James DeMeo's

Saharasia Discovery and Research

Ashland, Oregon, USA

Summary Article on Saharasia

Return to Saharasia Main Page

The Origins and Diffusion of Patrism in Saharasia, c.4000 BCE:

Evidence for a Worldwide, Climate-Linked

Geographical Pattern in Human Behavior*

by James DeMeo, Ph.D.**

* Previously published in: Kyoto Review 23: 19-38, Spring 1990 (Japan) ; Emotion 10, 1991 (Germany); World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, 30: 247-271, 1991; and Pulse of the Planet 3:3-16, 1991. An extensive presentation of Dr. DeMeo's work on this subject is available in the book Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World, Natural Energy Works, 1998.

** Director, Orgone Biophysical Research Lab., Ashland, Oregon, USA, demeo(at)mind.net
(Paste the "@" symbol into your email program.)

All text and graphics in this publication are Copyrighted © 2000 and may not be duplicated or otherwise copied or used without written permission of the author.

Click here for more information on Saharasia.



Global geographical patterns of repressive, painful, traumatic, and violent, armored, patrist behaviors and social institutions, which thwart maternal-infant and male-female bonds, were correlated and developed through a systematic analysis of anthropological data on 1170 subsistence-level cultures. When the behavior data were mapped, the hyperarid desert belt encompassing North Africa, the Near East, and Central Asia, which I call Saharasia, was found to possess the greatest areal extent of the most extreme patrist behaviors and social institutions on Earth. Regions farthest removed from Saharasia, in Oceania and the New World, were found to possess the most gentle, unarmored, matrist behaviors, which support and protect maternal-infant and male-female bonds. A systematic review of archaeological and historical materials suggests that patrism first developed in Saharasia after c.4000 BCE, the time of a major ecological transition from relatively wet grassland- forest conditions to arid desert conditions. Settlement and migration patterns of patrist peoples were traced, from their earliest homelands in Saharasia, to explain the later appearance of patrism in regions outside of Saharasia. Prior to the onset of dry conditions in Saharasia, evidence for matrism is widespread, but evidence for patrism is generally nonexistent. It is argued that matrism constitutes the earliest, original, and innate form of human behavior and social organization, while patrism, perpetuated by trauma-inducing social institutions, first developed among Homo Sapiens in Saharasia, under the pressures of severe desertification, famine, and forced migrations. The psychological insights of Wilhelm Reich provide an understanding of the mechanism by which patrist (armored, violent) behaviors become established and continue long after the initial trauma has passed.


The present paper summarizes the evidence and conclusions of my own seven-year geographical study on the worldwide, regional variation in human behavior, and related socio-environmental factors, a study which constituted my doctoral dissertation (DeMeo 1985, 1986, 1987). In this research, I specifically focused upon a major complex of traumatic and repressive attitudes, behaviors, social customs and institutions which are correlated with violence and warfare. My study proceeded from clinical and cross-cultural observations on the biological needs of infants, children, and adolescents, the repressive and damaging effects that certain social institutions and classes of harsh natural environment have upon those needs, and the behavioral consequences of such repression and damage.

The geographical approach to the origins of human behavior, as presented here, has allowed the reconstruction of a much clearer global picture of our most ancient cultural history than has heretofore been possible. The causal relationship between traumatic and repressive social institutions to destructive aggression and warfare has been verified and strengthened in my approach, which has confirmed the existence of an ancient, worldwide period of relatively peaceful social conditions, where warfare, male domination, and destructive aggression were either absent, or at extremely minimal levels. Moreover, it has become possible to pinpoint both the exact times and places on Earth where human culture first transformed from peaceful, democratic, egalitarian conditions, to violent, warlike, despotic conditions.

These findings were made possible only by virtue of recent paleoclimatic and archaeological field studies (which revealed previously hidden social and environmental conditions), and by the development of large, global anthropological data bases composed of cultural data from hundreds to thousands of different cultures from around the world. The microcomputer, also a recent innovation, allowed easy access to such data, and the preparation within a few years of global behavior maps which otherwise would have taken a lifetime to prepare. My approach to these questions also constituted one of the first systematically derived, global geographical reviews of human behavior and social institutions, uncovering a previously unobserved, but clear-cut global pattern in human behavior. Before presenting the maps, which display in spatial form the core of my findings, some discussion of the variables of interest, and the theory behind the maps, is in order.

