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1st World Congress on Matriarchal Studies
Luxembourg 2003
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Center for the Study of the Gift Economy

International Academy Hagia

James DeMeo

Saharasia: The Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture in Ancient Desertification   


            Geographical study of human behavior has revealed a global pattern of social violence strongly correlated to regions of major climate change during early prehistory. (DeMeo 1986, 1998).   This conclusion developed from one of the first comprehensive studies to produce global maps of human behaviors and social institutions related to family life, sexuality, childrearing methods, and the status of women.  I specifically focused upon traumatic and repressive attitudes, behaviors, social customs and institutions which were also, as part of my work, cross-culturally correlated with violence and warfare. My focus was upon the biological needs of infants, children, and adolescents, the repressive and damaging effects that certain social institutions and classes of harsh natural environment have upon those needs, and the behavioral consequences of such repression and damage.

            The geographical approach to the origins of violence, as presented in my publications and briefly summarized here (DeMeo 1986, 1998, 2002), has confirmed the existence of an ancient, worldwide period of relatively peaceful social conditions, where warfare, male domination, and destructive aggression were either absent, or at extremely minimal levels for most of the world, most of the time.  Moreover, this approach has made it possible to pinpoint those times and places on Earth where human culture transformed from peaceful, democratic, egalitarian conditions, to violent, warlike, despotic conditions, as well as the environmental, ecological conditions prevailing during those transformations.


Unarmored Matrism Versus Armored Patrist Culture:

The Roots of Violence in Childhood Trauma and Sex-Repression

            A major starting point for my research was the sex-economic theory of Wilhelm Reich (1935, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1967, 1983).  Reich's theory, which developed within but later diverged from psychoanalysis, identified the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens a completely abnormal condition, resultant from the traumatically-induced chronic inhibition of respiration, emotional expression, and pleasure-directed impulses. 

            According to Reich's sex-economic viewpoint, a chronic characterological and muscular armor is set up in the growing human according to the type and severity of painful trauma it experiences.  The biophysical processes which normally lead to full and complete respiration, emotional expression, and sexual discharge during orgasm are chronically blocked by the armor, to a greater or lesser extent, leading to the accumulation of pent-up, undischarged emotional and sexual (bioenergetic) tension.  The dammed-up reservoir of internal tension drives the organism to behave in a generally unconscious, distorted, self-destructive, and/or sadistic manner (Reich 1942, 1949).  The above processes occur whenever, and only whenever, attempts are made to irrationally deflect or mold human primary biological needs or urges away from their original pleasure-directed goals, according to the demands of "culture".  The denial of the breast to an infant, the beating of a child for defecation or sexual expression, or the forced marriage of young girls to old men ("child betrothal", "bride price"), are examples.  

            Pain-inflicting and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions have been present in most, but by no means all, historical and contemporary cultures.  There are, for instance, a significant minority of cultures studied by anthropologists which neither inflict pain upon infants and children, consciously or otherwise, nor repress the sexual interests of adolescents or adults.  Of great interest is the fact that these are also nonviolent societies, with stable but non-compulsive, generally monogamous family bonds, and congenial, friendly social relations, but without sadomasochists, pedophiles, and other distortions of behavior.

            Malinowski (1927, 1932) first pointed to such cultures as a rebuttal to Freud's assertion of a biological, pan-cultural nature for childhood sexual latency and the Oedipal conflict.  Reich (1935) argued that conditions within Trobriand society proved the correctness of his clinical and social findings relating sexual repression to pathological behavior.  Other ethnographic descriptions of similar cultures have been made (Elwin 1947, 1968; Hallet & Relle 1973; Turnbull 1961; Göttner-Abendroth 1998).  Prescott's (1975) and my own (DeMeo 1986, 1998 p.51) global cross-cultural studies have confirmed these findings: Societies which heap trauma and pain upon their infants and children, and which subsequently repress the emotional expressiveness and sexual interests of their adolescents, invariably exhibit a spectrum of neurotic, self-destructive, and violent behaviors. By contrast, societies which treat infants and children with great physical affection and gentle tenderness, and which view emotional expressiveness and adolescent sexuality in a positive light, are psychically healthy and nonviolent.  Indeed, cross-cultural research has demonstrated the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of locating any disturbed, violent society which does not also traumatize its young and/or sexually repress their adolescents and the unmarried.

