Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gender Politics of Archaeology

On Thursday 31 January 2002 at 9.00pm BBC Two transmitted a scientific TV program called Horizon. On this program the subject matter was archaeology and was called, "The Lost Pyramids of Caral".

Now to anyone who didn't have an interest in science this program passed by unnoticed. Yet what this program was about is a very big shift in the understanding of our past and the true nature of human beings. To the degree that historians in the future will have to re-write history and sociologists will have to rethink all their theories about human nature. In fact what was discovered could bring about a colossal social, religious and political change in our future. Once the information about what was discovered fillers down to ordinary people.

Read any book about our ancestors in the Stone, Bronze and Iron age and the picture you seem to get is of very brutal and violence people. It also seems that the further you go back in time the more violence and savage people seem to be. For this reason it was assumed that people who lived in prehistoric times were even more barbaric than the people who created the first civilisations. This has been the prevailing view by most archaeologists, anthropologist and palaeontologists up until very recently.

Now to most people academic theories are irrelevant to their normal daily lives. But the belief that we descended from savage barbarians effects us all. Because it assumes we are all deep down just violent brutes in modern clothing, that have to be kept in line through strict laws and moral codes. This belief influences the nature of our religions, political systems and laws. It also has a unconscious effect on the way we treat other, because if we are to believe that the true nature of humans is barbaric. Then we learn to fear other people and assume the worst in them. Creating a vicious cycle of fear of fear and even hatred for others.

This belief is not much different from the Christian belief that all people are born into sin. The implication of this belief that people can only be saved by obeying the very strict rules and moral code of the Christian religion. When scientists replaced priests as the "wise men" of our society all they done was to continue this belief in another form. In that we are no longer born into sin but we are given instead the equal negative belief that deep down we are all savage brutes.

This belief was spelt out on this Horizon program by Prof. C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky of Harvard University, who said:

"I frankly find it difficult to conceive of the emergence of urbanisation complexity civilisation in the absence of degrees of conflict, or the presence of, warfare."

In other words he was saying it is natural for human beings to live in conflict, and he couldn't imagine any civilisation that didn't generate violence and war.

Proof of this belief was found by Dr Tom Pozorski of the University of Texas-Pan American and his wife Sheila who had previously discovered what was then thought to be the oldest city in South America. In the Casma Valley they had discovered one of the largest pyramids in the world, in fact it was so large that previous explorers had assumed it was just a hill. Wood on the site was carbon dated to 1500 BC and this at the time it made it the oldest city in the America. In the excavation they discovered carvings of warriors who were killing and mutilating their victims. To quote, Jonathan Haas of Field Museum, Chicago:

"Heads have blood flowing from their eyes and blood flowing from their mouths and then you have body parts so you'll have just the leg and you'll have a torso or you'll have feet and you'll have crossed hands".

So this find seems to confirm everything archaeologists believed about the early civilisations. That they were created by war lords who ruled by fear and created the first cities as fortresses against conquest by other war lords. This theory seemed to be validated until Dr Ruth Shady if the University of San Marcos, Lima, was to make a discovery that was to turn everything archaeologists believed about early civilisations, on its head.

Like Tom Pozorski she began to dig around what was thought to be hills in a place called Caral in Peru only to discover they were pyramids. As she and her team began to excavate the site she was puzzled the fact that their was no pottery on the site. (pottery is always found in ancient civilisations) and to find only stone tools. This suggested this site was so ancient that it existed before the invention of pottery and metal. This was confirmed when some bags made of reeds found on the site were carbon dated. They were dated to 2600 BC so Caral was nearly five thousand years old making it as nearly as old as the first civilisation in Egypt. Dr Ruth Shady had found a city more that was a thousand years older than any other civilisation in South America. This was to cause a sensation in the archaeological world and archaeologists from North America came to visit the site.

