of Paleolithic people were used as a sacred space, in which rituals and ceremonies took place. The art on these cave walls, Clottes and Lewis-Williams argue, was part of a Shamanistic ritual. The creation of this art manipulated Paleolithic men and women’s understanding of physical and metaphysical space. For instance, the authors suggest that they different chambers within the caves were used by different groups within a particular Paleolithic society, at different times, and for different purposes, most of them ritual or ceremonial. Clottes and Lewis-William also believe that the paintings were group undertakings, indicating a level of community organization and sophistication hitherto not associated with Paleolithic groupings. Ultimately, they believe that the Paleolithic aesthetic was sophisticated, as was the Paleolithic conceptualization of the physical world and spiritual experience.
Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams, The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance Magic in the Painted Caves (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998, pp. 103-104)