            In addition to my review of the ethnographic-anthropological literature, a separate systematic survey was made of published global historical and archaeological compendiums, independently confirming the above correlations, between childhood traumas, sex-repression, male-dominance, and family violence, in the descriptions of various warlike, authoritarian and despotic central states (DeMeo 1986, 1998).  From similar historical data, Taylor (1953 p.83) developed a dichotomous schema of human behavior in various societies.  Using Taylor's terminology and expanding upon his schema according to sex-economic findings, such violent, repressive societies are identified here as patrist, and they differ in almost every respect from matrist cultures, whose social institutions are designed to protect and enhance the pleasurable maternal-infant and male-female bonds.[1]  Table 1 gives a contrast between extreme forms of patrist (armored) and matrist (unarmored) culture.

            Most aspects of patrism interfere with the biology of the infant and child in a manner generally unseen elsewhere in the animal world, and some clearly increase infant and maternal mortality and morbidity. Besides the painful or pleasure-reducing rites given in Table 1, it is important to note that most patrist societies possessed, at some time in their recent or distant past, severe psychopathological social disorders designed for the socially-approved, organized discharge of murderous rage towards children and women (ie., ritual murder of children, widows, "witches", "prostitutes", &c.), with a complement deification of the most aggressive and sadistically cruel males (totalitarianism, divine kingship). And there are many contemporary cultures which continue to express such conditions in a fully-blown form, or exhibit residues of such conditions.

            Given that clinical, cross-cultural, and historical evidence indicates that adult violence is rooted in early childhood trauma and sex-repression (see DeMeo 1998 for a comprehensive review), and does not exist where maternal-infant and male-female bonds are protected and nurtured by matrist social institutions, a question naturally arises as to how the cultural complex of trauma, repression and violence (patrism) could have gotten started in the first instance. Patrism, with its great outpouring of violence toward infants, children, and women, which is passed from one generation to the next through painful and life-threatening social institutions, must have had specific times and places of origins among some, but not all of the earliest human societies. The assumed absence of an innate character to patrism, which derives from the chronic blocking, inhibition, and damming-up of biological urges, demands that this be so. Matrism, however, which springs from freely-expressed, unimpeded and pleasure-directed biological impulses, and which therefore is innate, would have been global in nature, ubiquitous among all of humankind at the earliest times. Indeed, natural selection would have favored matrism, given the fact that it does not generate the sadistic urges which lead to deadly violence toward women and children, nor does it disturb the emotional bonds between mothers and infants, which impart distinct psycho-physiological survival advantages (Klaus & Kennell 1976; LeBoyer 1975; Montagu 1971; Stewart & Stewart 1978a, 1978b, Reich 1942, 1949).

        Confirmation and support for the above starting assumptions and inferences exists in the geographical aspects of the global anthropological and archaeological data.  For example, certain aspects of matrism and peaceful social conditions had previously been identified in the deepest archaeological layers of some regions, with demonstrated transitions toward more violent, male-dominated conditions in later years. While some researchers have either been unaware of these newer findings, have tended to ignore them, or have merely objected-without-substance to their implications, a growing number of studies have demonstrated major social transitions in ancient times, from peaceful, democratic and egalitarian conditions, to violent, male-dominated, warlike conditions (Bell 1971; Eisler 1987a, 1987b; Huntington 1907, 1911; Gimbutas 1965, 1977, 1982; Göttner-Abendroth 1995; Stone 1976; Velikovsky 1984).

