The mountain sanctuary of Göbekli Tepe in today's Turkey is one of the earliest examples of a culture of celebration.
It is still a mystery why the man died 9, 000 years ago. His bones were discovered by German archaeologists in a grave in the Stone Age village of Ba'ja in the south of present-day Jordan. They had been stained blood red with crushed red sandstone - for the researchers reason for speculation: Was the man victim of a violent act? What ritual was behind the red color of the bones? Archaeologists are particularly interested in finding answers to these questions, as the age and place of the funeral date back to the time of one of the greatest upheavals in human history. At that time, the first people settled in the Middle East and started to set up larger settlements. This transition from the culture of hunters and gatherers to a society of peasants and livestock breeders was also connected with enormous social upheavals.

The archaeologists hope to find out how these changes took place from the excavations in Ba'ja: they have already unearthed three collective tombs in the Stone Age settlement - with items such as jewelery and pearls, arrowheads and flint daggers. The scientists also found out about the structure of the settlement. Accordingly, the houses stood close to each other, not even a footpath was found between the buildings. "Public life took place on the rooftops, " suspects the Berlin building researcher Moritz Kinzel, who participates in the excavations, in a report in the September issue of the magazine "Bild der wissenschaft". And the Berlin prehistorian Hans Georg K. Gebel, who leads the excavations, adds: "The architecture of the site reflects a rapidly growing immense population density. That can not have gone off without conflict. "

But what was the mainspring for the development from the culture of the hunters and gatherers to the settledness in such mega-villages? The evolutionary biologist and author Josef Reichholf has delivered an almost provocative, but effective publicity: The desire for intoxication and drinking together has led people to grow crops, the researcher postulated in his book "Why People Became Sedentary". The idea behind this "beer instead of bread" hypothesis is that in the climate of that time, even without arable farming, enough food was available to feed the people. However, to whom abundant grain was available to make alcoholic beverages could gain a lot of social influence. Glittering festivals or ritual celebrations with hundreds of guests brought the organizer prestige.

Festivals and rites could have been the cement that held people together in the societies of that time. Those who managed to accumulate goods could legitimize this on the other side by generosity. Those who possessed others allowed others to participate and only strengthened their power. "Festivals are ideal for concealing emerging hierarchies, " says the Freiburg archaeologist Alexander Gramsch in "bild der wissenschaft". display

Such coupled ownership would not have existed until now - and it still does not exist in hunter-gatherer cultures: Canadian anthropologist Richard Lee tells of a bushman in the Kalahari of southern Africa who claims to be a small Had purchased herd of goats. A year later, he had slaughtered all the goats to feed the members of his group. The man had not been able to fight against the principle of fair sharing, which was deeply rooted in this primitive society.

The importance of celebration and common rituals as a social element is proven by numerous archaeological finds: For example, archaeologists in Göbelkli Tepe in southeastern Turkey came across huge megalithic structures in which festivals were held in honor of the dead. Also in northern Syria, scientists came across facilities that could probably be used by a large number of people to celebrate.

In general, funerary rituals seem to have been of great importance in celebrations of this kind: in the Stone Age cultures of the Middle East, skulls appeared at that time, which were overmodeled with plaster and clay and artistically painted. Such skulls were found in archeology near the Syrian capital Damascus even in residential buildings, where they were probably exhibited before they were then buried in common festivals. Similar rituals are still known today in Madagascar, where dead people are taken out of their tomb every few years and are wrapped in fresh cloth and carried around by their relatives in a lavish party.

Despite the achievements of modernity, the transition from hunter-gatherer cultures to communities of hundreds or even thousands of people has not always worked smoothly. Many of these communities imploded around 6900 BC, the places were abandoned and decayed, explains prehistorian Gebel. Life in the mass also brought with it health problems: In the close cohabitation diseases and parasites could spread much easier, as it was possible in the previous communities.

ddp / science.de - Ulrich Dewald

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