4. Idea For A Universal History

   

 
 
Neolithic Beginnings 

  

Section 4.3




 
World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon

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 CHAPTERS:
 

 

 
 

 
4. Idea For A Universal History  
    4.1 A Short History of The World  
       4.1.1 The Modern Turn: Looking Backward          
    4.2 Big Histories, Universal Histories  
       4.2.1 In Search of The Big Bang 
       4.2.2 From Life's Origin to The Dawn of Human Culture  
    4.3 Neolithic Beginnings  
       4.3.1 Fields of Diffusion  
       4.3.2 Genesis of the Great Religions 
       4.3.3 The Tower of Babel           
   4.4 Egypt, Sumer and The 'Rise of Civilization'  
      4.4.1 Sumer and The Cuneiform Civilization
      4.4.2 Egypt: A Synchronous 'Axial' Effect
NOTES  
   4.5 From Akkad to The Assyrians...and Israel...  
      4.5.1 The Indo-European Migrations   
      4.5.2 The Curse of Mideonic Empire 

Next: 
 5. Symphony of Emergence

 
  
        

    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     4.3 Neolithic Beginnings 

 

In the relativity of starting points the Neolithic stands as the most logical of beginnings. It almost seems as if the early transition to modern man and the Neolithic are connected as stages, with the rise of civilization becoming an incident in the further evolution of man.

The ‘Out of Africa’ scenario has set the stage, then, for one unified tale, and in a flourish we might as a gedanken experiment declare the camps and caves of the hunter-gatherer the first stage of ‘civilization’. It could serve also as a reminder that modern man is essentially the same hominid in the trappings of the suit and tie as he was then.

We notice that from ca. -50,000 to the Neolithic we see that no major evolutionary-genetic changes occur in the period, save in the emergence of human races, and the ticking clock of random mutations. Man, as man, continues within the boundaries of speciation created by the first emergence of homo sapiens. However, this status as ‘man’ remains ambiguous, and the true potential of man is ‘yet to be realized’ at the moment in the early eleventh millennium when the Natufian culture in the Levant commences a new form of adaptation, for a hunter-gatherer, that of settlement, life in a community, and the beginnings of socio-political interaction.

The ‘after the ice’ saga of the human adventure in the wake of the Last Glacial Maximum begins ca. -20,000. As Steve Mithen notes in After The Ice, “Human history began in 50,000 BC…Little of significance happened until 20,000 BC…Then came an astonishing 15,000 years that saw the origin of farming, towns, and civilization. By 5000 BC there was very little for later history to do; all the groundwork for the modern world had been completed. History had simply to unfold until it reached the present day.” This sounds like another ‘Axial Age’ lurking in the data.[i]

From 50,000 years ago: dawn of human culture

20,000 to 15,000 years ago: the Last Glacial Maximum, transition to interglacial

15,000 to 12,500 years ago: Bølling-Allerød Interstadial, warming

12,500 years ago: Younger Dryas, 1300 years of renewed cold

11,500 years ago: onset of Holocene

15,000 to 11,500 years ago: The Natufians in Western Asia

The transition of early man to settled life was perhaps as big a revolution as that which initiatiated behaviourally modern man over fifty thousand years before. This process began in the wake of the Last Glacial Maximum in the onset of the Holocene era, the interglacial period in which we are still living today. In Western Asia we begin to see the Natufians emerge into the Neolithic through the stages of sedentism, the gathering of wild plants such as the einkorn and emmer wheats, the beginnings of intentional agriculture, the domestication of animals, and the appearance of the first villages, such as Jericho. The Natufian culture of sedentary hunger-gatherers in the Levant was part of a broader field of such cultures stretching to Anatolia and northern Iraq, and is the first instance of the global transition to agriculture. But it is also true that agriculture appears to have been discovered independently in multiple locations across Eurasia and the Americas .

