Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Neolithic

When humankind hadn't really got to grips with agriculture and were still largely nomadic, they must have been supported by the flora and fauna that they encountered.  And they must have had to live in some kind of balance with it, after all, the evidence suggests that following the agricultural revolution (the first one) we sort of got into a balance with the world around us.  Settling down made sense, but even then we seemed to have moved about as a species.  There is evidence for this in Stonehenge and the world in which it was a large part - it seems a fairly large population gathered at the area around Stonehenge regularly but there was simply not enough to sustain the lifestyle for which we have evidence for such a population all the time, this implies that large numbers of people made long journeys, possibly from all over Europe.

Would you really like to know more?

Other evidence suggests that menwould have travelled alone some of the time (if not much of the time) and the women would have therefore travelled with the children and the babies.  One begins to wonder if the women were the core of the nomadic lifestyle, if they were the ones that discovered clothing as a means of keeping their children close and carried as they made long journeys between known points and places where they could eat and/or hunt.  It would explain why women tend to coalesce in periods when in groups, that would mean that male visitors would be unable to sow much seed, as it were, or take them all as wives - the men would have had to arrive, have sex, and then very probably leave again and return upon the birth of the baby.

And now the strange bit.  Some scientific studies have suggested that babies look like the dominant male figure in their early life rather than their genetic father necessarily (fine if the two are the same).  It has been suggested that this is a survival mechanism.  For this to be true, one would have to assume that the men were ignorant of their part in the construction of a baby (unlikely) or that they were not always present with the women that they had sex with.  In other words, it means that tribal society as we understand it needs to be reassessed if we are to fully understand our heritage and what it was that stopped us being nomadic and made us settle down in the first place.

And, while we're on the subject, what it was that meant that society developed along broadly patriarchal lines when it did settle down.  Because the more I think on those lines the more I am convinced that women held all possible natural political advantages in the early part of human life, indeed, they hold them still but all of society and politics seems aimed at convincing them that they do not.  Even feminism seems to suggest that women can strive for equality with men, an equality that merely swaps one form of oppression and slavery for another.  For men are just as enslaved in society as are women, striving to earn the 'right' to work in an unnatural set of hours for limited pay whilst ignoring family life hardly seems to me to be equality worth striving for.  Women ought to be striving for their ability to create and nurture life to be recognised and supported by society and for men to enjoy that same freedom, for work to be flexible around life rather than the other way around and for all humankind to recognise the dangers of sacrificing tomorrow for today.

Women, with their biological imperative and evolutionary zeal for their own children, seem better placed to lead that particular revolution than do men.  Indeed, before agriculture it makes sense that it was women that stayed in a group and protected the young, hunted and gathered whilst the men went travelling, spread messages and generally walked alone.  Men seem better suited to 'alone-ness' and the psyche that most modern men display seems predicated on the idea that men work best when relying only on themselves.  Men aren't terribly good team players but they can work towards short-term goals very well.  Women seem better at networking.  These are generalisations, for sure, but are backed up by scientific studies.  We keep asking what this means but I'm more interested in why humankind developed this way.

And the why, it seems to me, could lie in our pre-agricultural past.

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