Napta Playa (05:00)
Pharaohs ruled for 3,000 years by fusing religion and civilization—a formula adopted by every major civilization since. Archaeologist Jeff Rose visits a site where herders built a "Stonehenge" 7,000 years ago. A North Star alignment could represent the afterlife.
Nabta Playa Structures (03:36)
Religion is essentially the search for meaning. Rose discusses the significance of a stone calendar and a cow—Ancient Egypt's oldest religious sculpture. Herders sacrificed calves in an attempt to control nature.
Religion and the Brain (03:24)
Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg researches the impact of prayer in religious believers. MRIs show increased parietal lobe activity—decreasing the sense of self and helping create a sense of unity with the universe. Spirituality has been present since the earliest civilizations.
Wadi Baramiya (03:19)
Rose interprets images carved by herders as an attempt to control nature. In emerging civilizations, religion provided hope of good fortune and eternal life.
Uniting the Faithful (03:01)
Carvings at Wadi Baramiya may depict shamans. Psychologist Ara Norenzayan discusses the role of the priesthood class in creating social communities and providing rituals and ceremonies.
Ritual and Social Cohesion (04:40)
In Istanbul, Islamic Sufis enter a trance-like state to become closer to God and each other. Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas records the physiological effects of synchronous movement. Participants become euphoric and feel united spiritually.
Nekhen Royal Tomb (05:31)
Climate change facilitated farming along the Nile 5,000 years ago. Archaeologist Renee Friedman discusses a burial site containing a human and animal entourage. Burnt bones suggest a revolution against the ruling elite.
Divine Right (02:22)
To prevent further revolutions, Nekhen rulers claimed their power came from the falcon god Horus. Pharaohs became living gods to ensure legitimacy.
Narmer Palette (02:44)
Lower and Upper Egypt united 5,000 years ago to create the Egyptian civilization. A Nekhen artifact depicts King Narmer conquering enemies with Horus' approval. The falcon god became patron of Egyptian pharaohs.
Moral God (03:45)
Since the Egyptian pharaohs, monarchs have claimed divine right and used the idea of an all-seeing deity to influence behavior. Studies show that being watched and fearing spiritual punishment increases generosity and cooperativeness.
Ancient Egyptians used religious architecture to reinforce their divinity. Archaeologist Louise Bertini believes the desire to be buried above ground drove the civilization’s expansion; hear how stone pyramids evolved from mastaba tombs.
Pyramids of Giza (06:07)
Many religions adopted monumental architecture to provide a connection to the divine; secular structures borrow religious symbolism. Archaeologist Ashraf Mohie discusses construction methods and motivation. Tombs in the worker's village suggest they were paid laborers, rather than slaves.
Borrowing Religious Symbolism (02:22)
Many modern civilizations separate church and state, but Washington, D. C. monuments enshrine America's creation story and provide social glue to create a moral community.
Credits: First Civilizations: Part 2 (00:30)
Credits: First Civilizations: Part 2
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