Matrist Versus Patrist Culture:

The Roots of Violence in Childhood Trauma and Sex-Repression

My research was initially aimed at developing a global geographical analysis of social factors related to early childhood trauma and sexual repression, as a test of the sex-economic theory of Wilhelm Reich (1935, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1967, 1983). Reich's theory, which developed and diverged from psychoanalysis, labeled the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens a completely abnormal condition, resultant from the traumatically-induced chronic inhibition of respiration, emotional expression, and pleasure-directed impulses. According to this viewpoint, inhibition is made chronic within the individual by virtue of specific painful and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions, which consciously or unconsciously interfere with maternal-infant and male-female bonds. These rituals and institutions exist among both subsistence-level "primitives" and technologically developed "civilized" societies. Some examples are: unconscious or rationalized infliction of pain upon newborn infants and children through various means; separation and isolation of the infant from its mother; indifference towards the crying, upset infant; immobilizing, round-the-clock swaddling; denial of the breast to, and premature weaning of the infant; cutting of the child's flesh, usually the genitals; traumatic toilet training; and demands to be quiet, uncurious, and obedient, enforced by physical punishment or threats. Other social institutions aim to control or crush the child's budding sexual interests, such as the female virginity taboo, demanded by every culture worshiping a patriarchal high god, and the punishment- and guilt-enforced arranged or compulsive marriage. Most of these ritual punishments and restraints fall more painfully upon the female, though males are also greatly affected. Demands for pain endurance, emotion- suppression, and uncritical obedience to elder (usually male) authority figures regarding basic life decisions are integral aspects of such social institutions, which extend to control adult behavior as well. These repressive institutions are supported and defended by the average individual within a given society, irrespective of their painful, pleasure-reducing, or life-threatening consequences, and are uncritically viewed as being "good", "character building" experiences, a part of "tradition". Nevertheless, from such a complex of painful and repressive social institutions, it is argued, comes the neurotic, psychotic, self-destructive and sadistic components of human behavior, which are expressed in a plethora of either disguised and unconscious, or blatantly clear and obvious ways.

According to Reich's sex-economic viewpoint, a chronic characterological and muscular armor is set up in the growing human according to the type and severity of painful trauma it experiences. The biophysical processes which normally lead to full and complete respiration, emotional expression, and sexual discharge during orgasm are chronically blocked by the armor, to a greater or lesser extent, leading to the accumulation of pent-up, undischarged emotional and sexual (bioenergetic) tension. The dammed-up reservoir of internal tension drives the organism to behave in a generally unconscious, distorted, self-destructive, and/or sadistic manner (Reich 1942, 1949). The above processes occur whenever, and only whenever, attempts are made to irrationally deflect or mold human primary biological needs or urges according to the demands of "culture". The denial of the breast to an infant, the beating of a child for defecation or sexual expression, or the forced marriage of young girls to old men ("child betrothal", "bride price"), are examples.

Pain-inflicting and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions have been present in most, but by no means all, historical and contemporary cultures. There are, for instance, some cultures (a minority, to be sure) which neither inflict pain upon infants and children, consciously or otherwise, nor repress the sexual interests of children or adults. Of great interest is the fact that these are also nonviolent societies, with stable monogamous family bonds, and congenial, friendly social relations.

Malinowski (1927, 1932) first pointed to such cultures as a rebuttal to Freud's assertion of a biological, pan-cultural nature for childhood sexual latency and the Oedipal conflict. Reich (1935) argued that conditions within Trobriand society proved the correctness of his clinical and social findings relating sexual repression to pathological behavior. Other ethnographic descriptions of similar cultures have been made (Elwin 1947, 1968; Hallet & Relle 1973; Turnbull 1961). Prescott's (1975) and my own (DeMeo 1986, pp.114-120) global cross-cultural studies have confirmed these findings: Societies which heap trauma and pain upon their infants and children, and which subsequently repress the emotional expressiveness and sexual interests of their adolescents, invariably exhibit a spectrum of neurotic, self-destructive, and violent behaviors. Contrawise, societies which treat infants and children with great physical affection and gentle tenderness, and which view emotional expressiveness and adolescent sexuality in a positive light, are by contrast psychically healthy and nonviolent. Indeed, cross-cultural research has demonstrated the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of locating any disturbed, violent society which does not also traumatize its young and/or sexually repress them.

