This book provides an in-depth study of the role of religion in the evolution of societies. It melds anthropological theory and archaeological data to present one of the most comprehensive archaeological studies of the role of ritual as a vital force for promoting and consolidating social change. It is based on seven seasons of archaeological excavation at the Chalcolithic site of Gilat, a low mound, located in the fields of the Moshav Gilat, a semi-communal farming settlement in Israel's northern Negev desert. The Chalcolithic period represents the first time that well-documented chiefdom organizations can be recognized in the archaeological record of the Holy Land when institutionalized social hierarchies, craft specialization, horticulture, temple life and other fundamental social changes occurred in this part of the ancient Near East. As one of the few Chalcolithic (ca. 4500 - 3600 BC) sanctuary sites in the southern Levant, the Gilat provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the role of religion and ideology as a social force for influencing social relations and social evolution through one of the formative periods in the prehistory of the eastern Mediterranean. The collection of studies presented in this book aim at examining the material evidence for the ideological sub-system of Chalcolithic culture by through careful analyses of relatively large sets of archaeological data. Thomas E. Levy is Professor of Anthropology and Judaic Studies at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Formerly, the Assistant Director of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (one of the American Schools of Oriental Research) and the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology of the Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem, he joined the UCSD faculty in 1992. Dr. Levy has served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Judaic Studies Program. Beginning in January 2004, he will take up the directorship again of the UCSD Judaic Studies Program.