|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Thursday, July 09, 2009
So far, so familiar. We've all seen depictions of societies like that, in Conan movies if nothing else. However ...
'On a certain day 9200 years ago the manorial houses at the north side of the large square in Çayönü were burnt down, and this happened so fast that the owners were not able to save any of their treasures. The temple was torn down and burnt, and even the floor was ripped open, the stone pillars around the free space were taken down and the taller of them were broken up. The place itself - previously maintained and kept meticulously clean for more than 1000 years - was converted into a municipal waste dump. After a short chaotic transition all houses had been torn down. The slums in the west disappeared for good, but only a few steps away from the spot where the ruins of the manorial houses had burnt the new Çayönü was erected. The new houses were comparable in size to the old manors but there were no more houses or shacks built to an inferior standard. In all houses, work was done and all hints to social differences were erased.'
I can't help being thrilled at the thought of these stone age revolutionaries, burning the big houses of the masters and storming that terrifying temple, perhaps fearfully at first, then joyfully turning the gruesome house of the gods into a tip.
But we all know what happened next, don't we? The new society of equals was crushed by outside invasion, or a new caste or class of officials arose and things were soon worse than before ... something like that, yes?
Actually, no. The new type of society spread for thousands of miles and remained free, equal, happy and peaceful for three thousand years.
The site from which I've excerpted the above quotes (stripping out the numerous references to the archaeological literature) interprets this stone age classless and stateless society as communism. (Thanks to the latest issue of International Socialism for the pointer.) This may be controversial, but the archaeology is entirely mainstream, and there is no disagreement that the neolithic societies of ancient Anatolia, whose best-preserved site is Çatalhöyük, were very remarkable indeed.