Category Archives: Prehistory

Mother-Right and Male Supremacy

The expansion of productivity in all areas, that included animal and crop husbandry as well as the household industries, gave the labour power of ancient peoples the impetus and capability to create a greater productive yield than was essential to satisfy their needs and support their level of life. This expansion of production correspondingly increased the daily quantity of labour power required from each individual member of the family, household and village. Hence it became a necessity to recruit extra labour from outside the community in order to cope with the expansion of productivity. At this stage we enter the era of human conflict, of wars between groups. There is no evidence so far that strife took place between people prior to the agricultural and pastoral stage of social development. Only when extra labour forces became necessary for production does war arise – both to conquer new territory and to obtain slaves. Slaves were pressed to work, having been the captured men and women of vanquished villages and territories.

Slavery, the first great social division of society, arose out of the expansion of labour productivity and the accumulation of wealth, coupled with the unequal distribution of that wealth. This first cleavage arose inevitably out of the prevalent historical conditions of the period and as a result of technological advance and increased productivity. With the creation of a surplus class society appeared in the form of masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited. It was at this stage of the development of society that the ownership of herds was transferred from the communal ownership by the tribe or gens into private ownership by individuals. It is at this point that we can determine changes taking place within the family as a result of the development of private ownership of the means of production vested in the herds.

The private ownership of herds alongside newly acquired wealth determined the occurrence of revolutionary changes within the family, especially with respect to the division of labour between men and women. private herds in the possession of men became the means whereby men gained control of the means of producing the basic necessities of life. Prior to animal husbandry man as a hunter had owned his weapons and equipment of the hunt when he had procured the essentials of the tribe’s existence. But later, as we now see, man came to domesticate animals and then to breed them in order to increase his possessions, which constituted a new mode of production. Furthermore, by owning cattle privately a man would also own whatever commodities – and this included slaves – he received in exchange for his cattle, sheep, goats etc. Man exchanged the surplus for other commodities, and all surplus was appropriated by the man – unlike the woman, who despite deriving certain benefits, owned no herds – who owned the property used as a production means.

During the stage of savagery and the hunter-gatherer mode of existence, the hunting ‘savage’ had accepted his mutually co-operative but secondary role in regard to the household and the women of his community. However, with the growth of animal domestication and its accumulation of wealth and slaves through conflict, pastoral man desired that his personal wealth be inherited by his sons. Such was the socio-economic determinant behind the subordination of women, their delegation to a secondary role in society, and deprivation from the ownership of the new means of production. Man used his pastoral activities to attain supremacy and relegate the woman to second place thereby ending ‘mother-right’, and substituting patrilineal inheritance for matrilineal in the majority of ancient societies.

Previously the division of labour between the sexes within the family had exerted a control over the distribution of property between the man and woman. This was the case with savagery and the household it entailed. With the development of pastoral economies the division of labour between the sexes did not change, but the property relations did. It was the external relations with respect to labour division that altered because the man had accumulated private property in the form of herds outside the family household. The internal household relations, the family division of labour was reversed thereby reflecting the changing economy of the tribe. Previously the woman’s household supremacy had been based upon the domestic work and the position it conferred, but in the face of the economic competition of male pastoralism female labour passed into subordination. Man’s previous hunter activities had been the reason for female domestic supremacy. Now man’s economic activity had become the reason for female subordination because her labour counted for les than that of the man, especially as the man was the major whereby the family acquired its basic necessities of life. In other words male acquisition led to male ascendancy whereas female household labour became a secondary, comparatively unimportant addition to the men.

Male supremacy was thus established in the home with man’s private ownership of the means of production aiming the final blow to mother right. male supremacy was continued and consolidated by the establishment of ‘father right’, inheritance of property by sons, and the laying down of the foundations of monogamous marriages based upon the unequal distribution of property between the two sexes. It is at this pint we can proceed to analyse the transition from the elementary conjugal or pairing family to the property based institution of monogamous marriage in developing class societies.