A systematic survey of global historical literature independently confirmed the above correlations, between childhood traumas, sex-repression, male-dominance, and family violence, in the descriptions of various warlike, authoritarian and despotic central states (DeMeo 1985, Chapters 6 & 7 of 1986) (1). From similar historical data, Taylor (1953) developed a dichotomous schema of human behavior in various societies. Using Taylor's terminology, and expanding upon his schema according to sex-economic findings, such violent, repressive societies are called patrist, and they differ in almost every respect from matrist cultures, whose social institutions are designed to protect and enhance the pleasurable maternal-infant and male-female bonds. (2) Table 1 gives a contrast between extreme forms of patrist (armored) and matrist (unarmored) culture.




(not armored)

Infants, Children
& Adolescents

Less indulgence

More indulgence


Less physical affection

More physical affection


Infants traumatized

Infants not traumatized


Painful initiations

Absence of pain in initiations


Dominated by family

Children's democracies


Sex-segregated houses or military, or age villages

Mixed sex children's houses


Restrictive attitude

Permissive attitude


Genital mutilations

No genital mutilations


Female virginity taboo

No female virginity taboo


Adolescent lovemaking severely censured

Adolescent lovemaking freely permitted


Homosexual tendency plus severe taboo

Absence of homosexual tendence or strong taboo


Incest tendency plus severe taboo

Absence of incest tendency or taboo


Concubinage and/or prostitution may exist

Absence of concubinage or prostitution


Limits on freedom

More freedom


Inferior status

Equal status


Vaginal blood taboo (hymenal, menstrual & childbirth blood)

No vaginal blood taboo


Cannot choose own mate

Will chose own mate


Cannot divorce at will

Can divorce at will


Males control female fertility

Females control own fertility

Cultural & Family Structure













Compulsive lifelong monogamy

Non-compulsive monogamy


Often polygamous

Rarely polygamous


Military caste structures

No full-time military


Violent, sadistic


Religion & Beliefs

Asceticism, avoidance of pleasure

Pleasure welcomed and institutionalized


Inhibition, fear of nature

Sontaneity, nature worshiped


Full-time religious specialists

No full-time religious specialists


Male shamans

Male or female shamans


Strict behavior codes

Absence of strict codes

Many aspects of patrism interfere with the biology of the infant and child in a manner generally unseen elsewhere in the animal world, and some clearly increase infant and maternal mortality and morbidity. Besides the painful or pleasure-reducing rites given in Table 1, it is important to note that most patrist societies possessed, at some time in their recent or distant past, severe psychopathological social disorders designed for the socially-approved, organized discharge of murderous rage towards children and women (ie., ritual murder of children, widows, "witches", "prostitutes", &c.), with a complement deification of the most aggressive and sadistically cruel males (totalitarianism, divine kingship). A few contemporary cultures express such conditions in a fully-blown form, or exhibit residues of such conditions, and these are facts which have distinct geographical implications.

For example, given that clinical, cross-cultural, and historical evidence indicates that adult violence is rooted in early childhood trauma and sex-repression, and does not exist where maternal-infant and male-female bonds are protected and nurtured by matrist social institutions, a question naturally arises as to how the cultural gestalt of trauma, repression and violence (patrism) could have gotten started in the first instance. Patrism, with its great outpouring of violence toward infants, children, and women, which is passed from one generation to the next through painful and life-threatening social institutions, must have had specific times and places of origins among some, but not all of the earliest human societies. The assumed absence of an innate character to patrism, which derives from the chronic blocking, inhibition, and damming-up of biological urges, demands that this be so. Matrism, however, which springs from freely-expressed, unimpeded biological impulse, and which therefore is innate, would have been global in nature, ubiquitous among all of humankind at the earliest times. Indeed, natural selection would have favored matrism, given the fact that it does not generate the sadistic urges which lead to deadly violence toward women and children, nor does it disturb the emotional bonds between mothers and infants, which impart distinct psycho-physiological survival advantages (Klaus & Kennell 1976; LeBoyer 1975; Montagu 1971; Stewart & Stewart 1978a, 1978b, Reich 1942, 1949).

