PALEOLITHIC WOMEN, FOR GENDERED LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS: ALEXANDER MARSHACK — THE ROOTS OF CIVILIZATION — REVISED AND AUGMENTED EDITION — 1991 — A REVIEW (English Edition)
Jacques COULARDEAU (Auteur/Author)
Format Kindle, 8 janvier 2020
Kindle, January 8, 2020
Détails sur le produit
Format : Format Kindle
Taille du fichier : 3851 KB
Nombre de pages de l’édition imprimée : 80 pages
Utilisation simultanée de l’appareil : Illimité
Editeur : Éditions La Dondaine; Édition : 1 (8 janvier 2020)
Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Langue : Anglais
ASIN : B083P5XT6R
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A Review by Serban V.C. Eniche
January 17, 2020
Alexander Marshack — in his revised edition from 1991 The Roots of Civilization — makes very bold statements. Some are incongruent with basic logic, like claiming the Old European hominins didn’t know how to count and hadn’t the notion of time. It’s one thing to argue that they weren’t sophisticated, it’s another to argue that they were clueless. With respect to counting, counting on fingers would imply a system of finger 1 all to way to finger 5 [10 on both hands], so even if the concept of say ‘342 tribesmen’ was foreign to them, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t recognize such a multitude and keep track of it, albeit in a much more complicated manner of accounting. Again, crude mathematics is different than no mathematics.
As for time, and I describe time as measuring activity [Coulardeau calls it measuring duration], they certainly did that, and in the most basic of human relations — DEBT. ‘Hey, Steve, if you’re not going hunting today, may I borrow your spear for today? Sure, Joe, take it. But if you catch anything, I want a quarter of the game.’ This is an example in which credit occurs several hours before the settlement payment. But here’s an example with a longer time passing between credit and settlement. ‘Hey, Steve, can you lend me your spear for today if you’re not using it? Sure, Joe, take it, but only if you promise to do me a favor when I’ll need it [such as helping him pick plant x when it ripens or plant y when it blooms etc].’ And a third example… ‘Hey, Steve, can I borrow your spear if you’re not using it? Sure, Joe, but only if you relieve me of a debt I owe to Martha. I promised to help her train the kids to climb trees on the day after tomorrow. If you promise to help Martha in my stead, you can take my spear now.’ Debt is central to religion as well. One example will suffice. Hinduism has the concept of the “milk debt” at its root. The “milk debt’ states that the child of a mother can never [not even in different reincarnations] repay the mother the milk he/she has drank from her. So the only option for the child, after it grows up, is to follow and spread the Hindu teachings in order to honor his/her mother.
Doing favors, keeping track of them, and fulfilling them implies both counting and awareness of time — and honor functions as capital, collateral, debt, and the unit of account. Honor is the guarantee of labor being deployed at some time in the future. Your debt to someone is his claim against your labor. Even if we exclude or ignore ownership of private property [tools and such], promises were definitely exchanged. And labor was the method to discharge these promises.
Jacques Coulardeau refers to macro events being observed by these primitives [he doesn’t call them primitives, but primeval], alongside the observation of events within events — taking stock of each event’s duration and particulars, and being able to discern over which events they have [or may have] power and over which they do not.
With regard to women’s menstruation cycle and the moon’s phases, I can see the symbolism tying the two, on top of using the moon’s waxing and waning as a counting aid, if not an outright tool of accounting. However, since each individual woman’s cycle is different, the moon’s particular phase could not amount to an accurate signaller of fertility or otherwise. And the weather factor was always at play in allowing or preventing the moon’s appearance at night. That beign said, these societies were no strangers to the cycle of menstruation, impregnation, pregnancy, and birth — as author Coulardeau notes, unlike Alexander Marshack. And there can be no doubt that child rearing was, to a large extent, if not wholly, a communal affair. Coulardeau proposes an organization scheme that holds up even under high mortality rates in which “Everyday half the mothers take care of the children […] with a priority for advanced pregnant women, and the rotation of caretaking mothers will enable to have half the mothers at least freed from childcare (not childbearing) every day and they could do other tasks.”
As for the question of mating being ritualized, private, semi-private, or public, I lack knowledge to make a definitive qualification. Coulardeau insists that it was indeed ritualized. “It is even more important when these women are Neanderthals or Denisovans. The fact that it remained limited in numbers (3 to 6%) is the proof it [mating] was ritualized. There is no proof — at least so far — of the abduction of Neanderthal or Denisovan women to impregnate them and keep them in the community, just the same as there is no proof of Neanderthal and Denisovan males raping Homo Sapiens women. Due to the extremely positive consequences of these exchanges, it is probably safe to state they were ritualized.”