In ancient society there occurred over a period of time a trend towards the definite narrowing of familial boundaries. Initially the familial ties encompassed the entire tribe within which elementary units of conjugal pairs existed. These pairs consisted of a man and woman with their offspring embedded in a matrix of mutually dependent kinship ties. No doubt, just as with modern non-industrial tribes, variations on the basic pattern existed. A gradual process of exclusion took place whereby nearer, than remoter kin were eventually less involved with the conjugal family. This process eventually excluded close relatives by marriage until there remained only a molecular structure composed of a pair of loose knit individuals. Death dissolved this conjugal pair, as did break-ups for other reasons disrupt this type of marriage. Women if in short supply became prone to  exchange, the object of a bargain and obtained by gifts to her kin. Such marriages were terminable by both partners, and the explanation lies in the nature of the economic basis of each particular situation.

The pairing family at this stage of the development of human society was an unstable union that prevented the establishment of independent family household units. Such conjugal pairs found their viability with the primitive communal household where matrilineal mother-right existed, being embedded in the knowledge of a knowable mother as opposed to a probably unknowable male parent. In such a household mother-right entailed respect for the mother, because female supremacy was firmly rooted in social relations and economic foundations, that provided the mutual support for all members in recognition of importance of the survival of the gens. All gens members of the female line remained on one location whereas the males came from other gentes to become members of the matrilineal and matrilocal community. But as has been shown this changed and was replaced by male domination. Bearing this in mind it is time to examine female supremacy within the gens.

The issue becomes one of female supremacy and the end of ‘mother-right’. During the stages of savagery and barbarism women had a position within the community that was respected, free and equal with the men. The primitive communal house was the very foundation of female supremacy throughout ancient times up until its dissolution during the transition from middle to upper barbarism. In the household the women had a matrilocal and matrilineal cohesion – it was the men who came from without. So, despite the unrealistic anti-historical claims of the male supremacists, women at the dawn of human history were not the slaves of men. Society existed prior to slavery, and history shows that at the inception of society men and women were equal in both labour and property.

During the era of savagery, and including the lower barbaric stage, the established wealth of a society consisted of its implements, shelters, and other equipment that would have  included rafts, boats, weapons, utensils and clothing. Wealth was clearly used everyday in the constant pursuit of the necessities of life. Such was the simple technological level of the hunter-gatherer living in his communal household. But the pastoral societies of later barbarism that were advancing beyond the lower level of earlier communities had wealth in the form of herds. These herds of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and camels required only to be tended but not only that – this new wealth reproduced itself! Steadily the herd numbers increased to provide the pastoral peoples with a supply of meat and milk, hides and furs, that were never available to the hunter-gatherers in such quantities. Pastoralism created more than was required to satisfy the essential needs of its herdsmen and their families – it produced a surplus. As a result of such developments the pursuit of game became a sport and not the primary means of procuring food. The privations and dangers of the hunt were now o longer necessary to endure – thus, man turned his attentions to his herds and the power at home that the beasts now conferred upon him.

Wealth in the form of herds passed into the private possession of the men who by establishing ‘father- right’ became the heads of families. When wealth had become established in the possession of these family heads a real assault was mounted on the matrilineal household which heralded the end of the female gens and mother-right.  Pairing marriage was destined to be placed by the monogamous union that would provide attestable sons so necessary for the transfer of property and the developing laws of inheritance. As long as mother-right existed a man was prevented from passing his wealth to his son because the matrilineal family or kinship group would ensure that it would be shared amongst his female relatives on his mothers side. Pastoral man was faced with a dilemma – he was now owner of the most important means of production, and he also owned extra labour power in the form of slaves – but he could not pass his wealth to his son. The answer was simple. End mother-right!

