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Archaeology/All Cultures: Religion & Sacrifices


It's impossible to separate the history of people from religion as I know of no culture that didn't worship something. As far as I can find, all religions (even those that only comprised an extended family or tribe/clan) had religious ceremonies that included sacrifices.

I'm curious to know if in any culture's religion, other than those that have been around in more recent times (i.e. Christianity, Islam, etc), they had sacrifices that didn't include living creatures but only something else of value such as crops or specially cooked foods, articles of previous metals or gems, or anything else that might've had a high value in their culture. While I'm aware various religions include such articles, I can find no evidence of a culture that didn't sacrifice animals or people as part of their rituals. Do you know of any as your knowledge base will be so much greater than what I've been able to find. Thank you in advance.

Hi Jude,

Not all societies/cultures sacrificed to their "gods/spirits".  The Bushmen of the Kalahari, tha Aboriginies of Australia.the Yanomami of tha Amazon just to name three.  Many Native American/First Nations also had no human or animal sacrifice.  In some cultures if and animal was killed during the hunt, thanks may have been given to the spirit of the animal for allowing it to become food for the people.   This is also true for many other cultures.  

Sacrificial animals and humans often had "other" benefits.  They provided meat in protine poor areas and for those segments of these societies that could not go out and hunt for themselves.  

Ritual slaughter could be viewed as sacrifice but in reality, is not.  For those societies that have moved away from hunting and gathering to animal husbandry, the slaughtering of one of their animals was not unlike the killing of an animal on the hunt and thanking the spirit of the animal.  Thus the ritualistic aspect of the kill.  As societies evolved the ritual took on additional meaning and importance.  

I hope this provides the answers you were seeking


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Ralph Salier


Archaeologist for the last 30 years. Norh American generalist and Hopwell culture/Red Ocher culture specifically. Lithics Expert and Ground Stone tools.


Past/Present clients
Numerous museums in US and Canada. Several University Anthropology Departments.

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