Here I disagree. The very small genetic difference isn’t proof of “ritualized mating”, nor is it proof of mating without ritual. Inate racial differences/preferences and cultural barriers can explain the percentage. Likely, babies with a noticeable mark of hybrid origin were frowned upon by the community. What wasn’t noticed during mating would be noticed during birth. And rejecting the possibility of abduction and rape, because there’s no proof, is a stretch, because what type of proof would these scenarios require? And would these primitive societies keep track of them? And if so, how? And how would these “ledgers on crime” survive the passage of time? What we deem immoral behavior is in fact “legal” in nature. After all, the “law of the jungle” allows the dominant male lion to kill off another male’s cubs, simply to wipe out competition, and ensure his genes will get passed on by wasting none of the pride’s energy for another’s progeny. The matriarchal society certainly wasn’t free from violence, violence stirred by women and men both — like females pitting males against each other for mating rites, and the defeated or the simply unselected taking revenge in one way or another.
The tribe’s ability to feed itself definitely contributed to the number of rules created and the level of enforcement. I can’t comment on the mortality rates; but I wouldn’t rule out over-birth as being a [rare or periodic] concern to these socities, and implicitly, I wouldn’t discount deliberate abortions as a tool to free up women’s labor and ease pressure on [limited] food stores and on the frequency of hunting and gathering. Such “belt-tigthening” measures were definitely needed and inevitable during negative supply shock periods when nature’s bounty was significantly lower relative to the former season or seasons, and adults weren’t spared either.
Since the birthrock of the human social system is the matriarchy [as described by Robert Briffault 1932] we should state the system’s characteristics. The family unit was composed strictly by the mother and her offspring. The biological father had no moral or legal obligations or claims toward or against the mother and the child/children. In raising the child/children, the mother was aided by her sisters and brothers — and the uncle or uncles served as the father figure/figures for the child/children. And in some cases [potentially many], a child would grow up without knowing who his biological father was — since these societies were not monoamorous. The child took on the mother’s name and each respective material and cultural legacy was determined by the matriarch. I do know that Briffault’s book completely demolishes the misandrist, feminist mantras of “men have always oppressed women” and that “only men can do evil, never women.” And I agree with Coulardeau when he says that some researchers will never accept facts which contradict their own biases. I too would speculate that part of the primeval “elites” [that Coulardeau is talking about] might well have been women. It’s very unlikely this category of “elites” was gender locked, hence we may contemplate women in the roles of shamans and artistic painters. A very reasonable and probable thing.
On the “Goddess” chapter, author Jacques Coulardeau further emphasizes Marshack’s shortsightedness with regard to women’s role in those primeval societies. It should be a no-brainer why people in those days looked to the earth and moon as the feminine, and to the sky and the sun as the masculine. The sky’s rain seeded the earth with life, and the earth [womb] gave birth to plants — plants which grew during the day, in the presence of the sun’s rays. Most likely the moon was the cosmic sign beneath which sex, ritualized or not, happened the most — and because of its phases [unlike the sun] the moon was regarded as feminine or the patron of women [the moon cycle compared to the menstruation cycle]. This is captured by Marshack as “only by story, in story, only by the use of images, symbols, rites, ceremonies, and words, and by the use of anthropomorphized […] characters.” Given Marshack’s overall mistakes, I don’t consider him a sexist. His mistakes don’t stem from presuming inferiority/superiority, they stem, in my view, from general sloppiness of logical inquiry. Unless Coulardeau is arguing a straw man against him — ditto for me — some of Marshack’s premises are flawed, and even when we agree on some of them, his conclusions end up non-sequiturs or no-true-scotsman [the latter ending up as an argument over semantics, not substance].
As for all the talk on genitals with regard to primitive drawings and engravings, I’m afraid I don’t see it nearly as much. Appreciation, like beauty, lies also in the eye of the beholder, and we’re far too mentally polluted today to try and think like those primeval artists without tarnishing the original author’s intent to a good degree. We can only speculate. The characterization of “the woman from Predmost” given by Coulardeau… I simply don’t see it nearly as emphatically as them, nor with that much treasure of symbolic detail. I don’t think she’s “the Triple Goddess.” The triune goddess is of neopagan inspiration. By contrast, societies predating religion, politics, and philosophy employed animism, animatism, and shamanism.