Man’s importance within the family as wealth accumulated until he was more important than the woman’s – but for his children not to be disinherited on his death he had to change the descent through the female line to the male line. Decrees made the change over to father-right, but little evidence exists to tell us when this revolution in kinship rights took place. It is marked by unwritten history, shrouded in mythology and folk story, but occur it did. As we know, matrilineal vestiges remain to this day in various tribes. Certainly we can say that once man had the means of production within his hands that the change from mother-right to male supremacy was not only natural, it was inevitable.

With regard to monogamy and male supremacy the origin of monogamous marriage is to found with that male supremacy that developed out of the pairing marriage. This transition occurred, as we have seen, during the pastoral development period that characterised the change from middle to upper stages of barbarism. The defeat of mother-right and the establishment of male supremacy based upon the private ownership of property, coupled with the social division of society into antagonistic classes – masters and slaves – indicates that civilisation is beginning to develop within the socioeconomic structure of barbarism. Monogamous marriage has it roots in male supremacy and has the definite purpose of producing offspring with unquestionable paternity. Such a situation is absolutely necessary in order to comply with the regulations of inheritance of private property. At this time, because of the economic property considerations involved in the union the elementary pairing marriage is replaced by recognised marriage bonds. It is now a contract that cannot be mutually dissolved at will. The woman, like her husband’s cattle and slaves, is now property. She is owned, she is a commodity, to be bought and exchanged and part of her husband’s wealth, because she will, as a mother also produce children, but in more comfort than the herds in the fields. Nowhere do we find that infidelity by the man is looked upon as an indiscretion.

In competition with female slaves the wife has a position where monogamy is monogamy for her alone. Marital infidelity becomes the male prerogative in a society where slavery and monogamy co-exist, especially when slavery and monogamy have their roots in the same institution – the private ownership of the means of production. Thus we come to see that amongst the most advanced peoples of ancient times, as exampled by the civilisations of Greece and Rome, that marriage was still a union of economic purpose, of convenience, for gain and protection of property vested in male supremacy. Such monogamous unions were not romantic associations, they were just the result of sexual love matches, they were not rooted in the earlier natural conjugal pairings of communal society – but instead they were based upon economic and property considerations that represented a new social stage of the victory of the private over the commons. The victory of the man over the woman, the exploiter over the exploited. Class society had arrived and the patterns of marriage henceforth would be determined by the arrangement of thr class forces in a given society rather than the satisfaction of individual needs in time with social unity.

At its inception monogamous marriage was a progressive step, a necessary and inevitable advance, but monogamy that is bondage is not inviolate, it too must change and be replaced by equal monogamy and mutual co-operation and affection of the liberated family. Prior to private property there was primitive communal relations with equality in the home – it was private property, exploitation, slavery and monogamous bondage that came from outside the home. Monogamy appears initially in human society as an unequal partnership with one spouse, the wife, subordinate to the other, the husband. It is in this context that we discern that the first class division in society developed concurrently with the conflict between man and woman embodied in the monogamous marriage.

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Early Civilisation

The first civilisations developed initially in the alluvial valleys of the Euphrates, Tigris, Indus, and the Nile some 5000 years ago. At this period henceforth certain riverside villages were transformed into small towns and cities. There arose new populations of an urban type that continued to diversify and contain specialised workers. These specialised men – craftsmen, merchants, priests officials and warrior leaders were supported by a surplus that was appropriated from the extra farmers produced over and above their domestic needs.

The first 2000 years of civilisation correspond with the period in archaeology known as the Bronze Age. A narrow, by comparison with the working population, circle of administrators and priests continued to appropriate the small surplus that was produced by subsistence agriculture that now employed irrigation methods. We now have forms of society divided into social classes with opposed interests – a class of exploited men and women, and a class of exploiters. At about 12oo BC the use of iron became the main method of production – concurrent with the invention of alphabets and writing. The use of coinage developed after 700 BC and thus abetted merchant dealings with surplus commodities. Roman and Greek economies in the period known as antiquity, as with other early civilisations, derived their surplus from the prevailing specialised agricultural techniques, and it was at this time that there began to occur the impoverishment and enslavement of peoples, producers and artisans.

