| 1 January 2005
Humans may have studied insects to master farming
Raymond Lane reexamined the work of archaeologist James Mellaart finding that within the period 10,000-4,000 BCE, humans may have studied the insect’s role of plant pollinator in order to understand farming. Architecture and artifacts indicate that humans also adopted some aspects of insect lifestyles — via sympathetic worship — in an attempt to improve their own working lives.
At Çatal Hüyük (Turkey), shrine VII has a wall relief of a goddess with two red rings around her pregnant abdomen and a triangular belly button — imitating a bee’s abdomen and stinger, and suggesting that she was equated to the queen bee. Shrine VI.B.8 has a wall painting with many handprints on the bottom, three bull heads at the top and a middle section displaying "the life-cycle of the bee in a honeycomb with closed cells on the left, from which, in the middle, the bees emerge to fly freely in a field of flowers on the right". The honeycomb is enclosed within two rows of four-fingered hands that Mellaart suspected represented crops.
This shows that the people had intimate knowledge of the beehive and that bees played a role in fertilising crops. Lane believes that the entire theme suggests a spiritual hierarchy of humans on the bottom, gods on the top, and bees as the intermediary between the two. A wall painting of the city itself, in shrine VII, is composed of clear cell-like units — suggesting that the honeycomb may have been its inspiration.
Lane believes that insect sympathetic worship may have begun as early as 35,000 years ago. This is when human social behaviour changed to include division of labour, artwork, and the noting of natural cycles. Termites, bees, and some ants would have been used as food sources, and the people would have realised that the large insect society with its queen resembled their own society with its queen (and mother goddess). And the bulging, pregnant Venus figurines — some even with segmented bodies — may have represented the fertile qualities of the insect queen and its bulging, egg-filled body.
So for a short period of history, humans engaged in sympathetic worship of insects to learn farming. After mastering the complexities of farming — by about 4000 BCE — sympathetic worship of insects subsided, bees were domesticated, and newer advances fuelled social growth. Lane says, "Up till now archaeologists have concentrated on how humans related to animals — as in tool development, artwork and domestication. But humans' relationship to insects may have been just as important — if not more so, since you can not only learn about farming from insects but also about a more intense form of social organisation. So this is a valuable area for further research".
Source: i-Newswire.com (23 December 2004)
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