WeeklyWorker

24.02.2011
Neolithic communism

When all the crap began: Supplement Part 2

Women's oppression, class, organised religion, war, and private property are not natural, writes Jack Conrad

Degenerate communism

Our ancestors came out of Africa not only as anatomical moderns, but as a communist vanguard. They also took with them - as they moved along coasts, up river valleys and then into continental interiors - the hunting techniques inherited from Africa (deadly to all slow, flightless and naive animals outside the coevolved environment). We can surmise that groups would move primarily through division. Some stay and socially adapt: eg, turn to fishing or gardening. Others - perhaps the younger adults, those without children - head off in search of better conditions and maybe the old ideal.

Of course, that pursuit was sometimes more than well rewarded. At least to begin with. As humans entered new areas, they encountered megafauna that they could kill with astonishing ease. Nevertheless, precisely because of that, the megafauna was either quickly reduced or totally destroyed. Superabundance gave way to chronic shortage. In extremis cannibalism serves as a substitute means of obtaining protein (eg, the Maoris).

Such a model, despite being very broad-brush, has the advantage of both explaining the rapid spread of human populations (maybe at an average of one mile per year) and the degenerate forms of primitive communism still found dotted here and there throughout the planet.

Of course, there is degeneration and degeneration. Best habitat conditions plus the revolutionary conservatism of women - allied to their sons and brothers - can sustain something resembling pristine primitive communism. Eg, to varying degrees certain tribes in the Amazon jungle still hold the land in common, give over what they kill to the collective and in other ways remain militantly egalitarian too. So, it must be emphasised, there is a dynamic relationship between objective and subjective factors, which explain particular social formations.

However, in the most fragile, most rapidly deteriorating, most testing habitats males would have reorganised themselves into much smaller hunting parties. Say from 20 to five. The extinction of the megafauna and increased difficulties experienced in killing even small animals would have provided an inescapable impetus. Obviously, the already discussed Australian land mass comes to mind (with the partial exception of west Arnhem land in the north-east).

Under such squeezed circumstances wives would have had to follow husbands - if they were to ensure meat for themselves and their offspring. Paradoxically, a dependent attachment which engenders separation - and not only of women from their mothers and sisters, but from matrilineal brothers too. Muscle in disputes with husbands is thereby lost. Hence distance renders ineffective a once key socio-political relationship. Roving family units come together in the tribal whole, but only infrequently - eg, the corroborees. Apart from such occasions women could no longer call upon their matrilineal brothers for help. Nor could they easily return to their mothers. Female opposition to male domination is thereby undermined through loss of these vital supports.

The old social order brought out of Africa proved untenable in Australia. Atomised into small family units, women see their power shrivel. Attempts to observe the monthly sex strike would have been made completely obsolete by the rapidly deteriorating natural conditions - that is for sure (the original social relationships being vaguely recalled in the dreamtime stories of the ancestors).

Men could no longer afford to hunt for a fortnight and then party with the women, according to the rhythm of the moon. Hunting had to be done whenever the opportunity arose. And the kill would no longer be handed over to the wife’s extended family. They were far, far away. Frequently, however, the men returned to the campsite crestfallen and empty-handed. The guaranteed hunt had long gone. Though less problematic, gathering roots, fruits, nuts and bugs took considerably more time too; in the denuded environment the women and children had to range much further afield.

Men would have felt themselves compelled to act. And that is exactly what they appear to have done. To borrow a phrase, “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” (Giuseppe Tomasi). Breaking through tradition within tradition is achieved by giving a new content to existing religious forms. To preserve the sacred rituals associated with social cohesion men take over the symbolic role of women ... necessarily that involves oppression, albeit said to be for the common good. (They also took over control of marriage - elder men thereby gaining multiple younger wives.) Nonetheless, men freely admit, at least to each other, that in the beginning women were central to the social order. That they had been usurped.

However, it was not only women who paid the price. In order to stand in for them - and display their commitment to their new role - men have to menstruate. Eg, an excruciatingly painful subincision is performed as an integral part of male initiation ceremonies over wide areas of Australia. The underside of the penis being cut “from the urethral opening in the glans to the base of the shaft where it meets the scrotum”.[54] A kind of vagina in the penis results. Much blood flows ... and not only during initiation. Men bleed in unison from their penises and other wounds whenever tradition dictates.

Not that too much sympathy should be extended to the men. Any woman caught trying to discover their closely guarded secrets risks horrible punishment: ie, death by gang rape. Men are determined to retain their status as the ruling sex.

