The notion of a powerful god is often said to play a significant role in supporting the transition from small relatively equal hunter and gatherer societies to big hierarchical societies. However, as RUSSELL GRAY explains in this video, while there is a correlation between “big gods” and “big societies”, this is no causal relationship. By comparing the evolution of different forms of social organization in cultures with a common ancestry in the Pacific and Southeast Asia the researchers found that these societies grew bigger first and only then borrowed the notion of a powerful god through the influence of Muslim traders. Another result on the influence of religion is that ritual human sacrifice played a major role in maintaining or even promoting social inequality.
The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (MPI-GEA) focuses on the interrelationships between natural and human-made systems, looking into the deep past and distant future to examine how humanity has driven the emergence of the Anthropocene – the geological period in which human activities began significantly impacting our planet’s climate and ecosystems – and how we can still positively influence its course.
The transdisciplinary research at MPI-GEA will bring together research areas represented by all three scientific sections of the MPG: Biology & Medicine; Chemistry, Physics and Technology; and Human Sciences. Corresponding inter- and transdisciplinary research projects concern, for example, planetary urbanisation, the global food system, and global material, energy and information flows.
Ritual Human Sacrifice Promoted and Sustained the Evolution of Stratified Societies
Published in 2016
Pulotu: Database of Austronesian Supernatural Beliefs and Practices
Published in 2015
The Rise and Fall of Political Complexity in Island South-East Asia and the Pacific
Published in 2010
On the Shape and Fabric of Human History
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Published in 2010
Does Horizontal Transmission Invalidate Cultural Phylogenies?
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
Published in 2009