Fear of the dead as a factor in social self-organization

The image of dead person returning to life was the most ancient source of irrational fear appeared in culture. This conclusion is argued with empirical data from archeology and ethnography. Fear has been expressed in funeral rites, the tying of extremities, burning and dismemberment of dead bodies, and ritual cannibalism etc. At the same time, it was attended by effective care for helpless cripples, which seems to descend to the Lower Paleolithic as well. Dread of posthumous revenge played a decisive regulative role at the earliest stage of anthropogenesis, as the disparity between artificial weapons and natural aggression-retention mechanisms became self-destructive. In the new conditions, individuals with normal animal mind were doomed to catastrophe. Those hominid groups proved viable, in which mystical fear, a product of unnaturally developed imagination, bounded lethal conflicts among kinsmen. The phobias corresponded to the psycho-nervous system's “strategic pathology”; that was a condition for early hominids’ self-preservation. As a result, a causal connection between instrumental potential, cultural regulation quality and social sustainability was formed, which has been a mechanism of social selection for all of human history and prehistory
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2005.00269.x
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