Jonathan Haas, "the world's leading expert on the warfare theory" began to search around for evidence of warfare. To his surprise he couldn't find any fortifications or any means the city could have defended itself. He began to look further afield to look for battlements in the hills around Caral and then in mountain passes where invading armies would have to travel though, but came up with nothing. Meanwhile Ruth Shady couldn't find any weapons of war or any carvings of violence in her excavations, so all this lack of evidence was undermining the warfare theory. To the degree Jonathan Haas had to admit:

"You seemed to really have the beginnings of that complex society and I'm able to look at it right at the start and I look for the conflict and I look for the warfare, I look for the armies and the fortifications and they're not there. They should be here and they're not and you have to change your whole mind-set about the role of warfare in these societies and so it's demolishing our warfare hypothesis. The warfare hypothesis just doesn't work."

It seems that archaeologists now accept that it was irrigation and not warfare that started the first civilisations.

Another realisation about Caral is that what was true of this civilisation was also true for nearly the whole of South America at the time. Trading goods were found from the Amazon jungle at the other side of the Andes mountains as well as from the coast. The picture that emerged was that Caral was the centre of a vast trading network. So if the people of Caral felt so safe that they didn't bother to look for ways to defend themselves. The same must of been true of the rest of the South America. Because in no way was Caral just an isolated city cut off from the rest of the world. It suggests that Caral lived in an age where warfare was completely unknown. The evidence is that the first civilisations in South America lived in peace for about a thousand years before we had warfare, violence, torture and human sacrifice.

The cosy picture painted by the Horizon program of unbiased scientists looking for the truth and finally finding it in the excavation of Caral is basically false. The archaeologists who strongly believed in the warfare theory and then were willing to admit they where wrong in the face of the evidence, or lack of evidence, in Caral need to be congratulated. But this has not been the case for most archaeologists in the past. The truth is that the whole archaeological world for a period of 50 years has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the evidence, that the first civilisations live in a world where warfare was unknown. It was not just the evidence from Caral that made them ditch the warfare theory but evidence coming from Neolithic, Copper and Bronze age sites in Europe and the Middle East.

What happened in Caral at the beginning of the 21st century also happen 40 years previously in the 1950s and 60s in a place called Catal Huyuk in Turkey. Unfortunately the way Archaeologists reacted to this excavation was very different.. An archaeologist called James Mellaart found in this location the oldest city ever discovered going back 9,000 years. Making it much older than the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian civilisations. Again the archaeologists couldn't find any evidence of fortifications or weapons of war. Nor any paintings or carvings showing images of violence, or for that matter any form of centralised government. What was found instead were feminine images of childbirth, Goddesses and animal life.. James Mellaart from this concluded that the people worshipped the Ancient Great Mother.

This city was unlike anything discovered since. In that it had few streets, and most houses were built so close together that the only access was through the roof. This then means that to many people in the city to gain access to their homes they had to walk over the roofs of other people's houses. This was to greatly puzzle archaeologists as explained by the anthropologist Richard Rudgley:

"For so many people to have lived together in such close proximity there must have been some means of social organisation and communal consensus. Most of the citizens of Catalhoyuk would have had to walk across their neighbours' roof (sometimes with their animals) to get home at night. In order to avoid arguments erupting, some kind of right of access and mutual agreement must have been in force. For without such social codes the entire community would soon collapse into anarchy. Yet excavations have unearthed no evidence of warfare or interpersonal violence whatsoever. By some form of social organisation we do not really understand, this teeming town thrived for 1500 years, like some vast anthill functioning, to its own organic logic." ("Lost Civilisations Of The Stone Age" and "Secrets Of The Stone Age", by Richard Rudgley.)

It is impossible to understand Catal Huyuk while we think in terms of a civilisation that had masculine values. But what is not being considered is the possibility of civilisations those values were feminine. In later civilisations we see the masculine values of war, power and status glorified in images and writings. In Catal Huyuk we see images of the feminine values of childbirth, fertility being represented. So clearly women were the dominant sex in this community as it is their values that are represented and strongly influence the nature of the civilisation. As it is women's superior social skills of co-operation and communication that allows the city to function.

So disturbing was these findings that the whole site was closed down for thirty years and archaeologists in this period hardly mentioned what was discovered there. But there was one archaeologist who broke ranks and began to tell the world about implication of the findings. Not only of Catal Huyuk but other Neolithic sites in Southern and Eastern Europe. She wrote about a peaceful world in ancient Europe that worshipped the Great Mother that was ended by violent Indo-European tribes that came from the North and invaded these peaceful civilisations. To escape the invasion some moved to places like Crete and Malta where this Goddess civilisation continued into the Bronze age but even here they were finally conquered.

