The Problem of the Homeland of Afro-Asiatic (2) and the origin of agriculture

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In order to explain where the homeland of the Afro-Asian (or Afrasian) is located, we need a general explanation about the spread of agriculture.

The spread  of Afro Asiatic in Africa and Arabia

The spread of Afro Asiatic in Africa and Arabia

Origin  and Spread of Agriculture

Agriculture was born approximately 12,000 years ago in Southeast Anatolia and the North of Syria and Iraq. From there it spread in multiple directions. Europe was one of those directions. A route that was followed here was the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Seaworthy boats were used. Cyprus was first populated by humans around 11.750 years ago from northern Syria or Lebanon. Via Greece or the Bosphorus farmers travelled to the North. It would take thousands of years before agriculture reached Ireland and Scandinavia.
A second major direction was to Central Asia, a third to Iran, the Indus Valley and further in India to the southernmost point of the subcontinent and then to Ceylon.

A fourth trek went to Arabia. Along the Western side farmers travelled to the South. In Yemen they found a favorable climate for agriculture. Yemen is poorly researched but at last five thousand years ago, agriculture flourished there. Yemen was known in the antiquity of the Middle East it is mentioned both in the Old as in the New Testament.

A fifth expansion went from Southwest Asia to Egypt and along the southern edge of the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa to Morocco and later even further to the Canary Islands. All these migrations left from the agricultural centre that Southwest Asia was with plants, domestic animals such as goats and sheep, the first domesticated animals after the dog. They traveled pretty quickly with the first spreading farmers before pottery was invented in this part of the world.

Once South-West Asian farmers had invented pottery, their knowledge catched up with the farmers that had left first. The same happened after cattle (Bos taurus) had been domesticated. Cattle reeding spread along the routes that had been trevelled.

Farmers had a high productivity in comparison with hunters and gatherers. They could produce more food and therefore raise more children. In comparison with hunters and gatherers the number of farmers increased quickly, they spread their genes. They also intermixed with hunters and gatherers but in many places they replaced them partially or almost completely. Sometimes their advance stalled when they reached other climate zones and crops had to adapt to wetter and/or colder weather, or vice versa dryer and warmer weather. This could delay advance for a long time. Farmers could in many cases domesticate local plants and animals. The Zebu (Bos indicus) was e.g. domesticated in India. It was better suited than South-West Asian cattle to live in a hot climate.

Dissemination of farmers and their languages

Since the number of farmers increased easily, chances were that they spread their languages with their agricultural techniques. Human groups living in the same area that speak different languages need a lingua franca. Hunters and gatherers spoke languages that had had a lot of time to grow apart. Farmers spoke languages that spread fast and diverged little. An important advantage to be adopted as a common language of farmers and different groups of hunters and gatherers.

A second wave of expanding farmers could inundate a first. The Celts had spread their language and habits from Italy to Austria up to Ireland and Spain. They would be overwhelmed by a next wave, the Germans and the ancient Italic people (Indo-Europeans invading Italy) and finally only survive on the fringes of Western Europe.

However, the language of the farmers did not always win. Sometimes they spreading farmers collided on a border where people would retain their own language. We do not know which language the first European farmers spoke, proto-Afro-Asian, proto-Caucasian or language related with that of Lemnos and Etruscan but it did not conquer conquer the western edge of the Pontic-Caspian steppe (north of the Black Sea) where people spoke a precursor of proto-Indo-European.

Read more on Afro-Asiatic?

The Problem of the Homeland of Afro-Asiatic (1)

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany)

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

In another blog we discussed two stone statuettes found in Tan-Tan (Morocco) and Berekhat Ram (Golan Heights, Syria) that are respectively 400,000 years respectively and 251,000 à 800,000 years old. These stone figurines had a natural shape that reminded of a woman. They were slightly modified to look even better on a woman. Interestingly, the Venus of Tan-Tan was smeared with red ochre.

Female figurines have a very long tradition in human art.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave in Schwaben (a region of Germany) in 2008 by Nicholas Conard (University of Tübingen). It is made of mammoth ivory, 5.97 cm high, 3.46 cm wide and it weighs 33.3 grams what made it suitable to carry on trips. Almost all hunters and gatherers lived as nomads. The age of the statuette is estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 cal BP (Before Present). It was found in the deepest layers of the Hohle Fels. It presented, as most of the statuettes of the 25,000 following years, a heavily built woman with large protruding breasts, buttocks, a belly and a vagina that are disproportionate. It has as the figurines that would be created much later no face, as if a face was not important.
Look at a short film from Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/prehistoricpinup/

Archaeologists found in the cave another 25 other Aurignacian figurines of animals or figurines that are half-man/half-animal. (E.g. the Lion Man: ) but no other Venus figurine. The Hohle Fels figurine was older than the other figurines in the Hohle Fels cave. It is also circa 5000 à 10,000 years older than other Venus figurines from the Gravettian, such as the Venus of Galgenberg (Austria).

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

A fertility symbol?

Nicholas Conard  thinks that this Hohle Fels statuette could be a fertility symbol. There are no testimonials from this period nor later where we can rely on but we can list a number of facts and possibilities.

– Most of these figurines were small, portable. They were probably carried around by European Homo sapiens.

– He spent much time creating these figurines, he considered them important.

A fertility Symbol. If it were merely a symbol to increase fertility, then a representation of a pregnant woman would have been sufficient.

A sexual symbol. These figurines represent women with strong sexual accents, with a big belly but no pregnant women. Problem is that hunters and gatherers, before the emergence of agriculture, did not know that sex could lead to pregnancy. Women simply became pregnant. This may seem strange to us, but of course couples had more than once sex before they knew a woman was pregnant. In the framework of group marriage, they had not seldom sex with more than one partner. The link between sex and become pregnant was not evident to them. These figurines had a sexual meaning. The pronounced forms, the lack of a head, point in that direction. Pronounced female forms today are found in sexually charged images. It could be a male constant to have strong appreciation such images.

– They usually occur in Eurasia, but less in the Middle East. The two statuettes mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the figurines of Tan-Tan and Berekhat Ram, could fit in the same tradition though they date from the period of Homo heidelbergensis. The distance is expressed in time great but a connection cannot be excluded.

– Chances are that descent was matrilinear. The Venus figurines could therefore represent female ancestors. I think the probability is small but it may not be excluded.

These figurines were probably sexual symbols. Human sex is a very powerful motif. They were part of a specific Eurasian culture and tradition. Everywhere in the world sexual symbols as e.g. were made such as the statue of Ain Shakri or phallus symbols in many cultures.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] Hohje Fels is also written as Hohlefels in German.

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead 
Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world

The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman Two statuettes, one amazinly modern though it maybe 7000 years old

Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.

The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany) It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old.

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.

The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.

A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

La más antigua figura de Venus europea se ha encontrado en la cueva de Hohle Fels (Alemania)