Possible biological basis for the origin of art, language, religion and science*

Patricio Bustamante Díaz bys.con@gmail.com
Researcher in Archaeoastronomy, WACA Wangüelen Astronomía Cultural Americana Group

*Submitted for approval 23 / 10 / 2013

“Shamans say they learn from the plant's sounds.
Maybe they are attuned to things we don't pay attention to...
…It's really fascinating. We might have lost that
connection and science is ready to rediscover it.”

Monica Gagliano, Plant acoustics researcher,
University of Western Australia in Crawley
, 2012.



Approximately one hundred thousand years ago, in Africa, the modern humans appear on the planet. Between then and now, humans have inhabited all continents and developed complex cultural manifestations such as art, language, religion, astronomy, navigation and science, all apparently uniquely human developments evolutionarily associated in part with brain development. The evidence reviewed in this paper seem to indicate that the basis of all these activities would have a pre-human origin, with traces that could be found in DNA and psychological phenomena such as Pareidolia, Apophenia and Hierophany (PAH Triad), conforming what would be part of the ‘biological toolbox’ for living beings.

These activities have taken various characteristics to the extent that individuals or groups of individuals interacting with their Entorno, (surrounding) with other individuals and with groups of the same or different species. Evidence shows that the bases for this developments would have been imprinted in our DNA from the origins of life.

Keywords: Human Culture; Entorno; Hominids; PAH Triad; DNA; origin of Art.



1. Introduction

This line of research began in the Choapa Province, IV Region of Chile, some three decades ago. The research was initially oriented towards the study of the rock art present in the area, then, the evidence found allowed to establish a direct link between these works and their Entorno (Surrounding). This article explores a new aspect to this, related to the biotic Entorno in which the cultures inhabiting the Choapa area were embedded, as part of the human species and as inhabitants of this planet. We propose that in order to fully understand a phenomenon such as the origin of rock art and its meaning, we must broaden the area of research and try to understand, among others, its biological basis, for which science today provides abundant material.

In 2004 we developed the methodological tool called Entorno (surrounding) Archaeology. Bustamante (1), Moyano and Bustamante (2), providingmeans to link cultural, geographical, climatic, biotical, astronomical, atmospheric and psychological information from ethno-archaeological data in small, medium and large scale. It strengthens the concepts of Landscape archaeology, Criado (3), Bradley (4) and the Declaration of Xi'An (5). http://www.international.icomos.org/xian2005/xian-declaration.htm 

In Bustamante (6), alongside the concept of Hierophany presented by Eliade (7),we introduced to the archaeological sphere the psychological phenomenon of Pareidolia, in the context of our researches in Chile and other South American countries. Pareidolia is a psychological-perceptive phenomenon, not necessarily pathological, involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. It is broadly utilized in psychological exploration by means of the test of Rorcharch.  

The concept of Hierophany was first introduced by Eliade to describe the experience of making aware of the existence of the holy when manifested through everyday objects in our usual environment (profane), sacralising them.

In Bustamante (8) we introduced the psychological phenomenon of Apophenia, a term initially coined by Klaus Conrad in 1958 to describe the experience of finding patterns or connections in otherwise random or meaningless data.

Later, in Bustamante (9) we went ahead and introduced what we called the PAH Triad: “Recent studies indicate the probable influence of the psychological phenomena Pareidolia, Apophenia and Hierophany (PAH triad) over the sacralization of landscape elements and natural phenomena, in diverse cultures across the world. PAH seems to be present in the origin of the religions, and its presence in archaeological sites can be traced as far back as to 3 million years ago.

The evidence for the existence of the PAH relation in diverse latitudes and cultures, seems to be an indicative for the possible ubiquity of the phenomenon in space and time. It can be understood as a psychological tool that may have allowed arrange the chaos and make the world intelligible for our ancestors”.

Also contained in this article was the concept of Mimetolith (Greek mimetes (an imitator) and litho (stone)), a term coined in 1989 by Dietrich, and later used by Thomas Orzo Mac Adoo that is, a.a natural topographic feature, rock outcrop, rock specimen, mineral specimen, or loose stone the shape of which resembles something else – such as a real or fancied animal, plant, manufactured item, or part(s) of itb. a topographic feature, rock outcrop, rock specimen, mineral specimen, or loose stone, the surface pattern of which resembles the elements described before c. a topographic feature (et alia) with any combination of shape and pattern that resembles the previously described.

The PAH method was applied for the first time to an archaeological context belonging to a non-South American culture in Bustamante et al (11) and Bustamante et al (12), both being a condensed and full versions, respectively, of the study of the origins of the Chinese culture and the relation of myth and geography as contained in the legends.

Those articles stated the following: “Applying two methodological tools of the Entorno Archaeology - Psychological and Geographical Entorno-, may allow to understand the process that probably led the Pleistocene humans to sacralise rocks -Mimetoliths- and objects -Mimetomorphs- with natural forms that resembled animals or human beings, in increasing scale, from small rocks, big rocks, mountains and Mountainous ranges, in the early Chinese culture, where we have found that three mythological characters: Pan-Gu (), Fu-Xi (伏羲) and Shen-Nong (), probably were sacralised mountains. Mimesis, by the psychological phenomena of Pareidolia, Apophenia and Hierophany (The PAH triad), might explain the many instances when humans between Pleistocene and early Chinese culture attributed religious significance or extraordinary connections to ordinary imagery and subjects. On the other hand, Mimetoliths and Mimetomorphs might contribute to explain the origins of Palaeoart, animism and religion”.

On this paper we will formulate and try to answer the question:

Does the increase in human brain capacity explain the development of art, religion, animism, shamanism, navigation, astronomy and science, or are the bases for this activities pre-human?

In order to formulate an accurate answer, it is not enough to study human beings and their cultural manifestations, since it is a relatively younger species on the planet. The antecedents presented from biology, palaeontology, entomology and other disciplines suggest that the foundation for the development of activities, typically identified as purely human, are inherent to the biology of living beings.

