Journal of Cognitive Historiography https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH <p><em><span lang="EN-US">The Journal of Cognitive Historiography</span></em>&nbsp;is the first peer-reviewed publication for research concerned with the interactions between history, historiography, and/or archaeology and cognitive theories.</p> Equinox Publishing Ltd. en-US Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2051-9672 Homo anxius, or How Fear and Anxiety Conquered the Social World https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/19349 <p>The article offers an extended review, counterpointed by a critical commentary, of two recent and outstanding volumes, Turner et al.’s The Emergence and Evolution of Religion (2018) and Sanderson’s Religious Evolution and the Axial Age (2018). Both books are eminently interdisciplinary in their scope: the first displays a distinctive deep-historical and neurosociological attention to the evolution of negative emotions and inter-group competition, while the latter focuses on the contribution of world transcendent religions to help human beings cope with new and challenging biosocial conditions derived from ultrasociality. While the two volumes gain unprecedented multidisciplinary width, they also tend to lose intra-disciplinary depth. However, and for all their differences, they both represent the vanguard of a renewed qualitative, scientific, and interdisciplinary study of the history of religion(s) through cognitive historiography. This contribution presents the main theses of both books, highlights their strengths, and provides a comprehensive discussion of their epistemological and methodological shortcomings.</p> Leonardo Ambasciano Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 130–156 130–156 10.1558/jch.19349 Homines Emotionales and Religion as an Evolutionary Exaptation https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/19353 <p>This article offers a critical reply to Leonardo Ambasciano’s commentary on our volume (Turner et al. 2018) available in this same issue of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography.</p> Anders Klostergaard Petersen Jonathan H. Turner Armin W. Geertz Alexandra Maryanski Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 157–171 157–171 10.1558/jch.19353 Book Reviewers and Their Victims https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/19354 <p>The article offers a rebuttal to Ambasciano’s commentary on my book Religious Evolution and the Axial Age (Sanderson 2018) included in this same issue of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography. Ambasciano gets much of my overall argument right, but on many specifics misunderstands or misrepresents me and others. One of his most consequential misrepresentations is his charge that I offer a kind of panadaptationism. I am an adaptationist, but certainly not a panadaptationist. I freely concede that there are elements of religion that cannot be regarded as adaptations. Connected to this point, Ambasciano contends that adaptationism is not the default starting point for evolutionary analysis and recommends instead the evolutionism of Stephen Jay Gould – the “gold standard” of evolutionary theory, Ambasciano believes—which holds that most evolutionary change consists of constrained by-products. But Ambasciano fails to recognize that Gould is an odd-man-out among evolutionists, most of whom emphasize natural selection and adaptation.</p> Stephen K. Sanderson Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 172–179 172–179 10.1558/jch.19354 The Unfulfilled Promise of Cross-Cultural, Interdisciplinary Ancient History https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21150 <p>This commentary focuses on G.E.R. Lloyd’s latest work, Ambivalences of Rationality (2018). The book is summarized chapter by chapter. Criticisms are presented with special attention to Lloyd’s unusual wealth of research from developmental psychology, cross-cultural psychology, anthropology, experimental linguistics and cognitive science. The commentary concludes that Lloyd has done a disservice to cited researchers in the mind sciences who investigate cross-cultural differences.</p> Ryan Nichols Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2021-11-26 2021-11-26 6 1-2 180–190 180–190 10.1558/jch.39458 A Reply to Nichols’ “The Unfulfilled Promise of Cross-Cultural, Interdisciplinary Ancient History” https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/19549 <p>A critical reply to Ryan Nichols’ commentary on my book The Ambivalences of Rationality: Ancient and Modern Cross-Cultural Explorations (2018) published in this issue of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography.</p> G. E. R. Lloyd Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 191–193 191–193 10.1558/jch.19549 Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21161 <p>Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales, composed in the 2nd century CE, is considered a unique literary work, in which the author claimed to have recorded the dreams he had received from Asclepius over a long period of time. Modern historians explore the value of the Sacred Tales both as a literary work and as a personal oneiric record of actual dreaming experiences. In this article, I take into account the modern insights offered by the embodied human cognition paradigm in order explore the possible long-term influence and repercussions of the Sacred Tales on the readers’ imagination and dreaming experiences. In particular, I suggest that Aristides’ oneiric descriptions would have been meta-represented in the readers’ minds upon reading the text, priming specific images, representations, mental, and emotional states as well as expectations about potential divine revelations during the ritual of incubation. Later, those readers who would find themselves in similar bodily, mental, and emotional conditions like the ones experienced and described by Aristides, could have implicitly used the primed representations for meta-representing a personal epiphany of Asclepius. Thereby, the Sacred Tales would have provided the raw material to feed the readers’ imaginative simulations and to elicit a personally meaningful divine revelation.