Table 1:  Dichotomous Behaviors, Attitudes, And Social Institutions

Trait Patrist (armored) Matrist (unarmored)
Children, &
Less indulgence
Less physical affection
Infants traumatized
Painful initiations
Dominated by family
Sex-segregated houses
  or military
More indulgence
More physical affection
Infants not traumatized
No painful initiations
Children's democracies
Mixed sex children's
  houses or age villages
Sexuality: Restrictive attitude
Genital mutilations
Female virginity taboo
Adolescent lovemaking
 severely censured Homosexual tendency plus
 severe taboo Incest/pedophile tendency
  plus severe taboo Coercive concubinage
 and prostitution
Permissive attitude
No genital mutilations
No female virginity taboo
Adolescent lovemaking
 freely permitted
No homosexual tendency
 or strong taboo
No incest/pedophile tend.
  or strong taboo
No concubinage or
 coercive prostitution
Women: Limits on freedom
Inferior status
Vaginal blood taboo (hymenal,
  menstrual & childbirth)
Cannot choose own mate
Cannot divorce at will
Males control fertility
Reproductive functions denigrated
More freedom
Equal status
No vaginal blood taboo

Can choose own mate
Can divorce at will
Females control fertility
Reprod. functions celebrated

& Family
Compulsive lifelong
  monogamy or polygyny

Military structure
Violent, sadistic
Noncompulsive monogamy
  or occasional polygamy
 (polyandry or polygyny)
No full time military
Nonviolent , no sadism

Religion &
Male/father oriented
Asceticism, pleasure-avoidance
 pain sought & emphasized
Fear/hatred of nature
Full time religious specialists

Male shamans/healers

Strict behavior codes

Female/mother oriented
Pleasure welcomed and
Nature worshiped
No full time religious
Male or female
Absence of strict code

        My work revealed distinct global geographical and time-ordered patterns in these archaeological transitions, wherein entire regions were transformed from matrism to patrism within the same general time periods, or where the transition to patrism swept across major portions of a continent, from one end to the other, over a period of centuries. (DeMeo 1986, 1998) Of significance was the finding that the largest and most dramatic of these cultural transformations occurred in specific Old World regions (notably in North Africa, the Near East, and Central Asia, around 4000-3500 BCE), in concert with major environmental transformations, from relatively wet to arid conditions. The existence of these timed environmental and cultural transitions was most important, given other evidence which suggested that severe drought and desertification had the potential to traumatically disrupt maternal-infant and male-female bonds, just as certainly as any harsh and painful patrist social institution.

Social Devastation in Regions of Drought, Desertification and Famine

          Other lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that severe and repeated drought and desertification, which promotes famine, starvation, and mass migrations among subsistence-level cultures, must have been a crucial factor which would have gradually, or even rapidly, pushed early matrist cultures towards patrism. (DeMeo 1998 Chapter 3)  For example:

            1) Eyewitness reports of culture-change occurring during famine and starvation conditions indicate a resultant breakdown of social and family bonds. Turnbull's (1972) heartbreaking account of the Ik peoples of East Africa is most clear on this point, but other, similar observations have been made (Cahill 1982; Garcia 1981; Garcia & Escudero 1982; Sorokin 1975).

            2) Clinical research on the effects of severe protein-calorie malnutrition of infants and children indicates that starvation is a trauma of the most severe proportions. A child suffering from marasmus or kwashiorkor will exhibit symptoms of contactlessness and immobility, with, in the most extreme cases, a cessation of body and brain growth. If the starvation has lasted long enough, recuperation to full potential may not occur after food supply is restored, and mild to severe physical and emotional retardation may occur. Other effects of famine and starvation upon children and adults have been noted, to include reductions in general emotional vitality and sexual energy, some effects of which may persist even after food supply is restored. Importantly, the infant biophysically and emotionally withdraws and contracts under conditions of famine and starvation in a manner nearly identical to the equally traumatic effects of maternal deprivation and isolation. Both sets of experiences have clear, lifelong effects which disturb the ability of adults to emotionally bond with both mate and offspring. (Aykroyd 1974; Garcia & Escudero 1982; Prescott, Read & Coursin 1975).