It is important therefore to note that we have distinguished technological and economic development from the larger cultural process visible in our eonic transitions. There is a difference between a new stage of technology, and a new stage of culture. It is in the Fertile Crescent that we see the first passage to civilization, but this is something more than the implementation of a new stage of technology, the agricultural. The innovations of agricultural discovery are part of a larger cultural framework that comes into being around it. It is in the Western Asian sphere, appropriately a kind of ‘center’ point to the totality of Eurafrica that the drama of emergent civilization and its ever expanding integration and globalization initiates.

It is interesting that Gordon Childe is the one who proposed the term ‘Neolithic Revolution’, with the term ‘revolution’ evoking all the overtones of the Marxist version of that. But the idea doesn’t quite work, and becomes ambiguous. Is the ‘revolution’ the emergence of a set of social systems with class divisions, or is it the effort to overcome this? In our more exact analysis this distinction can’t be neglected. Our eonic sequence has taken up and organized the idea around something more general, the idea of a transition. The question is then if the Neolithic emerges in a rapid transition. Our data is suggestive but not yet conclusive. If anything the reverse of a revolution is occurring at the beginning of social division emerges in the new stage of human existence. We should be wary of jumping to conclusions here, since very specific data is needed. In the final analysis the idea of ‘revolution’ refers to a revolt in the context of societies that come after state formation. But that moment is still far away in the Neolithic.

In most accounts, the entry to the Neolithic creates a new world of social division and hierarchy, in contrast to the egalitarian existence of the hunter-gatherer. This transition raises all the questions raised by the discourse on historical materialism of the Marxist ideology arising in the wake of modern capitalism. This theory is notable for its failure to properly analyze the dynamics of both history and economics even as it cogently exposed in descriptive fashion the relationship of social existence to the means of production. The theoretical speculations of Marx, mixed with the ideology and tactics of revolutionary futurism, ended by obscuring the essential simplicity, even obviousness of the thesis, possibly misnamed by the terminology Marx gave to it.

Historical Materialism There is something ill-fated in Marx’s theory of history, and we have exposed a number of its problems. It shares the fallacy of that which it critiques, a purely economic interpretation of history. The theory of historical materialism suffered a kind of incoherence, and is clearly false in the form in which it was proposed, but in another sense it is impossible not to embrace some version of that insight as we recount the emergence of civilization, and we should take on board a generalized version of it. The emergence of class and exploitation roughly correlates with the passage from the stage of hunter-gatherer to a new proto-industrial stage of production, and the result leaves the question that haunts civilization: at what stage will civilization transcend this logic? The first answer is that the eonic sequence itself shows the recurrent trends toward equalization arise at each stage, to attempt a correction. This is especially clear in the Axial Age when religions of equality and the birth of democracy are notable in their appearance. But these trends toward equalization, so far, have not completed their evolutions. In any case, Marx confused the question of stages of economic systems, the dynamics of revolution, and our related but different concept of ‘eonic transition’ can be used to repair that confusion.  

Evolution and Equalization The hidden ideology behind Darwinism suggests a form of class ideology in disguise. But as we examine the eonic effect we see that evolution in the macro sense and equalization will be directly correlated, a decisive challenge to the Darwinian thought system. In the emergence of the discrete freedom sequence, so-called, the point is obvious. The exact details of the Neolithic are lost to us, so we should be careful how we understand the emergence of social divisions at this point. The confusing double motion almost in the same generation of the modern Industrial Revolution showing the emergence of democracy and the class divisions of the new capitalist economics, equalization and disequalization almost simultaneously, should remind us of just how confusing the history can be if we lack the correct closely-tracked data. We should be wary of thinking we understand the Neolithic with the data we have so far.