During the stage of savagery, during the period of natural existence, men lived in equal relation to one another. In this context we must not assume the existence of a one time ‘Golden Age’ – these times were hard. But, these early men had within them the potential to develop their capacities further, they possessed abilities that gave them a distinct advantage over their fellow animals. Man’s development, however, brought its contradictions. These contradictions arose out of man’s further development of his potentialities, his further control over nature, and became the means whereby inequalities appeared in his social relations.

One monument to early man is his conversion of the vast ancient forests into arable land for cultivation – man not only made himself but, by the very nature of his own development stages he also made his own chains. Through his expansion of the means of production man introduced property – not only communal ownership, but other relationships based upon the private ownership of property that enable the appropriation of a surplus to take place. Through the institution of private property man introduced slavery and poverty into his social life. Once that man had established society, once he had instituted the unequal social relations derived from the appropriation of surplus value for profit, then every higher stage was consequently a higher stage of class society. Hence each new advance that was achieved by civilisation was therefore, in reality, a step forward in social inequality.

All societies that have existed in civilisation, and the particular social institutions each given society engendered, became altered into the opposite of their original aims. These social processes that are in conflict, are antagonistic and involved in a struggle, contain a contradiction. This contradiction is solved by the eventual transformation of one process into another, opposite process. The resolution of the struggle of opposites, the transformation of one extreme into its opposite, can be seen operating in social laws.

It was a historical necessity that tribal chiefs became their peoples masters, their oppressors. These oppressive chieftains then took the resulting inequality to its extreme point, to an extreme limit where the intense inequality changed into its opposite. Unequal relations became themselves the very cause of equal relations. Each and every society thus contains within itself the very processes that will replace it. However, we must not regard this social process as a mechanical push-pull or cyclical movement. The new equality is not the equality of primitive, communal savagery of prehistoric times – man does not return to the ‘idyllic’ natural existence of a mythical ‘golden age’ – but has passed into a new and higher equality. This is, in essence, the negation of the negation. Individuals may at times go round in circles, but social man in history can only go onwards and upwards.

We can conclude that societies, including ancient and modern civilisations, move in contradictions, and that these contradictions are the very germs of change into newer, more advanced stage of society. Hence class society constantly generates contradictions to which it can find no answers, it cannot solve its own riddle. The result is the leap from quantitatively accumulated processes of one lower stage of society into the newer quality of a higher stage of society.

Therefore, because of its inability to solve its contradictions the particular society has become the opposite, the extreme, of that which it originally intended. Poverty becomes an aspect of class civilisations, and as such is the extreme born of the existence of abundance. Obviously when the exploiting class appropriate surplus from these who created it, they have crated the opposite that will lead to their negation. In modern society these contradictions can be seen in evidence, they can also be plainly seen to be sharpening. Hence a contemporary duplicity of action with the development of extreme contradictions between the collective interest and the private, individual benefit. Within modern monopoly capitalism the struggle of these opposites is exemplified by the sharpening conflict between the individuals’ and the masses.

Essentially – human evolution cannot be regarded as a solely biological phenomenon. Human evolution can only correctly understood in terms of the evolution of skills. Man throughout his history and evolution has advanced progressively from lower levels to higher levels of technology. The material means of existence are the result of socially organised relations of production, and it in this that all human relations are rooted.



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The Era of Barbarism

10,000 to 8,000 years ago there appeared in the Near East certain societies that cooperated actively with their natural environment. The result was an increase in food supplies – the economy being based on the cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals. This is then the beginnings of a new type of economy indicating a new and higher form of technology. This new food producing economy corresponds with Lewis Henry Morgan’s concept of Barbarism. The archaeological period is known as the Neolithic or New Stone Age, but the period cannot be delimited with regard to time, because, in the economic sense, the Neolithic type of life existed in later forms of society. Furthermore, economies later adopted bronze and iron technologies whilst remaining at the much earlier food producing level.