The recent Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness saysThe absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along withthe capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates”. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf. This statement opens a new and huge research field (1).


1. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes.


2. Study Overview

The following are descriptions of: 2.1 Human activities apparently product of our brain and cultural development. 2.2 Similar activities carried out by other living beings, many of them without a brain. In our view, this may well indicate that it is not in the size or complexity of the brain that matters in the search for answers, but the interaction of living organisms with their environment. This leads to the question: to what extent does social relations of individuals (human or nonhuman) with their natural and social environment may have contributed to this development?

Although the current degree of development in science still does not allow us to answer this question fully, the evidence presented in this article attempts to open a path for future research.

2.1 Human Activities
Human origins

Although we have no complete knowledge of the place and time of origin of each human cultural manifestation, new discoveries show an increasingly earlier birth and point to a potential African origin. The development of new research and interpretation techniques should put a special emphasis on the investigation of this continent.

“DNA research demonstrates that Homo sapiens emerged in Africa 100,000 years ago (overlapping and replacing Neanderthals). After 50,000 BCE, African migrants walked or sailed to every continent of the world” Chiavola (13).

In the abstract of a recent paper Poznik et al (14) reads the following: “We identify ancient phylogenetic structure within African halo groups and resolve a long-standing ambiguity deep within the tree. Applying equivalent methodologies to the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial genome, we estimate the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the Y chromosome to be 120 to 156 thousand years and the mitochondrial genome TMRCA to be 99 to 148 thousand years. Our findings suggest that, contrary to previous claims, male lineages do not coalesce significantly more recently than female lineages”. The study found “Adam” humankind’s male ancestor, is older than genetic “Eve”.

According to Kishore, at Sanz p.6 (15) Africa “contains a record of our ancestors over the past 6-8 millions years”.

Since then, brain matter in humans has significantly increased, as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Human brain development from present to 10 Mybp.

About this, Sanz (15) states that “Africa has the biggest archaeological sequence on the planet, thereby constituting the whole continent with Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). For every human being, Africa signifies a journey back through our own history and reconstruction of the itinerary. Our fossil heritage is the most common heritage of all humankind, and these pages invoke a spirit of reconnection. The earliest evidence of social behavior, of the origins of our coexistence habits, of language and symbolic thought are all there…” (p. 229)

Human Cultural Manifestations

What follows is a brief summary, not exhaustive, of some discoveries made in different latitudes. We are aware that the earliest dates of each event are still partial, and they may in the future tend to recede into the past, probably finding their origin deeper in Africa, to the hominids (>100 ky) and humans (<100 ky), which will be treated here as part of the same lineage.


Bednarik 2003 (16) describes several manifestations of Palaeoart such as the Tan-Tan Venus, Morocco -500,000 to 300,000 BP-,a modified manuport from a Middle Acheulian layer, the Female figurine, Berekhat Ram, Israel-470 000 to 230 000 BP- and others. The author makes a new review of Palaeoart (2006 - 17) and also analyses the origins of symbolism (2008 a -18).

Bednarik 2006 (16) discusses the probable origin Palaeoart in relation to the development of the human brain “Encephalization: The main conclusion of the previous lecture that the defining process in the evolution of primates and particularly humans is the dramatic expansion of the brain. This immediately raises the issue of the neurophysiology underpinning this remarkable encephalization that appears to be the defining factor in becoming human (…). A number of developments occurred perhaps a million years ago or soon after, which implies that symbolic systems began to have a significant impact on the lives of hominids. They led to profound cognitive and social changes permitting colonization across sea barriers, and to other forms of domesticating natural systems (…). Most certainly, by that time, around 900,000 or 800,000 years ago, language-like communication was used effectively. A few hundred thousand years later, symbolic objects began to be modified. Proto-figurines and engraved plaques appear, as well as beads and pendants (…)” while Bednarik 2008 b (19) deepens in the neurophysiological basis of palaeoart.

More recently, Bednarik 2013 (20) realize a comprehensive review of all currently known Pleistocene rock art of Africa.

Tools and Symbolic Artefacts

Twenty-eight specialized bone tools and engraved red ochre, dated 70,000 years ago were found in South Africa's Blombos Cave, Henshilwood et al 2001 (21), suggesting "modern" behaviours.“Taken together with recent finds from Klasies River, Katanda and other African Middle Stone Age sites the Blombos Cave evidence for formal bone working, deliberate engraving on ochre, production of finely made bifacial points and sophisticated subsistence strategies is turning the tide in favor of models positing behavioral modernity in Africa at a time far earlier than previously accepted”.

Also at Blombos Cave, Henshilwood et al (22) find a processing workshop where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced and stored in two Haliotis midae (abalone) shells 100,000 years ago.

On the same path, Henshilwood (23) analyses early manifestations of human industry in southern Africa ”two remarkable techno-traditions in the prehistory of southern Africa, the c. 75–71 ka Still Bay and the c. 65–59 ka Howiesons Poort. Technologies such as heat treatment of lithic materials, pressure flaking of stone points, manufacture of complex armatures including the bow and arrow, and the production of symbolic artefacts including shell beads and engraved ochre, bone and ostrich eggshell”.

Based on the phenomenon of pareidolia, we presented at the IFRAO Congress (Ariege 2010) the following figure showing the relation between the increase in the size of the brain and the archaeological finds belonging to this stages, summarizing the oldest traces of paleoart known to date. This list will most likely be modified and expanded in the coming years.


Figure 2. Above: Increased brain size, below: mimetoliths on a timeline, from 3 My to present.

