Megaliths, Shamen & the City Builders – the hidden connections (cont.)
By Lucy Wyatt
Bronze Age Secondary Products Revolution
Then, suddenly, around 5,000 BC, the time of the Bronze Age, the first cities start to appear in Mesopotamia (southern Iraq) – about as far away from mountains as is possible in that part of the world. By 3,600 BC Uruk, for example, was a great city with over 10,000 people. We know that these are cities because they have the recognisable infrastructure of a city and evidence of activities like administration and record keeping. These are skills that are not innate [we only have to look at our own modern difficulties with teaching well-known civilised techniques like writing to know that even after thousands of years of civilisation these skills have to be re-taught].
And coincidently, not just cities appear, but something happens in farming too – what the archaeologists call the ‘Secondary Products Revolution’. It is around this time that we can take milk from a cow (and make butter/ cheese etc); plough; ride a horse; take wool from a sheep; plant a vine and so on – the kind of farming that we would all recognise. Before this moment in time it was not possible to take wool from a sheep: sheep had coats like a deer, even though there is evidence of sheep/goat ovricaprids having been eaten by humans as far back as 10500 BC.
How odd and how useful that just when lots of people start to live in cities, the production of food becomes more organised... This shift had to be deliberate because no self-respecting hunter-gatherer a) would give up providing for himself and his family to live in a city until he could be sure that he could rely on someone else to do food production and b) that he had a skill that would be useful in a city.
In particular, farming skills had to be taught. Farming is not natural. Anyone who thinks it is easy should try it. The hunter-gatherer was not used to staying in one place; he followed the herd. He was more used to killing than keeping stock alive, especially through the winter. Farming is a completely different skill set which requires knowledge of the soil and the calendar.
What is notable is that people did not make the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer to nomadic pastoralist. The shift to farming always involved a settled pattern first – usually identified by the presence of pigs which cannot be herded long distance. Take the example of the Ferghana Valley in Central Asia which is in the eastern part of Uzbekistan and is famous today for its Kirghiz tribes who herd massive flocks of sheep over long distances. The evidence of older patterns of Bronze Age farming, the Chust culture – which can be seen in the museum in Tashkent, capital city of Uzbekistan - is still of the settled pattern first.
What this suggests to me is that the early farmers were not necessarily hunter-gatherers who took up farming because of some environmental change or other external pressure. But were actually a different people with a different knowledge base. First cereals were genetically interfered with and then animals. This was not a natural evolutionary process. Even Julius Caesar knew that aurochs could not be domesticated. In any case, how would Neolithic Man know what would make a ‘good’ cow, just from observing them at waterholes?
Figure: Map of Golden Crescent
I would argue that this change in farming happened because of cities and not the other way round. Not least as the first evidence of a city’s existence wasn’t a market place but a shrine. One of the oldest cities in southern Mesopotamia, Eridu, has a shrine dating to 2,000 BC that has 17 layers underneath it that possibly go back as far as 5,000 BC. Jacquetta Hawkes has also commented on the fact that the key group of people who are involved in cities from the start are not farmers– but priests.
So, what has this got to do with megaliths and shamen? The connection lies in what these cities represent as a total concept of civilisation; a concept in which megaliths and shamen were an integral part. Cities did not develop out of farming but arrived as pre-planned artificial constructs on the landscape. They have identifiable characteristics that link them to a specific archetype which includes the knowledge of how to move the big stones, and has shamanic ritual at the heart of it.