</p> Olympia Panagiotidou Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 22–40 22–40 10.1558/jch.33225 Writing as Thinking in Paul’s Letters https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21162 <p>This article uses findings from cognitive sciences and neuroscience to detail the unique brain processes that stem from writing texts by hand. Such findings are described and then applied to the case of the Christian apostle Paul, whose letters – penned by Paul himself and/or via a scribe – are often used as evidence in reconstructions of early Christian social contexts. An attention to the findings from cognitive sciences and neuroscience around what I term “handwriting-thinking”, however, demonstrates a significant difference between the cognitive processes of Paul as author and the cognitive processes of his audience, who would have typically been exposed to Paul’s letters aurally. This difference in cognitive processes between Paul and his audience significantly problematizes the usage of Paul’s letters as evidence for his audience’s understanding of his letters and the concepts therein. More broadly, an attention to the embodied cognition of handwriting-thinking demonstrates differences in conceptual understandings between historical text-producers and their audiences, suggesting that we should focus more on individual text producers and their contexts instead of audiences.</p> Paul Robertson Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 41–64 41–64 10.1558/jch.38213 DEATH IS SLEEP https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21163 <p>In ancient Egypt, both textual and archaeological sources point to a tie between sleep and death. This connection takes different shapes such as the usage of beds and headrests in burials, the role of the sun in beliefs about the afterlife and the linkage between the netherworld and the world of dreams. It is argued here that the complementary conceptual metaphors death is sleep and awakening is resurrection allow for a unitary explanation of these observations. The theoretical background of conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending offers a useful approach to elucidate past imaginations due to its grounding in embodied realism. By recognizing material and multimodal metaphors in Egyptians burial customs, the infusion of magical agency into funerary rituals can be better understood. Especially the headrest acquired a reputation as an aid in entering the afterlife through a conflation of several layers of symbolism, thereby touching upon the mental, bodily and social aspect of religion.</p> Lilith Apostel Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 65–97 65–97 10.1558/jch.21163 Shamanism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21151 <p>The present contribution offers a descriptive account of two recent books concerning shamanism, Homayun Sidky’s The Origins of Shamanism, Spirit Beliefs, and Religiosity: A Cognitive Anthropological Perspective (2017) and Sergio Botta’s Dagli sciamani allo sciamanesimo. Discorsi, credenze, pratiche (2018). The commentary starts by supplying a brief historical contextualization of the subfield of shamanic studies in both Anthropology and the History of Religions, highlighting the main trends and widespread approaches. Sidky’s neurocognitive account and Botta’s poststructural historiographical walk-through are then taken into consideration and reviewed. The conclusions under-score the need for an integration between these two perspectives and urge cognitive historians to collaborate with like-minded anthropologists in order to further the study of shamanism and prevent the subfield from becoming de novo monopolized by paranormal and postmodern anthropology.</p> Leonardo Ambasciano Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 194–216 194–216 10.1558/jch.21151 The Study of Religion in Anthropology https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21152 <p>The present article examines the pervasiveness of non-scientific/anti-scientific hermeneutical perspectives in the study of religion in anthropology, tracing their foundations to the works of Mircea Eliade and Clifford Geertz. Pseudo- and anti-scientific approaches have also been bolstered by a long-standing paranormalism in anthropology championed by Margaret Mead and others. Hermeneutical/interpretive approaches, which emphasize the insider’s perspective and treat religion as an independent variable, have not only hampered scientific studies of religious phenomena, but they have also enabled the development of approaches advocating paranormal beliefs and religious supernaturalism as scholarship. The article concludes by highlighting the problematic nature of these non-scientific and pro-paranormal and religious perspectives as scholarly enterprises.</p> H. Sidky Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 217–228 217–228 10.1558/jch.41062 Towards a Renewed Definition of Shamanism https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21153 <p>The present reply offers some reflections on Leonardo Ambasciano’s commentary entitled Shamanism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow and included in this same issue of Journal of Cognitive Historiography. A particular point of contention is represented by the potential contribution that a post-structural approach could offer to a scientific re-description of shamanism as an analytical category in the contemporary academic field of Religious Studies.</p> Sergio Botta Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 229–235 229–235 10.1558/jch.21153 The Year the World Became a Cognitive Historiographical Lab En Plein Air https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/20685 Leonardo Ambasciano Nickolas P. Roubekas Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 5–21 5–21 10.1558/jch.20685 Mythohistory in Light of How Memory Works https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21154 <p>“Myths” did not start as quaint stories but as compellingly memorable devices to record events and observations in nonliterate societies. By understanding how people encoded information so as to maximize their brains’ abilities to remember, we can begin to extract at least some historical information from these inherited tales. But not all oral tradition is directly useful to historians because not all the information thus recorded is of events, and the clarity of the events diminishes radically as the lifestyle and especially the location of the storytellers change.