The objects appearing in the figure are: (1) Makapansgat, 3 Million years BP. (2) GROß Pampau, 500,000 BP. (3) India Bhimbetka 500.000 to 200.000 BP. (4) Venus Tan-Tan, Morocco, 500,000 to 300,000 BP. (5) Berekhat Ram, Female figurine, Israel. 470 000 to 230 000 BP. (6) Erfoud, Morocco, 200 000 to 300 000 BP. (7) Hamburg-Wittenbergen c. 200,000 BP. Head. (8) Katonga River basin, Paleolithic phalangeal 'doll'.

These pieces are early evidence of pareidolia. Natural objects shaped like people or animals could be modified to increase the "likeness", giving origin to the first manifestations of Paleoart.


According to Winkelman (24), in Upper Paleolithic time (50,000 and 10,000 years b.p.) “Neurological approaches provide an important bridge between scientific and religious perspectives. This approach have, however, generally neglected the implications of a primordial form of spiritual healing-shamanism… … The Shamanic paradigm involves basic brain process, neurognostic structures, and innate brain modules. This approach revels that universals of shamanism such as animism, totemism, soul flight, animals spirits, and death-and-rebirth experiences reflect fundamental brain operations and structures of consciousness” (pag. 193).

Jean Clottes and Lewis-Williams (25) and Robert Ryan (26) agree that neurologically based shamanic practices were central to this cave art. Clottes and Lewis-Williams’s approach, based on neuro-psycology and ethnology, provides a basis for inferring Upper Paleolithic religious experiences and their social and mental context (197).

Archaeological records, particularly in Europe, suggest an explosive proliferation of such behavior some 45,000 years ago.

In South Africa's Blombos Cave, Henshilwood et al (27) found Twenty-eight specialized bone tools and engraved red ochre, dating back 70,000 years, suggesting "modern" behaviors.

On another site researchers made controversial discoveries. Inside the Rihno cave, Tsodilo Hills, Botswana, dated 70,000 years ago, they found a large rock that resembles a giant python, with natural features in the stone forming an eye and a mouth; we can describe it as a mimetolith.

The 6 by 2 meter stone was also scarred by several hundred human-made grooves that may have been meant to resemble reptile scales.

Also, more than a hundred brightly coloured projectile points appear to have been brought to the cave incomplete to be finished here. Some points were intentionally broken or burned, possibly as part of a ritual; they may have potentially been brought here from hundreds of kilometers away and intentionally burned at this site.

According Coulson et al (28) it is now possible to expand the list of possible traits that provide evidence for ritualized behavioral patterns into the late Pleistocene MSA. This has significant consequences both for the antiquity of human ritual and for the origin of complex cultural behaviors in Africa” (pág. 50).

The elongated rock, carved to enhance its resemblance to a snake, offers evidence of ritualistic or religious behavior 70,000 years ago in Africa, the earliest evidence (until now) of ritual performance, in what could be an early form of religion.

The presence in the cavern of a large rock, naturally shaped like a snake, allows us to associate the surge of this ritualistic behavior with the PAH triad:

  • First, Pareidolia would have permitted the ancient occupants of the site to associate the rock with the likeness of a snake. The act of ‘completing’ the figure by adding the scales may situate the origins of ‘art’ some 70.000 years ago, as it seeks to represent nature by enhancing the original features of the rock.

  • Then Apophenia would have led the to relate this ‘snake’ to a living entity, worthy of their prayers and offerings.

  • Finally, Hierophany would have played a role in the sacralisation of not only the rock, but also the cavern, turning it into a liminal space, a middle ground between the profane and sacred worlds.

In the past religion, mythology, and astrology were part of the same idea, as early cultures identified celestial objects with gods and spirits Krupp (29).According to animism, both celestial and terrestrial objects had aspirit. The cult to the figure of the serpent was well spread in ancient Africa, and among others, it was associated with the Milky Way. “This creature is visible in the milky way as a dark shadow…” Hambly, (30) “Some of the paired symbols, like the rainbow and the milky way, or the sea serpent and the rainbow serpent, clearly articulated the intimate bond between the realm of initiation on the one hand, and mythical time and space on the other”. Dederen, (31)

Dark spots in the sky still inspire visions of snakes among modern astronomers, as it is observed in the image of the“¿¡Snake on a Galactic Plane!” Nasa (32)

Astronomy and Navigation

All life on Earth, are subject to cycles related to astronomical events "From the origins of life all organisms undergo a cosmic rhythm immutable of periodicity, the Cosmo-climatic rhythm, that has come to permeate the central nervous system of all animal species. Sidereal cycle is dominating the life on Earth and is formed by the conjunction of the solar rhythm (365 days), the lunar rhythm (30 days) and the terrestrial rate (24 h). The latter is the engine of circadian or nictemeral rhythms and is the most important because it creates the day and night, the presence or absence of light, hours of activity and rest (sleep / wake) and ortostatism time-11 " Martínez-Carpio y Corominas (33).

Since the emergence of hominids, they were forced to move across vast areas and later find a way home. Therefore, navigation using landscape elements or stars as reference could be one of the primary manifestations of human cultural activities. In the beginning, it was land navigation, but then would have been applied to ocean navigation, requiring accurate knowledge of astronomy, as Polynesian navigation displays Bustamante (34).

As read in Bednarik (35) “seafating may have begun in Indonesia about a million years ago, leading to the hominid settlement of several islands during the late part of the Early Pleistocene” (abstract). Fullagar (36) also presented evidence for human occupation in northwestern Australia prior to 116,000+1~,000 years, with artistic activity inferred from ochre dating between 75,000 and 116,000 years, ground mudstone slightly later, and rock-engraving dating earlier than 58,000 years” p.771

If these authors stand correct, human beings have been able to navigate the oceans since very early stages. Current difficulties in dating these occurrences are presented in Owen (37).

