(This is the latest element in a continuing project. If you would like to go to the beginning, go to HTTP://Gantman.com/News and scroll down to On Civilization 1)
They gathered in the Valley of the Gods, as they did in the late afternoon of every day. All the gods and goddesses who represented devotees of the major world cultures and civilizations. They discussed the demands and the problems, the tragedies and the controversies that were brought to them that day. And they partied, drank from their various nectars, relaxed, and loved. Sometimes they included friends from the human world. Mensch and Hohle Fels could be seen there from time to time.
In my opinion “religion” is a word that everyone thinks they understand, but for which there is no universally accepted definition. It’s a non-word – simply a space-filler for ideas that we cannot fully explain nor comprehend. Spiritual is another of these words. The use of such words implants exclusive codes within dialogs, as well as discourses, around religion – not just the esoteric ideas that have been embedded within various religious practices, but also the popular conversation around which religious practice revolves.
The interesting thing about religious practice in the second and first millenniums BC, was that people had a much closer relationship to their gods than generally do practitioners today. Their gods were less abstract and more defined – more approachable. They had human personalities and failings. I can imagine, for example, Greeks, gods and citizens alike, sitting around a long, very long (as there were many gods in those times) holiday table, celebrating their mutual merriment – with wine provided by Dionysus.
It seems that this period, roughly the last 2,500 years BC, was the time when our penchant for creating and relying on the unknown imaginable increasingly developed.
(This is the latest element in a continuing project. If you would like to go to the beginning, go to HTTP://Gantman.com/News and scroll to On Civilization 1)
The “cradle of civilization” rocks – and rocks again
During my lifetime there have been well over 250 military actions around the world, from incidental incursions to a world encompassing war, a war during which, alone, an estimated 50,000,000 people lost their lives. That is the same number as the population of the entire world in 1000 BC.
Except for Mesoamerica, where, of course, there was a paradigm of institutionalized violence, and some parts of China, the thing that occupies most of one’s attention about the so-called cradle of civilization between 1700 and 600BC is that there was almost continuous war.
What is it about the issue of war, and particularly attaining control and possessions through violence, that is so confusing to me? Compare the 50 million people that populated the world in the 2nd millennium BC to the approximately 7.7 billion people that occupy the Earth today. What was the problem? Was there not enough land and resources to support everyone? I know some authorities actually state, as an explanation, that some of that land was not as productive, but still . . . . .
There are so many theories that hypothesize why folks, and these theories mainly, but not exclusively, attribute to men, initiate and participate in wars that it is embarrassing to try to repeat, or to summarize, or even to rationalize all of them. These theories try to explain why people obtain control and attempt to seize what others have by invoking Darwin’s name, or Freud’s name. There are the intra-personal and intra-communal power theories, the sexual power theories, and the “they have more than us” theories. All of these theories try to explain the tendency to acquire possessions through violence. While most of these positions I have read seem to have a rational and convincing basis, the aggregate of all of these theories causes one to consider that we are still in an area of rampant speculation about why people decide to go out and maim and kill and corral more slaves – particularly why farmers and artisans agreed to become soldiers and hoof it out there for tens and hundreds of miles, crossing rivers, climbing over mountains, and particularly getting exposed to life-threatening harm.
While there is some very new, but uncorroborated, evidence of a possible gene related to empathy in humans, that potential was not in evidence in the political leaders of the late bronze age. Any tendency to share was overwhelmed by the attitude of taking.
Is there an actual human penchant toward violence and war within us; that killing others is an inherent part of our being, and that trying to alter that propensity is a wrenching and perhaps improbable achievement? If so, I must consider the possibility that I have had it wrong all these years; that peace may not be a viable option. Perhaps I have to look at this from the other side – that war is natural and acceptable, and that violent taking, in the final analysis, is a status quo of relating. Perhaps it is only the fear of personal loss that inhibits me from accepting the positive aspects of gaining through violent action – though changing that, for me, is probably another improbable achievement.
(This is the latest element in a continuing project. If you would like to go to the beginning, go to HTTP://Gantman.com/News and scroll to On Civilization 1)
I feel I have lingered too long on what was the immense metamorphosis that occurred during the late Neolithic and early bronze age periods in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and I have been eager and impatient to move on to the so called “gilt” age of ancient Greece; however it appears that the road to Greece was significantly paved with the salt water of the multitudinous sea lanes that traveled to and from the Mediterranean island of Crete.
