I’ve long had the sneaking suspicion that there’s nothing terribly special about modern humans (relative to ancient humans and neanderthals) other than our modern tools and the advance of engineering to make those tools. I suppose that might not even be a shocking statement; I don’t know the intricacies of evolution enough to know better.
Regardless, we have this recent gem about a Neanderthal site predating civilization by a good 170,000 years or so (plus or minus).
We don’t know what the point of the place was – religious ritual site tends to be the common guess for these things – but the point is, who we are and what we were are not so different, once you rake away modern equipment. The line of progress from this site to cathedrals to the Sagrada Familia is easiest to measure in terms of population density and tools rather than spirituality or cognition.
There are other lessons as well. Spirituality, the creation of edifices, a search for meaning and mystery… these are now, apparently and obviously, older than even man.
What’s more is that even our vaunted modern science itself is oftentimes no more than mere ritual, albeit one that still manages to work more consistently in the aggregate… but don’t be fooled. It’s yet another god we appease and commune with, just one that is more generous with earthly rewards and more demanding in thr complexity of its rituals.