The issue of the means and factors of production arise, not with the modern Industrial Revolution, but promptly at the point of the invention of agriculture in the Neolithic transition. There is a unity to these stages of technological economy. This point, recast without the controversial trappings of the modern left, is transparent and noticed by almost all authors. We should note that Marx’s confusion over the dynamics of materialist history vis a vis that of the revolution into freedom (the basic Kantian variant) represented an intuition that misread the phenomenon of modern revolution. We have seen the better way to approach this by uncovering the discrete freedom sequence, and by indicating, what our chronicle here should highlight again, the way in which equalization is strongly correlated with our eonic sequence. This is a most un-Darwinian process, yet it is clear from the record in the later stages of the emergence of civilization, which by the time of the rise of higher civilization shows the rise of social domination of the agricultural surplus by the political elites of the newly arising State.

Although the data for the Neolithic doesn’t yet reach our standard of centuries-level data, it comes close, and the result is tantalizing. Looking at the core eonic effect we were led to the suspicion that we have only one half of our data, and a frequency hypothesis gives us the following speculative possibility, based on a quite reasonable assumption of monotone cycles:

Transition 1:  ?????

Transition 2: ?? -8100 to -7800

Transition 3: ? -5700 to -5400

Transition 4: -3300 to -3000

We will certainly not try to impose this scheme on the data save to note that, in a manner still short of our standard of evidence, the centuries level, this rough scheme actually works (!), to our puzzled surprise, as it uncovers the obvious two steps (transitions 3 and 4) to higher civilization, although we cannot yet detect the data corresponding to the earlier transitions suspected. But the fit is quite good and tells us something at once about the rise of civilization, even as the issue of invisible transitions must haunt us. We dare not speculate about Neolithic dynamics given the data that we have. The existence of a ‘transition 3’ would at a stroke resolve many of the obscurities of the rise of ‘higher civilization’. In any case, a strong suspicion arises that the sixth millennium is the real source of civilization, the spectacle of Sumer and Egypt at the end of the fourth millennium being an advanced stage, not unlike modernity itself.

We must remind ourselves that accounts of the Neolithic are likely to be misleading since on the basis of our later data we know that a series of transitions are crucial. How would you explain Christianity without knowing about the Israelite transition? These suspected invisible transitions would therefore be crucial to our understanding of the first phase of civilization. So we can use our frequency hypothesis, which is just that, an hypothesis, to organize our data around a question. This issue, of course, applies only to the dynamics of historical evolution. The cultural content of the emerging Neolithic is analyzable as is.  

Thus a strange thing happens here. The presence of possible invisible transitions makes us skeptical of any theory of the emergence of the Neolithic lacking centuries-level data or less. We might completely misinterpret the dyanamics.

Invisible Transitions? A caution Our framework might seem artificial or speculative applied to the Neolithic. In fact it is an hypothesis, and a strong warning that our analysis of historical dynamics can go wildly off the mark if we fail to take into account the possibility of unobserved intervals, that we call ‘transitions’, that ratchet the system up to a new level. Clearly these are present in the Neolithic in at least two stages, but our data is insufficient. Our framework is not proven, but can be a useful deterrent as a floating question mark to the reverse dogmatism.

Origins of Religion We strongly suspect that the origin of (organized) religion as we see it in civilization lies in the Neolithic. But if the Axial Age is any guide, this would occur via a series of macro intervals analogous to those in our eonic sequence. Imagine if we had only the history of Christianity but no evidence for the Israelite transition. Our situation is like this for the Neolithic.

As suggested most obviously by our schema we see two rough stages to the Neolithic, after the Natufian, and these lead to the rise of civilization at the end of the third millennium. This process involves more than the discovery of technological innovations and comprises the overall cultural integrations that are so evident in the Axial Age. The question of agriculture is misleading in a sense, because all of the fundamental innovations of civilization are occurring at this stage in inchoate form, such as the onset of organized religion, and the social relations of villages generating politics.

 It is not implied by this scheme that the Neolithic emerges in some teleological manner, although in some sense we have to suspect the factor of directionality visible in the later stages apples to the first step!

