According to the dominant scholarly view of pre-history today, our human ancestors were once nomadic hunter-gatherers, with many recognizable religio-cultural practices like burying of their dead, wearing bone and stone jewelry, and even creating cave art and figurines. What followed, in more or less this order, was agriculture and domestication of animals, permanent settlements, pottery and metallurgy, the rise of cities, specialized crafts and trade guilds, social hierarchies, organized religion and monumental architecture, and eventually money, writing, and the alphabet.
However, at a site in Turkey called Göbekli Tepe, a monumental temple built ~11,600 years ago by hunter-gatherers suggests that at least here, organized religion preceded the rise of agriculture and many other aspects of civilization. In recent years, Göbekli Tepe has cast serious doubt on many established theories about our pre-history.
... the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.
At the time of Göbekli Tepe's construction much of the human race lived in small nomadic bands that survived by foraging for plants and hunting wild animals. Construction of the site would have required more people coming together in one place than had likely occurred before. Amazingly, the temple's builders were able to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones hundreds of feet despite having no wheels or beasts of burden. The pilgrims who came to Göbekli Tepe lived in a world without writing, metal, or pottery; to those approaching the temple from below, its pillars must have loomed overhead like rigid giants, the animals on the stones shivering in the firelight—emissaries from a spiritual world that the human mind may have only begun to envision....
... archaeologists studying the origins of civilization in the Fertile Crescent are [now] suspicious of any attempt to find a one-size-fits-all scenario, to single out one primary trigger. It is more as if the occupants of various archaeological sites were all playing with the building blocks of civilization, looking for combinations that worked. In one place agriculture may have been the foundation; in another, art and religion; and over there, population pressures or social organization and hierarchy. Eventually they all ended up in the same place. Perhaps there is no single path to civilization; instead it was arrived at by different means in different places.