In Bustamante Moyano (38), we proposed that “the Landscape we see is constituted by 50% land and 50% sky, therefore, both parts must be considered and studied in relation to the site... ...In trying to define a generic type of astronomical instruments and data recording methods our ancestors might have used, we come to the realization that Land and Sky are two parts of a 1:1 scale astronomical instrument (the largest and most accurate ever developed)... ... In trying to define a generic type of astronomical instruments and data recording methods our ancestors might have used, we come to the realization that Land and Sky are two parts of a scale 1:1 astronomical instrument (the largest and most accurate ever developed). Bustamante Moyano (39) Thus, we have come to define Pre-Columbian Astronomical Instruments as elements or set of elements intentionally arranged in the territory, aligned to one another or to natural topographic features, allowing accurate observations of the rise or set of stellar objects, its variations during the year and its apparent displacement. These instruments are composed by: Fix parts: centre, horizon, topographic features and markers (rocks, piers, buildings, gnomon). Movable parts: Stellar objects showing apparent and predictable cyclical movements, sun, moon, planets, stars and Milky Way, working as a Vernier scale or micrometer. Variable parts: cyclical phenomena that could be explained as a result of changes in the movable parts: day and night, seasons, biological variability and atmospheric weather”. p. 21.


Figure 3. Land (50%) and sky (50%) as an astronomical instrument.

This instrument has always been available to humans, only needing a watchful and clever observer to use it. For at least 100,000 years, homo sapiens has had the intelligence to do so. The evidence presented as follows, tend to show that this instrument has been in use since the beginnings of humankind. Bustamante and Moyano (38).

Origins of Science

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘scientific method’ as: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Astronomical observation is likely to be the first scientific activity practiced by humans towards the development of spatial navigation and calendar systems. This would have required empiric observation of cyclic phenomena, its measuring and the capacity to predict future events. As a result, they would have obtained a calendar, that is, a scientific instrument.

Any intelligent human being can use of this natural full-scaled astronomical instrument (Landscape: 50% land and 50% sky). Bustamante, Moyano and Bustamante (40).

Figure 4 summarizes a timeline of several milestones in the development of human culture. This will most certainly in the future, as new discoveries appear.


Figure 4. Summary of milestones in the development of human culture.

2.2 Similar Activities Among Living Beings

Human Culture and science have achieved enormous progress in 100.00 years. Everything we have learned and developed is registered in books and other data storage media. Nevertheless, when a scientist seeks to learn something new, what we already know only serves as background, and in order to achieve a new point of view and development, they must return to the source, that is, nature, as many generations before us did.

Evidence shows that human beings have benefited from pre-human capacities, turning them into what can be perceived as part of human culture.

  • Communication It may seem as if humans invented codes to converse among individuals (language) and long distance communication. But chemical, acoustic, electromagnetic and visual communications are inherent to life, among individuals belonging to the same species. Schaerfer and Ruxton 2011(41) examine the most diverse aspects of communication, from its genetic bases. “1.1 Communication: Communication is a ubiquitous characteristic of life. It occurs on every organizational level, from communication of cell organelles within cells to communication between organisms of the same or of different species. The ubiquity of communication demonstrates its key role in the organization of life”. But also among individual from different species “1.3 Plant – animal communication: The diversity of plant colours and odours probably fascinated humans long before the history of writing and long before the start of modern science. It seems intuitively convincing that immobile plants can increase their fitness by attracting (and thereby communicating with) the animals thy depend on for dispersal of pollen and seeds. Pollinators and seed dispersers in turn can forage more effectively – i. e., find nutritional flowers and fruits more quickly- if plant colours and odours are matched to their sensory abilities”.

  • Intercell Communication According to Fels (42),“Information transfer is a fundamental of life… …cells (ciliate Paramecium caudatum) can have an influence on other cells even when separated with a glass barrier, thereby disabling molecule diffusion through the cell-containing medium”.

  • Midwives amoebae primitive communication –cooperation Organisms deemed as very ‘primitive’, brainless even, carry out actions that could easily be described as surprisingly human. Biron et al (43) describe: “Asexual cells are normally able to reproduce entirely by themselves. But we have discovered that in about one-third of the dividing cells of Entamoeba invadens contraction of the cleavage furrow1 may stop before separation is complete. We show here that the connected daughter cells overcome this problem by calling upon a neighbouring amoeba to help them achieve the final stage of division. The 'midwife' cell is chemotactically recruited for this mechanical intervention in what is a surprising example of primitive cooperation”

Figure 5. Amoebae Midwives.

This action appears to implicate individual consciousness, recognition of others, communication, experience, empathy, decision-making capacity and cooperation among brainless organisms.


In Bustamante (44) related to the origin of sacralization of certain features of the landscape, we have said that “The apparently sacred character of some archaeological places could be explained in part, with: a) The psychological phenomenon known as Hierophany, generally associated to the religious experiences.  b) The psychological phenomenon - perceptive, not necessarily pathological, called Pareidolia. It utilized for example in the psychological exploration (test of Rorschach)… …Interpretation necessarily has to attend the Entorno and consider the psychological influences that this has in the present observer and could have in the ancient observer… …The Entorno-human psychology relation, would be able to contribute trails to endow the sense to these works and its relations”. 

In Bustamante (45), we stated that Pareidolia is likely to be present in primates, but also in use by computer systems such as facial recognition software’s.

Primates, Humans y Computers: Recognising Faces

In the article A Cortical Region Consisting Entirely of Face-Selective Cells, Tsao et al, from experiments with primates and using a magnetic resonance scanner, the authors demonstrate that the stimulus caused by the faces activates certain groups of cells in three regions of the temporal lobe, and that these cells are also activated by objects that remotely resemble faces.

In the Abstract, they write: Face perception is a skill crucial to primates…. …Almost all (97%) of the visually responsive neurons in this region were strongly face selective, indicating that a dedicated cortical area exists to support face processing in the macaque.” Tsao et al (46).