            3) A number of other traumatic factors specifically related to the hard life in deserts and droughty regions were identified. One major example was the use of the restraining, head-molding, back-pack cradle by migratory peoples of Central Asia, which appears to have inadvertently led to the dual traumas of infant cranial deformation and swaddling. Infant cranial deformation as a social institution died out around c.1900 CE, but swaddling today appears to persist in the same general regions.  The archaeological record suggests that cranial deformations and swaddling subsequently became institutionalized parts of child-rearing tradition in those same areas (DeMeo 1998; Dingwall 1931; Gorer & Rickman 1962). Indeed, painful cranial deformations and swaddling became an identifying mark and cherished social institution of such peoples, to persist even after they gave up the nomadic existence for a settled lifestyle.  Other major social institutions, such as male and female genital mutilations (circumcision, infibulation), were also found to be geographically centered on, and have their earliest origins within the great Old World desert belt. (DeMeo 1986, 1998)

            In the process of making the above determinations, it became increasingly apparent to me that early matrist social bonds might have first been shattered among subsistence-level cultures which had survived the devastating effects of severe, sequential droughts, desertification, and prolonged famine. With the progressive, generation-after-generation disruption of maternal-infant and male-female social bonds by hyperaridity, famine, starvation, and forced migrations, there would be a consequent development and intensification of patrist attitudes, behaviors, and social institutions. And these would gradually replace the older matristic ones. Patrism would have become fixed into the character structure just as hyperarid, desert conditions became fixed into the landscape. And once so fixed, patrism would remain with the afflicted people, irrespective of subsequent climate or food supply, given the behavior-affecting, self-duplicating character of social institutions. Patrism would thereafter appear in the moister regions of plenty by virtue of irruptions of migrating, warlike peoples from adjacent desert regions.


The Geographical Aspects of Anthropology and Climatology

My preliminary cross-cultural review of behavior and social institutions in a sample of 400 different subsistence-level, aboriginal cultures from around the world (taken from Textor 1967) and a more systematic and definitive global analysis derived from 1170 different cultures, using cultural data from Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas (1967), fully validated the matrist-patrist social organizational structure given in Table 1, with a high level of significance.(see the large Correlation Table of Sex-Economic Factors in DeMeo 1986 and 1998).  These standard cross-cultural analyses also confirmed the severe desert-patrist correlation, but also showed it was not valid for all semiarid lands or even hyperarid deserts of limited geographical size (ie, the Atacama and Namib), where food and water supplies could be obtained by making a short journey. Moreover, wetland regions adjacent to the largest, most hyperarid deserts were found to be partly or entirely patrist in character, a fact which was later explained in the demonstrated migrations of peoples out of the deserts (DeMeo 1986, 1998).  Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas  did not contain any maps, and was composed almost exclusively of descriptive tabular data on aboriginal peoples living in their native regions. Data for North and South America, and Oceania, in large measure, reflected native, pre-European conditions. Murdock's data was gathered from hundreds of reliable ethnographic sources published roughly between 1840 to 1960; his data has been critically reviewed and subject to cross-checking and correction by other scholars, and is today widely used for cross-cultural social theory testing. 

            In my final analysis, which led to the development of a specific World Behavior Map, each of the 1170 individual cultures was separately evaluated (by computer) according to 15 different variables which approximated the matrist-patrist schema previously given in Table 1.[2] Cultures exhibiting a high percentage of patrist characteristics for the 15 variables received an appropriately high score, while cultures with a low percentage of patrist characteristics (with a high degree of matrism) received an appropriately low score. Latitudes and longitudes were obtained for each culture, and a regional percent-patrist average was extracted for each 5° by 5° block of latitude and longitude. Figure 1, the World Behavior Map, emerged from this procedure (DeMeo 1986, 1998).


Figure 1. The World Behavior Map:  For the period roughly between 1840 and 1960, as reconstructed from aboriginal cultural data given in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas (1967), with minimal historical interpretation. (DeMeo 1986, 1998)

Extreme Matrist Unarmored Culture (values of <41%)

Intermediate, Moderate (values of 41% - 71%)

Extreme Patrist Armored Culture (values of >71%)

            The patterns on the World Behavior Map were independently supported by separate maps of each of the 15 variables used in its construction, and by maps of other related variables (Male Genital Mutilations, Female Genital Mutilations, Infant Cranial Deformation and Swaddling, Areas Influenced or Occupied by Arab Armies, and by Turkish Armies) previously presented with more detailed discussion (DeMeo 1986, 1998).  The World Behavior Map clearly demonstrates that patrism was neither ubiquitous nor random in its worldwide distribution. Old World cultures were clearly more patrist than those in either Oceania or the New World. Furthermore, the area of most extreme patrism in the Old World is found in one large, contiguous swath, stretching across North Africa, the Near (Middle) East, and into Central Asia. Of major significance is the fact that this same geographical territory encompasses what is today the most intense, widespread, and hyperarid of desert environments found on Earth.

