1.24 Overpopulation

Venus figurines such as the Willendorf statuette.

The first indication of overpopulation (accompanied by the start of wars and male dominance) in European AMHs may date from the onset of a cold period of OIS-2[1] about 35.000 years ago. Hunting territories shrunk, groups were driven together in the southern refugia. The cave paintings of Chauvet and elsewhere may be seen as male initiation sanctuaries: as places for secluded male rituals, separated from the women. At the same time, female rituals became more concentrated on the growing importance of food plants like peas and lentils, the boons of Mother Earth which they venerated with the renowned

 

Many paleos wonder why the AMHs in Europe developed brilliant cave paintings and Venus statuettes (the ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’), while those living in Africa for much longer did not produce that many art works. For example, archaeologist Richard G. Klein theorizes about some brain-related gene mutation leading through symbolic language to symbolic art.
The question about Klein’s ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’ is: where has it be gone after the end of the LGM[2]? The Magdalenian reindeer hunters followed the reindeer tracks into evermore northern tundra regions, forgetting the cave paintings of their ancestors. For the next page of the ‘Upper Paleolithic Revolution’ we have to look elsewhere: to the Levant.

We think there is a more simple explanation: technological inventions may have been fostered by a colder climate, where in a long icy winter (when people lived mainly from food gathered in autumn) for males there was less to do. This may be corroborated when we compare the technological activities of Inuit gatherer-hunters with African gatherer-hunters such as the San. Also in artistic activity such as rock art, San people are less masterfully than the cave painters of Southern France[3].

About 16.000 years ago, it was the time of beginning horticulture. In regions of Eurasia with a high density of long-houses (the combined huts or shabonos of semi nomadic horticulturers) the wild tribes with struggles for survival arose. War makes males important.

But on a more fundamental level, it was only the situation that had changed (war), not the males or the women themselves. So the males had to suppress their incertitude, to allay their own doubts: they declared their newly-won importance holy. A deep incertitude of the males made a new phenomenon a necessary: a constant denigration of female abilities. Present-day religious fundamentalists still display this primitive incertitude, by isolating and over-protecting their wives, by limiting female freedom of action, or by demonizing love affairs or abortions.

A good question is: was male dominance not a legacy of the early AMHs? Was their immigration Out of Africa not a result of overpopulation? Even the most egalitarian tribes like the Mbuti (Congo) know a certain degree of male dominance. So when you say male dominance may be very old, I agree. For example, as we can see at chimpanzees, male dominance may always have been a strategy to cope with situations of overpopulation and/or competition. Both peacefulness and a warrior-attitude have always been strategies to cope with specific environmental challenges. For most of human history, a predominantly peaceful way of living was the most successful way to interact with the environment. When about 20,000 years ago overpopulation started to become an environmental factor, gradually a warrior-like style of living became the more successful attitude.

Here is an narration about horticulturers, already forty years in my memory, so I have forgotten the source. It is from a visitor (or missionary ?) and I retell it in my own words:

Oh what a noble people, so respectful for each other and for their children! So much better humans than we in our western civilization!

One day men learned that strangers were roaming in the north of the territory. So they had to go down there. Perhaps whiteman would like to come along? Oh yes, sure, whiteman was always ready to learn some new.

They stalked the camp of the strangers. It appeared that the men were hunting and the women gathering, so they found only old people and children in the camp. All of them were slaughtered ruthlessly. A desperate girl crawled to the petrified on looking visitor for help. “Oh, you want to fuck her, whiteman?” asked a helpful Indian, “wait a moment”–and he pushed his spear through the girl’s body into the ground.[4]

This event accurately reflects the recent reports of prehistoric mass slaughtering in Kenya[5] 10.000 ya, a 7.000 ya massacre near Frankfurt (Germany)[6] and a 4.000 ya from the Middle Copper Age in Croatia[7]. This reports caused great enthusiasm in some cultural pessimistic professors, but for us they confirmed once again the consequences of overpopulation in the recent past.

From these stage 2-reaction events we may conclude that humans are very social, but only to those they see as fellow humans. For the prehistoric horticulturers, the strangers were not fellow humans. Not even humans. To them, these others were rather a form of harmful wildlife that you need to destroy.
It can also be concluded that this awful behavior didn’t make them less social: it had survival value. Only one group can make a living from a given territory. They didn’t have a government yet to regulate things.
Even the Arab tribes in the beginning of the Islam still lacked a government; the Islam of Mohammed was an attempt to civilize the wild tribes.

In any threatening situation, humans fall back into mode 2 of our human nature.

Today we still see the same behavior in AGR-societies such as Rwanda. In a civilization, such behavior can be revived by ideological indoctrination and can happen even when the supposed threat is in fact an imaginary one, such as the Japanese (the Nanking massacre) or the German civilization (Holocaust). In the just-mentioned cases, the Tutsi, the Chinese, the Jews were not a real threat, but ideological indoctrination had caused them to be felt as a threat. In a sense, such indoctrination created an imaginary overpopulation situation.

  1. Marine isotope stages (MIS), marine oxygen-isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages (OIS), are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth’s paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting temperature curves derived from data from deep sea core samples.
  2. Last Glacial Maximum
  3. December 2001 we visited the Cave de la Marche, one of the many caves on the river La Marche, near the south- French Lussac le Chateau. In 1937 the owner discovered that the sandstone tiles with which the small cave was filled to the brim had served as ‘slates’ for practicing drawing. They date from 1420 BC and thus from the Magdalenian. After wiping the slab with a mixture of ocher and fat, the student could start a new drawing. Many drawings also contain caricatures! The many overlapping lines of each drawing are reconstructed with the microscope. It is now clear how the cave painters of Lascaux and Chauvet could become so competent.
  4. Surely not from Jesuit Relations, field letters from the missionary priests, published for two hundred years beginning in the early 17th century as a fundraising tool. Because the Jesuits found their own civilization superior, and urged the native men to beat their children and to suppress their women
  5. Science News, January 21, 2016
  6. Science News, January 21, 2016
    Anthropol. Anz. 74/2 (2017)

 

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Used abbreviations

GHs: gatherers/hunters (the phase from 2 million years ago to 10.000 years ago)

AGRs: agriculturers (the phase from 10.000 years ago till now)

NT(s)Neanderthal people

MSA(s): Middle Stone Age people (African NTs)

AMH(s): Anatomical Modern Humans (H sapiens people), like we are

(m)ya: (million) years ago

ANBOs: Ancestor Bonobos (ape-men), our earliest human ancestors

Paleos: all scientists that are important for our story.

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