Later, one of their conclusions is “Why is it important that the brain contains an area consisting entirely of face-selective cells? First, this indicates that the brain uses a specialized region to process faces”…

Pareidolia seems to be a capacity inherent to all living beings, as it allows them the recognition of specific features in order to distinguish them in their environment. Pareidolia is not only visual, as it can extend to other senses, Bustamante (47) / PAH Beyond visual shapes, and is part of the communication inter and intra species.

Contemporary evidence shows that bees are able to identify human faces. According to Avarguès-Weber et al (48) “honeybees can distinguish face-like configurations… …bees succeeded in discriminating both face-like and non-face-like stimuli and categorized appropriately novel stimuli in these two classes... …Bees looked for a specific configuration in which each feature had to be located in an appropriate spatial relationship with respect to the others, thus showing sensitivity for first-order relationships between features. Although faces are biologically irrelevant stimuli for bees, the fact that they were able to integrate visual features into complex representations suggests that face-like stimulus categorization can occur even in the absence of brain regions specialized in face processing”(abstract).

On an article published first in summary Bustamante (49), and then complete Bustamante (50), we suggest that “Mimesis, by the psychological phenomena of Pareidolia, Apophenia and Hierophany (The PAH triad), might explain the many instances when humans between Pleistocene and early chinese culture attributed religious significance or extraordinary connections to ordinary imagery and subjects. On the other hand, Mimetoliths and Mimetomorphs might contribute to explain the origins of Palaeoart, animism and religion”. On the article we reintroduce the affirmations of Tsao et al (2006). In our view,his conclusions indicate that our primate ancestors were in condition of recognize mimetoliths.

Also on these articles, we attest that pareidolia seems to be a phenomenon inherent to living beings, because everyone needs to have a clear image of their environment, including the creatures and objects contained in it.


Figure 6. Animals and pareidolia

We later added that “Pareidolia does not depend on the size of the brain. Hallow to explain a) perceptual errors (false recognition), b) the mimicking (To resemble closely; simulate), c) The camouflage (concealment by some means that alters or obscures the appearance)”.

The Emblematic Case of Bees

According to Danforth et al (51), bees, the largest (>16,000 species) and most important radiation of pollinating insects, originated in early to mid-Cretaceous, roughly in synchrony with the angiosperms (flowering plants).

Poinar and Danforth (52) describe “a bee fossil [Melittosphex burmensis (new species), Melittosphecidae (new family)] from Early Cretaceous Burmese amber (~100 million years before the present)”.

Four years later, Danforth Bryan and George Poinar Jr. (53), say “This specimen remains the earliest body-fossil evidence that pollen-collecting Apoidea (bees) were present approximately 20 million years after the origin of the eudicots (120 Ma), the major angiosperm lineage with extensive reliance on bee pollination”.

On the brain capacity of bees, Giurfa (54) says the brain of a honeybee in a 1 mm3 contains only 960 000 neurons, however bees exhibit learning abilities that have been traditionally ascribed to arestricted portion of vertebrates

Duncan (55) states, “Although some social bees show the most complex behaviour of any invertebrate animals… p. 19. Related to navigation, he describes “many insects, including honeybees, have the ability to go in a straight line by keeping the sun in a particular direction as they move. This is called sun compass movement. Having a time sense, bees can use the sun for orientation throughout the day even thought it seems to move across the sky”. P.149

“In Apis, communications concerning the distance and direction to food sources is in part means of the famous dances first elucidated by Karl von Frisch (1976a)”… … “The mechanism serves not only to alert or recruit potential foragers and get these new foragers to food supplies that have been discovered by other members of colony, but also serves to get them there in approximately the right numbers to exploit those supplies (Nuñez, 1971)”. p. 159

Kraft et al (56) describes navigation using polarized-light cues, while Hsu and Li (57) referenced Magnetoreception in Honeybees, and later, Menzel et al (58) described Honeybees navigation according to a map-like spatial memory

In 2008, Su et al (59) reported effective symbolic communication between two honeybee species and the establishment of a mixed-species honeybee colony, that saw individuals of Asiatic bee Apis cerana cerana (Acc) and European bee Apis mellifera ligustica (Aml) cohabiting. “Acc foragers could decode the dances of Aml to successfully locate an indicated food source... (Abstract). This points to possible social learning between the two honeybee species, and the existence of a learning component in the honeybee dance language.

Later, Dyer (60) elaborates “honeybees can learn to use non-elemental processing, including configural mechanisms and rule learning, and can access top-down information to enhance learning of sophisticated, novel visual tasks. Honeybees can learn delayed-matching-to-sample tasks and the rules governing this decision making, and even transfer learned rules between different sensory modalities. Finally, bees can learn complex categorization tasks and display numerical processing abilities for numbers up to and including four. Taken together, this evidence suggests that bees do have a capacity for sophisticated visual behaviors that fit a definition for cognition, and thus simple elemental models of bee vision need to take account of how a variety of factors may influence the type of results one may gain from animal behavior experiments” (summary) (black letters are ours).

In terms of the effectiveness of the communication methods used by bees, Giurfa et al (61) noted that “honeybees can interpolate visual information, exhibit associative recall, categorize visual information and learn contextual information... …Can form 'sameness' and 'difference' concepts. They learn to solve 'delayed matching-to-sample' tasks, in which they are required to respond to a matching stimulus, and 'delayed non-matching-to-sample' tasks, in which they are required to respond to a different stimulus; they can also transfer the learned rules to new stimuli of the same or a different sensory modality. Thus, not only can bees learn specific objects and their physical parameters, but they can also master abstract inter-relationships, such as sameness and difference” (Abstract).

The papers sampled show that, despite bees having a small body and a miniscule brain, they are a great example of observed social behavior and highly complex relations with their social and natural environment.

Further more, Dyer et al (62) say bees recognize human faces, by means of species-specific neural processing, “bees discriminated the target face from a similar distractor with greater than 80% accuracy. When novel distractors were used, bees also demonstrated a high level of choices for the target face, indicating ability for face recognition (Abstract).

