Much research on the evolution and functions of religion has focused on theoretical models, while an important and distinctive aim of the proposed project is not just conceptual development but exploration of concrete data from Çatalhöyük (7400-6000 BC) and the Middle East concerning the actual evolutionary process. This project proposes a new theory that has resulted from two earlier data-based Templeton projects at Çatalhöyük in Turkey. According to this new theory, religion had a primary role in the origin of settled life because it allowed the production of the two main struts of that life: historical depth and attachment to place. Four specific expectations that derive from this hypothesis will be examined in concrete data. The first three will be tested at Çatalhöyük itself using survey, excavation and study by an international team of archaeologists and natural scientists. The fourth question will involve visits by the principal investigator to other sites in the region. Collaboration will be broadened through dialogue with a group of interdisciplinary scholars (anthropologists, theologians and philosophers) who will work with the archaeologists at the site to produce a summary volume, and a second volume dealing with the religious and spiritual connections between Çatalhöyük and our modern world. Other output will include a conference, sessions at international conferences, at least 20 articles in journals and a dedicated website. Religion is usually seen as playing a secondary role in the evolution of complex societies. The proposed project provides a new hypothesis that puts the key change rather earlier than has been accepted and that places religion in a central role. As a result, an enduring impact will be that new lines of inquiry will be opened up. This will also be the first project systematically to explore why it is that religion at Çatalhöyük has so much relevance for modern societies today.
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