Marija Gimbutas wrote books about the Neolithic excavations in Malta, Crete, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia and Ukraine, all these finds showed a world without war and violence and where the people worshipped the ancient Great Mother. It seems that when a society worship feminine deities, then war and violence are unknown. But when societies worship male gods or both male and female deities then violence becomes commonplace. She was criticised and condemned by her colleges and it was claimed her work unscientific because it when against the fashionable warfare theories of the time. No other archaeologists at the time would support what she claimed, and she was dismissed as just a strident feminist maverick of no importance. ("The Gods and Goddesses Of All Europe", "The Language Of The Goddess", "The Civilisation Of The Goddess", by Marija Gimbutas.)

Then similar finds began to be written about in the in Indus Valley Civilisation in Pakistani. (Although it was first discovered in the 1920s) This was a much later society existing between 3000 BC - 1500 BC but it was the first civilisation found in the region. Again archaeologists couldn't find evidence of fortifications, violence and warfare, and it was a civilisation that worshipped horned Mother Goddesses. It was also ended by a violence invasion from Aryan people from the North.

Now the first excavations of Neolithic sites started back in the 1940s. So why did it take over 50 years for archaeology to accept the evidence of an age in the past where warfare didn't exist? Controversies like this has happened before in science, new evidence and theories can take a long time to be accepted if they go against existing theories. The problem is that knowledge of a Golden Age of peace ruled by a Mother Goddess doesn't only come from archaeology. They also come from myths and legends all over the world. What is clear there is a campaign to suppress and destroy all evidence about this Golden Age has been going on for thousands of years. The attack on Marija Gimbutas theories is only latest chapter in this crusade. It would be true many male archaeologists would prefer theories that the first civilisations were started by ruthless war lords. But there is more to this than meets the eye. The internal war within archaeology is the tip of the ice berg of a secret religious war that has been going on for thousands of years.

In the 1990s there was now a younger group of scientists who wasn't so opposed to the theories of Marija Gimbutas. The Catal Huyuk excavation was now reopened and it suddenly became respectable to write about it. Richard Rudgeley recently wrote two books and made a TV program called "The Secrets Of The Stone Age" that broadly supported Marija Gimbutas theories. So in recent years the many people in the profession of archaeology are now more accepting of the evidence that the first civilisations live in peace for thousands of years.

Richard Rudgeley comes straight to the point when he says; "The widely accepted view of the human story is wildly inaccurate." He then goes on to point out that because historians have ignored what happen during the Neolithic age it seems that to the general public that civilisations suddenly appeared out of thin air. Because we are taught that the people in the stone age were ignorant savages, who then suddenly created sophisticated civilisations like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In orthodox archaeology there is no explanation of how this suddenly happened. In this vacuum people outside science have invented their own theories like Erich Von Daniken in his book "Chariot Of The Gods". Or the many theories of a lost continents like Atlantis, Mu and Lemuria.

The point he is trying to make is that if the general public was aware that stone age people were not ignorant brutes and that civilisation didn't start with the Egyptians, but thousands of years earlier in the Neolithic age. Then we would not need aliens from outer space or lost continents to explain how civilisation got started.

He explains that the first large stone structures were not built in the Nile Valley or Mesopotamia but in the island of Malta. When the first archaeologists first excavated the Temple complex of Malta they assumed it was a crude attempt to copy what was built in ancient Greece, but when it was carbon dated it was found to be built 5,500 years ago. A thousand years older than the Great pyramid in Egypt. He then says that the comments of archaeologists hearing this news was that is was the wrong date in the wrong place. The reason apparently for this attitude for this is that Malta is off the beaten track, but Malta is just off the coast of Italy and not that far from Ancient Greece and Egypt. A more plausible explanation is that the archaeologists didn't want to know that Malta had the oldest free standing stone buildings in the world. Because the Temples in Malta are Goddess Temples, with Giant statues of the Great Mother.