3. Discussion


In the case of macaques, it has been observed the ability to identify human faces, that is, recognize specific forms with the psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia. This led us to conclude in Bustamante (63) that our primate ancestors, based on their cerebral development, might have also been able to recognize faces and recognize shapes resembling them in rocks and other natural objects, as seen in Makapangast.

Evidence shows that bees may also have the ability to experience pareidolia, showing signs of both recognition and false recognition of familiar images. So the phenomenon of pareidolia, which is generally attributed only to animals with a complex brain, seems to arise at least 100 million years ago, and also be present in animals with small brains.

Figure 7 shows a timeline that summarizes the milestones we have found so far associated with the phenomenon of pareidolia.

Figure 7. Milestones associated to Pareidolia.

DNA and the recording of life

It is possible that, in order to answer the questions of ‘why animals and humans show similar behavior when presented with stimuli from their environments’, we might have to look right into the frontier that separates living beings from inert matter.

“DNA, abbreviation of deoxyribonucleic acid, is an organic chemical of complex molecular structure that is found in all prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and in many viruses. DNA codes genetic information for the transmission of inherited traits”. (64)

DNA encodes the genetic instructions necessary for the development and functioning of many viruses and all known living organisms. Along with RNA and proteins, DNA is one of the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. According Menzel (65) “We carry our ancestors' genes within us; they define the surroundings in which body and spirit develop” P. 454.

Navigation in nature

Navigation appears to be a fundamental activity in the life of animals, regardless of their size and development. While on the move, they all need to somehow plan and record the routes they follow and the references used, for both space and time, are the same humans recognise: astronomy and magnetism.

On this matter, Wehner (66) examined the theories and mechanisms relative to animal navigation. A good example of this is that, during seasonal migrations, Humpback whales, span distances greater than 6500 km of open ocean, often with a precision better than 1° using magnetic and solar orientation and other unknown migratory mechanisms, Horton et al (67).

On a smaller scale, the Melophorus Bagoti Ants use the panoramic skyline as a visual cue during navigation deriving information from a broad range of azimuthal directions rather than a small set of the most prominent features graham and Ken (68).

Examples also can be seen in birds. Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca), and blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) use a time-independent star compass based on learned geometrical star configurations to pinpoint the rotational point of the starry sky (north)” Mouritsen and Larsen (69), while neuronal responses in the pigeon’s brainstem show how single cells encode magnetic field direction, intensity, and polarity; “qualities that are necessary to derive an internal model representing directional heading and geosurface location. The findings demonstrate that there is a neural substrate for a vertebrate magnetic sense”. Wu and Dickman (70)

Dung Beetle: Astronomer

Byrne et al (71) say, “Ball rolling by dung beetles is considered to be a derived behavior that evolved under pressure for space, and from competitors at the dung pat. Straight-line orientation away from the pat using a celestial cue should be the most successful rolling strategy to move dung to an unknown burial site”… …”Beetles were found to consistently orientate along a chosen route, usually in the direction of the sun” (abstract).

Dacke et al (72) and Dacke et al (73) also explore the doings of this species: “Dung beetles are known to use celestial compass cues such as the sun, the moon and the pattern of polarised light formed around these light sources to roll their balls of dung along straight paths...”

“When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds, seals, and humans are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile”… …“Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions”...

Until a few years ago no one would have suspected that a small beetle with -for us at least- a rather unpleasant occupation, could be an expert navigator by exclusively using stellar objects as a reference to get around.

Figure 8. (a) Dung beetle and the Milky Way, (b) Shows the displacements of a beetle with visible starry sky, (c) Shows trajectories with occluded Starry sky. Made based on Current Biology, Dacke et al.

But the Dung beetles not the smallest navigator. The observed behaviour of an unicellular organisms as the Plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum (large cell, visible by unaided eye), has shown that when is inoculated in a maze's peripheral channel and an oat flake (food) in a the maze's central chamber the plasmodium grows toward target oat flake and connects the flake with the site of original inoculation with a pronounced protoplasmic tube. The protoplasmic tube represents a path in the maze. The plasmodium solves maze in one pass…”
Adamatzky (74)


Figure 9: Experimental maze-solving with plasmodium. a) Plasmodium. b) Scanned image o
f the experimental maze, protoplasmic tubes are yellow (light gray). (c) Scheme of plasmodium propagation, the arrows symbolize velocity vectors of propagating active zone.


In his work De natura deorum (About the Nature of Gods), Cicero (75) offers the first etymological meaning of the word religion «72 … Those who take interest in all the things related to the cult, retake them and carefully read them, are called ‘religious’ from rereading». («72 …Qui autem omnia quae ad cultum deorum pertinerent diligenter retractarent et tamquam relegerent <hi>2 sunt dicti religiosi ex relegendo» p. 192.)

Scholars are divided as to whether this etymology is correct or whether religion is connected with ligare, as Cicero himself suggests elsewhere by his phrases religione obstringere impedire, solvi. p. 192.

Religious Sentiment

Organizations and buildings are concrete expressions of religiosity, but this arises from the numinous experience called "abstract religious sentiment", impossible to perceive at first glance. For example, to seeing a man sitting quietly, with his eyes closed and shaded by a tree, you might think that it is a weary traveler who enjoys the shade. But it could also be an ascetic in deep meditation.

Mircea Eliade proposes the term hierophany as the perception of the sacred, where the impulse or religious sentiment is characterized by a feeling of smallness compared to the "natural forces" or the "greatness of creation", or the inability to cover or explain "reality" based simply on the 5 senses. The hierophany is an intimate, individual experience that cannot be perceived by an external observer.

Could It be possible that an ameba, a bee, or an animal posses a kind of religious sentiment, or a notion of a connection to something bigger than themselves? How could we know if a unicellular being, and insect or an animal are experiencing a hierophany? At the moment, it is impossible to know it, therefore, we cannot deny it either. Once formulated the question, we can begin developing methods to answer it.