Cattle

If men collectively managed to preserve social cohesion and egalitarianism - to the extent that was possible in the much reduced circumstances - the substitution of domesticated animals such as sheep and goats, but especially cattle, for increasingly rare megafauna allowed a small minority to elevate themselves above their fellows.

The domestication of cattle is dated to the early Neolithic: that is, approximately 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. From the fertile crescent and the Indus valley cattle herding then spread, through migration, exchange and emulation, over the ensuing five or six thousand years.[55] Not throughout the world, true, but into Egypt, the Sahara, Sudan, Ethiopia, China, southern India and Europe.

Cattle served as a primitive form of money. Revealingly, the terms ‘cattle’, ‘chattel’ and ‘capital’ are closely related in Indo-European languages. Ownership of expanding herds generated a corresponding desire for numerous wives, luxury and power in the first ruling class. Suffice to say, for the great majority every advance of such wealth meant retrogression; ie, fear, want and overwork.

Doubtless new values, moral codes and religious belief systems helped galvanise the few. Post-processual (interpretative) archaeology has in recent years usefully highlighted the role of ideas, when it came to hatching the social elite and moving to agriculture and a settled existence (that despite its postmodernist associations and connotations).

Put in the words of foundational Marxism: “within the old society, the elements of a new one have been created, and ... the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the old conditions” (Communist manifesto).[56] Of course, ideas have a certain autonomy. There is never an exact correspondence between ideas and social conditions. There is a complex determination. Ideas are shaped by social conditions, but they also shape social conditions.

Suffice to say, the consolidation of a ruling class did not neatly follow the hoof prints of cattle. The evidence we have reveals a prolonged, chequered and highly contested transition from classless to class society. There were a “variety of trajectories”, we are reliably told.[57] Archaeologists find what appear to be class societies alongside the continuation of hunter-gathering and classless societies, alongside newly domesticated crops and animals. So, while the rise of class and the rise of agriculture were closely related phenomena, they were not equivalents.[58]

Monumental constructions doubtlessly proclaim an elite. Göbekli Tepe in southern Anatolia, as present knowledge stands, is widely credited with being the earliest stone temple in the world. Unmistakably grand and unmistakably the site of collective religious ritual, the whole site covers 25 acres and dates from approximately 9,500 BCE; that is, probably just before full-blown farming cultures and somewhat before permanent villages, towns and cities. One can therefore hazard that those who planned, constructed, ran and worshipped at Göbekli Tepe belonged to a transitionary social formation which stood on the cusp of agriculture.[59] Thus far no evidence of domesticated cattle or domesticated cereals have been excavated. Despite that, slightly later sites in the region clearly show that people had started to raise sheep, pigs and cattle.

Because of its age and fame Göbekli Tepe has been subject to much wacky theory-mongering: eg, alien builders visiting from outer space. Nonsense aside, let us begin by considering the geographical/ecological context.

The surrounding area lies north of the Zagros mountains, on the edge of the Anatolian plateau and between the upper reaches of two great rivers - the Tigrus and Euphrates. At the time when Göbekli Tepe functioned the whole region would have been green and fertile. There were fields of wild wheat and barley, numerous streams, stands of fruit and nut trees, and surviving herds of gazelle. Hence Göbekli Tepe has, well foundedly, at least in my opinion, been associated with the original Garden of Eden story.[60] The book of Genesis specifically mentions the Tigrus and Euphrates when describing the land of Eden.[61]

As ‘disguised history’ the myth can easily be interpreted. While the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers was generally easy, fulfilling and happy, the turn to agriculture led to unremitting hard labour, inequality and a greatly impoverished diet (skeletons of early agricultural peoples show damage from being forced to adopt a constant crouching position and mineral and other such dietary deficiencies).[62] Hence the transition from one mode of existence to another could be seen by those who experienced or could recall it, albeit via oral transmission, as a punishing expulsion from paradise.

Göbekli Tepe went through a number of design reconfigurations. However, the basic pattern consists of an inner series of T-shaped pillars arranged into an oval, the highest around nine-foot tall, which are surrounded by a series of circular walls with a maximum diameter of 100 feet. At least seven other walled and pillared structures have been located within the immediate site - all smaller, but clearly related.

Pillars are carved with abstract shapes and what are stunningly realistic images of lions, deer, boars, foxes, gazelles, asses, birds and snakes. And archaeologists have unearthed numerous bones of wild animals - presumably eaten during communal feasts.