            Maps of environmental factors related to extreme desert conditions demonstrate distributions very similar to that of extreme patrism on the World Behavior Map. Figure 2 is, for instance, a map identifying the most hyperarid of desert environments as determined from the Budyko-Lettau dryness ratio (Budyko 1958; Hare 1977).

Figure 2. Budyko-Lettau Dryness Ratio:  Contrasting the relative dryness of different arid lands around the world. Values reflect the ratio between precipitation and evaporative energy; values of 2 receive twice as much evaporative solar heat as moisture from precipitation, while values of 10 receive ten times as much. (DeMeo 1986, 1998)
Arid to Semi-Arid Environments
Hyper-Arid Environments

This ratio contrasts the amount of evaporative energy available in a given environment relative to the amount of precipitation. It is a more sensitive indicator of stress within arid environments than those used in more standard climate classification systems, which may mislead one into thinking that all "desert" environments are similar in nature. Maps identifying other stressful environmental extremes, such as greatest precipitation variability, highest mean monthly maximum temperatures, vegetation-barren regions, regions of lowest carrying capacity, regions of desert soils, and uninhabited regions show very similar distributions of their most intense, widespread aspects within this same extreme desert-patrist territory (DeMeo 1986, DeMeo 1998). I have given the name Saharasia to this broad expanse of correlated extreme climate and culture.

The Geographical Aspects of Archaeology and History

            The highly structured distributions on the World Behavior Map suggested that global patrism developed earliest within Saharasia, after which it was carried outward by migrating peoples to affect surrounding moister regions. The testing of this hypothesis regarding climate, behavior and mass-migrations in ancient times necessitated the creation of a new data base composed of information on ancient climatic conditions, the migrations of peoples, past social factors relevant to the treatment of infants, children, and women, and tendencies towards male dominance, despotism, sadistic violence, and warfare. A new data base containing over 10,000 individual time- and location-specific notecards was developed and assembled chronologically; each card contained information from the archaeological or historical literature identifying artifacts and/or ecological conditions for specific field sites or regions at specific times. Over 100 separate authoritative sources were consulted and outlined to compose this new data base, which allowed identification and comparison of ancient conditions across broad geographical regions for similar time periods. Times and places of widespread ecological and cultural transition, as well as the migrations and settlement patterns of peoples, were thereby identified. My predominant focus was on Saharasia and its moister Afro-Euro-Asian borderlands, but a significant amount of data was also collected for Oceania and the New World (DeMeo 1986, 1998).

             From the patterns observed in this data base, It was clear that patrism developed its most widespread early expressions within Saharasia, at the same time that the landscape underwent a major ecological transition, from relatively wet to arid, desert conditions. Evidence from dozens of archaeological and paleoclimatic studies indicates that the great desert belt of modern day Saharasia was, prior to c.4000-3000 BCE, a semiforested grassland savanna. Large and small fauna, such as elephant, giraffe, rhino, and gazelle, lived on the highland grasses, while hippopotamus, crocodile, fish, snails, and mollusks thrived in streams, rivers and lakes. Today, most of this same North African, Middle-Eastern and Central Asian terrain is hyperarid and often vegetation-barren. Some of the now-dry basins of Saharasia were then filled with giant lakes at levels tens to hundreds of meters deep, while the canyons and wadis flowed with permanent streams and rivers (DeMeo 1986, 1998).

