Monday, 1 August 2011
Paleolithic Man and Procreation
I am going to conjecture about ancient people. Over the past few months, the subject has occasionally arisen in conversations of whether or not ancient man realised where babies came from. I have some interesting conversations!
If you undertake a course of study in magic, you generally can't escape some sort of historical basis to give credence to our current studies. Usually, we will be told how palaeolithic peoples worshipped the Goddess long before they had a God. This is a belief based on the findings of the little statues, the most famous being the Venus of Willendorf.
The God figure came much later, where he is found in cave-paintings, and presumably invoked to aid in a successful hunt. He became the Lord of the Beasts, as the Goddess was the Earth Mother.
We assume that, as a Goddess worshipping society, that women were venerated as something rather special - for their magical ability to produce new people, seemingly at random. Women were magical for their obvious link to the cycle of the moon through their menstruation. Women were PART of the Earth Mother, not separate from her, separate from the earth, like the men were.
We assume that our ancestors were a bit simple...I wonder what future generations will make of us!
I digress. Personally, I do believe that women enjoyed a social status much higher than in any time period since, and I do believe that this was a direct result of their biology. In the struggle to survive as a species, the ability to reproduce is paramount. Women were valuable, and needed to be protected. Men were basically replaceable in ways that women were not. Perhaps this is why it was the men who faced the dangerous beasts of the hunt - not because women weren't good enough - but that women were too good.
But the debate remains. Did ancient peoples understand about conception, and how it took two people, a woman AND a man, to make babies?
I'm not so sure that our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. There's a long time between doing the deed and a woman being noticeably pregnant. Plus, only a small percentage of "deeds" will result in a pregnancy - though I am assuming that female biology was pretty similar then as it is now, but then, assuming that the female cycle was in tune with the cycle of the moon is a rather bigger general assumption.
I do think that by the time our ancestors became farmers, they knew about "the birds and the bees". Though I think they will have learned about biology through watching the habits of the animals they hunted. Animals have a far more predictable reproductive calendar than humans. There is a mating season and a birthing season, and this is something a good hunter would need to be aware of.
Perhaps it was realising that a source of meat could be bred in a secure field that turned our ancestors from hunter-gatherers into farmers. The knowledge of how to make babies, and baby animals. The question now is - did this knowledge make women less magical or the men more so?
Love and hugs