Perhaps the single most important development in the history of humanity was the domestication of plants and animals. This process began approximately 12,000 years ago and is sometimes referred to as the “Neolithic Revolution.” Other than hominid evolution itself, no process has so profoundly influenced human history and culture. The shift from food gathering to food production led to permanent settlements and explosive population growth. With sedentism and food surpluses came structural changes that included occupational specialization and social stratification. As might be expected, these events resulted in major changes to forms of supernatural belief and religious practice. The religious practices typical of hunter-gatherers gave way to highly organized forms of religion, complete with priests, temples, monuments, and doctrines. In nearly all cases, newly emergent elites used religion to organize and govern their societies.
This Category will examine these events and changes, focusing primarily on the new forms of religion that appeared as societies across the world transitioned from band or tribe size hunter-gatherer groups to chiefdoms, city-states, and empires.