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Primitive Thought and Custom

PRIMITIVE THOUGHT AND CUSTOM: PREHISTORY

PALEOLITHIC AGE
(Before  8000 B.C.)

Hunters, fishers, and gatherers
Stone tools
Language
Religion and magic
Cave art
Ritual practices (e.g., burial)
Division of labor by sex

 

NEOLITHIC AGE
(About 8000 B.C.)

Settled agricultural culture
Carving and grinding
Pottery
Cloth
Permanent buildings

 

BRONZE AGE
(About 3000 B.C.

Agriculture
Urbanism
Metallurgy
Writing

PRIMITIVE CUSTOMS

SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

FAMILY

 

GOVERNMENT
AND LAW

ETHICAL BEHAVIOR means not violating custom
CONFORMITY
JUSTICE synonymous with maintaining equilibrium
Theft, murder, personal injury are PRIVATE MATTERS
Some transgressions (e.g., treason, witchcraft, and incest) are offenses against the COMMUNITY and are usually punishable by death.
DEMOCRATIC government
Decisions made by a COUNCIL OF ELDERS
GENERAL ASSEMBLY of adult males
CHIEF rules in accordance with custom
 

RELIGION AND MAGIC

Religion originated in AWE and wonder at the universe.
ANIMISM (all things in nature inhabited by spirits)
Belief in AFTERLIFE
Revered animals
TOTEMISM
Worship of FERTILITY GODDESS
Practice of MAGIC
CAVE ART
MEDICINE MEN

Parents & offspring

Monogramy commom

EXTENDED FAMILY

Circle of related persons

Bound by mutual loyalty

Helps to obtain food and protect members

Land communally owned

Weapons, tools,  utensils individually owned.

CLAN

Group of individuals with common ancestors.

Patrilineal or marilineal.

Identified by totem

TRIBE

Community characterized by common speech or distinctive dialect, a common cultural heritage, and a specific inhabited territory

Strong group loyalty

Contempt for the peoples and customs of other communities

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

ONLINE
RESOURCES
  For more information on this topic, see the following online resources:

Flints and Stones: Real Life in Prehistory – A fun and informative site. Be sure to take the food quiz.

Human Prehistory: An Exhibition: Pages on the first humans, their tools, artistic endeavors and early settlements

Neolithic Settlement – Catal Hoyuk: Information on the Neolithic settlementCatal Hoyuk (EVE) – Virtual tour inside the Neolithic settlement. Movies are slow-loading but worthwhile.

She’s 10,000 years old – and looking good: Forensics experts recreate face from bone fragments.

Take the Lucy Test: Evaluate fossil evidence for Australopithecus afarensis, an extinct primate that some say was our evolutionary ancestor.

Garden of Eden -- True or False?: When and where life began.

Agricultural Revolution: Information on the process, problems and benefits of man settling into agricultural villages. Deals with technological changes and domestication of plants and animals.

The Dawn of Technology: The First Stone Tools – Tells how crude stone tools were used in prehistoric times. Includes a section on "How to Carve an Elephant."

DISCUSSION
QUESTIONS
 
What role did religion and magic play in primitive society?
How were cave art and ritual practices expressions of religion and magic?
Why did Paleolithic man, and subsequent societies, divide labor by sex?
What improvements did agricultural surpluses make possible for Neolithic man? Why is urbanism a result of progress in agriculture?
How is the tribe like a modern national state? What are the differences between the two forms of political organization?
Why did primitive man make a distinction between private and community legal matters?
What can you expect of a system of justice designed to maintain the equilibrium?
What does the conservative nature of primitive society suggest about attitudes toward progress, innovation, and change? How would primitive man fare in today's world?
To what extent was primitive society democratic?  Why was membership in the general assembly limited only to adult males? Were there aspects of primitive society which excluded males as the general assembly excluded females? What does this tell us about the status of women in primitive society?
 


Send mail to Dr. Edrene S. Montgomery  with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 1999-2000 Edrene S. Montgomery
Last modified: July 12, 2000