During the Neolithic Era, starting around 10,000 B.C., man began to make the move from hunters and herders to farmers. This was due mainly to a general worldwide warming, as the Earth moved out of the last great Ice Age. Before settling into agricultural communities, Neolithic tribes were migratory hunter and gatherers as well as herders. While these early Neolithic groups did not leave behind a written record, they did leave clues to their cultural and religious customs. These people were the ones that built the ancient megalithic structures of England, such as the the famous Stonehenge. The sites are astronomically aligned, showing that they had a high understanding of astronomy and the ability to lay the multi-ton stones in an extremely precise way.
While the exact myths of Neolithic man cannot be known due to the lack of written records from this time, the myths of later cultures that did can lend a voice to these silent times. In Sumerian culture, the gods brought man agricultural and with it civilization. At this time religious rites began to be practices, including animal sacrifice and Dionysian type festivals. These rites and rituals revolved around the seasons, as the seasons denoted planting and harvesting, very important times to an agricultural based society.
The fertility and life giving properties of the Earth were associated with the woman, the life giving member of the human race. Neolithic hunters and herders may have practiced a religion based around animals, especially the ones that were important to the diet of these people. However, as the move to agriculture was made, Goddess worship began. The Venus figures, images of the Goddess herself, emphasized the life giving aspects of the female, including the breasts, vulva and stomach. The Goddess was also associated with domesticated animals, and in many Mesopotamian neolithic sites the Goddess is often shown with cattle figures or as a hybrid. Neolithic man lived a life very close to nature so his myths and culture were deeply entwined with natural cycles and seasons and this influenced his art, culture and way of life.