Confirmation and support for the above assumptions and inferences exists in the geographical aspects of the global anthropological and archaeological data, and it was a central focus of my research to examine the spatial aspects of the facts and observations gathered by different field researchers. (3) For example, certain aspects of matrism and peaceful social conditions had previously been identified in the deepest archaeological layers of some regions, with demonstrated transitions toward more violent, male-dominated conditions in later years. While some researchers have either been unaware of these newer findings, have tended to ignore them, or have objected to their implications, a growing number of studies have demonstrated major social transitions in ancient times, from peaceful, democratic and egalitarian conditions, to violent, male-dominated, warlike conditions (Bell 1971; Eisler 1987a, 1987b; Huntington 1907, 1911; Gimbutas 1965, 1977, 1982; Stone 1976; Velikovsky 1950, 1984). The geographical aspects of these findings are most telling.

A systematic and global review of such evidence (DeMeo 1985, Chapters 6 & 7 of 1986) revealed distinct global patterns in these archaeological transitions, wherein entire regions were transformed from matrism to patrism within the same general time periods, or where the transition to patrism swept across major portions of a continent, from one end to the other, over a period of centuries. Of major significance was the finding that the earliest of these cultural transformations occurred in specific Old World regions (notably in North Africa, the Near East, and Central Asia, around 4000-3500 BCE), in concert with major environmental transformations, from relatively wet to arid conditions in those regions. Later transformations generally occurred in regions outside of the new-formed deserts, associated with the abandonment of the new arid zones, and subsequent invasion of moister borderland territories. The existence of these timed environmental and cultural transitions was most important, given other evidence which suggested that severe drought and desertification had the potential to traumatically disrupt maternal-infant and male-female bonds, just as certainly as any harsh and painful patrist social institution.

Social Devastation in Regions of Drought, Desertification and Famine

Other lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that severe and repeated drought and desertification, which promotes famine, starvation, and mass migrations among subsistence-level cultures, must have been a crucial factor which would have gradually, or even rapidly, pushed early matrist cultures towards patrism. For example:

1) Recent eyewitness reports of culture-change occurring during famine and starvation conditions indicate a resultant breakdown of social and family bonds. Turnbull's (1972) heartbreaking account of the Ik peoples of East Africa is most clear on this point, but other, similar observations have been made (Cahill 1982; Garcia 1981; Garcia & Escudero 1982; Sorokin 1975). Under the most severe famine conditions, husbands often leave their wives and children in search of food; they may or may not return. Starving children and elderly family members are eventually abandoned to struggle on their own, or to die. Children may form roving bands dedicated to stealing food, and the remaining social fabric may be utterly torn apart. The maternal-infant bond appears to endure the longest, but eventually starving mothers will also abandon their young.

2) Clinical research on the effects of severe protein-calorie malnutrition of infants and children indicates that starvation is a trauma of the most severe proportions. A child suffering from marasmus or kwashiorkor will exhibit symptoms of contactlessness and immobility, with, in the most extreme cases, a cessation of body and brain growth. If the starvation has lasted long enough, recuperation to full potential may not occur after food supply is restored, and mild to severe physical and emotional retardation may occur. Other effects of famine and starvation upon children and adults have been noted, to include reductions in general emotional vitality and sexual energy, some effects of which may persist even after food supply is restored. Importantly, the infant biophysically and emotionally withdraws and contracts under conditions of famine and starvation in a manner nearly identical to the equally traumatic effects of maternal deprivation and isolation. Both sets of experiences have clear, lifelong effects which disturb the ability of adults to emotionally bond with both mate and offspring. (Aykroyd 1974; Garcia & Escudero 1982; Prescott, Read & Coursin 1975).

Normal Versus Marasmatic Infants

Right infant 7 months old marasmatic.  Left infant 5 months old healthy
Reproduced Courtesy of F. Monckeberg (in Prescott, et al. 1975)

Transillumination of the Skulls of Normal (left), Malnourished (center), and Marasmatic-Starved (right) Infants.
The skull is illuminated in proportion to the amount of fluid-filled space between the brain and skull. A well-fed infant has a well-developed brain with little space and fluid between the brain and skull. Not so, the malnourished or starving child.
Reproduced courtesy of F. Monckeberg (in Prescott, et al. 1975)

