Stonehenge. Machu Picchu. The Acropolis. The Great Pyramids at Giza. Sites such as these have captivated the world for centuries even millennia since their creation. They are works of great beauty whose construction required spectacular feats of engineering, involved the efforts of hundreds of thousands of individuals, and incurred a tremendous financial cost on the civilizations that created them.But why were these massive sites created? What impulse drove ancient cultures to devote such time and labor into these projects? Why are we so transfixed by their presence today? And what do these and other mysterious sites reveal about our ancestors and about humanity as a whole?The answer to these and other eternal questions is the dynamic force of religious belief. Religion, in its many forms, is among the most powerful of all human impulses. The philosophical and intellectual side of religious practice is well studied but religion also manifests itself physically. From cave art to intricate burial chambers to grand hilltop temples, the material expression of spirituality is less understood but offers equally deep insights into why humans believe in something larger than themselves.Now you can experience the thrill of discovery and learn the sacred secrets behind some of the world's most popular and mysterious ancient locales with Exploring the Roots of Religion. In 36 riveting and insightful lectures taught by award-winning Professor John R. Hale a practicing archaeologist and masterful storyteller you dig through the earth and learn how sacred buildings, complexes, tomb structures, artwork, and more have provided us with unparalleled knowledge about the varieties of early spiritual experience around the world. It's an experience that will add new levels of understanding to your knowledge of ancient history and especially to the integral role that religion played in some of these grand civilizations.Get a Three-Dimensional Perspective on Ancient SitesTo look at these awe-inspiring sites without considering the vital importance of their spiritual contexts is to merely get a one-dimensional, postcard view of their true greatness. While these places were built with wood and stone, the mortar that held them together was the intricate rituals and belief systems of the cultures that built them.But in instances where no written record exists or the historical record is incomplete, how can you understand the captivating rituals and systems responsible for them?The answer: archaeology. This fascinating scientific field, which uses material remains to fill in gaps in the historical record, provides a useful way for us to grasp the nature of faiths and rituals that otherwise might have been lost in the mists of time. Using the unique 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 proper orientation of a particular temple or tomb.And with its unique archaeological perspective on the nature of ancient faiths, Exploring the Roots of Religion offers you a vibrant, three-dimensional perspective on these sites perspectives that not only show you why these places are important to us in the modern world, but why these places were so revered by the peoples for whom they were a part of everyday life.Unearth the Roots of Religious ExperienceEvery expertly organized lecture in Exploring the Roots of Religion is an incomparable and comprehensive look at specific religious archaeological sites around the world. Using the same teaching skills that have garnered him acclaim from his students at the University of Louisville, Professor Hale takes you deep inside caves and crypts and leads you through vast deserts and ancient cities around the globe from Turkey and Polynesia to Mexico and Sweden to Cambodia and even the American Midwest. And it's a journey you can enjoy without having to leave the comfort of your own home or car.Professor Hale groups his lectures into six main themes, each of which addresses a particular aspect of religious experiences in ancient times:In the Beginning: Most of the basic elements of religion arose during the Stone Age. Each of the sites you explore in this section whether burial caves in Iraq, rock art in the Kalahari Desert, or stone megaliths in France served as the genesis for sacred ideas of art, rituals, landscapes, and more.Quest for the Afterlife: How did early civilizations prepare their deceased for the mysteries of the afterlife? As you encounter the burial customs of the Sumerians, Celts, Vikings, and others, learn how archaeologists discovered what they know about this essential aspect of religious practice.Reconstructing Ancient Rituals: Witness how archaeologists reconstruct and re-create religious rituals from the silent testimony of material remains. These rituals include the bull dance ceremony of the Minoans, the consultation of the oracle in western Asia Minor, and even human sacrifices in ancient Mexico.Lost Gods and Fallen Temples: Equally important as a religion's rituals is its theology. At these six sites, encounter a vast pantheon of ancient gods such as Aten (the sun god made the sole Egyptian deity by a heretic pharaoh) and Quetzalcoatl (a feathered serpent who brought blessings to Aztec civilization).Sacred Landscapes: Unlike individual temples, these archaeological sites are so vast that their sacred nature encompasses an entire landscape, sometimes even spanning hundreds of miles. The pyramids at Giza, the Nazca Lines in the Peruvian desert, and the temple of Angkor Wat are just a few of the stirring localities you investigate.Communities of the Spirit: The sites in this final section deal with revealed faiths: those that originate with the message of a prophet or reformer. These include communities such as the Zoroastrians, the Jewish sect of the Essenes, and a Christian community that venerated their dead in the catacombs underneath ancient Rome.Spiritual Insights into Popular DestinationsA majority of the sites you visit in Exploring the Roots of Religion have long been recognized as profound monuments to the grandeur of ancient history. With Professor Hale, you view these sites not as curious tourist attractions but instead as places of great religious and historical importance, packed with information about early forms of faith and the spiritual lives of our ancestors. These are among the sites you investigate:Lascaux Cave: This cave in the Dordogne region of France is one of the places where art was born. But archaeologists also believe its engravings and paintings played important roles in the spiritual lives of Stone-Age hunters. A mysterious scene of a wounded bison, bird-effigy, and bird-headed man represents one of the earliest examples of religious iconography.Machu Picchu: This ancient Incan city, located high in the mountains of Peru, is a marvel of urban planning and also a potent example of a landscape suffused with spiritual meaning. Among its many buildings is an abstract stone altar dubbed the hitching post of the sun which marked the sun god Inti's presence at the site.Stonehenge: The religious symbolism of this iconic site extends far beyond the megalith construction at its center. Additional features that provide insights into the spiritual beliefs of its architects include burial mounds, cemeteries, and long ceremonial avenues.Easter Island: The giant stone heads dotting the landscape of this Polynesian island are more than just sculptural marvels. These gigantic statues of important ancestors or chiefs were originally erected on stone platforms (known as ahu), where they were the focus for sacred rites performed in memory of the honored dead.Every lecture is dedicated to a thorough look at these and other breathtaking places. For each place, youlearn 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; andcompare findings with the beliefs and practices of other sites and civilizations.Discover New Visions of ReligionReconstructing ancient religious rituals from archaeological remains has been a cornerstone of Professor Hale's career. Trained at Yale and Cambridge universities, he has spent a wealth of time exploring Celtic rituals in England, sacred rock art in Scandinavia, pagan and Christian religious structures in Portugal, and more.It is this breadth of experience, coupled with his contagious passion for the wonders of his field, that makes Exploring the Roots of Religion such an engaging and enjoyable way to mine fascinating new knowledge from some of the world's oldest remains.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 both spirituality's universal elements and its unique characteristics across different cultures. You'll discover clues into the early practices of religions that endure in the modern world, including Christianity and Buddhism. And you'll realize just how much credit religion deserves for the remarkable historical sites that continue to captivate the human race. Future generations will still wonder at the pyramids, mounds, standing stones, and temples of our remote ancestors when the remains of our secular world have crumbled to dust, Professor Hale notes. It is perhaps a reminder that, in all realms, the spirit is more lasting than the flesh.