There is evidence that homonids traveled to Crete as early as 130,000 BC. Possibly that is how the ancestors of Loewenmensch found their way, on wooden rafts, to Crete, then to the European mainland, and eventually to southern Germany, where they lived in the caves, hunted and gathered, and where, ultimately, Loewenmensch and Hohle Fels met and married.
The Cretan, or more popularly Minoan, culture, which began in 7th century BC, but evolved more fully in 3000BC, was a significant link between Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Mycenae, later called Greece. They were the center of trade across the Mediterranean, from the Euphrates to Spain and from Egypt to Italy, and became the first significant European civilization, surviving from about 2500 to 1200BC.
They created art, tools, and a language script called Linear A, which to this date has not been deciphered. Linear A led to the Mycenean script, Linear B, which was the forerunner of the eventual classical Greek alphabet. Though it was a socially layered society, it was possibly matriarchal, and a primarily peaceful one until its decline instigated, primarily, by several periods of natural disaster.
(This is the latest element in a continuing project. If you would like start at the beginning, go to HTTP://Gantman.com/News and scroll down to On Civilization 1)
Over the years and the decades, the centuries and the millennia; the descendants of Loewenmensch and Hohle Fels lost connection with the world that had existed in the caves and in the huts built from mastodon bones. The people of that time had found ways to avoid conflict with other groups, live in relative harmony, and accept accumulating only what was necessary for survival.
But the later Mensch and the Hohle Fels families, and others, who lived in the amazingly transitional times of the late Neolithic and early Bronze Ages, and even Loewen, who became the iconic priest, Bes, participated in the inception of a system steeped in disparate social class, wealth accumulation, tribal conflict, and human bondage.
It is not surprising, despite communist ideals and given differences in the makeup of individuals, that hierarchical structures will be arranged when people begin to congregate and interrelate. It is only when people who govern decide that they are somehow different from, or unaccountable to, the others that unnecessary imbalance will occur.
Below is a visual record of individuals living around the populated world during the time of the late Neolithic and early Bronze periods.
We imagine there must have been a lot of grunting, nodding, and gesturing during the wedding ceremony, since there seems not yet to have been any kind of complex verbal language – nor did there seem to be, as well, any explicit communication system – no markings, no graphic signs, no pictographs, no alphabet with which they could commemorate the wedding.
But as the descendants of Mensch and Hohle Fels, and other families spread to the east – to Egypt and Mesopotamia, India and Pakistan, and west – to Britain, creating their farms and communities along the ways, complex communication became more important. And, surprise, the first 4,000 years of the development of written communication was not about personal interrelating but was all about commerce – keeping account of commercial transactions.
As demonstrated by the fact that I am still talking about this time, the Neolithic period (+/-9,000 to +/- 3,000BC) seems to have been one of the most densely productive times in human history. And one of the most astounding accomplishments within this approximately 6 to 8,000-year period was the evolution of a written and aural language that became increasingly more intricate and abstract. It developed almost concurrently, but independently, in China and in Mesoamerica, but the creation of complex language appears to have begun in Sumer, in the western part of what is now called Iran.
For millions of years hominid roamed the Earth, primarily Africa and its surrounds, with very basic (in comparison to our own) communication skills. Neither homo habilis, nor homo erectus, nor homo sapiens evolved their communication to any degree – until this Neolithic time. Then, suddenly, it all changed. Some say it happened in tandem with an increase of brain size and a corresponding development of the vocal tract. Others posit that the invention and use of tools drove a development of the brain that ultimately led to this improvement of language skills.
In his book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin discusses that, put simply, when humans coalesce, gather into larger and denser groups, an energy is created that propels humanity toward greater understanding and accomplishment – although he does hold off until the book’s appendix to raise the topic of the negative side of human evolution.
Credit to “The Evolution of Writing” by Denise Schmandt-Besserat for images and information.
None of the previously described processes was happening in isolation. Population had spread throughout the Earth, not just central Europe, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, but also cultures in eastern Asia had flourished throughout the Neolithic, beginning as far back as 18,000 BC. And civilizations in Mesoamerica were beginning to independently develop – the Olmec and the Maya.
Back in northern Africa, Loewen was not content to confine himself to the animal kingdom. In Egypt he created another identity, Bes, who, with his consort Beset, fashioned themselves as Egyptian deities. They began their mission in Egypt and descended quickly south, into Nubia and Somalia. Their notoriety and following quickly spread to the middle East, into Syria, and then west as far as the Balearic Islands, primarily Ibiza. Oddly enough, the king and queen of the animal world were also idolized as the protectors of homes, families, and children.