There is something artificial in the delineation of the ‘Neolithic’: we suspect that the real onset of civilization lies in the indicated period of two or so millennia prior to the rise of Dynastic Egypt and Sumer . But then why not redefine the term ‘civilization’ to include the phases of early human settlement? We should definitely advance a prediction that a series of eonic transitions of our type is hidden here (in the Middle East ) behind the rapidly divergent diffusion of the Neolithic. It is in fact easy to spot how this sequence proceeds and our perception of the ‘frontier effect’ suggests each stage will show adjacency relations with the prior and next (although in such thin manifestations its logic would seem less inevitable), and this is just what we see as the series curls around the Fertile Crescent, from the Levant to Northern Mesopotamia to the field of Sumer.

?Transition 1: The so-called Natufian with its transitional cultures of proto-agricultural hunter gatherers. This goes back before the start of our schema.

Transition 2: The Neolithic Revolution is underway and we see the transition to village life.

Transition 3: The series moves to the northern Mesopotamian region, and we see the Hassuna/Halaaf cultures, along with the first prehistoric phase of Egypt. This era begins the lead up to the take-off in Sumer and Egypt in the next step. By this point agriculture has diffused almost globally, and yet the great advance will occur in the frontier zone to the south, the realm of Sumer.

The Neolilthic is spreading globally by the end of this period, and we make no claim that this is the sole interesting zone of Neolithic development. And yet the great advance of the next stages clearly source in this early progression.

Çatal Hüyük We are hard-pressed to trace this remarkable florescence of the Neolithic to a transitional phase, yet we can see that this gem of mideonic culture amply shows the first grand phase of a ‘high Neolithic’, along with Jericho, complete with seminal religious formations, and organized ‘civil existence’, if not civilization. This culture, in the Anatolian zone, easily satisfies our ‘frontier effect’ requirement, and it is also interesting that this complex suddenly dies out close to the onset of Transition 3. Our system jumps toward a new diffusion field in Northern Mesopotamia .[ii]

The period we call Transition 3 ought to have been the real beginning of civilization, but it will be millennia before higher civilization emerges. In fact, this period we suspect contains the clue to the Great Religions that will follow the Axial Age. It is here that great temple complexes begin to emerge in the network of village Neolithic. It is significant that ‘religion’ in this sense predates the rise of civilization, leaving us to ponder the relativity in the meaning of the term. This period is reminiscent of the long Medieval period preceding modernity, readying populations for the jump to the advanced requirements of the modern system.

As James Mellaart notes, in a description that almost implicitly maps out this period and afterward:

At the end of the Early Chalcolithic period, then, let us say ca. 5000 BC, we find that throughout the greater part of the Near East all the requirements for the birth of civilization were present...Nevertheless, the expected birth of civilization did not take place. It was delayed for nearly another millennium and a half and when it did come it was not in the areas which had hitherto been most prominent, but in the dismally flat lands of S. Iraq and a little later in Egypt , areas which until then had been of little or no importance. Why was this so? [iii]

Let us note how this follows the logic of our eonic model very closely, and the frontier effect is clearly at work. The first dramatic rise of civilization will be in Sumer at the end of the third millennium. But clearly there was a stage before. Our frontier effect suggests that some region round about the first visible transition zone, most probably Sumer rather than Egypt, will show an earlier transition. Not hard to find. Jump back 2400 years in a possible source area nearby. In fact we can almost see one further north from the Mesopotamian area, with clear indications of connections to the general Neolithic in the Fertile Crescent . Thus our account really begins in the prior era as this leads to the rise of  Sumer, and its sidewinder, Egypt.

In Ancient Iraq, George Roux unwittingly gives us the right chronology behind this, starting in Northern Mesopotamia in the wake of the first Neolithic period, and ending in its Sumerian frontier adjacency zone.[iv]

The Hassuna period         ca. 5800-5500 BC

The Samarra period         ca. 5600-5000 BC

The Halaf period               ca. 5500-4500 BC

The Ubaid period              ca. 5000-3750 BC

The Uruk period                ca. 3750-3150 BC

The Jemdet Nasr period    ca. 3150-2900 BC

We can see the dates fit so well we can hazard a guess. Clearly we are seeing two transitions separated by a mideonic interval.