Can it be, that the reason we have such a large gap in our history that Richard Rudgeley complains about, is because it is an age when people clearly worshipped the Great Mother? As all the "lost Civilisations" that he writes about where all full of feminine images. So was this silence simply male bias in wanting men to be the ones who created the first civilisations and not women. Or there more to this than that? Archaeology like most science is very expensive, so most archaeologists are either very rich individuals like they were in the 19th century. Or they rely on funding from universities, governments or religious sects like the Roman Catholic church. As in everything else in life, "he who pays the fiddler calls the tune". Archaeologists finding the "wrong" things or advocating the "wrong" theories, in the eyes of the people who sponsor him, could have his funding cut off.

The First person to do a "scientific" excavation on Malta was a Jesuit priest. His form of excavation was to rub off paintings on the walls of the Goddess temples that had survived there for thousands of years. Then to dig up the floor of the largest Temple and what he discovered there mysteriously disappeared. In other words; his work was to destroy the site for its archaeological value. This is not unusual, in the 19th century European explorers discovered in Zimbabwe an ancient city that was built by African kings between the 12 and 16th century. European archaeologists then "carelessly" destroyed all evidence that it was Africans who built this city. Simply because if it was known that Africans were able to create civilisations in the past it would undermine the right of European countries to colonise Africa. Because the justification of colonialism at the time was they were civilising the people of this continent.

Not only did archaeologists keep quiet about the first civilisations of the Neolithic and Bronze age period. They have also kept quiet about the Amazons. Some time ago I accidentally come across information that Western archaeologists have found graves of female warriors all over Europe. Yet it seems they think these finds are an "embarrassment" and so they are never published. The only people who have let the cat out of the bag are archaeologists of the old Soviet Union. In the 1950s and 60s they have published finding graves of Female warriors in the Ukraine and Georgia.

Both the ancient Greeks and Romans have reported fighting Amazon warriors on the north-east coast of the Black Sea. This is where the Soviet archaeologists have discovered the graves of women with armour and weapons of war within them. So it seems from the Soviet finds we can say that the Amazons existed in the places the Greek and Roman historians said they did. Unfortunately the silence by Western archaeologists about their discoveries of female warriors is censoring an important chapter in human history. It seems that after the Goddess civilisations were invaded from the North not all women meekly submitted to this. Some it seems fought back and created Amazon armies and communities.

This process of censorship is being clearly shown in the archaeology of what is called; "the holy land". The Bible gives an impression that the people of Israel worshipped Yahweh from the time of Abraham. It even suggests that the people in the Bible before Abraham like Adam, Cain, Able, Noah and Jonah also worshipped a male God. Yet modern scholars have found a hidden Goddess in the Old Testament. It seems there is 40 coded mentions of a Goddess called Asherah.

In support of this, archaeologists have discovered over 3000 clay figurines of Large Breasted women, some are pregnant and other are nursing children in Israel. There is a possibility that more have been found but when excavations are sponsored by Christian sects or Zionist organisations then images of Goddesses are strangely not discovered. These statues it seems are of the Goddess Asherah, showing that the Children of Israel were worshipping other deities than Yahweh.

In the 1960s a young archaeologist found a inscription that read; "Blessed by Yahweh and his Asherah." It seems he was too frightened to publish this find until another archaeologist published a similar inscription he had discovered. The reason why he was so reluctant to publish his find is that archaeology has become very political in Israel today. This is because archaeologists are being accused by politicians of undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish people's right to own modern Israel.

It seems that Asherah was openly worshipped in Israel up until a series reforms between 721BC and 609BC when by royal command Yahweh became the only God that was allowed to be worshipped. Though in this period some later Kings backtracked on this reform so it seems there was in this period a religious power struggle, that the worshipers of Yahweh finally won. Though the ordinary people were still worshipping Asherah in the privacy of there own homes. As shown in the images archaeologists found in ordinary people's home after this date. Also in this period the Hebrew Bible was written to create the belief that the Jews had always worshipped Yahweh. This rewriting of history was so successful that people even today are shocked to learn that the Jews once worshipped a Goddess. ("It Aren't Necessary So", by Matthew Strurgis.)

