What do the headless figures found in the famous paintings at Çatalhöyük in Turkey have in common with the interlinked spirals carved on the monumental tombs at Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland? How can the concepts of "birth," "death," and "wild" cast light on the changes in relationships between people and animals? David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce examine the intricate web of belief, myth, and society in the Neolithic period, arguably the most significant turning point in human history, when agriculture became a way of life and the fractious society that we know today was born.
The authors focus on two contrasting times and places: the beginnings in the Near East, with its cult buildings and skull burials, and western Europe, with its massive stone monuments. They argue that neurological patterns hardwired into the brain help explain the nature of the art, religion, and society that Neolithic people produced. Drawing on the latest research, the authors skillfully link material on human consciousness, imagery, and belief systems to propose provocative new theories about religious motivation in ancient times.