In the case of bees, it is possible that among the members of the hive the there is a relationship that could be assimilated to the "idolatry" with the "Queen Bee", as for example in the case of the cult of Buddha or Christ in the case of religions based on the sacredness of a "human-originally spiritual leader that was later deified" or on a smaller scale, the cult of saints among Catholics.

Organized religion, with its respective cults, temples and churches, is a recent phenomenon in the history of mankind. Our first steps as primates took place 10 million years ago, but the first organized worship, yet discovered, dates back 75,000 years at Tsodilo Hills, South Africa, while the first great temples built to fulfill religious functions appear around 11,500 BC, being an example Göbekli Tepe, in modern day Turkey.

Up until some 3,500 years ago, we observe rather animistic religions, where gods were tangible; the sun, the moon, landscape features, rocks and other. Monotheism first appears in Egypt, in the form of the cult of Akhenaten, around 1,300BC. In a short period, humans went from the pareidolic vision of the serpent in Tsodilo hills (75 ky), to the explicit man-made representation sculpted in Göbekli Tepe (11.5 ky).

Subjective experiences traditionally categorized as spiritual or religious may have neurological and evolutionary bases, as propose by neurotheology. Newberg 2010 (76).

DNA: The Writings of Nature

Our record systems such as graphics (rock art), writing, even magnetic information storage systems, have their most sophisticated model in DNA, where, for example, the nucleus of a cell -invisible to the naked eye- of any living being contains all the information necessary to reproduce accurately the individual from which it came.

Reproductive cloning, known as "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT), can to create animals that are genetically identical. “The successful production of viable progeny following adult somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) provides exciting new opportunities for basic research for investigating early embryogenesis, for the propagation of valuable or endangered animals, for the production of genetically engineered animals, and possibly for developing therapeutically valuable stem cells. Latham Keith (77).

This information can also be ‘read’ backwards. On this regard, Horner and Gorman (78) describe how to de-evolve a chicken into a dinosaur.

New researches show that, like a hard drive, DNA stores datathat can later be read, The development of new technologies in both DNA synthesis and sequencing make DNA an increasingly feasible digital storage medium. We developed a strategy to encode arbitrary digital information in DNA, wrote a 5.27-megabit book using DNA microchips, and read the book by using next-generation DNA sequencing”. Church et al (79)

Paleoclimatology is currently studying the composition of atmospheric gases that have been trapped in ice cores for hundreds of thousands of years Halley (80). As future research techniques become ever more sophisticated, something similar could be developed and applied in the study of DNA, and maybe uncover clues that will help us find the source human activities and technologies.

Intelligence in Nature

Acording Merrian- Webster dictionary (81), intelligence is(1): the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also: the skilled use of reason (2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

In (3) The capacity to navigate a maze, Trewavas (82) say “One of the hallmarks of intelligent behavior in the laboratory is the capacity of animals to run successfully through mazes and to receive an eventual reward. But the capacity of plants to grow through an environmental maze is not commonly assumed to represent intelligent behaviour and attracts little attention. Individual branches growing through gaps towards sources of light are an obvious example. Numerous studies on rhizomes suggest that higher plants must be able to construct a threedimensional perspective of their local space and optimize their growth patterns to exploit resources, thus receiving rewards for successful behaviour. To any wild plant the environment represents a continual maze that must be successfully navigated”… …Both plants and animals use exploratory behaviour to enhance the chances of survival by optimizing the gathering of food resources, thus maximizing both the potentials for reproduction and the selfish passage of genes onto the next generation.

About the possibility that in the past the humans may have perceived intelligence in animal or plants, Jeremy Narbi (83), in his book ‘The Cosmic Serpent’, presented the hypothesis that shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access in their visions to information related to DNA, which they call “animate essences” or “spirits”.

In his second book ‘Intelligence in Nature’, Narby (84)presents evidence that independent intelligence is not unique to humanity alone. Diverse organisms such as bacteria, plants, animals and other forms of life, display an uncanny penchant for self-deterministic decisions, patterns and actions. About the work of Giurfa with bees, Narby comments “Martin Giurfa, the man behind this experiment, said the more we understand how animals make decisions and learn, the more we have to admit that they do not act mechanically. Bees have minds of their own, he said, and they are capable of “extracting the logical structure of the world”.

Living Beings and Entorno (surrounding)

Varela, Maturana, and Uribe (85) define living beings (then human beings) as autopoietic, which means aclosed system capable of creating itself.

Mithen (86) asks “Why ask an archaeologist about the human mind?”, our answer “We can only ever understand the present by knowing the past. Archaeology may therefore not only be able to contribute, it may hold the key to an understanding of the modern mind.” (p. 10). But of course, archaeology alone cannot solve the mystery.

Starting from an ancestor of 6 million years, Mithen explained the “architecture” and evolution of the mind using the metaphor of a cathedral with multiple stages of development, starting with a main area and adding on chapels. He described general intelligence as the nave of a cathedral and specialized intelligences as chapels built around. The same author declares that the origins of art, religion and science, are a product of an increasing integration among the specialized modules with major advances from 60,000 to 30,000 years ago, including manufacture of bone artefacts, the placing of animal parts into human burials, and the emergence of cave paintings.

The figure below generally describes the current trends regarding the development of the human mind: a) The “Standard Social Sience “ model, b) The Evolutionary Psichology model (pag. 9).

Figure 10. (a) According to psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, social scientists tend to regard
the mind as a content–free, general-purpose learning mechanism. At birth the mind is a “blank slate” an
d our knowledge of the world and the manner in which we think is acquired from our culture. In this view
of the mind, our biology plays a limited role of the mind; our biology plays a limited role in the nature of
our minds. (b) Evolutionary psychologists argue that our biological makeup as a major influence over the
way we think. They believe that the mind is constituted by a series of specialized cognitive processes; each dedicated to a specific type of behaviour-like the blades of a Swiss army knife. At birth these already
contain a substantial amount of knowledge about the world.