The Modern Analog To understand this sequence of dates and double transitions and what it is telling us consider a later example: the rise of modernity really starts in the Axial Age: two transitions and a ‘medieval period’ bring about a major advance in civilization. In the same way, we suspect that transition 3 and 4 with a ‘mideonic’ period in between are working together to set the take-off point for higher civilization. We have one set of transitions, then 2400 hundred years later everything comes together and there is another transitioin, igniting an explosive new era we call modernity. But the Axial and the modern are really a larger sequence in one process. A similar effect is clearly visible in the relationship of the Hassuna/Halaf cultures and the rise of Sumer. We can see the long gestating ‘medievalism’ in the Ubaid, and then the final take-off around the Jemdat Nasr period. The rapid take-off of Sumer is exactly analogous to the rapid take-of of modernity after a gestating ‘mideonic’, or ‘medieval’ period. The theses of slow and fast evolutioin thus both apply, our stream and sequence unity of effect.

We are beginning to adopt a larger picture than that of the purely agricultural. For what we are seeing is the emergence of Civilization, capital C, and its attendant globalization. And the diffusion of the Neolithic is of course the second chapter of our tale. We must face the fact that our account is one of a seeming subset of the whole of Civilization. For the onset of agriculture and of civilization follows our eonic mainline. And this greater integration of culture is more than just the means of production, agriculture. And it seems that this larger integration happened only once, in the Fertile Cresent. We can clearly trace the diffusion from this great beginning. We must note in passing that if you wish to evolve Civilization on a planet, this ‘middle east’ is a good middle, the roughly equidistant point from the farflung sectors of Eurasia . Diffusion will rapidly reach the entire continental surface.

To understand what we must be missing, it might be useful to imagine a history of Archaic and Classical Greece, if this had occurred without the technology of writing, to realize that a complete transition could be right under our noses and we wouldn’t see it. The bards would have sung their tales, with no Homer to record their saga. The Greek world shows a field of city states, one of which, Athens, especially flagships ‘premonitions’ of the future, and flowers over a very brief interval. Such incidents in earlier periods are so far beyond our resolving power. We see that our position for earlier time may be hopeless. Further the factor of self-consciousness can exist behind primitive thinking and crude knowledge, the feeling we often get with Gilgamesh . Accounts of the Neolithic are thus under suspicion of showing us the rough outlines of ‘stream history’ and the mideonic surges of larger scale formations (viz. the way the Roman Empire follows the Axial period), but not the generative flash points, if any, leading the system on.

The Great Flood? In Noah’s Flood, the authors William Ryan and Walter Pitman propose the interesting thesis that the later myths of the flood are really a semi-historical memory of the sudden flooding ca. 5600 BCE of the Black Sea in the period of the retreat of the Ice Age glaciers. Conveniently timed to the end of the first phase of our speculative Neolithic sequence, this calamity may have triggered the first of a series of migrations of peoples, such as the Ubaid into Mesopotamia , those who will begin the creation of the first rise of civilization.[v]

 

    Notes

   Web:  chap4_3.htm

 

[i] Steven Mithen, After The Ice ( Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 506, Alan Simmons, The Neolithic Revolution in The Near East (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007), Hans Nissen, The Early History of The Ancient Near East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), Donald Henry, From Foraging to Agriculture: The Levant at the End of the Ice Age (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvannia Press, 1989).

[ii] Michael Balter, The Goddess And The Bull ( Walnut Creek : California , 2006), Ian Wilson, Before The Flood ( New York : St. Martin ’s, 2001).

[iii] Stuart Piggott, Dawn of Civilization (New York: F. Ungar Pub Co, 1968), p. 62.

[iv] George Roux, Ancient Iraq (New York: Penguin, 1992), p. 48.

[v] William Ryan & Walter Pitman, Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998).

 

 
 


 

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Last modified: 09/23/2010