The Invention of War

Scott Holmes (sholmes@NETCOM.COM)
Sun, 12 Jun 1994 11:41:23 -0700

County Museum of Natural History had an exhibit on Mongolian artifacts,
"Empires Beyond the Great Wall, The Heritage of Genghis Khan".
I have also just recently acquired a couple of books by Marija
Gimbutas. This post is an attempt to clarify for myself, some
commonalities I've noted between the exhibit and the books by Gimbutas.

The exhibit is not so much about Genghis Khan as it is a presentation
of archaeological finds from Inner Mongolian cultures associated
with Chinese cultural development. Genghis Khan's name is invoked,
I believe, as a hook to get American's to see the show as he represents
the only aspect of Mongolian heritage recognizable to Americans.
The exhibit's relevance to this post is also limited to only the first
chapter of the published tour book.

The exhibit starts with neolithic tools and fossils from about
50,000 to 35,000 years ago. They termed these as Ordos Man and
Dayaocun Man. It then jumps into finds from several agricultural

Xinglongua (6000 BC) - abstract human figues and coarse pottery;
Zhaobaogou (4500 BC) - China's earliest images of dragons;
Hongshan (4500-3000 BC) - a well developed agricultural society
with jade dragons, swallows, turtles etc;
Laohushan (2800-2300 BC) - walled cities; and,
Xiajiadian (2300-1600 BC) - a nascent bronze technology and apparent
close ties with Central China Xia Dynasty.

This is really quite a jump and alot of exciting stuff is skipped.
I would love to get into discussion of the Bering area, mammoth hunters
and populating the North American continent, but that is not the point
of this post.

Gimbutas' work encompasses the archaeological record of what she termed
"Old Europe" from cultures that culminated in the Minoan Civilization.
(Note: I felt justified in posting this here because of the recent notice
regarding the latest Minoan archaeological find). In her last book,
_The Civilization of the Goddess_, 1991 she discussed cultural development
from the middle 7th millenium BC to the invasion by Indo-European peoples
(more on this later).

She describes these cultures as "...matristic, matrilineal, and
endogamic..." and not "... `matriarchy' which wrongly implies
`rule' by women as a mirror image of androcracy". (Slight aside here,
this is the impression I had gotten from popular literature and I suppose TV).

MG notes "There are no depictions of arms (weapons used against other
humans) in Paleolithic cave paintings, nor are there remains of weapons
used by man against man during the Neolithic of Old Europe. From some
hundred and fifty paintings that survived at Catal Huyuk, there is not
one depicting a scene of conflict or fighting, or of war or torture."
She notes that "...defensive structures occur only in later Neolithic
and Copper Age settlements when measures were taken to protect villages
from an influx of human intruders. These changes became visible in central
Europe only toward the end of the 5th and during the 4th millennium BC."

I would now like to note some interesting similarities between the
European agricultural people and those found in China and Inner Mongolia.
Gimbutas was an archaeologist and much of her work is devoted to discussion
of artifacts. Of greatest significance (at least that which struck me the
most) is the descriptions of masks and images of snakes, birds, pigs and dogs
and most importantly pregnant women. The tour book for the Mongolian exhibit
has little discussion of the role of females in Chinese cultural development
except for a single point which I believe ties these two subjects together.

The tour book's discussion of early artifacts centers on snakes, birds,
pigs, dogs and the importance of masklike facial images. It seems to me
there is a remarkable resemblance between the two sets of artifacts.
The tour book describes the Zhaobaogou culture as a possible source for the
Shang Dynasty because of the number of bird images found. Then there is
this description of an Hongshan era site:

"Protective walls constructed of brown-colored stones were erected on
the eastern and western sides of the Dongshancui site. In the southern
part of the site is a perfectly round area 2.5 meters in diameter that
is surrounded by grayish-white stones. Within the circular altar and in
its vicinity, archaeologists found pottery statutes of female deities,
varying in size from small figures to pieces almost life-size. More than
twenty of these statues have been retrieved from the Dongshancui site;
several of the figures are of naked pregnant women."

"... Given the advanced stage of agricultural society evident from
the late Hongshan finds, the image of a pregnant woman representing
a deity is comprehensible: ritual obeisance to such a deity would
represent prayers for prosperity. The goddess figures also suggest
acknowledgment of the important role women played in the development
of agriculture and animal domestication."

I did not see any of these artifacts on the tour but the drawings show
them as headless and look remarkably like Gimbutas' illustrations of her
"Vegetation Goddess". Of note here is the appearance of protective
architecture. At the same time as the Kurgan incursions into Old Europe
we have what appears to raids into Asian agricultural areas also by
people from the steppes. It is also from this point on that we see
male-dominated political structures and an emphasis on martial aspects
of human society both in Europe and in China. It would appear that we've
just seen the invention of war.

What I'd like from readers of this list are comments about:

- Am I being naive about similarities between so geographically
divergent agricultural peoples?

- If there is real commonality between them, are we dealing with
direct and sustained contact, intermittent contact or do these
similarities represent some sort of Jungian archetypes?

- What's been happening on in the steppes between the time of the mammoth
hunters and the sudden appearance of horsemen/raiders (something like
12,000 years)?

- Was there a population increase in the steppe's human population
to the point that natural resources could no longer support the human
populations and raiding outside groups became necessary/or was a
climatic change responsible?

One final note if you would allow me, Gimbutas remarks that the
cultures of Old Europe virtually disppeared with the coming of the
male dominated Indo-Europeans. Only vestiges of their symbols remained
and they became only vaguely recognizable. The Chinese, on the other hand,
seemed to have retained much of the symbolism and that became very
important to it's culture. Consider the pig/snake/dragon...

"The jade dragons are considered by Chinese specialists to be
Earth deities. The fact that the dragons have a pig's head is consistent
with the importance of animal husbandry during Hongshan times. The animal
bones uncovered at Hongshan culture-type sites have demonstrated that
people of that era raised mainly pigs, as did the early people of the
Xinglongua culture. Furthermore, ancient Chinese textual accounts
depict the dragon as a kind of water snake. ..."

"... During the predynastic era of the third millennium B.C., the
traditional figures involved in flood control were named after the dragon.
Because the founder of the Xia dynasty, Yu, solved the flooding problems,
the dragon became an emblem for the dynasty. In other words, such
figures were deified because they were able through their acts to bring
Earth back to a peaceful state and return agricultural society to

There is much in this last quoted paragraph that comes from Confucius
and Mencius, although they are not mentioned in the tour literature. I
think it would be fun to do some analysis on this. Somewhere between the
times mentioned in the last to quotations the early Chinese culture changed
from the female oriented agricultural system to a male oriented dynastic
system, just as in Europe.

"When the great Tao declined,
The doctrines of humanity and righteousness arose.
When knowledge and wisdom appeared,
There emerged great hypocrisy.
When the six family relationships are not in harmony,
There will be advocacy of filial piety and deep love of children.
When a country is in disorder,
There will be praise of loyal ministers." (Lao Tsu 18)

----------- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, ----------------
Scott Holmes <> Informix 4GL Applications
---------------- Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ------------------------