The course of evolution at this juncture of history was probably the same for the majority of peoples scattered throughout the world. From this stage onwards the various developments of different communities continues at different rates – quite often due to natural conditions afforded by various regions. Humans create their own environment and thereby create themselves. The primitive or lower stage of barbarism saw the Mesolithic peoples commence domestication of animals and cultivation of domestic plants. This was the characteristic feature of lower barbarism. This occurred in Asia Minor some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. A great advance in terms of technology and economy – though plant cultivation was in the main confined to the sub-tropical zones of North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. As we can see , humans have moved forward to a purposeful, determined and active control over their environment, a step towards their ultimate mastery of nature. Syria, Persia, and Turkestan may be dry and barren areas today, but during the Pleistocene epoch they were well endowed with rain. The Old World so-called (Eastern Hemisphere) had most of the animals amenable to domestication, and all but one of the best plants for cultivation. The so-called New World (Western Hemisphere with the Americas) had only the llama and one cultivation plant, albeit the best, which was maize. It was because of the unequal distribution of the raw materials of the basic economy of lower barbaric society that the two continents, and their development, went separate ways.

By the middle stage of barbarism, pastoralism and agriculturalism had become the general rule. Cultivation was initially confined to the Nile Valley and used a system of agriculture known as ‘extensive cultivation’. This type of cultivation relied on continually breaking new ground. Hence it becomes obvious that such a technique means that the settlements are not as permanent as those found among ‘intensive’ agriculturists. The latter system use the continued exploitation of the same areas of land for long periods of time. It should be noted that animal herds were bred and tended simultaneously with agricultural activity. Evidence shows that food was obtained from the seeds of wild grasses. Furthermore, the Mesolithic Mount Carmel peoples – the Natufians who were either progressive Neanderthals or an intermediate from prior to sapiens proper around 6000 BC – have been found to have used elementary sickles made from flints embedded in wooden shafts. This implies they had reached the stage where they could reap certain crops or clear grassland.

The step was eventually taken whereby suitable grass species were grown by the settlement, and that these sowing areas ere deliberately prepared. Primitive grasses such as wild Emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and wild Einkorn were probably the original suitable crop plants used, these being accompanied by the cultivation of wold barley (Hordeum vulgare or hextashium). It was only much later that oats and rye became generalised for food use. Originally these two plants, which are hardy enough for cultivation in the colder northern realms may have been ephemeral weed grasses contaminating Einkorn and Emmer sowings. Other plants and vegetables included Spelt, beans, peas, carrots, pomegranates and lentils.

Initially this agricultural work was probably the responsibility of the women of the settlement. Most of the ancient tribes and peoples worshipped the giver of good bread, the female corn goddess. These goddesses have had many names – Isis, Dindymene, Agdistis, and Cybele. To the Romans she was Ceres, whilst the Greeks gave her the name of Demeter. Such a goddess has left the memory of her role in latter-day folklore and mythology. This goddess is represented by the effigy hoisted onto the waggon carrying home the last sheaves of the harvest.

Syria, Mesopotamia and the Indus valley produced the earliest civilisations, and it is interesting to note that these particular areas were the environments of the ancestral wheat and barley species. From these areas the techniques spread with the crop types. Around the time that cereal cultivation was developing there also developed the use of the domestic animal as a dietary source. Cattle, sheep, pigs and goats were the initial species of domestication. The dog has been the companion of man for a long time prior to agricultural and pastoral activity – as an adjunct to hunting in earlier communal societies. As technology developed so did transport because innovations necessitated better energy sources. Thus progress caused the adoption of the ox, the horse, asses and camels to become embedded in the restless, upward progress being made by these bygone peoples.