One can safely suppose a priestly elite, which not only presided over ceremonies, but the mobilisation of the population from the surrounding area. Constructing Göbekli Tepe took a lot of people a lot of time. It is estimated that “up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10-20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site”.[63]

As stated above, I think we must hypothesise a complex transition from primitive communism to class society ... a contested one too. There are signs, both negative and positive, of what has been interpreted as social resistance to the kind of elite that we presume oversaw Göbekli Tepe. Eg, Çatalhöyük (circa 7,500-5,500 BCE) - also in southern Anatolia, but further to the west. At its peak it is conservatively estimated that Çatalhöyük had a population of 3,500 to 8,000. Other archaeologists put the number at around 10,000 - though even the lowest figure is amazingly high, given the date. Çatalhöyük appears to be another example of a transitionary social formation. Its people not only hunted and gathered; they tended herds and cultivated crops too.

Fascinatingly, those excavating Çatalhöyük - most recently Ian Hodder - have found no “evidence of large public buildings, ceremonial centres, specialised areas of production or cemeteries”.[64] None of the houses that have been investigated so far show any significant variation in size. The whole settlement consists of a “myriad” of tightly packed “small, mud-brick dwellings” - entered through rooftop skylights. And it surely follows: if you cannot prove that a society is unequal then it isn’t (here I follow the archaeologist, Norman Yoffee).

Ancestors were buried beneath the floor of houses. They appear to have been venerated religiously. Houses being regularly demolished and new ones built over the old according to the same design configuration. So houses were not only places to live in, but a means of “imagining, remembering and interacting” with past generations.[65] Not that those buried in that domestic fashion are thought to be privileged.[66] Skeletons are not accompanied by jewels, weapons or other high-status grave goods. Nor do remains show discernable differences brought about through diet and lifestyle.

Given all this, there is every reason to conclude that there were no elites and therefore no classes. Nor, it is argued, are there overt signs of women’s oppression. Archaeologists have found numerous cattle motifs and clay figurines. But when it comes to the human form, female figures predominate. The most famous being a fat, seated woman (a goddess?), whose arms rest on two leopards.

Çatalhöyük has been celebrated on the left as confirming the existence of a “Neolithic communism”.[67] Overenthusiasm perhaps. Despite that, given the model I am advocating, we can postulate a popular revolutionary movement founding or taking over the settlement by overthrowing an exploitative elite.

Because of the evidence - albeit in the form of absence - I think the egalitarian claims made about Çatalhöyük ought to be cautiously accepted. The discovery of big temples and big houses in the “12 successive layers of occupation” would, of course, shatter the hypothesis.[68] Yet the fact of the matter is that nothing of the kind has been unearthed. Nevertheless, while the origins of Çatalhöyük remain murky, there are roughly contemporaneous settlements - populations were numbered in the several hundreds. They were, it would seem, dominated by a ruling class.

Çayönü is typical. The few top-range houses occupy twice the floor space of others. There was animal and ... human sacrifice. Surely a sign of social crisis. Blood has been extracted from a one-ton, cut and polished ‘offering block’ and Çayönü’s “gloomy” temple contains the remains of nearly 300 people. There is also evidence of what might well be class struggle. Around about 7,200 BCE elite houses were burnt and the main temple demolished, the site being turned into a rubbish dump. A “new Çayönü” was built ... without mansions.

Bernhard Brosius has suggested that the social order established, or re-established, at the new Çayönü spread to places like Çatalhöyük and beyond that to the Balkans.[69] What this, and similar theories, point to is a prolonged period of intense class struggles.

It is highly significant then that Göbekli Tepe was not quietly abandoned and left to the elements. The whole complex was buried under 300-500 cubic metres of earth around about 8,000 BCE. An act of deliberate obliteration. The community would have had to expend a huge number of labour hours to achieve what was clearly a pre-planned goal. We might guess at one socio-religious system being replaced by another socio-religious system. The new wanting to blot out even the memory of the old.

Slightly later sites in the region have been located at Jerf el-Ahmar, Mureybet and Nevali Çori. All destroyed or abandoned. And, of course, Neolithic megaliths occur elsewhere. In Egypt the 12 foot-wide Nebta Playa stone circle is dated to the 5th millennium BCE. At the time the area was not desert, but savannah and contained a large wet-season lake. People tended herds of goats, sheep and cattle. Other, lesser known, stone circles have been discovered in south-western Egypt. Indeed stone and wooden circles, long ditched avenues and single standing stones appear almost everywhere Neolithic culture was adopted.