</p> Elizabeth Wayland Barber Paul T. Barber Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 236–254 236–254 10.1558/jch.21154 Thinking Outside the Altruistic Box https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21155 <p>Two theories currently share prominence as explanations for the near universality of organized religion. Theory 1, the costly signalling hypothesis and its extensions have not to date generated predictions about the central question of why religion is religious; that is, why does religion invoke the gods? Theory 2, supernatural punishment, predicts that religion would be religious, but it requires group selection to stabilize its proposed evolutionary dynamics. We should not immediately dismiss group selection hypotheses, but given its rarity in the rest of nature, asserting group selection in humans requires extraordinary evidentiary support that at present is not enjoyed by the supernatural punishment hypothesis. Researchers studying the evolution of religion should consider more fully alternatives to these two currently popular hypotheses. Alternatives include the hypothesis that standardization of religious rituals and beliefs for signalling social group membership but potentially without group selection, that religion might function primarily for emergence of mutualism rather than prosocial altruism, and that group selection might apply to religious systems only during punctuated bursts of denominational diversification and death.</p> Luke J. Matthews Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 255–276 255–276 10.1558/jch.39066 The Promise and Peril of the Data Deluge for Historians https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21156 <p>Historical analyses are inevitably based on data – documents, fossils, drawings, oral traditions, artifacts, and more. Recently, historians have been urged to embrace the data deluge (Guldi and Armitage 2014) and teams are now systematically assembling large digital collections of historical data that can be used for rigorous statistical analysis (Slingerland and Sullivan 2017; Turchin et al. 2015; Whitehouse et al. 2019; Slingerland et al. 2018–2019). The promise of large, widely accessible databases is the opportunity for rigorous statistical testing of plausible historical models. The peril is the temptation to ransack these databases for heretofore unknown statistical patterns. Statisticians bearing algorithms are a poor substitute for expertise.</p> Gary N. Smith Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 277–287 277–287 10.1558/jch.21156 How Complex were Ancient Societies and Religions? https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21157 <p>Whitehouse et al. (2019) recently concluded their groundbreaking big-data historical research by stating that “moralizing gods” followed in the wake of early increases in social complexity, rather than preceding and paving the way for such increases. According to these results, it was doctrinal (group) rituals that helped facilitate an increase in social complexity and (religious) identity. The idea of a “supernatural punishment” came later, helping to maintain the existing cooperation in societies once those societies reached a certain size. However, the focus on big data in the pursuit of these questions runs the risks of leading to oversimplifications and presuppositions. I will draw on examples from Roman religion that appear in the Seshat dataset to illustrate some critical points, and will point out some problems concerning cooperation and social complexity that follow from the way in which the historical evidence is handled and, thus, merged into the databank.</p> Maik Patzelt Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 98–112 98–112 10.1558/jch.39573 Some Remarks on Whitehouse et al. (2019), “Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods throughout World History” https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21159 <p>This contribution reviews the methods behind historical data-gathering and data-coding in the Seshat Databank and the results illustrated in Whitehouse et al.’s (2019) “Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods throughout World History.” Particular emphasis is placed on data from Ancient Egypt and Roman periods. Critical reflections on the moralizing gods debate are also presented. The conclusions call for more integration between already existing projects within the Digital Humanities and warn researchers of the pitfalls of inattentive historical and qualitative analysis in Big Data scholarship.</p> Franziska Naether Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 113–121 113–121 10.1558/jch.39578 Big Gods and Big Rituals https://journal.equinoxpub.com/JCH/article/view/21160 <p>This short article reviews recent claims made about large-scale rituals and moralizing gods for the formation of large-scale societies. It starts from a reconstruction of the actual contents of the claims made in very different forms and wording and points to the very vague suggestions about causal relationships or chronological coincidence. Against these claims, three main arguments are advanced. First, it is difficult to formulate a model of trans-locally standardized rituals that would be able to keep together trans-local societies without the existence of secondary media, above all writing, which would be an even more important factor in processes of homogenization. Secondly, historically religion can be shown to serve as frequently for stabilizing distinction and dissent as for producing unity. Thirdly and finally, the very possibility of an exhaustive and stable classificatory grid across cultures and epochs is questioned. In a brief final case study, the lack of adequate descriptors in the database under review is demonstrated for ancient Rome.</p> Jörg Rüpke Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Cognitive Historiography 2022-01-06 2022-01-06 6 1-2 122–129 122–129 10.1558/jch.39885