            But what of the peoples who inhabited Saharasia during the wetter times of plenty? The evidence is also clear on this point: These early peoples were almost entirely peaceful, unarmored, and matrist in character. Indeed, I have concluded that there does not exist any clear, compelling or unambiguous evidence for the existence of significant widespread or persisting patrism within any major region of Earth  prior to c.4000 BCE. Only the most isolated and temporary of examples can be documented.  (DeMeo 2002) However, strong evidence exists for early and widespread peaceful matrist social conditions. These inferences are made partly from the presence of certain artifacts from those earliest times, which include: the sensitive and careful burial of the dead, irrespective of sex, with a relatively uniform grave wealth; sexually realistic female statues; and naturalistic, sensitive artwork on rock walls and pottery which emphasized women, children, music, the dance, animals, and the hunt. In later centuries, some of these same peaceful matrist peoples would progress technologically, and develop large, unfortified agrarian and/or trading states, notably in Crete, the Indus Valley, and Soviet Central Asia. The inference of matrism in these early times is also made from the absence of archaeological evidence for chaos, warfare, sadism, and brutality, which becomes quite evident in more recent strata, after Saharasia dried up. This latter archaeological evidence includes: weapons of war; destruction layers in settlements; massive fortifications, temples, and tombs devoted to big-man rulers; infant cranial deformation; ritual murder of females in the tombs or graves of generally older men; ritual foundation sacrifices of children; mass or unkempt graves with mutilated bodies thrown in helter-skelter; and caste stratification, slavery, extreme social hierarchy, compulsive polygyny and concubinage, as determined from architecture, grave goods and other mortuary arrangements. Artwork style and subject matter of the later, dry periods also changes, to emphasize mounted warriors, horses, chariots, battles, and camels. Scenes of women, children, and daily life vanish. Naturalistic female statues and artwork simultaneously become abstract, unrealistic, or even fierce, losing their former gentle, nurturing, or erotic qualities; or they disappear entirely, to be replaced by statues of male gods or god-kings. Artwork quality as well as architectural styles decline for Old World sites at such times, to be followed in later years by monumental, warrior, and phallic motifs (DeMeo 1986, 1998).

            With a few special exceptions, the overwhelming bulk of early evidence for chaotic social conditions and patrism on Earth can be found in those parts of Saharasia which began to dry up first, namely within, or very close to Arabia and Central Asia. These are discussed below, and in detail elsewhere (DeMeo 2002), but they are exceptions which prove the rule: Severe desertification and famine trauma greatly disturbed the original matrist social fabric, and promoted the development of patrist behaviors and social institutions; patrism was, in turn, compounded and intensified by widespread land-abandonment, migratory adjustments, and competition over scarce water resources.

The Genesis of Patrism in Saharasia

            After c.4000-3500 BCE, radical social transformations are apparent in the ruins of previously peaceful, matrist settlements along river valleys in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and North Africa. In each case, evidence for increasing aridity and land abandonment coincides with migratory pressures upon settlements with secure water supplies, such as those at oases, or on exotic rivers. Central Asia also experienced a shifting in lake levels and river beds coincidental to climatic instability and aridity, stimulating abandonment of large lakeshore or irrigation agricultural communities.

            Settlements on the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates, as well as in the moister highland portions of the Levant, Anatolia, and Iran, were invaded and conquered by peoples abandoning Arabia and/or Central Asia, which continued to dry out. New despotic central states emerged thereafter. Tomb, temple, and fortification architecture, with evidence for ritual widow murder (eg., mother murder, when performed by the eldest son), cranial deformations, emphasis on the horse and camel, and growth of the military occurs following such invasions in almost every case I have studied. As these new despotic central states grew in power, they expanded their territories, sometimes to conquer the nomadic pastoral tribes still present on the desiccating steppe. Some of these despotic states periodically invaded into the wetlands adjacent to Saharasia to expand their territories. They either conquered local peoples in the wetlands or, failing to do so, stimulated defensive reactions among them, which can be seen in the subsequent appearance of fortifications, weapons technology, and an intermediate level of patrism in those wetlands. Other despotic Saharasian states eventually vanished from the history books as aridity intensified and dried up their subsistence (DeMeo 1986, 1998, 2002).

