How shepherd and wolf remade Eurasia in their image (part 2)
Your writing is greatly appreciated. As a person interested in history, it fills in the gaps of my understanding of historical human development using rational thought and evidence.
It’s interesting that the three most enduring literary traditions from the early Iron Age (Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Greek) each represent a fusion between the cultural beliefs and practices of pastoral invaders and the older agricultural communities they subjugated. The parallels between the two Indo-European groups are obvious (e.g. Penelope’s archery-focused svayamvara in the Odyssey sounds a lot like Draupadi’s in the Mahabharata) but there are also uncanny parallels with the Israelites who worshipped both their mobile sky god and the female deities of Canaan for centuries.
My teacher Pat Shipman noticed that sites of Neanderthal life examined by archaeologists seem never to include the remains of dogs, and has written an interesting book raising the claim that domestication of the dog enabled H sapiens to overpower H neanderthalensis. I've long thought however that it was the dog who domesticated the human. You write very interestingly about packs of wolves - and it is I think significant that both wolves and men hunt in small groups. The cultures of wolf hunters and human hunters are quite similar in some ways - one of which is the danger involved in bringing down large ungulate prey. It is easy to think of ways in which the dog has hunting skills superior to a man's - dogs can see better than we do, they can hear better than we do, and of course their sense of smell is infinitely more powerful and sophisticated than our own. So it is easy to see why humans would want to enroll dogs in their hunting bands. On the other hand, what would partnering with a band of human hunters provide the wolves? I can think only of one thing. Lethality. A human armed with even a spear - whether propelled with an atlatl or not - is more lethal than a wolf. And would be a big help in killing larger prey.
I typically read a few dozen long reads a week and this is as good as anything. You should quit your job and become a writer!
This is wonderful. Yours is the only substack that re-upping was automatic.
The other peoples similar to Yamniya/PIE are the Bantu. I know almost nothing of their myths, genetics etc. A similar series would be very interesting.
I've wondered of the role the dogs of the canoe people of Patagonia were in human migration to the new world. These people (Kawesqar) seem to have lived much like the earliest migrants from Siberia would have lived, with/in boats on the coast. Every family had a dog (they lived in their canoes). The dogs were domesticated foxes! They would help hunt and catch sea otters, a common animal on the coast from Chile to Alaska.
Wow. I really like this. I have now finished parts 1 through 8, and I feel I have a much better understanding of other recent material on this site. I would say "Entering Steppelandia" is a prerequisite for Unsupervised Learning.
"As James C. Scott articulates in Against The Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, cereal-based agriculture reliably results in states that control and sequester surplus production, and then use it to support a military or cultural elite."
With all due respect, I would like to suggest that initial causation may have been the other way around. That is to say, the reason why "cereal based agriculture reliably results in states that control and sequester surplus production" may have been because what were previously "independent neolithic agricultural societies" became victims of military conquest by other tribes in the neighborhood. Those other tribes may themselves have been independent neolithic agricultural societies up until the moment of conquest, but it is also possible, at least in 4th millennium BC Mesopotamia, that they were early pastoralists, who certainly existed in "the land between the rivers" at that time, even if they were not as technically or culturally advanced as the Yamnaya.
In other words, military conquest may have the precipitating event that caused political states to appear in the first place. The alternative view, often assumed, is that the earliest states must have evolved peacefully in the beginning and only later engaged in wars of conquest against each other
I argue this possibility, though I don't insist that the first conquerors in history were necessarily pastoralists, in a paper I wrote some years ago concerning the Adam and Eve myth in its Mesopotamian context. Here is a link:
Razib - do you think the Indo-European wolfboys were an early incarnation of England's more recent policy of primogeniture. Perhaps the oldest son got to inherit the old man's property and his younger male siblings were forced into other occupations? In 18th and 19th century landed-class England those younger sons became soldiers or members of the clergy. Perhaps 5,000 years ago there was no need to find a new occupation. You just took up your father's occupation of marauding and simply went farther west (or east) - until they ran out of new places to go...
Tremendous read, thank you. To think I thought that despicable acts started in 1619, with the arrival of white supremacy on the continent.
Hi Razib - thanks for this write up. That said, I keep hearing about these Vedic dog-priests, and dog-rites, but cannot find the original from what I have read. There are the Maruts, who are most definitely a memory/characterisation of these wolf-warrior youths, but outside that I cannot actually find the textual reference. Might you be able to help?