Consistent with the Archaeology of the Entorno, in order to understand the origin and development of the activities of an individual or group of individuals, one must analyze the characteristics of the study subjects, but also the structure of relationships with their natural and/or social environment.

In figure 11 we propose a scheme of relations between an individual (human or not) with its environment (social and natural). While pareidolia can recognize images (with data from different senses), Apophenia allows relations to be established between various stimuli and perceptions, and finally, Hierophany permits setting a global order of “Totality”, which could be identified as religious sentiment.


Figure 11. Relation established between an individual and its social and natural environments.
Figure 12. (a) Relation: individual/entorno (surrounding)
(b) Relation: individual/cultural and natural entorno (surrounding)

Figure 12 (a) shows the relation of the individual (genetically programmed - DNA) with its environment: using sensors it recognizes, while the brain (or other body) processes information and through actuators performs actions. Feedback learning allows among others. (b) shows the relation of various individuals with their natural and cultural environment. In this regard, the individual creates his experience and from it cultivates new relations or actions, and also develops culture.

DNA contains all the learning and strategies used by living things from the beginning to survive and thrive through cooperation with individuals of the same and different species, in the changing environment of planet earth. This, combined with the increased brain capacity and the development of new physical skills such as walking upright, moving the thumb and others, form a set of conditions that permit the development of specific practices associated, so far, only to humans. Thus, simply increasing brainpower or the size of it, does not seem sufficient to explain cultural development.

In words of Menzel (87) “Rather similar environmental demands are made of small and big brains. Are different neural strategies implemented in small and big brains to solve similar problems? I do not believe so, and in particular, I do not consider small brains to be less flexible and less quick to adapt”… …”If an animal species has an extended lifespan (in the case of the bee, the colony's lifespan is the deciding factor), and the individual animals are exposed to a changing environment, their nervous system will develop strategies to cope with these changes effectively, irrespective of the absolute size of its brain. This does not mean that the neural and cellular mechanisms are the same in small and big brains, but the mechanisms should be related to each other because of common phylogenetic histories”… …“For the reader who has never worked with bees, my opinion about the irrelevance of absolute brain size will sound strange and unconvincing. I can only recommend studying and watching these wonderful animals and getting caught up in their impressive behavior”. P. 480.

According to Trewas 2003 (88) “integration of many different environmental influences to produce a final integrated response is a particular feature of the intelligent animal”.((1)The use of statistics to simplify complex individual behaviour).

In the book “Swarm Intelligence” Kennedy and Eberhart (89) say in the Assertions:

  • Mind is social.
  • Mind is not an internal, private thing or process, derive from the interactions of individuals in a social world.
  • Human intelligence results from social interaction.
  • Culture and cognition are inseparable consequences of human sociality.
  • Particle swarms are a useful computational intelligence (soft computing) methodology.
  • Particle swarm optimization is an extension of, and potentially important new incarnation of, cellular automata.

Taking these assertions as a foundation, and based on the evidence presented in this article, we point out our own assertions applicable to carbon-based organisms (living beings) and silicon-based entities:

  • Mind is “PART NATURAL” (heritage), PART PRIVATE “individual experience) and PART NATURAL INTERACTION” and “PART SOCIAL INTERACTION”.
  • Mind is not “ONLY” an internal, private thing or process derives from the interactions of individuals in a “NATURAL and SOCIAL” world.
  • Cognition are inseparable consequences of “INTERACTION WITH NATURE” and “SOCIAL INTERACTION”.

Both Carbon-based organisms and silicon-based autonomous entities are similar but not the same; silicon-based are non-autopoietic entities.

Although there is swarm intelligence, not all individuals live in swarms. Individuals who live independently interact with their environment, with others of their species, with individuals of other species and still develop their own survival strategies.

Individual Intelligence/swarm intelligence, are essentially two categories of the same phenomenon, that is, "intelligence".


4. Conclusions

In order to fully understand the origins of human development (language, art, science, religion, etc), we must look to the past, to the very origins of life.

When we contemplate the past, the most up-to date technology today seems to be simply imitating the same basic methods we have inherited from nature; a sort of survival kit.

Human development grounds its bases on genetics and the heritage we receive from the organisms that inhabited and habit the planet. Intelligence is not something primordially human.

Evidence shows that for over 100My, bees have used a very sophisticated method to find food and communicate others the exact location of it. This method is based on astronomy, and similar examples can be found among different species, hinting a possible scientific knowledge being transmitted. The systematic exercise of observation, empirical practice, repetition, communication of information to their peers, who will go on to do their own empirical practice, appears to imply that it is an empirical science, where the hypothesis is replaced by the specific need to achieve a certain goal. If the goal is achieved, the method is validated, if it fails, it will try a new one. The astronomic instrument used by humans, is the same used by all living beings, that is, sky and land.

From the very first forms of life on the planet, until the latest and most developed, we all still share DNA as the fundamental component of life, as well as the same physics laws and the same environment. Imbedded in our genes are all the strategies developed over the eons in order to live and thrive in our common environment. So the DNA is the most extensive library of which we have the oldest "Hard Drive" which stores the record of our life experience.

The evidence shows that our genetic programming, alongside the development of new motor skills, increased brainpower, and a progressively complex interaction with our social and natural environment, have all contributed to the structured development of what we refer to as "human culture".

In the future, and as research techniques become more sophisticated, we will be able to delve into the secrets of DNA, to seek answers about the origin of human activities and technologies through "DNArcheology", opening a whole new field for research, that will permit to contrast current paradigms with new findings.


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Cómo citar este artículo:

Bustamante Diaz, Patricio. Possible biological basis for the origin of art, language,
religion and science
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