Side by side, the cultivation of plants and the domestication of animal herds characterised the early stages of agricultural settlement. These ancient settlements, exemplified by the archaeology of Egypt, Sumer, and Faiyum were the proof of the simultaneous prehistoric practice of crop and animal husbandry. The early Sumerian evidence points to the use of wool from sheep approximately 4,000 years ago. In Mesopotamia again, it was about 1,000 years later that elementary dairying began to develop.

The stone tool technology, the production means associated with the earliest agricultural communities, is known as the Neolithic. The Neolithic is the New Stone Age, and was an epoch that is still remains little known. The most important aspect of the Neolithic stage is the development of agriculture with its larger and more stable, as well as more permanent, communities. The Neolithic settlement possessed the level of subsistence that is the basis of the larger proportion of modern day communities of this level of technology and economy.

Evidence points to the independent appearance of agricultural economies in several distinct regions. Despite the persistent, but unsubstantiated, claims of the ‘diffusionists’ the ancient Egyptians had no hand in encouraging maize and potato cultivation in the Americas. Different regions possessed different natural endowments, varying floral and faunal components, as we can see in ancient barbarian China where millet and pigs were the staple means. It is obvious that the effect upon humans of agricultural technology was monumental. New ways, new techniques were developed, which gave rise to new social relations. The earlier agricultural communities were far larger than their predecessors – the nomadic hunter-gatherers of the stage of savagery. These agricultural communities contained approximately 200 to 300 individuals amongst whom there developed an expanded division of labour. However, the most relevant result of development was the production of a surplus. Barbarism therefore was the era in the history of humanity where they acquired and developed the knowledge of animal and crop husbandry. Further from this humans learned and developed the various techniques of expanding natural productivity, by social labour, by human activity.

During the upper stage of barbarism we can determine the occurrence of large scale cultivation accompanied by the necessity for deforestation to obtain extra arable land. Forest clearance implies a higher level of technology, a more revolutionary means of production, this was the smelting of metal ores. The Bronze and Iron Ages provide evidence of the rapid increase in the means of subsistence and population – aided by the revolutionary bronze tools and the revolutionary iron ploughshare. This period of barbarism passed into the era of civilisations, accompanied by alphabetic scripts, and subsequent written records. Written history had arrived.


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Ancient Tribal Society

A predominant form of economic production and exchange, with its associated social organisation, has existed in every historical era. Ever since archaic tribal society (with its attendant common ownership of land) disintegrated, the history of humanity has been a history of class struggles and has been applicable to all written history.

The communal ownership of land has been found to have existed in ancient Russia, as well as being the basis of the Teutonic tribes who consisted of the Angles, Saxons, and Germans. Such communal village settlements have been found to be the general form of ancient society from Asia to Europe. The internal structure of earlier communal societies were illustrated in their common forms by the discovery of the true and essential character of the gens and its connection with the tribe. This was the essential nature of Lewis Henry Morgan’s (1818-1881) book ‘Ancient Society’. Society began its differentiation into distinct and eventually antagonistic classes with the dissolution of these primitive communities.

It is a common mistake to assume that Africa was the only continent where communal forms of society have existed. This is not in fact the case because we now know, due to archaeological researches, that a conspicuous similarity existed between those African societies and other communities from Europe to Asia to the Americas. The individual societies may exhibit variations in actual size or structure, especially in consideration of cultural ways that include religions, languages or tribal organisation. For all the essential similarity was a common economic foundation in the form of the common ownership of land.

These different types of tribal society based upon the common ownership of property were outlined by Marx. Each of these communal societies possessed their own characteristic features, and were designated the ‘asiatic’. the ‘classical’, and ‘Germanic’ forms. The first type called the ‘asiatic’ mode was also known as the ‘oriental’ or ‘slavonic’ type. The foundation of the ‘asiatic’ mode was tribal or common property, upon the basis of which surplus was produced. However, this surplus was not common property because it was appropriated by a class who played no productive role in the creation of the surplus. This elite within the society, functioned as rulers in the form of priests, kings and princes.

