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The Neolithic Mind

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  • The Neolithic Mind

    I'm just re-reading Inside the Neolithic Mind by David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce.

    It's something of a sequel to Lewis-Williams's earlier book, The Mind in the Cave. It struck me that a book about the change to the Neolithic way of life might interest some here.

    Theories about that change have been around for a while: that farming might have been less work than hunting (doubtful); that it might have happened because of climate change, and so on.

    We being who we are, archaeologists have tended to look for "logical" (in their terms) explanations for the rise of farming, assuming that people must have deliberately chosen it as a strategy for rather prosaic reasons.

    Archaeologists have also, unfortunately, been rather influenced by Karl Marx (c.f. the importance of the Australian archaeological theorist, V. Gordon Childe). In Marx's "materialist" view, all change was revolutionary rather than gradual, and came about because of "material" conditions. For Marx "production relations" were the "base"; people's beliefs just "superstructure" that merely flowed from and justified a set of "production relations".

    However, recent careful examination of early settlement sites has led archaeologists to conclude that the change in Neolithic people's religious beliefs came before the shift to farming:

    Mithen concluded that the religious beliefs embodied in the massive stone structures and associated carvings came before and eventually led to agriculture.</blockquote>

    Here&#39;s how that might have come about:

    Large numbers of people, possibly measured in hundreds, would have been needed to make the G?blecki Tepe structures and pillars, and this would have necessitated the gathering and processing of much wild grain to sustain the workers. This activity would, in time, have resulted in fallen grain springing up, being gathered again and thus becoming domesticated.</blockquote>

    Curiously, it seems that the agricultural revolution may have been merely an accidental by-product of people&#39;s religious activities.

    Anyway, much more in the book. It&#39;s a fascinating look at the past.

  • #2

    Very interesting Mick! I like all you book recommendations. My reading time is limited while my reading list keeps growing and growing. I&#39;ve been reading GCBC for the last 2 months!!


    • #3

      Very interesting yes. Yet another book to add to my own growing list. My reading time is also limited. Too many books, too little time. Oy!

      I have two books on Catalhuyuk and one called Noah&#39;s Flood which, while on another topic, describes the weather conditions of the area from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean some 9-10 thousand years ago. If nothing else, it gives a good idea of what was going on, geologically speaking, at the time.

      Start weight: 250 - 06/2009
      Current weight: 199
      Goal: 145