Other ideas began to spread. Egypt’s concepts about architecture, and art, traveled north through Cyprus, Crete, Malta, into Turkey and Greece – and east to Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamians developed the earliest notions about writing – eventually more abstract than the pictographic markings of the Egyptians, they ultimately originated an alphabet – and the thinking of Gilgamesh and Hammurabi, relating to governance progressed westward after the 2nd and 1st millennia BC.
Which talk about the civilizing of society brings us to the subjects of ritual human sacrifice.
Strongly related to the more benign sounding, but extraordinarily illusory, and to this day commonly accepted notion of personal religious sacrifice; ritual sacrifice, regularly practiced into the first millennium AD in Europe, Africa, and Asia; and in Mesoamerica until the invasion of the Spanish in the 1600s AD, was simply the taking of human life by other, more powerful humans, for purposeful, but practically unsubstantiated gain. People were buried alive, stabbed with pikes through their skulls, and poisoned, among many other creatively murderous methods, for purposes ranging from ensuring the longevity of a building, to justifying the waging of war, to establishing one’s hierarchical space in some hypothetically imagined afterlife
Why is this topic so important to inject – during the time when what we designate as culture was beginning to evolve in fascinating ways throughout the world? Because during my lifetime, not to mention all human history, there has rarely been a day without war – somewhere on this planet. And war, though sometimes defensively necessary, consists of the taking of lives. It is related to our, human, attitude about the value of life – someone else’s life. And that perspective is an intrinsic piece of the construct that is characterized as civilization.
An ongoing project by Martin Gantman http//:Gantman.com/news
What happened after Loewenmensch’s transition? In a sense he was suddenly gone! Hohle Fels was confused about her connection to whom she had married: The Loewen? The Mensch?
It is difficult to know for sure what exactly occurred during that densely transitional time between the wedding and, perhaps, around 3,000 BC. Authorities and experts disagree, but it feels like Hohle Fels ultimately went inside – inside herself, and inside the family compound with Mensch – by his side in his role as her king; and amid the work being accomplished at home.
At first, as her immediate world became dense, with the populations of settlements increasing, she worked as a co-equal partner with Mensch in the process of developing their estate, but time separated their roles, as the administering of State and religion diverged from the maintenance of home. She might have divined a sense of this future had she closely read the laws of her wedding officiant, Hammurabi.
We may also never know the purpose for which those first likenesses, of the women of the wedding party, were created. But now, in this end of Neolithic time, we, and maybe Hohle Fels as well, miss the perception of ebullience that we enjoyed when we first saw them. In the later stages of the Neolithic she rarely appears as a visible or equal consultant about administrative operations. The images we see of her and her descendants seem to convey the notion that she ultimately became circumscribed within her dual abstract roles in the quasi-human domain; goddess of desires and crops, and caretaker of her personal domicile. Roles that have continued almost consistently until this day.
A Continuing Project by Martin Gantman http://gantman.com/news/
At a certain point, around the time of the conversion from matriarchies to patriarchies, roughly around 3000 BC, Loewenmensch, recognizing the complexities of the evolving world, decided to cleave his (their) dual personalities and separate into Loewen (lion) and Mensch (human). He (They) trekked to his (their) familiar ritual spot, beneath the dense trees and cool filtered light of the Black Forest, quiet and secluded, and began his (their) transformation.
Inaudibly, they transitioned through their separate identities, their original selves disappearing into the inaccessible past; morphing through various forms until settling on manifestations appropriate to their evolutionary time. Lion preemptively assumed his role as king of the animal realm, and Mensch appropriated his position as king of the human world.
Lion decided the animal world would remain as hunter/gatherers. Their society became a system of natural struggle and contest. It derived its hierarchies through battle, with Lion as king, through its differences in personal traits, tactics, and physical ability.
The human world, ruled by Mensch, ultimately emerged as a system of property and possession. As societies became denser, a system of artificial order and regulations was developed that governed the behavior of individuals, not only to influence the conduct among human relationships, but also to preserve the logistical systems, related to property, that had been set in place. These systems eventually came to be protected by groups of enforcers that were created and organized by Mensch and later rulers. Initially selected by the populace, the order of rule later became familial, passing from son to son (and sometimes daughter), until such times when factions of greater strength overwhelmed the rule in place.