3) A number of other traumatic factors specifically related to the hard life in deserts and droughty regions were identified. One major example was the use of the restraining, head-molding, back-pack cradle by migratory peoples of Central Asia, which appears to have inadvertently led to the dual traumas of infant cranial deformation and swaddling. Infant cranial deformation as a social institution died out around the turn of the century, but swaddling today appears to persist in the same general regions. Normally, an infant subjected to painful restraint struggles to free itself and will cry loudly, quickly attracting the help of alert caretakers. Not so, I speculate, among famished infants strapped into a body-restraining (and oftentimes head-squashing) back-pack cradle for a long march during a parching drought. Under extreme drought and famine conditions, caretakers would become less attentive, contactless, and less willing to constantly stop and quiet a child hurting in the cranial-deforming restraints of a back-pack cradle. As desertification progressed in Central Asia, migration from region to region became a relatively permanent way of life. The archaeological record suggests that cranial deformations and swaddling subsequently became institutionalized parts of child-rearing tradition in those same areas (DeMeo 1986, pp.142-152; Dingwall 1931; Gorer & Rickman 1962). Indeed, painful cranial deformations and swaddling became an identifying mark and cherished social institution of such peoples, to persist even after they gave up the nomadic existence for a settled lifestyle. Other major social institutions, such as male and female genital mutilations (circumcision, infibulation), were found to be geographically centered on, and have their earliest origins within the great Old World desert belt, though for reasons that are less clear.

Swaddling and Artifically Deformed Crania appear as complementary practices, as first developed in Central Asia with use of the back-pack cradle by migrating peoples. Infant cranial deformation has died out, but swaddling, a remnant practice, persists in most regions influenced by such peoples.

Swaddled infant drawing by Deborah Carrino, based on a photo
by Dean Conger. Deformed crania plates from Dingwall (1931).

NOTE: All maps are composed of data from native, aboriginal, subsistence-level peoples.
In the Americas and Oceania, these data reflect conditions generally prior to the arrival of European settlers.

In the process of making the above determinations, it became increasingly apparent to me that early matrist social bonds might have first been shattered among subsistence-level cultures which had survived the devastating effects of severe, sequential droughts, desertification, and prolonged famine. With the progressive, generation-after-generation disruption of maternal-infant and male-female social bonds by hyperaridity, famine, starvation, and forced migrations, there would be a consequent development and intensification of patrist attitudes, behaviors, and social institutions. And these would gradually replace the older matrist ones. Patrism would have become fixed into the character structure just as hyperarid, desert conditions became fixed into the landscape. And once so fixed, patrism would remain with the afflicted people, irrespective of subsequent climate or food supply, given the behavior-affecting, self-duplicating character of social institutions. Patrism would thereafter appear in the moister regions of plenty by virtue Of irruptions of migrating, warlike peoples from adjacent desert regions.

From the above considerations, a very clear geographical test was thereby suggested. If a mapped, worldwide spatial correlation existed between harsh desert environments and extreme patrist culture, then a clear mechanism for initiating the first trauma and repression among ancient human cultures would be identified. This would also directly corroborate Reich's sex-economic theory, which necessitated some ancient mechanism of trauma to explain the genesis of armoring. The spatial correlations which emerged from this approach were startling.


My preliminary review of behavior and social institutions in a sample of 400 different subsistence-level, aboriginal cultures from around the world indicated that the most extreme of patrist peoples lived in desert environments (DeMeo 1980), though not exclusively so. A more systematic and definitive global analysis derived from 1170 different cultures later confirmed the desert-patrist connection, but demonstrated that the generality was not valid for all semiarid lands or even hyperarid deserts of limited geographical size, where food and water supplies could be obtained by making a short journey. Moreover, wetland regions adjacent to the largest, most hyperarid deserts were likewise found to be patrist in character, a fact which was later explained in the demonstrated migrations of peoples (DeMeo 1986, 1987). Cultural data used for this later analysis were taken from Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas (1967), which did not contain any maps, and was composed almost exclusively of descriptive tabular data on aboriginal peoples living in their native regions. Data for North and South America, and Oceania, in large measure, reflected native, pre-European conditions. Murdock's data was gathered from hundreds of reliable sources published roughly between 1840 to 1960; his data has been constructively reviewed by other scholars, and is widely used for cross-cultural theory testing. Each of the 1170 individual cultures was separately evaluated (by computer) according 15 different variables which approximated the matrist-patrist schema previously given.(4) Cultures exhibiting a high percentage of patrist characteristics received an appropriately high score, while cultures with a low percentage of patrist characteristics (with a high degree of matrism) received an appropriately low score. Latitudes and longitudes were obtained for each culture, and a regional percent-patrist average was extracted for each 5° by 5° block of latitude and longitude.  Figure 1, the World Behavior Map, emerged from this procedure (DeMeo 1986, Chapter 4).

