Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction, Part 3: How We Got to Where We Are Now

15 Jan

One of the current themes in prehistoric fiction is heavily based on the work of  archeologist Marija Gimbatus and social scientist Riane Eisler.  Their theories posit a more idealistic time in our early history, which depict our ancestors as non-violent, egalitarian, spiritually enlightened and socially conscious.  These works allow readers and writers to consider many new views of history, gender relations and technology.  Most importantly, we get to consider the big question: if things were once so good, how did we end up where we are today?


When used in fiction, these theories allow the writer (and readers) to start out in an ideal world, where personal freedom and cooperation are the norms for our character.  As the author delves deeper into a world where there are no artificial barriers preventing a woman from hunting or a man from cooking, the question becomes unavoidable: how did these barriers come about in the first place?  How did women become chattel, if you drop the notion that “it’s always been this way”?  How did organized warfare come about, if our ancestors weren’t practicing for it since they started walking on two legs?


Fiction authors have suggested numerous theories including the following:


  • Realization that men help make babies (in which men then decide they own the children, and must then control the sexual behavior of the women who bear them) I have trouble with that one, but it’s certainly popular.
  • The birth of agriculture (in which the need to remain on the land where your food is—not to mention all the work you put in to it—makes fighting to keep it the only option)
  • Post-agricultural civilization (where the accumulation of property makes me!
    n want to know that whoever is going to inherit their stuff are actually their offspring, thus the need to control women)
  • Bureaucracy (creates haves and have-nots; a world where wealth is controlled by a very few).


Whatever the truth is, speculation is always worthwhile.  And prehistoric fiction is fertile ground for some of our most creative thinkers.


One Response to “Why I Love Prehistoric Fiction, Part 3: How We Got to Where We Are Now”

  1. jason stewart January 15, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    One shouldn’t discount the technological advances between the stone and bronze ages as having a profound impact on hu!
    man mores. The development of forged implements seemed to have the effect of making human beings more violent as weapon making and warfare became more efficient. Strangely, technology may be making us more violent rather than progressing us towards enlightenment.

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