The study of the course of human history

The authors of this long article, or perhaps essay, are pursuing a point in connection with their views on human society, government, equality, how we got here, and where to go from here, from the anarchist point of view.

But whether you agree, disagree, or don’t even care, there’s a lot of other interesting ideas to pursue, given the time for such pursuit. I’m just going to share a handful of the ones that caught my eye.

This made me laugh, because I’m weird: “if one reduces world history to Gini coefficients, silly things will, necessarily, follow. Also depressing ones.”

This quickened my heart, because I find Göbekli Tepe tantalizing. I have frittered away countless hours trying to find out more about it, hungering for more photographs of the sculptures, materialistically wishing I could own a copy of some of them:

“Still more astonishing are the stone temples of Göbekli Tepe, excavated over twenty years ago on the Turkish-Syrian border, and still the subject of vociferous scientific debate. Dating to around 11,000 years ago, the very end of the last Ice Age, they comprise at least twenty megalithic enclosures raised high above the now-barren flanks of the Harran Plain. Each was made up of limestone pillars over 5m in height and weighing up to a ton (respectable by Stonehenge standards, and some 6,000 years before it).”

Often when I read about Göbekli Tepe, I come across a statement that makes me twitch my shoulders and jerk my head after imaginary mosquitoes. I read that Göbekli Tepe is ‘the oldest temple,’ or some similar positive statement. It’s not true. I don’t know why it’s so hard to say, “It’s the oldest temple we know of.” But scholarship is arrogant too often, which brings me to this one:

“Scholarship does not always advance. Sometimes it slides backwards. A hundred years ago, most anthropologists understood that those who live mainly from wild resources were not, normally, restricted to tiny ‘bands.’ That idea is really a product of the 1960s, when Kalahari Bushmen and Mbuti Pygmies became the preferred image of primordial humanity for TV audiences and researchers alike.”

And this:

“So, we might reasonably ask, what other cherished truths must now be cast on the dust-heap of history?

Quite a number, actually. Back in the ‘70s, the brilliant Cambridge archaeologist David Clarke predicted that, with modern research, almost every aspect of the old edifice of human evolution, ‘the explanations of the development of modern man, domestication, metallurgy, urbanization and civilisation – may in perspective emerge as semantic snares and metaphysical mirages.’ It appears he was right. Information is now pouring in from every quarter of the globe, based on careful empirical fieldwork, advanced techniques of climatic reconstruction, chronometric dating, and scientific analyses of organic remains. Researchers are examining ethnographic and historical material in a new light. And almost all of this new research goes against the familiar narrative of world history. Still, the most remarkable discoveries remain confined to the work of specialists, or have to be teased out by reading between the lines of scientific publications. Let us conclude, then, with a few headlines of our own: just a handful, to give a sense of what the new, emerging world history is starting to look like…”

But wait? What makes anybody presume that *now* we have reached peak scholarship with no errors? Is it really so hard to imagine that forty years from now it may turn out that today’s exciting, new, emerging world history is a semantic snare and metaphysical mirage of its own?
IT’s not that this stuff isn’t plausible and interesting:

“The first bombshell on our list concerns the origins and spread of agriculture. There is no longer any support for the view that it marked a major transition in human societies. In those parts of the world where animals and plants were first domesticated, there actually was no discernible ‘switch’ from Palaeolithic Forager to Neolithic Farmer.”

It is fascinating, but should always be seasoned with humility, like the rest of human knowledge.

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