The Diffusion of Patrism into the Saharasian Borderlands

            Patrism appeared in the wetter Saharasian borderlands after it first developed within the desiccating Saharasian core. As aridity gripped Saharasia, and as the armored, patrist response increasingly gripped Saharasian peoples, migrations out of the dry regions increasingly put such peoples into contact with the more peaceful peoples of the moister Saharasian borderlands. Increasingly, the migrations out of Saharasia took place in the form of massive invasions of the more fertile border territories.  In these borderlands, patrism took root not by virtue of desertification or famine trauma, but by the killing off and replacement of the original matrist populations by the invader patrist groups, or by the forced adoption of new patrist social institutions introduced by the invading, conquering peoples. For example, Europe was sequentially invaded after c.4000 BCE by Battle-Axe peoples, Kurgans, Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks. Each took a turn at warring, conquering, pillaging, and generally transforming Europe towards an increasingly patrist character. European social institutions progressively turned away from matrism towards patrism, with the far western parts of Europe, notably Britain and Scandinavia, developing patrist conditions much later and in a more dilute form, than either Mediterranean or Eastern Europe, which were more profoundly influenced by Saharasian peoples.

            Across the Old World, in the moister parts of China, peaceful matrist conditions likewise prevailed until the coming of the first extreme patrist Central Asian invaders, the Shang and Chou, after c.2000 BCE. Subsequent invasions by the Huns, Mongols and others would reinforce patrism in wetland China. Japanese culture remained matrist a bit longer, given the isolating influence of the China Sea and Korean Strait, until the coming of the first invading patrist groups from the Asian mainland, such as the Yayoi, around c.1000 BCE. In South Asia, the peaceful, largely matrist settlements and trading states of the Indus River valley collapsed after c.1800 BCE, under the combined pressures of aridity and patrist warrior-nomad invaders from arid Central Asian lands. Patrism spread thereafter into India, and was intensified in later centuries by Hunnish, Arab, and Mongol invasions, which also came from Central Asia. Matrism similarly predominated in Southeast Asia until the onset of progressive patrist migrations and invasions, by both land and sea, from the patrist kingly states of China, India, Africa, and Islamic regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, available evidence suggests that patrism first appeared with the arrival of various southward-migrating peoples, around the time that North Africa dried up and was abandoned. Pharaonic Egyptian, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Bantu, Arab, Turkish, and Colonial European influences also increased African patrism in later years (DeMeo 1986, 1998).

            The geographical patterns in these migrations, invasions, and settlement patterns are most striking. Two major patrist core zones appear in the data after c.4000 BCE, one in Arabia and the other in Central Asia, the respective homelands from which Semitic and Indoaryan peoples would migrate. These were also the first parts of Saharasia to start desiccating, though other portions of Saharasia would begin to dry up and convert to patrism within a few centuries. Elsewhere I have shown another historical aspect of these irruptions of desert warrior nomads, in maps of the territories occupied at one time or another by Arab and Turkish empires.  The territories of these two groups, who were the last of a series of invaders coming from Arabia and Central Asia, encompass fully 100% of desert Saharasia, spilling outward into its moister borderlands. (DeMeo 1998, p.104)

            These facts of geography explain why matrism was preserved to a greater extent in those regions most far removed from Saharasia. Regions at the periphery of Saharasia (particularly islands), such as England, Crete, Scandinavia, the Asian Arctic, Southern Africa, Southern India, Southeast Asia, and Island Asia, demonstrate a later historical acquaintance with or adoption of patrism, and a consequent dilution of patrism with pre-existing native matrist social institutions. From the various sources used to construct my data base, Figure 3 was developed, suggesting patterns of diffusion of patrism within the Old World. The vectors are only a first approximation, but are in agreement with prior studies on the migrations and diffusion of peoples. These geographical patterns, taken from the literature of archaeology and history, are independently supported by a very similar spatial pattern in the more recent anthropological data, as previously given in Figure 1, the World Behavior Map. 

Figure 3: Generalized Paths of Diffusion of Armored Human Culture (Patrist Cultural Complex) in the Old World, after c.4000 BCE
1. Arabian Core Region   2. Central Asian Core Region
(DeMeo 1986, 1998)

The Diffusion of Patrism into Oceania and the New World

            These observations regarding the migrations of patrist peoples may be extended to include the trans-oceanic diffusion of patrism from the Old World, through Oceania, and possibly even into the New World. A map of the suggested migratory pathways is given in Figure 4, which assumes no source region for patrism other than Saharasia. This last map was derived from the various maps presented above, including the World Behavior Map, and from other sources (DeMeo 1986, 1998). Additional research will clearly be needed to confirm or clarify these suggested pathways. 