The success of the Jewish ruling class in rewriting their own history seems to have inspired other rulers of other nations to follow suit including that of the rulers of the Roman Empire. When the rulers of Rome decided to create a religion to unite the whole of the Roman Empire they chose a Jewish sect called Christianity. They followed up this by destroying all knowledge of ancient history burning down libraries throughout the Roman Empire and attacking educated men and women. The Moslems also done the same thing in adopting their own version of Judaism and also destroying all ancient knowledge. Yet it seems some ancient knowledge did survive like the legends of a Golden Age of the past. For instance from Greek Legend we are told:

"The first age was an age of innocence and happiness. Truth and right prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any magistrate to threaten or punish. The forest had not yet been robbed of its trees to furnish timbers for vessels, nor had men built fortifications around their towns. There were no such thing as swords, spears, or helmets. The earth brought forth all things necessary for man, without his labour in ploughing or sowing. Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks." (Myths Of Greece And Rome, by Thomas Bulfinch)

After that came the Silver age, where everything started to go wrong, then deteriorated more in the Brazen age and finally the Iron age, which is really our present age of warfare and violence. The whole concept of this myth is that everything has become slowly worse and worse for human kind since the Golden Age.

Yet the myth of the Golden Age doesn't only come from Ancient Greece. Probably the most ancient religion that survives today is Taoism in China. Again in the Tao-Te-Ching it talks about a Golden age in the past, and the slow deterioration to our present world. We even have a Golden Age Legend in the Bible in the story of the Garden Of Eden that probably came from Mesopotamia. The story was rewritten to blame women for the fall from grace and claim it happened as a punishment from God for disobeying him. Hinduism also has a Golden Age myth similar to the Greeks where they write about an eternal cycle of Golden, Silver, Copper and Iron ages. They claim that when our present Iron age finishes then a new Golden Age will dawn.

Now that archaeologists are unwittingly proving that the ancient Golden Age legends are not myth but historical fact. This could bring about world wide political revolution. For the last five thousand years we have lived in a world of violence that has resulted in wars, conquest and genocide. We also live in a very unfair and uncaring world where 90% of the world wealth are in the hands of only 10% of the population. Today in spite of all the advances in modern technology we still live in a world where billions of people live in poverty. Yet world wide the common people are forced to accept this because we are told there is no alternative. We have always lived in an unfair, uncaring world of violence and war. Yet what archaeologists have been finding over the last 50 years in the earliest civilisations shows us there is an alternative view of our past. Which means that these finds are becoming highly political.

When Dr Ruth Shady began to make know her findings at Caral the local people were proud that the earliest civilisation found in America was in Peru, but they were also very puzzled. The question that she is frequently asked is: "Why did our ancestors have the capacity to build such an important city, and we live so poorly and don't have the ability to do similar things?". The only answer she is able to give is: "the society was organised with a population that worked to do things collectively for the collective good." ( Though she didn't go on to point out that whereas today everyone works for the benefit of the ruling elite who keep the wealth of the country in their own hands.

The political ramifications of these finds are now being felt by the Peruvian government. Already they have cut her funding making it very difficult to continue her excavation or preserve what she has already discovered. Universities in USA have offered to fund the site, but their condition is that they themselves will take over the excavation. So it seems there are political moves to sack Dr Ruth Shady and put someone in charge who will toe the political line and censor what is being discovered.

This is what is so political about these ancient discoveries. If it became common knowledge that thousands of years ago people lived in peace and equality. Then people world wide will begin to ask the same questions that the Peruvian peasants are asking. This is turn could create new political and religious movements that will challenge our present ruling elite. Because if in the past we lived in a world of peace and equality then why can't we do the same today? This is why archaeology today is becoming increasingly political, as it is questioning the way our world has been ruled for the last five thousand years.

The stability of any ruling elite is a belief that life is better now than any time in the past. Because if the people are to believe that life in the past was better than today. It would create great unrest as they will want to recreate the better conditions of the past. So the leaders need to be able to tell the people, "you never had it so good." This is what the ruling elite have successfully convinced the people over the last couple of thousand years through censorship and destruction of all knowledge of early civilisations. Now this is changing there is evidence that people in the past where able to live in peace and equality that is unmatched by any country today. So if this knowledge was to become common knowledge, people will ask why can't we do the same today?