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Publisher's Summary

What impulse drove ancient cultures to create sites like Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, and the pyramids at Giza? Why are we so transfixed by their presence today? And what do they reveal about our ancestors-and humanity?

The dynamic force of religious belief is responsible for some of the world's most popular and ancient locales.With these 36 riveting lectures, you can dig through the earth and learn how sacred buildings, complexes, tomb structures, artwork, and more have provided us with unparalleled knowledge about early spiritual experiences around the world. Using the tools and knowledge of their field, archaeologists can now determine the nature of a sacrificial ritual, compare the visible attributes of ancient deities, and map out the orientation of a temple or tomb.

Professor Hale gives you a comprehensive look at specific religious archaeological sites around the world-inside caves and crypts, through vast deserts and ancient cities, from Polynesia to Mexico to the American Midwest.

Studying these breathtaking sites such as Lascaux Cave, Machu Picchu, and Easter Island, you learn the points of interest that attract the attention of archaeologists and scholars, survey the principal features unearthed during the site's excavation, discover what evidence at the site reveals about the evolution of religion, and more.

By the final lap of your international journey, you'll have developed a new vision of religion and its crucial role in ancient history. You'll become more attuned to spirituality's universal elements and its unique characteristics. And you'll realize just how much credit religion deserves for remarkable sites that continue to captivate us.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Exploring the Roots of Religion

Average Customer Ratings
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Enlightening.

I found this course to be a real portal into our universal needs and motivation.

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Enjoyed it very much

Good course, narrator delivers the course very colourful, live and bubbly. Emphasis in right places, keeps your attention all the time, very enthusiastic. Will be re-listening it again later

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Excellent course

Having mainly stayed in the history department of the great courses this is my first foray into the religious aspect of world history and culture. a thoroughly entertaining and informative introduction across the breadth of ancient and modern religion from the archaeological perspective.

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Impressive view of archeology

The course covers a brief history of the world from the archeological view.
Covers a range of places from all continents.
I am not sure now, but I think Harappa mohenjodaro site was missed out. Was it not a source of religious practices?
The definitely gave me new perspectives and some facts.
The reading is a bit slow and this is a long course. I put it at 1.25x speed.
Definitely recommend it to all.

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loved it

loved it great stories told in a interesting and easily inderstandable way. totally recomend this course.

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  • karen
  • 07-08-2016

My Favorite Course

Any additional comments?

There are 36 lectures:

1. The Roots of Religious Experience
2. Neanderthal Burials at Shanidar
3. Hunting Magic in Sacred Caves
4. Myths of the Shaman
5. Realm of the Mother Goddess
6. Mysteries of the Megaliths
7. Towers and Tombs of Sumeria
8. Tomb of the First Emperor of China
9. Feasting with the Dead at Petra
10. Druid Sacrifice at Lindow Moss?
11. Honoring Ancestors in Ancient Ohio
12. A Viking Queen Sails to Eternity
13. Dancing with Bulls at Knossos
14. Oracle Bones in Ancient China
15. Sun and Sexuality in Early Scandinavia
16. Apollo Speaks at Klaros
17. Chalice of Blood in Ancient Peru
18. Decoding Rituals at Palenque
19. Temple of the Goddess on Malta
20. The Aten—Monotheism in Egypt
21. Deities of the Acropolis
22. Gods and Pyramids at Teotihuacan
23. Sacred City on the Mississippi
24. Sun and Shadow at Machu Picchu
25. Celestial Gateway at Giza
26. Cosmic Hub at Stonehenge
27. Desert Lines at Nazca
28. Skywatchers at Chaco Canyon
29. Mountain of the Gods at Angkor
30. The Stone Heads of Easter Island
31. Tending Zoroaster's Sacred Fire in Iran
32. Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran
33. Taking Religions Underground at Rome
34. Forging Iron at Jenne-jeno on the Niger
35. Carving Monasteries at Ajanta in India
36.Faiths Lost and Found

50 people found this helpful

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  • Scott
  • 01-06-2016

Interesting but not great

The lecture series covers several early religious traditions but the course lacked a unified idea for a consistent perspective. Somewhat broad but nothing is covered in depth. A bit disappointing but I did learn some items.

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  • Juniper
  • 17-05-2019

Stay with it

At first his voice jarred me, but then I came to like it. I have a BA in history and have continued to read about history and archaeology over the years. But I still learned new things in this course. I also liked the professor’s balanced approach to the nuances of archaeological interpretation.

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  • Michael
  • 27-03-2016

misnomer

This course of lectures should have been called An Archaeology of Religioun. It is a good review of archaeological discoveries on the last couple of centuries, which is accompanied by a brief overview of religions and creeds ftom all over the world. In that respect the course deserves every commendation. To claim that the roots of the religions have been explored the author has no right.

17 people found this helpful

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  • dana
  • 09-07-2016

good but...

the performance was perfect but the book was 80% archeological story rather than historical.
i expected to analyze the religions from anthropological and historical point of view.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Marc
  • 11-03-2015

Archaeology first hand - one of the best courses

Would you listen to Exploring the Roots of Religion again? Why?

I may listen to the course again to give me starting points for more in depth explorations of archaeological sites, religious cults and ideas that can be found all over the world through all times.

What about Professor John R. Hale’s performance did you like?