Figure 1. The World Behavior Map: For the period roughly between 1840 and 1960, as reconstructed from aboriginal cultural data given in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas (1967), with minimal historical interpretation.

The patterns on the World Behavior Map were independently supported by separate maps of each of the 15 variables used in its construction, and by maps of other related variables (genital mutilations, infant cranial deformation, swaddling) given in the original dissertation (DeMeo 1986, Chapter 5). The World Behavior Map clearly demonstrates that patrism was neither ubiquitous nor random in its worldwide distribution. Old World cultures were clearly more patrist than those in either Oceania or the New World. Furthermore, the area of most extreme patrism in the Old World is found in one large, contiguous swath, stretching across North Africa, the Near (Middle) East, and into Central Asia. Of major significance is the fact that this same geographical territory encompasses what is today the most intense, widespread, and hyperarid of desert environments found on Earth.

Maps of environmental factors related to desert conditions demonstrate distributions very similar to that of extreme patrism on the World Behavior Map. Figure 2 is, for instance, a map identifying the most hyperarid of desert environments as determined from the Budyko-Lettau dryness ratio (Budyko 1958; Hare 1977). This ratio contrasts the amount of evaporative energy available in a given environment relative to the amount of precipitation. It is a more sensitive indicator of stress in arid environments than those used in more standard climate classification systems, which may mislead one into thinking that all "desert" environments are similar in nature. Maps identifying other stressful environmental extremes, such as greatest precipitation variability, highest mean monthly maximum temperatures, vegetation-barren regions, regions of lowest carrying capacity, regions of desert soils, and uninhabited regions show very similar distributions of their most intense, widespread aspects within this same extreme desert-patrist territory (DeMeo 1986, Chapter 2; DeMeo 1987). I have given the name Saharasia to this broad expanse of correlated extreme climate and culture.

Figure 2: The Budyko-Lettau Dryness Ratio: Contrasting the relative dryness of different arid lands around the world. Values reflect the ratio between precipitation and evaporative energy; values of 2 receive twice as much evaporative solar heat as moisture from precipitation, while values of 10 receive ten times as much.


The highly structured distributions on the World Behavior Map suggested that patrism developed within Saharasia, perhaps only in ancient historical times, after which it was carried outward by migrating peoples to affect surrounding moister regions. The testing of this hypothesis regarding behavior, migrations, and climate in ancient times necessitated the creation of a new data base composed of information on ancient climatic conditions, the migrations of peoples, past social factors relevant to the treatment of infants, children, and women, and tendencies towards male dominance, despotism, sadistic violence, and warfare. A new data base containing over 10,000 individual time- and location-specific notecards was developed and assembled chronologically; each card contained information from the archaeological or historical literature identifying artifacts and/or ecological conditions for specific field sites or regions at specific times. Over 100 separate authoritative sources were consulted and outlined to compose this new data base, which allowed identification and comparison of ancient conditions across broad geographical regions for similar time periods. Times and places of widespread ecological and cultural transition, as well as the migrations and settlement patterns of peoples, were thereby identified. My predominant focus was on Saharasia and its moister Afro-Euro-Asian borderlands, but a significant amount of data was also collected for Oceania and the New World (DeMeo 1985, Ch. 6 & 7 of 1986).

From the patterns observed in this data base, I was able to confirm that patrism developed first and earliest in Saharasia, at the same time that the landscape underwent a major ecological transition, from relatively wet to arid, desert conditions. Evidence from dozens of archaeological and paleoclimatic studies indicates that the great desert belt of modern day Saharasia was, prior to c.4000-3000 BCE, a semiforested grassland savanna. Large and small fauna, such as elephant, giraffe, rhino, and gazelle, lived on the highland grasses, while hippopotamus, crocodile, fish, snails, and mollusks thrived in streams, rivers and lakes. Today, most of this same North African, Middle-Eastern and Central Asian terrain is hyperarid and often vegetation-barren. Some of the now-dry basins of Saharasia were then filled to levels tens to hundreds of meters deep, while the canyons and wadis flowed with permanent streams and rivers (DeMeo 1986, Chapter 6).

