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blueheron (link via Ampersand) on the ideological uses of prehistory:

Using mythic and completely unproven (and unprovable, since nothing remains of paleolithic [or even neolithic] cultures except a few enigmatic artifacts) theories about how humanity used to live and worship is far too common in modern occultism. The problem with any theories created about this time is that they are no more and no less likely than hundreds or thousands of other theories that are often radically different. The preliterate past is lost to us and unless and until someone invents time travel, it will remain forever lost.

However, it is important to note that occultists are far from the only people to create unprovable theories about the distant past. While many archaeologists have more sense, one of the hallmarks of the various sociobiologists who are attempting to prove their theories about human nature is the creation a wide variety of foolish fables about how this or that behavioral trait found in modern Western culture can be traced to some supposedly evolutionarily advantageous (and therefore in their limited thinking obviously genetically determined) behavior first found in our paleolithic ancestors.

...In any sort of debate on culture, magick, or (that most elusive of qualities) human nature stone age is invoked for two purposes – it serves as a useful tabula rasa for an author to create whatever vision of the humanity that best supports their theories and (more importantly) it is used to define what is supposedly natural and therefore innate about humanity. I find this use of prehistory interesting, because it implies something that I have rarely seen explicitly addressed - the existence of a single culture.


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