The British Isles, though more recent compared to Turkey, is far from unique. However, not only are there an estimated 1,000 megaliths: there is an added scale. West Kennet, Avebury, Silbury Hill and Stonehenge in southern England are truly massive. According to estimates, Avebury henge took 1.5 million hours of human labour to complete. Dwarfed by the 18 million needed for Silbury Hill and Stonehenge’s staggering 30 million.[70]

There are a wide variety of theories purporting to explain the origin and function of these gigantic edifices. I shall ignore the plain crazy. Instead let me sample the plausible.

Klaus Schmidt, chief excavator of Göbekli Tepe since 1994, has suggested that it was the centre of a cult of the dead. Corpses were exposed on top of the big pillars till all flesh had been removed. Supporting evidence is certainly there in the form of murals depicting twin sets of vultures descending onto T-shaped pillars. However, there is no body for them to devour. Schmidt’s idea seems to be an obvious borrowing from the Zoroastrian towers of silence. Perhaps too obvious. Frustratingly, for Schmidt and his team, the surrounding area has revealed no graveyards, as might be predicted.

Cult of the dead theories have been used to explain other megaliths, Stonehenge included. However, in this particular case there are burials around the site (albeit few in number, the bodies are male and, as shown by grave goods, clearly members of the elite). Despite that archaeologists Timothy Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright interpret the Stonehenge complex in an almost diametrically opposite fashion. Instead of death they see life-giving cure. Stonehenge was for them an ancient version of Lourdes. Perhaps another obvious borrowing.

People supposedly journeyed from far and wide not to ensure their place in the beyond, but to prolong a hold on this life. The smaller bluestones being credited with possessing particularly magical qualities. Supporting evidence is, however, rather flimsy: eg, the supposed “abnormal number” of remains found in tombs nearby which “display signs of serious disease” and teeth which show that about half the bodies there were “not native” to the local area.[71] So people died from “serious disease” - they often do. And that many of them were not native to this part of Wiltshire hardly proves they came looking for a supernatural cure.

From Göbekli Tepe to Stonehenge, others see mass gathering places for fertility rituals. Yet the widest held theory about such sites is that they were astronomical devices for tracing the movement of the sun, moon, stars, etc. In our day, Druids, new agers, hippies, neopagans and the plain curious descend on Stonehenge on June 20-21 - the summer solstice - in their many thousands.

Astronomical theories must, however, be taken seriously. Solar, lunar and star alignments have been authoritatively claimed or authoritatively demonstrated. Eg, in a forthcoming publication Fabio Silvia shows that Neolithic dolmens (big stoned tombs) in Iberia have an unmistakable orientation towards the equinoctial full moon. Incidentally, astroarchaeology as a discipline was first given scientific rigour by Norman Lockyer (1836-1920) with his detailed investigation of Stonehenge. His 1909 classic study has recently been republished and despite occasionally getting sidetracked it is clearly a work of genuine scholarship.[72]

Sky-watching

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) touched on what he called the “equinoctial concern” in the myths of the Mandan people of the North American plains. Indeed he records similar notions occurring throughout the Americas, from Alaska to Terra del Fuego, in his The origin of table manners (1968).

In point of fact, ancient peoples on every continent were fascinated by the sun, moon and stars and seem to have made careful observations about their movements. A strong case for sky-watching dating back to the dawn of culture can be made.

Alexander Marshack (1918-2004) has found material evidence of what he believes are daily tallies recording the moon from the upper Palaeolithic: that is, around 30,000 years ago. Markings cut into bones, ivory and antlers prove not to be random or purely decorative. They appear to coincide with lunar phases, not just over a monthly period, but round the year. Marshack attributes meaning to the markings beyond the mere passing of time. They are not ancient versions of a calendar. Rather, as with Lévi-Strauss, he sees “narrative and myth”.[73]

Obviously women have a particular link with the moon. Again let us limit ourselves to the material evidence of human understanding. The 25,000-30,000-year-old Cro-Magnon figurine, the so-called Venus of Laussel, not only displays female fertility, but cosmological awareness. She has a noticeably swollen belly and holds a horn. Thirteen distinct lines are carved onto it. Astroarchaeologists suggest that these 13 lines represent the 13 new-moon cycles in a solar year (women having around 13 menstrual periods during the same time).

Then there are the rock paintings of Lascaux. Dating from around 16,000 years ago, they appear to include the Pleiades star cluster above one of its famous bulls (known to archaeologists as ‘bull No18’). The whole rotunda of bison, deer, horses and aurochs (wild cattle) in the ‘great hall’ has been interpreted by Michael Rappenglueck as an astrological depiction of the night sky.[74] The idea that Palaeolithic peoples were feeble-minded savages, dull-witted and lacking culture is, of course, flatly contradicted by all such accounts.

