An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore
I have come-to-the-conclusion, given my research and experience, that human beings are naturally social, cooperative and collaborative as a species and that aggression is not an intrinsic part of human nature. So, it belies me to ask the obvious question: why is there so much aggression and violence in the world today?
It is customary for our modern archaeologists and anthropologists to believe that humans have always been warlike and aggressive. This may be partly true because the Western world has been aggressive and warlike as far back as we can remember. Thus, we tend to assume that early cultures such as hunters and gatherers were warlike and aggressive as well.
More recent evidence and research by respected researchers indicate that this perception is not so and that hunters and gatherers were actually benevolent, peaceful people that lived together without social stratification and attributed equality to both sexes. Cooperative behavior was valued and negative behavior was dealt with in an attempt to minimize it as much as possible. Paleolithic hunters and gatherers and early Neolithic agricultural societies lived peaceful, egalitarian lives in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for over five-thousands years and had advanced and sophisticated cultures that rivaled our modern lifestyles and innovative technologies.
If we consider the long period of history in which we were hunters and gatherers and lived in harmony with the Earth and with each other, then most of our past was peaceful with limited aggressive behavior and no evidenced account of warfare or significant conflict among the many tribes that roamed the planet. Even if we were only to include Homo sapiens (modern humans) or the last and most developed species of humanity in this discussion, our past would still reflect a lack of conflict and warfare up until the Neolithic period when Old Europe came under attack from peripheral invaders from northern Europe and Asia. The timespan for peaceful existence would be about 50,000 years for Homo sapiens and another 150,000 years or more if we include our earlier ancestors who were also hunters and gatherers such as Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. If we were to include all human species from Homo erectus onward, we would be at about 3.5 million years of peaceful hunter and gatherer existence.
So, what has happened in the last ten thousand years that has resulted in hostility as a prevalent occurrence in human societies? Exploitive and angry behavior became the unfortunate consequence and companion of modern cultural development along with a dramatic perceptual change in the way men began to perceive and behave towards women and the environment.
The History of Patriarchal Development
“Patriarchy is a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family clan or tribe” according to Marija Gimbutas (Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of Old Europe). Although we do find some cultures that are matriarchal today, the majority of modern cultures are patriarchal. The patriarchal model became apparent in the late Neolithic period.
Research indicates two major events that contributed to patriarchal development. The first was the Black Sea flood in 6,600 B.C. and the devastating impact this natural disaster had on the people that lived in close proximity to what was an inland lake at that time. The second major event pertained to the migration of people from the North Pontic–Caspian region that Marija Gimbutas named as the Kurgan culture. The Kurgans, as well as a number of other nomadic clan relocations into southeast Europe, had a tremendous impact on the future development of European cultures and on the attitudes and values that have shaped the modern Western world.
We will now examine the Kurgan culture in particular: their lifestyle, values and attitudes, why they became patriarchal and why they migrated south out of the northern latitudes and into southern Europe. We will look at the interactions between the Kurgans and the agrarian partnership cultures of Europe and what resulted from these cultural collisions.
Events of importance include the Black Sea flood of 6,600 B.C., the first Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 4400-4300 B.C., the second Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 3500 B.C. and the third Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 3000-2500 B.C.
The Kurgans are thought to have come from a middle stone-age group of people residing in the area between the Don River and the southern Ural Mountains. They are presumed to have been farmers from the Middle East and Anatolia. They came to inhabit the northern European steppes having migrated through Macedonia and Romania. Over time, they began to domesticate animals, especially horses and transitioned into a more nomadic lifestyle and continued to farm as nature allowed. The harsh terrain of the northern latitudes was not suited for extensive grazing so herds had to be relocated frequently and much defoliation occurred. Despite the climatic difficulties, they lived successfully there for a long period of time. Since moving from place to place imposed many logistical and survival problems, these nomads learned to pilfer from neighboring tribes and other cultural groups to gain subsistence needs. These tactics proved successful, so over time, they fostered intimidating behaviors that became increasingly aggressive and finally developed into outright warfare to procure needed natural resources.
The Black Sea Flood
20,000 years ago, the world’s oceans began to rise due to glacial melting in Eurasia and North America. By, 6,600 B.C., the Mediterranean Sea had filled to capacity, overflowed and flooded the Black Sea and all the surrounding land areas, devastating the landscape and driving the local nomadic and agrarian inhabitants (Kurgans) from their homelands. The fleeing clans had to vie for new homesteads on the limited remaining lands and much infighting ensued. Many tribes had to relocate far from their previous habitats and in unfamiliar territories. This event created immense trauma and destabilized the culture.
The Tools of Conquest
The Kurgans were the first people to domesticate horses and learned how to ride these creatures with great prowess. The horse became a resource that supplied food, power to do work and a dependable and excellent source of transportation. It allowed for migration to distant lands and promoted the nomadic lifestyle. The Kurgans also found the horse to be a deciding factor in their success at warfare. The horses’ speed, dexterity and the high striking position with a long sword created a significant if not overwhelming advantage in battle, especially with enemies that did not have horses at their disposal.
The dietary intake of these creatures being grass also had the negative effect of defoliation and the need to continually be on the move to find adequate pasturelands. This had a destabilizing effect on their society socially and the ability to make permanent settlement was rendered all but impossible and led to land pilfering and the displacement of other tribes as well.
The other event of significance was the discovery of bronze to manufacture tools and weapons. The Kurgans became attached to their weapons and the power it gave them to loot and threaten others and also influenced the position of the male as a dominant force in their social structure. Men began to see themselves as more valuable than women, due to their stronger anatomies, ability to seek and procure land for settlement, fight off enemies and pilfer needed resources from others. This perception evolved a hierarchy in which men started to see themselves as more important than women.