Learning to Survive
The prehistoric humans invented many concepts after learning the art of communication. For example, people developed several useful tools such as the bow and arrow, knife, canoe or rope. They discovered various devices for their daily needs like hearths, shelters, leathers, footwear, herbal medicines, etc. Apart from these, they recognized powers of the sun, the sky and fire and began worshipping them. These were the scientific discoveries of the time.
Better tools made hunting easier and equipped humans to protect themselves from wild animals. Leathers, hearths and better shelters protected people from the cold and wild animals; herbal drugs and nursing care increased average lifespan. Anthropologists assert that all these factors together led to human population explosion, around ten thousand years ago. Gradually, people began to face starvation. Since necessity is the mother of invention, the scarcity of food forced the human race to do something or starve.
During that period, humans invented agriculture at several places around the world. Learned author Mircea Eliade has written that women played a decisive part in the domestication of plants. Furthermore, there are several reasons to believe that females invented farming. They were involved in collecting vegetables and fruits from forests and thus had a good knowledge of vegetation. Moreover, they were the most vulnerable during scarcity of food. Their immobility, before and after childbirth, provided them the opportunity to watch growing vegetation. Childbirth and childcare necessitated a settled life that was only possible with cultivation. Apart from these logics, several ancient myths propagate that some or other goddess invented cultivation.
Agriculture altogether changed the lifestyle of humans; their dependence on the forests reduced. This necessitated them to stay near their farming lands and facilitated building of better shelters. Apart from huts, farmers gradually discovered several other useful skills such as pottery, metallurgy and weaving.
Harvests were unpredictable owing to variable rain. Gradually, the yield of crops became a major concern for the farmers.
Consequently, the priests of farmers invented new gods to wrestle with the new problem. The beginning of agriculture gave rise to a fertility cult almost all over the world: the priests of primitive farmers advised them to worship one or other mother goddess. Almost every independent agrarian society designated its own fertility goddess. The myths that glorified their power were more or less similar. Many ancient artists carved their statues and that depicted a woman exhibiting her physical power and food grains. These remained the most powerful gods for centuries. They had different names such as Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Prithvi in India, Demeter in Greece and Isis in Egypt.
After discovering agriculture, people prepared farming lands by cutting or burning trees of the forests and built permanent settlements near these. They domesticated several animals and used them for riding, ploughing and milking. Gradually, small human settlements increased to become villages, towns and ultimately cities. Thus, women turned the wanderer into a settler and the wild one into a domestic: they laid the foundation of homes, villages, cities and civilizations.
After the beginning of agriculture, humankind continued their research and they discovered the males’ role in childbirth. The role of males in childbirths must have astonished priests; after this, they created a new god. For a long period, people worshipped mother goddess because of her exceptional fertility power. Now, the experiments established that she could not give birth to a new life alone. Phallus sowed the seed of a new life: it gave birth to a new life! Well, phallus was doing the job that god was supposed to do! Priests already knew that the fertility of soil was result of rain—the shower of the sky god. Similarly, the shower of phallus fertilized females. After this study, priests recommended phallus worship. Now, the fertility goddess was not alone; phallic symbols accompanied her.
All over the world, there is enough evidence of phallus worship. For example, four thousand years ago, Egyptians worshipped Min as a masculine god of fertility, harvest and power. Ancient Greeks worshipped Priapus as the god of fertility of humans, cattle and vegetation. Artists depicted him as a man with a large phallus. Hindus have been worshipping Lingam, a stone carved in the shape of a phallus, for more than two thousand years. Initially, Lingam was a symbolic representation of the sky god Indra. Today, it represents Shiva, the supreme God of Hindus.
After the above study, it is obvious that ancient people began to fathom nature around them with the help of language and imagination. What they could not comprehend, they invented one or other myth to explain. Ancient humans built several myths to wrestle with their mysteries and miseries. Apart from myths, humans discovered many scientific facts with the help of language and imagination. Imagination and language made it possible to invent, propagate and accumulate all the religions and science that humankind has today. The next chapter will discuss the invention that changed the destiny of humanity.