If women suffered an historic defeat with the crisis of big-game hunting and a male minority came to dominance with cattle-herding and agriculture, then we would expect claims of continuity. Counterrevolutions rarely, if ever, announce themselves as counterrevolutions. Eg, Napoleon Bonaparte and Joseph Stalin kept themselves cloaked in the colours of the revolution. And yet, because the Neolithic social counterrevolution was bound up with the revolutionary transition to a new mode of living, the result in religious terms would inevitably be a multilayered combination of the old and the new.

Solar rhythms assume an ever growing importance with agriculture. After all, people would now labour while there was daylight and sow and harvest according to the solar-governed seasons. A new solar-orientated religion was bound to arise. I think we can also say that, once an elite emerges, organised religion would tend to follow. Or perhaps, more accurately, an elite would emerge in conjunction with organised religion. Anyhow, after shamans come priests. People who live off surplus product coaxed or squeezed from the community. Almost by definition that necessitates deception (and by increasing degrees).

Men begin the counterrevolution by attempting to fool women (backed by force). The religious elite go further and attempt to fool the entire population (they had every interest in fooling even themselves). Their new religion passes itself off as a continuation of the old - maybe that way exploitation could be legitimised. The historical record is chock-a-block with exploiters presenting their exploitation as being beneficial for the exploited. This culminates in the exploited being expected to thank, bless, pray for and even worship their exploiters (priests, prophets, chiefs, lords, monarchs, emperors). Religion thereby categorically ceases to be a system for investigating, deciphering and engaging with nature (science). It collapses into mere ideology (mystification).

Stonehenge

Neolithic megaliths surely need to be considered in that light. Stonehenge can be used as a test case. In the main, official archaeology considers it a device for observing the movement of the sun, predicting eclipses, etc. The standard approach is via a plan diagram: ie, as if seen from the air. Having calculated a centre point, lines are then projected outwards, spoke-like, which locate the sun at key times of the year: eg, summer solstice.

Showing how conventional they are, at least when it comes to Stonehenge, Druids, hippies, new agers and neopagans think within that paradigm. After travelling many miles to celebrate the summer solstice, they eagerly await the sunrise. When it finally shows there is joy, reverence, camaraderie and, of course, a conviction that long before them the ancients felt the exact same.

Obvious problems exist with this model. The fact of the matter is that Stonehenge has no centre; at least shown by a marker of any kind.[75] True, depending where you stand, any set of stones can be aligned with astronomical events. Eg, shuffle a little this way or little that way, close an eye and one can see the sun rise over the heel stone from somewhere in the centre. But nothing matches exactly. That much is clear.

Archaeologists have tried to explain away what they consider to be imperfections. Supposedly because Stonehenge’s architects and builders were barely one removed from savagery, they made elementary blunders. Yet confounding such accounts, the lintels, the stone tops of the outer circle, prove to be “accurate to eight centimetres across a diameter of 30 metres”.[76] An accuracy that many a modern builder would envy. I think we must conclude that the summer solstice sunrise theory fails to explain Stonehenge.

So what was the intention of its Neolithic architects? Lionel Sims provides a daring, but much more convincing theory. Think about Stonehenge neither from above nor by looking out from the centre. Hardly, he suggests, the way the Neolithic community would conceive, approach or emotionally engage with the complex.

On the contrary, having gathered on the bank of the river Avon, they head uphill to the site. That is why the two mile-long Stonehenge Avenue was made surely. With this orientation in mind, the configuration, purpose and significance of Stonehenge might be understood.

According to Sims, the monument served to preserve the lunar cosmology, along with an increasingly tenuous social link with hunting. Simultaneously, however, the old religion is “estranged” by the “emerging solar cosmology”.[77]

From above Stonehenge is full of gaps between the stones. Yet to those heading up from the Avon it would have appeared almost as a solid wall. That is why there were 160 carefully arranged stones in what archaeologists call Stonehenge 3ii (to line up the summer solstice only two stones would be needed). There were, however, two gaps (windows). One on the upper left, the other on the lower right. Sims shows that one gap captured the setting sun, while the other captured the setting moon.

Presumably among the aims was to transpose onto the sun the religious significance previously held exclusively by the moon and, moreover, locate the monthly rhythm of the moon within the annual cycle of the sun. An extraordinarily powerful message for Neolithic viewers. And, as we have shown, the Neolithic architects would have been able to draw on a long tradition of observing and giving meaning to the sky.