Figure 4.  Suggested Patterns of Diffusion of Patrism Around the World.

Starting after c.4000 BCE, but before Columbus and the European migrations (DeMeo 1986, 1998, 2002)

            It is significant that patrism in the Americas was identified in the ethnographical data, and on the World Behavior Map primarily among peoples who lived along the coasts or among peoples whose ancestors developed their earliest patrist communities on coastal regions, or on major river systems — all of which implies navigation by boat. Furthermore, it is significant that the early patrist peoples of the Americas were the very same cultures for whom others have argued, on the basis of material culture, artwork, or linguistics, a pre-Columbian connection with the ocean-navigating patrist states of the Old World. This suggests, the earliest peoples to migrate into the Americas were peaceful and matristic in character, with patristic groups arriving only later, after c.4000 BCE, and settling predominantly along coastal or river-valley regions. (DeMeo 1986, 1998).

More Recent Archaeological Findings 

            Space does not permit any detailed discussion of several key but isolated examples of social violence which have been identified by archaeologists for time periods well before my c.4000 BCE marker date for the first-genesis of widespread patrism and social violence.  However, they are not exemplary of any widespread or persisting social condition, and as I have shown elsewhere (DeMeo 2002), they all appear to have developed within earlier epochs of climatic instability and drought-desert-famine conditions (ie, Jebel Sahaba, SE Australia), or they are found among peoples who directly migrated away from a desert or drought-affected region (ie, the Ofnet-Schletz-Talheim massacre sites are linked with early migrations out of the Middle East).  Once again, they are "exceptions which prove the rule" of a drought-desert-famine mechanism for temporary and isolated examples of patrism and social violence during those earlier periods.  Such findings do not overturn my Saharasian discovery, but instead, strengthen it.(DeMeo 2002)


            The findings summarized here strongly suggest the earliest human societies were peaceful and egalitarian in nature, where violence was the rare exception, rather than the rule. This implies, the innate portions of behavior are limited to the pleasure-directed aspects of life and social living, which impart distinct survival and health advantages to the growing child, which nurture bonds of love between men and women, and thereby function to preserve genuinely civil society. These are the matrist behaviors and social institutions, which support and protect the bonding functions between newborn babies and their mothers, which nurture the child through its various developmental stages, and which encourage and protect the bonds of love and pleasurable excitation which spontaneously develop between the young male and female. From these pleasure-directed biological impulses come other socially cooperative tendencies, and life-protecting, life-enhancing social institutions. Such impulses and behaviors, which are pro-child, pro-female, sex-positive and pleasure-oriented, have been demonstrated to exist in more recent times predominantly outside the bounds of the Saharasian desert belt. However, my work strongly suggests they once were the dominant forms of behavior and social organization everywhere on the planet, before the great Old World desert belt of Saharasia developed.  Given the new evidence presented here, patrism, to include its child-abusive, female-subordinating, sex-repressive, and destructively aggressive components, is best and most simply explained as a contractive and pathological emotional and cultural response to the traumatic famine conditions that first developed when Saharasia dried up after c.4000 BCE, a response which subsequently spread out of the desert through the diffusion of traumatized and affected peoples, and their damaged social institutions. 






1. Some time after my major findings had been accepted and published as a dissertation through the University of Kansas (DeMeo 1986), I learned of Riane Eisler's (1987a) study Chalice and the Blade, which identified dominator and partnership types of social organization. These are nearly identical in concept to the respective patrist and matrist forms of social organization as defined here. Subsequently, Brian Griffith's work The Gardens of Their Dreams: Desertification and Culture in World History (Griffith 2001) was published, independently corroborating the findings presented in my Saharasia.

2. The 15 variables were: Female Premarital Sex Taboos, Segregation of Adolescent Boys, Male Genital Mutilations, Bride Price, Family Organization, Marital Residence, Post-Partum Sex Taboo, Cognatic Kin Groups, Descent, Land Inheritance, Movable Property Inheritance, High God, Class Stratification, Caste Stratification, and Slavery.


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