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Author Topic: What is the oldest Pagan symbol?  (Read 9903 times)
BGMarc
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« Reply #15: July 12, 2009, 06:26:05 pm »

Drawings almost certainly predated carving so a drawing of the Sun or Moon, as a representation of an object of worship, would clearly qualify.

When I was researching an answer for the OP, I kept hitting a horizon beyond which we have no way of knowing what the swymbol meant to the people using it. We are pretty sure that we recognise it's a symbol of some sort, but there just isn't the direct evidence to confirm or deny a conclusion. I never did find a good answer for the earliest symbol for which we have direct and/or significant evidence to believe we know what the symbols meant in the society in which they had meaning, or even for the earliest date that a potentially symbolic shape appears in a way that supports a religious interpretation.
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« Reply #16: July 12, 2009, 06:32:16 pm »

When I was researching an answer for the OP, I kept hitting a horizon beyond which we have no way of knowing what the swymbol meant to the people using it. We are pretty sure that we recognise it's a symbol of some sort, but there just isn't the direct evidence to confirm or deny a conclusion. I never did find a good answer for the earliest symbol for which we have direct and/or significant evidence to believe we know what the symbols meant in the society in which they had meaning, or even for the earliest date that a potentially symbolic shape appears in a way that supports a religious interpretation.

I came to the same conclusion without researching it. Wink I am operating from the presumption that to a pre-literate society, any energy spent on art would signify something of adoration.  Otherwise: "Hey, Thag, quit playing with the charcoal and gather some bushes!"

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« Reply #17: July 12, 2009, 06:45:42 pm »

I came to the same conclusion without researching it. Wink I am operating from the presumption that to a pre-literate society, any energy spent on art would signify something of adoration.  Otherwise: "Hey, Thag, quit playing with the charcoal and gather some bushes!"

I started in a similar spot, but knew I didn't really know much beyond my own conjecture, so I went hunting (that and I'm between contracts and sooooo bored Smiley). Apparently hunter gathering, while quite time consuming, can leave a fair amount of time in which to get bored and engage in 'non-productive' activity. Many of the basic resources used in the early symbolic work were not necessarily scarce and may not have represented a significant investment on the part of the community. While I lean towards your perspective, I have come to a position of reasonable doubt Smiley Thing is, even if they are definitely symbolic and we accept the perspective that they would need to be 'religious' for them to have bothered, it doesn't get us passed not knowing for sure what it was that was being referred to by the symbol. We don't know what they were adoring.
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« Reply #18: July 12, 2009, 10:08:16 pm »

They had a daughter, Inanna, but neither Ningal nor Inanna were moon goddesses - one was a sky or air goddess, and the other fertility and war (I want to say that Inanna was conflated with Ishtar at some point, but I may just be getting confused here - it's not really my area).

If I'm not mistaken, Inanna is Sumerian, while Ishtar is Assyrian.
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« Reply #19: January 31, 2010, 08:47:56 pm »

If I'm not mistaken, Inanna is Sumerian, while Ishtar is Assyrian.

From the reading I've done lately, which admittedly hasn't yielded much in the way of credible results, Ishtar is her Akkadian name, but the Akkadian people used Sumerian as their religious language, much like Catholics have been known to use Latin. So the Akkadian hymns to Ishtar use the name Inanna, the same as the Sumerians. The University of Oxford Library has a large body of reading material online that's translated from Sumerian writings here: http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/index1.htm
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« Reply #20: February 01, 2010, 12:08:04 am »

I have been thinking about this for a while, searched for some information but havent found any so far.
Does anyone know what is considered the oldest Pagan symbol? Or what group of symbols are the oldest? Or is such information lost?

I would probably go with the cross or the spiral. I haven't done any hardcore research on this, but I certainly should as semiotics is an interest of mine.

They DID fine the cross and other symbols on the "Ice Man" when they dug him up out of a glacier or something. I'm not sure how old he was, but I know it was rather old, he was probably a hunter-gatherer IIRC.
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« Reply #21: February 01, 2010, 08:27:36 am »

They DID fine the cross and other symbols on the "Ice Man" when they dug him up out of a glacier or something. I'm not sure how old he was, but I know it was rather old, he was probably a hunter-gatherer IIRC.

This NOVA article says he was stuck in that glacier for (about, my guess is that the dating is not meant to be taken as absolute) 5,300 years.
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« Reply #22: February 01, 2010, 10:10:24 am »

From the reading I've done lately, which admittedly hasn't yielded much in the way of credible results, Ishtar is her Akkadian name, but the Akkadian people used Sumerian as their religious language, much like Catholics have been known to use Latin. So the Akkadian hymns to Ishtar use the name Inanna, the same as the Sumerians. The University of Oxford Library has a large body of reading material online that's translated from Sumerian writings here: http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/index1.htm

Thanks for the link! What I have read is mostly on Gateways to Babylon, and in one of the articles there it says:

Quote
...the Great Goddess of Love and War known as Inanna by the Sumerians and Ishtar by the Babylonians and Assyrians.

I know next to nothing about the Akkadians. I should do some reading about it.
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« Reply #23: February 04, 2010, 03:08:22 am »

This NOVA article says he was stuck in that glacier for (about, my guess is that the dating is not meant to be taken as absolute) 5,300 years.

Ah, so quite old, but certainly not representative of the oldest pagans.

I would, however, say that the fact that they were used as tattoos, fairly permanent body modifications, shows that they had long been used as powerful symbols. IIRC, researchers found evidence of arthritis in the joints that had tattoos over them. The theory, then, is that the symbols (or at least the tattoos) were somehow linked to medicine and healing. These, IMO, must have been functions long accepted for those symbols before they were inscribed permanently in one's skin.

Other candidates in my mind are simple wave patterns or even parallel line segments. Perhaps even a single line (segment) can be seen as a symbol, it certai ly is as the number one or as a mathematical sign for subtraction. I can imagine many uses for such simple symbols, who knows what ancient or prehistoric peoples might have associated with such things.
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