Because it’s a new year

There’s a lot in the news that makes us think things never change, and certainly not for the better.  But not everything HAS to be this way. Imagine a world without war, or kings, or those who have or have not.

I’m a fan of the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, who has (literally) dug into the history of neolithic Europe (6500 to 4500 BC).  This is my simplification of the picture she paints:

The folks who live here in the late Neolithic period are mostly farmers, although there are craftsmen (like potters) and traders. Tools are primarily flint. They keep dogs, sheep, pigs, goats, and cattle. The village is formed of concentric circles of houses with common areas in the middle. There is no big, fortified house for a chieftain. Instead, the larger buildings house communal gathering places and some of the bigger families. Inheritance and marriages are organized along the female bloodlines. Some members of those large families are the priestesses of the village, and small temple sights are scattered among the houses.

At the end of their lives, the townspeople are buried with grave goods signifying their role—tools of their trade, or ceremonial accouterments. Craftsmen are honored, both male and female alike. There are no separate houses or burial grounds for the rich. This suggests a level of economic equality.

Most significantly, there are no fortifications, weaponry, or evidence of war. There are no signs of territorial aggression.

This is the culture that builds huge megalithic stone and wood structures. There are graves, such as at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. There are also stone circles or henges at Avebury and Stonehenge in England. The henges are particularly interesting, since these structures are communal property, not designed for the elevation of a single individual or dynasty. Construction required significant dedication and labor. Avebury, by one estimate, required 1.5 million person hours. Talk about collaboration!

My point? We tend to think of great big monuments built by kings and pharaohs, but these megaliths were put in place by a peaceful society of Stone Age farmers and craftspeople. This went on for thousands of years, until warrior tribes conquered Europe and put their kings in place. After that, people began building fortifications instead.

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