Material images of humans from the Natufian to pottery Neolithic periods in the Levant

PhD Thesis


Estelle, Orrelle 2011. Material images of humans from the Natufian to pottery Neolithic periods in the Levant. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Law and Social Sciences
AuthorsEstelle, Orrelle
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

This dissertation demonstrates that the surprising iconography of human images in the archaeological assemblages of the Levantine Neolithic indicates that they were gods.
An analysis of the iconography of the human-like artifacts of my data reveals genital shapes used metaphorically to portray androgynous images as well as elements of
therianthropic imagery and red pigment. This iconography meets the predictions of the evolutionary anthropological hypothesis, the 'Female Cosmetic Coalition model' (FCC),
which describes the first supernatural symbols as fused male: female, human: animal and red, and predicts that the iconography of early gods would bear this same symbolic
syntax, y thesis shows that the material images of the Natufian and Neolithic in the Levant fit this model closely, confirming their identity as gods.
The hunter-gatherer socio-economic structure established by the strategies of the FCC was expressed as the first social contract, by which humans lived for thousands of years.
The FCC model provides an underlying unchanging syntax in the face of changing political-economy and sexual politics. I interpret my data as revealing a process of male ritual elites increasingly appropriating this syntax, incorporating it in a new social contract.
At the end of the last Ice Age, I predict that in the Near East male elites competedto circumvent the onerous burden of the first social contract, to appropriate female ritual
power and to establish hierarchical religion legitimizing a new social contract between humans and supernatural beings. This new contract bound gods and humans in a partnership of exchange.
I suggest that this process can be identified in the increasingly elaborate ritual activity using costly signalling theory.
This work contributes to the decipherment of the iconography of this assemblage of human images, and proposes a model for the origins of religion and social differentiation in the Levant.

KeywordsIconography; Female Cosmetic Coalition model; First social contract
Year2011
Publication dates
PrintSep 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jul 2013
Additional information

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