What its priest-architects were intent on demonstrating was not the unity of the sun and moon during the longest day, the summer solstice. Rather the unity of the sun and moon that coincided with the longest night of the year. Winter solstice sees stars at their brightest. And even with thick cloud cover the outer bluestones of Stonehenge would glisten and glitter like stars. The sacredness of darkness, how it coincided with women’s magic and seclusion, was, one presumes, still fully internalised by the community. Now, however, it was firmly under the control of the priesthood, not least because of their mathematical, architectural, astronomical and other such special knowledge, which was displayed, affirmed and magnified to spellbinding effect through their monumental construction.

So the community reverentially approach Stonehenge before sunset, halt at some fixed point (the heel stone) and then await in expectation. They see the moon and sun appear in the two windows and, miraculously, while their light lasts, the sun and the moon are seemingly held still. Doubtless people were awestruck at the power of priests who could halt time itself.

One does not have to agree with every detail of the theory. Yet, despite a few nagging doubts, I am firmly convinced that Sims is on the right track. Damningly he describes Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill ... and that whole line of Neolithic monumental constructions going back to Göbekli Tepe, as “giant lying machines”.[78] Neolithic religion was out to intimidate, console and manipulate.

In Britain the hunter-gathering mode of production was steadily accumulating contradictions. Deer, elk, wild pigs, brown bears and aurochs were still present during the onset of the Neolithic, but were being overhunted (the horse had been driven to extinction by around 7,500 BCE).[79] Domestic animals, above all cattle, increasingly serve as a substitute. But, as we have seen, the benefit mainly goes to the few.

One can guess that the religious elite steps in to square the circle. They can be seen as continuing the old religion and putting off a social order entirely based on farming. The planting of crops seems to have been practised on a limited scale, but understandably full-scale agriculture held little or no attraction for the mass of the population. Farming requires endless back-breaking labour.

Not that the lunar-solar religion of the priesthood was an easy option. There are the labour hours needed to build and rebuild their huge monuments, added to which the priests would have expected and doubtless received tithes. Evidence also exists of human sacrifice, including children. However, in return the priests invented a “symbolic representation of communal cohesion”.[80] It is no accident that so many of their monuments were circular (conveying wholeness, inclusion, cycles, etc). Priests were in all likelihood also responsible for concocting rules which maintained the hybrid social formation. Eg, seasonal, geographic and other such restrictions on hunting.

The new and old are reconciled. Hunting and cattle-herding coexist, along with male private ownership, the continued role of women in the household, child-rearing, gathering plants, etc. The vital mediation being, of course, the priesthood and their rival monuments. We presume that Stonehenge and Avebury/Silbury Hill competed for allegiance and tribute - hence the constant rebuilding programmes and the striving after scale and novel special effects.

Neolithic cosmology seems to have been based on a binary unity of life and death, the past and the present, the earth and the sky. Despite that it was fractured in terms of time and space. The sun and moon had to be watched at a particular time - eg, the equinox and solstice - and in a particular place. One can also speculate that each complex wanted to give the impression that it was the centre of the universe. That the sun and the moon descended back into the earth via the ‘navel’ of these monuments.

However, the breakdown of the old order proved unstoppable. Between declining numbers of game animals and the rise of cattle-owning there was only one possible outcome. The dynamic pole being occupied by the male owners. Around about 1,600 BCE Stonehenge was abandoned (there are indications of desecration). The same is true of other such sites.

Theocracy is replaced by chiefdoms and kinship based on “territory, or co-residence”. Chiefdoms were, to begin with, very small and highly “unstable”.[81] One gave way to another in rapid succession ... but here we find the kernel of state and therefore state religion.

One presumes that priests - and their religion - had become thoroughly discredited in the popular mind. Perhaps they were blamed for the scarcity or disappearance of bigger wild  animals and the suffering associated with the adoption of the full agricultural package and a sedentary existence.

Instead of monumental religious complexes there appear elaborate hill forts, aristocratic burials and signs of endemic armed conflict. The male elite clearly felt safe in overthrowing, or subordinating, the priesthood and founding a new social order. And, having done so, they proceed to make war their abiding concern, passion and means of exerting and expanding their power. The community divides into three ‘orders’: those who work, those who preside over worship and those whose profession is fighting. Needless to say, the warrior displayed no hesitation in rating himself above the specialist in prayer.[82]