In the chapter on symbols and symbolism, author Coulardeau makes the point that “Hominins had started developing human articulated language something like 250,000 earlier and these Old European Homo Sapiens were all speaking Turkic agglutinative languages,” hence they had created words to match every visual symbol, figure, or pattern. Marshack insists they hadn’t articulated language — that they used signs, body language, litanies, chants, dirges based on non-lexical vocal sounds. When analyzing multitudes of lines, vertical, horizontal, oblique, curved, dots, and what not… it’s very easy to descend into the realm of the arbitrary. It’s easy to fall prey to apophenia when trying to prove a point… just as easy as ignoring connections when acknowledging them might adversely impact our own theories [be they orthodox or heterodox]. It’s very tempting to say — ah, it means this and only this! instead of saying, I don’t know what it means; and by consequence, no interpretation holds the absolute truth.
Women keeping a personal accounting of their periods and pregnancies is clearly reasonable and easy to do stacking horizontal and vertical lines on top of each other and separating one episode from another, encasing it in a box [rectangle]. Obviously, Hominins applied language and mathematics [fully aware of the passage of time] to their most basic functions of existence — without which they wouldn’t have survived. Ultimatley, a system’s form is of less importance than its ability to deliver on proposed goals. Even if they were less efficient at expression and organization, that doesn’t make them incapable of such; not that Marshack wholly claimed the latter.
In chapter six, Jacques Coulardeau rebukes Marshack for his lack of homework on the horse represenations in the cave Les Trois Frères and the cave Tuc D’audoubert in the foothills of the Pyrenees — these representations date from the peak of the Ice Age — in which the letter P is clearly and repeatedly written. Language evolves mainly, he argues, through its inner logic and by how dynamically it is employed by the community who speaks and writes it.
In the following chapter, the author talks about phylogeny. Here it is argued that genetic evolution allowed Homo Sapiens to [among other things] pronounce more vowels and consonants than apes, a process likely initiated by Homo Erectus, Homo Ergaster, Neanderthals, and Denisovans — although Coulardeau admits there is no proof for the latter. The three “articulations” of Homo Sapiens’ language are enumerated. Around or slightly before 180.000 years ago, “first migration out of Black Africa to Northern Africa giving birth to root languages, Semitic and Afro-Asiatic languages” — the “second migration out of Black Africa via the Horn of Africa around 120.000 years ago” — and the “third migration out of Black Africa around 80.000 years ago via the Horn of Africa, the southern Arabian Corridor and Hormuz strait.” The author also enlists numerous observations on the development of language [including numbers] and its implications, past and future.
The last part of the review contains the author’s conclusion in seven points, making it easy for the reader to quickly revisit what he or she has previously read and determine the level of agreement or disagreement with the points argued by Coulardeau. Referring to Marshack’s book, he says: “[it] was important in its time to counterbalance the excessive sexualization and eroticization of Paleolithic societies by Leroi Gourhan for example, but it did not follow the example of Lévi-Strauss he quotes to study the language of these communities. It is difficult to do that when language is purely oral, and we have no trace of it. I believe we could have a lot more traces if we looked for it precisely. The case of the sign ”P” is typical of such possibilities. It is finally interesting to understand the tremendous burden that has to be pushed aside in this field of research and that always intervenes in the name of what we know as if no new knowledge was possible. Things are changing very fast today, but we still have many obstacles on the road to a real understanding of the emergence of Homo Sapiens.”
Cro-Magnon’s Language: Emergence of Homo Sapiens, Invention of Articulated Language, Migrations out of Africa — Kindle Edition
BACK COVER PRESENTATION
Cro-Magnon’s language is an ambitious project in phylogenic linguistics. The objective is to go back to the shift from animal to human articulated language. Homo Sapiens some 300,000 years ago, found himself endowed with mutations selected by his being a long distance fast bipedal runner: a very low larynx; a complex articulating apparatus; a sophisticated coordinating system bringing together diaphragm, breathing, heartbeat, legs and general body posture. These three physiological improvements permitted new linguistic possibilities: more consonants; more vowels; a brain able to construct a mind both producing and produced by articulated language. This developed the ability to conceptualize and develop abstract thinking.
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