Did ancient people practice archeology?

The origin of rituals from an archaeological point of view

In addition to the cultural studies, rituals can also be examined and interpreted from an evolutionary perspective. Because a very important aspect of rituals is that they are usually associated with a high expenditure of resources, energy and time. The ritual participants wear special clothing, hairstyles, colors or jewelry. Often physical exertion, pain or the display of willingness to take risks are added. From a purely economic-utilitarian point of view, this wasteful and “useless” behavior doesn't seem to make sense. If rituals apparently neither increase the individual's chances of survival nor directly maximize reproductive success, the question arises, why are they then common in all known cultures on earth? Up until the second half of the 20th century, this question posed a major challenge for an evolutionary biological interpretation. However, for some years it has been clear that rituals can nevertheless be meaningfully interpreted from an evolutionary biological perspective.

The “theory of expensive signals” provides the framework. This theory goes back to the handicap principle, which was developed by the Israeli evolutionary biologist Amotz Zahavi in ​​the 1970s. It is essentially based on the mechanisms of sexual selection - the second major evolutionary mechanism alongside natural selection. The main features of sexual selection were already presented by Charles Darwin in his second major work "The Descent of Man" (1871). Amotz Zahavi's handicap principle therefore states that quality signals from an individual must be expensive in order to be reliable (i.e., forgery-proof). In this context, “expensive” means a high expenditure of energy, resources and time that cannot be simulated. Good genes, health, etc. are not readily visible to potential sexual partners. An individual who shows waste of energy and extra effort, which is actually a disadvantage for direct survival in the sense of natural selection ("handicap"), therefore effectively shows that he can afford this "luxury" and is particularly suitable as a sexual partner . A prime example of this is the peacock wheel, with which male peacocks try to impress potential female sexual partners. In the course of the gene-culture coevolution of the genus Homo, this principle has spread from its original domain of sexuality and partner choice into other areas of social interaction.

Applied to the symbolic-ritual communication of cognitively modern humans, this means that in a social group, credible, i.e., signals of devotion and moral commitment that are difficult to falsify are constructed for the group and displayed with great expressiveness. In this way, any beneficiaries (“free riders”) can be deterred who aim exclusively for their personal benefits without wanting to get involved in the group in return. In contrast to the expensive signals of the ritual, pure speech acts can be seen, for example, which are connected at no cost to the signal transmitter. These therefore do not offer a reliable indicator of the credibility of the messages conveyed. In addition, expensive signals make it more difficult for the individual to become apostate, since high "investments" once made are not so easily given up and the expenses of the other group members who have also made them when participating in the ritual create moral pressure. In this way, cohesion and cooperation within a group is ensured and the corresponding group ideology is strengthened.