Anthropologist and archeologists know a lot about ancient history and some of their theories are also based in the behaviors of current hunter-gatherer societies.
Early men and women were equal, say scientists
Study shows that modern hunter-gatherer tribes operate on egalitarian basis, suggesting inequality was an aberration…
Agriculture led to inequality
The surplus food available in early agricultural societies quickly led to a distinction between the rich and the poor.
“Evidence from modern hunter-gatherer societies suggests that these people have and had a very egalitarian structure with a focus on the good of the tribe. Peopled lived in communal villages where sharing with the group was the first priority, and individual families and possessions weren’t a big deal. There was no such thing as richness and poverty. Instead, the whole tribe ate, or the whole tribe went hungry.
As soon as people began farming (and had the ability to store a surplus), our entire social structure changed. The family became the first obligation of the individual, and certain families became much richer than others. Rather than living in nearly identical houses, rich families built large edifices while poor families lived in hovels. The rich were buried with luxurious goods, while the poor were tossed alone into their graves. Ironically, surplus food had created poverty.”
If you are looking for a really meaty exploration of this from an inter-disciplinary perspective, check out Riane Eisler’s classic book, The Chalice and the Blade.
“The Chalice and the Blade tells a new story of our cultural origins. It shows that warfare and the war of the sexes are neither divinely nor biologically ordained. It provides verification that a better future is possible — and is in fact firmly rooted in the haunting dramas of what happened in our past.”
“Drawing on archaeological evidence and Paleolithic and Neolithic art, Eisler argues that prehistoric societies were relatively free of the domination, exploitation and misogyny that have marked Western societies up to the present. She emphasizes that Christianity’s hostility toward sex and, particularly, women’s sexuality has conditioned men and women to accept coercion and repression. Eisler outlines a new sexual ethic that aligns pleasure with our capacity to feel and act empathically. Her visionary, passionate scholarship is a revealing psychosexual exploration of love and power relations.” — a description of another fascinating book of hers, Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth and the Politics of the Body.
When Columbus first came to the new world he was amazed at the way that the natives he encountered were generous to a fault and showed no evidence of jealousy. Naturally, he promptly took advantage of that, but if you are only talking 527 years ago, it means that it is not so bred out of us that we can never hope to recapture any of this way of relating to each other. I’m not naive enough to think it will be easy or quick, but it is truly our natural state as a highly social species hardwired for connection. Moving away from that has brought about a lot of personal and social dysfunction, isolation and pain.