Mr. Hale has "been there, done that".
He breathes, he lives and he loves what he is talking about. At times that may actually distract him from the topic he thought he planned to stick to (and then, sometimes, he remembers that he had to finish a sentence somewhere), but it has exactly been this personal, engaged, believable approach to both archaeology and "roots of religion" that, to me, make this course one of the best purchases I made on Audible - along with "how to listen to and understand great music", which puts marks on exactly the same checking points.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Oh, please, if it just was possible to have Douglas Adams write and perform the commentary, John Hale be the presenter of the actual sites and Richard O'Brien write the incidental music score - I would actually go to a cinema again, for the first time in over 10 years!
Maybe get Honess to do the editing and G. Fisher for cinematography (look up the first "Highlander" if those names don't mean nothing to you) ...

Tag line? What about "If world ended tomorrow, you'd still have to watch this"?

Any additional comments?

My resume may sound a bit over-excited, so in order to put it back into its place, let me admit that I had to take a break (the fourth) from Daniel Robinson's "The Great Ideas of Philosophy" with its fundamental Christian bias, his unbearable preaching performance and drowsy narration. This shocking change of experience may explain, to some degree, why I fell in love with Mr. Hale (in a way, you get the picture).
Sure, being the German nit-pick that I am: Mr. Hale could have opened Webster's encyclopedia and have a look what the colleagues have to say about "Sarsen stones" (they seem to be quite sure that the word "Sarsen" is a derivative of "Sarazens" (saracen) and basically means "pagan". There are a few examples like this where one might get the impression that "listening to other discipline's theories" at times might even help the most experienced archaeologist ... But, really, since I am now getting back to Mr. Robinson's "everything that is not Christian is just stupid and a waste" theories, I did not even notice those hickups.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Ronald
  • 21-05-2016

Excellent Course 5 Stars

This is an absolutely great course. The information is presented in clear, concise and insightful historical perspectives. The factual aspects of the archeological work is clearly detailed along with all possible interpretations of their findings. The course leaves the listener with a great deal of information from which to draw his/her own conclusions concerning the origins of religion and it's various cultural beliefs and practices. I highly recommend this course.

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  • Tom
  • 06-11-2019

A Wonderful Learning Experience

This Course was a terrific introduction to the Roots of Religion in Human Culture. Dr. Hale led the listener on a World Tour of over thirty locales tracing everything from Burial Practices of Neanderthals and The Chinese through the Sexual Activities of the Vikings, the Human Sacrifices of the Aztecs to the founding of Christianity and Islam. His perspective on Religion combines that of a highly experienced Archaeologist and a Cultural Anthropologist who can create the practices of ancient societies from pottery shards, grassy knolls, peat bogs and sandstone ruins. His tone and vocabulary is that of a popular novelist or biographer very much in love with the characters and setting of the yarn he is spinning. And quite a yarn it is. Hale makes a very strong case for Religion as a prime driver of human development, not an artifact of an economic, political or agricultural system, though they are all related. He highlights the Common Threads shared by disparate religious practices all over the globe, things like role of Caves, The Sun, and Animal Symbols. In his final chapter he addresses the Enduring Elements of Religion: The Afterlife, Sacred Spaces and Times, Sacrifice, Gods and Temples, and the Role of Visions. He has shown throughout the Course how each Culture profiled utilizes each of these elements by thorough descriptions of the archaeological underpinnings of his assertions. And he does this in a way that the layman can understand while appreciating the science behind the findings. All in all, this was a wonderful learning experience for anyone interested in understanding where and how Religion arose in similar ways in so many different cultural contexts. I highly recommend this course and will listen to any course Dr. Hale does in the future.

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  • Eric
  • 16-09-2019

Excellent, Captivating, Entertaining, Fascinating

The real truth of religion, perfectly executed from an up-to-date archaeological perspective. Excellent presentation, thoroughly enjoyed. Definitely on my listen to again list.

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  • Lorette
  • 01-04-2019

Great listening!

I loved it .. took me all over the world.. I learned about places I’ve never heard of ! Thank you!

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  • dirk
  • 24-06-2016

Best course ever

This has it all: the reading, storytelling, vast subject, new and fresh insights. Highly recommended

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony Christie
  • 14-06-2015

Superb lecture.

Learned but accessible. Great delivery. Hugely enjoyable and informative. Shows clearly the common elements of religions and their origins throughout human history an across the globe. Highly recommended.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Bagatha
  • 20-09-2017

Really enjoyable course.

What made the experience of listening to Exploring the Roots of Religion the most enjoyable?

I have repeatedly listened to this course, it is packed with fascinating information and delivered in a clear & interesting way by Professor Hale - one of my favourites.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Stuart Sorensen
  • 20-03-2016

Fascinating

I loved this series. Really informative and kept my interest throughout! I thoroughly recommend it

2 people found this helpful

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  • Arnold Cossor
  • 29-11-2015

Superb Course

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Recommend this audiobook to a friend because it is a superb study of the subject and extremely well presented.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Each lecture was self-contained and a very interesting in its own right but if I was asked to pick one favourite area it would be the study of Zoroastrianism. This was a subject that I knew virtually nothing about. However the study of the Vikings, Chinese and early American peoples was just as fascinating.

What does Professor John R. Hale bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Professor John R. Hale is a superb lecturer and continually keeps you interested by varying the perspective on the subject.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Far too long to listen to in one go! I was able to listen to 2 lectures in one day but any more than that and you will lose the impact of the information being presented.

Any additional comments?

I have listened to all of this lecturer's courses in the great courses range now and each one has been extremely good. I really do hope that he does some more of these courses in this format.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Conor
  • 07-06-2018

Fascinating

Great performance! The subject is so huge, I feel that each lecture could actually be an entire series. Left me itching for more, (which is not a negative ;))

1 person found this helpful

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