The second type of ancient tribal society delineated by Marx was the ‘classical’ or ancient form seen in Classical Greece and Rome. This type of society is the city state and as such has become an important social and economic centre. At this point is witnessed the development of inter-community conflict, Men no longer occupy land just for communal production, they also protect and safeguard that occupation by force. War as a means of obtaining further land now becomes a primary consideration in the affairs of the society.

The third form was the ‘Germanic’ mode of production. Unlike the ‘classical’ mode, production was centred on the land, and the community was also, rather than within a city. With such a society the class that ministered was not separated from the actual process of production. This is true of the early stages of the ‘Germanic’ community but eventually the elite class became more distinct. The community comprised a local organisation of hamlets and villages which farmed the related area of land. When the Saxons invaded southern Britain and forced the westward migration of the Celtic tribes they engaged in war. However, the Saxons were in truth agriculturalists and upon cessation of hostile activities returned to their farming life. Yet, within their communities, there existed the seed that eventually grew into feudal relations, despite the eventual imposition of European feudalism following the Norman invasion.

We now know that the ‘asiatic’ mode was not typical in Africa, because it occurred in a generalised form throughout the world, being a stage through which all human groups have passed. The ‘asiatic’ mode of production consisted only of the means of production that had its foundations in the rural society that excluded private ownership and included communal land ownership. Men exploited men by various means which depended upon each particular community’s history – but always the community functioned as the intermediary. In other words this general ancient production mode and relational superstructure had variants that were ‘asiatic’, ‘African’ or ‘European’ and so forth.

These ‘geographical modes are forms of a general, universal process that existed at some stage in the development of all societies. Features of the so-called ‘Germanic’ mode of production have also been found amongst the ancient tribes of Wales and Ireland. In common with the Celtic tribes they replaced the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain shared much in common with regard to economy. Early property relations made their initial appearance in the form of human communities that were typified by types of family. The study of ancient tribal society shows that the family as a community expanded into a larger family – the tribe. The amalgamation of clans and separate lineages permitted further tribal formation.  Within these tribes, clans or lineages there is no private ownership of land. The individual within a society practising collective ownership may only use the land, but they may not lay claim to ownership.




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The Epoch of Savagery

The term ‘savagery’ is not a description as with the term ‘primitive’. It refers solely to a certain stage of development, to a particular level of economy or technology. Some 500,000 to 250,000 years ago mankind emerged in the form of Homo erectus. A rare species, essentially a hunter and food gatherer, living in many respects like any other predatory animal – a parasite on nature. These prehistoric hominids gained their subsistence by catching the natural products of their environment. With regards to terminology, and in order to avoid confusion, the hunter-gathering economy corresponds to Lewis henry Morgan’s concept of savagery. For approximately 98% of humankind’s existence on earth, this form of economy provided the sole basis of human sustenance. The period of savagery corresponds also to the archaeological period of the Old Stone age or Palaeolithic, and to the geological era of the Upper Pleistocene.

The epoch of savagery refers to the early stage of the development of the human species. The whole period of savagery included the level of existence of all pre-sapiens hominids and about 90% of the existence of Homo sapiens. The early period of savagery was the primeval state of pre-sapiens hominids, living in their natural habitat, collecting roots, shoots, berries and small animals. Initially, they inhabited the regions of the savannahs, tropical and sub-tropical forests where their diet necessitated a wide ranging nomadic existence that made a large area of land an imperative. These original populations were few and far between, consisting of probably no more than 20 or so individuals. In such small groups there would have been little basis for an organised division of labour, other than between the sexes, especially in view of the fact that their technological and cultural level was only rudimentary.

During this stage articulate speech made its appearance, which implies the beginnings of social labour and organisation.. The tools and implements of these pre-sapiens hominids, as excavations have shown, consisted of sticks and stones – but by the time of the appearance of Homo erectus there had developed rough fashioned stone choppers, as well as evidence of the use of fire, but no pottery. Coverings and crude garments consisted of grasses, tree bark and animal skins, but no advance to textile manufacture and use was not possible yet. Domestic animals were not known, wild animals were definitely a source of food. It is also at this period of time that there developed the utilisation of fish and such activity implies that rivers and shores were followed in pursuit of such a food resource, thereby facilitating the movement and migration of these primitive groups.

