What came first? Religious or Civil law?

Various species have rules they seem to follow. Humans have codified these rules and they are much more complex.

So were some naked apes sitting around a fire eating a mastodon, and they decided “hey, since Oog killed the mastodon, it belongs to him. We helped bring it back to the cave so Oog should let us have some”. Or did the witch doctor declare “the great spirit has told me he who kills the beast owns the beast, if he who killed the beast needs help returning the meat to the cave he must share with those who helped him”

and if there a difference?

I think most if not all cultures in the past had religious belief systems, and their laws were derived from them accordingly.

They were inextricable in early civilization.

Yes, I think that’s the answer. The distinction we make between the two didn’t exist in the ancient world.

I was going to say the same thing.

The original political system was the family unit. You did what dad said, and that was it. The tribe was just an extended family and his word was still law. Everything else came about as a power grab by some sneaky uncles, most likely.

[quote=“epbrown, post:6, topic:976850, full:true”]
The original political system was the family unit. You did what dad said, and that was it. The tribe was just an extended family and his word was still law. Everything else came about as a power grab by some sneaky uncles, most likely

Uncles in priestly garb.

This a more evolutionary Q. A pack of wolves or school of fish don’t have laws or courts. But they all behave by the same rules.

that’s the plot of the lion king


I’ll leave it up to you to educate yourself about how hunter/gatherer societies worked and work up to today since there are still a few, very few admittedly, around.

Not to detract from your larger point, but it would he a serious mistake to assume that hunter gatherers today, who have lived alongside sedentary societies for millenia and been pushed onto more and more marginal territory by the huge populations that agriculture allows, are anything like the original hunter gatherer societies that humans originally organized into.

As a premise, I believe that the state is defined by its ‘economy’. The most primitive elements of an economy are division of labor, and the moving and storing of goods and surplus.

Division of labor can be seen at the tribal level, but also managed within that tribe. Often this was along gender lines. The other distinction is the old or infirm who cannot do the same hard physical labor. Ex. the shaman / elder who is provided with food in exchange for medical care, rituals, advice, etc.

As a general rule, nomadic tribes developed less than static ones, because they weren’t in one place to accumulate surplus. (A middle ground exists for example hunter gatherers who congregated for yearly festivals in a fixed place)

Regardless, over time this religious ‘class’ shared esoteric knowledge with each other that was not shared with the rest of their tribe. This accumulation of knowledge is the first requirement for an early religious state to develop.

The second requirement as I hinted before is staying in one place. The earliest example I am thinking of is the low intensive agriculture in the fertile crescent. This produces agricultural surplus, which must be distributed. Who decides that? The priest class. They need food because they don’t grow it themselves. In exchange, this priest class provides services, and employs artisans to build and maintain the temple and their dwellings. Basically, I’m saying that the temple came first, and then economic support around and in service to the temple, and that’s how you get a city. The administration of all of this necessitates civil law as it grows in size.

(trying to balance brevity and clarity, please bear with. For a book on this subject, see Dawn of Everything)

What came first was presumably instinct. Wolves and chimpanzees also have communal hunts and sharing of kills.

Lesser pack members will be left with the lesser parts or nothing, unless they assert themselves and take what they want. Even among animals that involves making a calculation. How badly do you want a bone with at least some meat on it? How likely are you to get violently bullied instead if you try?

Before either “civil” or “religious” law, it seems to me, there would have been the law of the strongest, with the stronger members not just physically bullying weaker, but with them asserting that they had the right to do so. “Thag no good hunter! Thag no get meat! All kick Thag if not wait until all bones cleaned.”

And has already been said, that then becomes tradition and law, and civil and religious authority is likely to not have been seen as separate, even if there were separate civil and religious authority figures.

Though when it comes to killing a mastodon that would have been a team effort, and so would butchering and trying to preserve as much of it have been. So Thag could perhaps have earned their share by helping carrying.

Military domination states fought with and often conquered these agricultural states. (To me this is the progression you would expect from tribal dynamics as populations grow.)

Hominids (long before sapiens) in Georgia 1.7 million years ago cared for their elders, as evidenced by the skull of an individual who survived for an extended period of time with only a single tooth.

Care for elders long predates anything we would describe as shamanism.

As shown by the Georgian skull, this is not how early hominid groups behaved. In fact, this isn’t how chimps or even wolves behave.

How are you differentiating military and agricultural states? In fact, even the most warlike states we can think of - Sparta, Rome, the Aztecs - were agrarian states, and much of their dominance came not from military might but from agrarian practices and innovations (the Aztec had massive floating farms in the lakes that surrounded Tenochtitlan; the Spartans used the Helot system mostly to secure agrarian labor; the Roman war machine was built to acquire vast swathes of agricultural land and slaves to farm it, and the fate of the Empire turned based on which general could harness the loyalty of the most soldiers by conquering land to distribute to them).

OTTOMH, Jane Goodall observed a chimp whose legs were paralysed by an illness. All the other chimps in the group became afraid of him, and avoided him. Except for his lifelong best friend, who did his best to feed and care for the paralyzed chimp. I remember one of the pair was named MacGregor by Goodall.

This is a fascinating story, and it does highlight a way in which my comment is a bit misleading. Chimps don’t care for injured or elderly troop members for extended periods of time. If they cannot keep up with the troop, they will eventually be left behind to die. Enough support might be provided that an animal who would have died alone recovers from temporary injury, but a crippling disability (like having only a single tooth left) would be a death sentence for any non-hominid.

However, in no group of social mammals is the food sharing dynamic in line with what @naita described in the post I quoted. That sort of “the strongest feed as much as they want to, then step aside and the weaker members of the group dare to approach” behavior may describe how a group of Komodo dragons feed on a water buffalo or deer - animals with no social bonds brought together temporarily by a common goal and an abundance of food. It does not describe the behavior of social mammals living in close-knit family groups, like hyenas or lions, wolves or chimps, dolphins or humans.

Came here to add this, now to second the suggestion. There is lots of evidence for more egalitarian societies as well as the hierarchical ones we have all been taught about.