Ch. 1 focuses on the paintings in Lascaux Cave (dated between 28,000 and 10,000 BCE). In Ch. 2 Marchant describes some of the work by Irish archaelologist Michael O'Kelly, particularly the excavation and restoration of an "exceptionally grand" passage tomb in at Newgrange in Ireland, built during the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC (making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Then she segues to the work of German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt in 1994—a site in southeast Turkey called Nevalı Çori that is dated about 9000 - 8,000 B.C.E.
Marchant says many of these stone monuments were constructed in western Europe during the Neolithic period and were aligned to events in the sky.
The hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic had existed as an integral part of the natural world, sharing their environment on equal terms with other species. During the Neolithic revolution, people cut those ties and became farmers, controlling and exploiting the land. This shift in lifestyle and mind-set changed humanity forever, setting a trajectory of technological progress that has ultimately made us capable of reshaping not just landscapes, but the entire planet.
The revolution was about more than forging a new relationship with wheat or fields or sheep. It also transformed our wider cosmos: how people viewed the spirit world, and the sky. In fact, there’s a case to be made that these new cosmological ideas didn’t simply reflect the shift to farming. They caused it.
This reminds me of Jared Diamond's speculations, I believe in The Third Chimpanzee
, about when early humans began to develop tools and artwork and literature (and to dominate the planet). Diamond thinks that a minor set of mutations in our larynxes, gave us the ability to form a more complex array of sounds, and thus spoken language, which permitted much of the rest. Though it might have started with having bigger heads and, therefore, brains.
Interesting stuff. Not sure if anyone's reading along at this point. So far this seems like an overview of anthropology, giving us some insight into early humans and their relationship to both the natural world and the mythologies they invented to try and make sense of the natural world. Marchant says that humans took it for granted that celestial events were tied to events on earth. And so by studying the night sky we might be better able to control terrestrial events. How very human of us.