Fish utilisation which included shell-fish, crabs and small aquatic animals, thereby, indicates the use of fire to make the flesh more amenable – fish food and fire being, according to Engels, complimentary. This stage of the epoch of savagery can be termed the middle stage of the main characteristic of the period – the invention of primitive weapons. In terms of materials and techniques of manufacture this period of development is also known as the Lower Palaeolithic era. Personal property may have existed in regard to sticks, weapons, decorations, baskets and bags – but never with food. The Neanderthal people, the progressive type of which were probably Cro-Magnon man’s immediate precursors and contemporaries no doubt possessed all these accoutrements. The later stone tools were better made by using the flaking technique much in advance of the Homo erectus technology. This age of the lower and middle stages of savagery takes us up to the end of the Lower Palaeolithic period, including the typical Mousterian Culture of the European ‘Classical’ Neanderthals. The ‘Classicals’ were confined to the European sub-continent by the last glaciation and eventually became an extinct type, whereas ‘progressive’ Neanderthal types possibly developed into Homo sapiens in the more southern ice-free regions. The modern classification of hominids describes the progressive Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis .

The higher stage of savagery can be equated with the Upper Palaeolithic period – the dawn of Homo sapiens. This stage began about 70,000 years ago and continued until the era or Barbarism some 8,000 to 10,000 year ago. Characteristic of this period is that the hunting of wild game as a regular sourse of food became possible due to the invention of the bow and arrow. Hunting therefore became a regular occupation.

The cultures existing at this time displayed great variety and as of yet are still imperfectly known. Evidence of various groups from small areas enables us to distinguish distinct phases of development. Each phase possesses its own cultural characteristics and features, but we do know that the different types of vessels, artistic styles, ways of life, did not correspond to the physical variants as shown by excavated skeletal remains. The Grimaldi skeletons from southern France possessed the Gravettian culture in common with the European Cro-Magnons, but the interesting point is that the Grimaldi people were reputedly Negroid.

The Homo sapiens of this period had developed far superior stone implements to those of their non-sapient ancestors. They modelled in clay but had not made the step to fired pottery. They employed animal skins for clothing, made bow strings and harpoon lines from sinews, as well as using spears and arrows that were tipped in flint or bone. Homo sapiens as a species even then evidenced having much skill, the invention of the bow and arrow indicating the  presence of, and accumulation of experience that was directed by an acute intellectual ability. The consequence was the appearance of ever more complex innovations, and a better grasp of their environment.

Humans remained in this pre-agricultural phase for tens of thousands of years, continuing to survive as a hunter-gatherer, accumulating experience and knowledge, moving towards the time when another leap would be made – a leap that resulted in the Neolithic Revolution and its primitive agricultural basis of society. Palaeolithic people of the upper stage of savagery were probably still seasonal nomads, their migrations motivated by the movement of wild animals. In the winter months they probably occupied caves and typical huts that were built over ground hollows, or deliberately dug out holes. The group was still only small, with an average component of some fifty members.

Prior to the Neolithic transformation humans passed through was is called the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, the first stage of Barbarism. The Mesolithic was a relatively short term of history during which humans domesticated the wild dog, fished and hunted with nets and hooks, built huts, canoes and sledges. This period is marked  by the fact than the economy was one predominated by the appropriation of the natural products that were readily available in the surrounding locality. The accumulated quantitative experience and knowledge of the primitive barbarian of the Mesolithic times  is a qualitative change, a social leap, that blossomed out as the Neolithic stage of primitive agriculture. Savagery had passed into history, as pre-sapiens hominids, and modern man had become the lower barbarian. This great change took place approximately 8,000 years ago.


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