But what of the peoples who inhabited Saharasia during the wetter times of plenty? The evidence is also clear on this point: These early peoples were peaceful, unarmored, and matrist in character. Indeed, I have concluded that there does not exist any clear, compelling or unambiguous evidence for the existence of significant patrism anywhere on Earth prior to c.4000 BCE. Only a few regionally-isolated examples have been found in the archaeological record, and these are addressed and explained within the context of my Saharasia findings in a new article "Update on Saharasia" as cited below. However, strong evidence exists for early matrist social conditions. These inferences are made partly from the presence of certain artifacts from those earliest times, which include: the sensitive and careful burial of the dead, irrespective of sex, with a relatively uniform grave wealth; sexually realistic female statues; and naturalistic, sensitive artwork on rock walls and pottery which emphasized women, children, music, the dance, animals, and the hunt. In later centuries, some of these same peaceful matrist peoples would progress technologically, and develop large, unfortified agrarian and/or trading states, notably in Crete, the Indus Valley, and Soviet Central Asia. The inference of matrism in these early times is also made from the absence of archaeological evidence for chaos, warfare, sadism, and brutality, which becomes quite evident in more recent strata, after Saharasia dried up. This latter archaeological evidence includes: weapons of war; destruction layers in settlements; massive fortifications, temples, and tombs devoted to big-man rulers; infant cranial deformation; ritual murder of females in the tombs or graves of generally older men; ritual foundation sacrifices of children; mass or unkept graves with mutilated bodies thrown in helter-skelter; and caste stratification, slavery, extreme social hierarchy, polygamy and concubinage, as determined from architecture, grave goods and other mortuary arrangements. Artwork style and subject matter of the later, dry periods also changes, to emphasize mounted warriors, horses, chariots, battles, and camels. Scenes of women, children, and daily life vanish. Naturalistic female statues and artwork simultaneously become abstract, unrealistic, or even fierce, losing their former gentle, nurturing, or erotic qualities; or they disappear entirely, to be replaced by statues of male gods or god-kings. Artwork quality as well as architectural styles decline for Old World sites at such times, to be followed in later years by monumental, warrior, and phallic motifs (DeMeo 1986, Chapters 6 & 7). I was not the first to note the existence of cultural transitions in the archaeological and historical record, or to note the powerful effects of environmental change upon culture, to be sure.(5) However, my work was the first to simultaneously be global in scope, systematically derived, and both time- and location-specific.

North African Rock Art

With a few special exceptions, the first and earliest evidence for chaotic social conditions and patrism on Earth can be found in those parts of Saharasia which began to dry up first, namely within, or very close to Arabia and Central Asia. Those special exceptions are sites in Anatolia and the Levant, which contain some fleeting evidence suggesting that a very limited patrism may have existed as early as 5000 BCE; but this evidence exists alongside other evidence suggesting an early arid subphase in those same regions, with a complement shift towards migration and nomadic pastoralism. As such, they appear to be exceptions which prove the rule: Severe desertification and famine trauma greatly disturbed the original matrist social fabric, and promoted the development of patrist behaviors and social institutions; patrism was, in turn, compounded and intensified by widespread land-abandonment, migratory adjustments, and competition over scarce water resources.

The Genesis of Patrism in Saharasia

After c.4000-3500 BCE, radical social transformations are apparent in the ruins of previously peaceful, matrist settlements along river valleys in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and North Africa. In each case, evidence for increasing aridity and land abandonment coincides with migratory pressures upon settlements with secure water supplies, such as those at oases, or on exotic rivers. Central Asia also experienced a shifting in lake levels and river beds coincidental to climatic instability and aridity, stimulating abandonment of large lakeshore or irrigation agricultural communities.

Settlements on the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates, as well as in the moister highland portions of the Levant, Anatolia, and Iran, were invaded and conquered by peoples abandoning Arabia and/or Central Asia, which continued to dry out. New despotic central states emerged thereafter. Tomb, temple, and fortification architecture, with evidence for ritual widow murder (eg., mother murder, when performed by the eldest son), cranial deformations, emphasis on the horse and camel, and growth of the military occurs following such invasions in almost every case I have studied. As these new despotic central states grew in power, they expanded their territories, sometimes to conquer the nomadic pastoral tribes still present on the desiccating steppe. Some of these despotic states periodically invaded into the wetlands adjacent to Saharasia to expand their territories. They either conquered local peoples in the wetlands or, failing to do so, stimulated defensive reactions among them, which can be seen in the subsequent appearance of fortifications, weapons technology, and an intermediate level of patrism in those wetlands. Other despotic Saharasian states eventually vanished from the history books as aridity intensified and dried up their subsistence (DeMeo 1985, Chapter 6 of 1986).

The Diffusion of Patrism into the Saharasian Borderlands

Patrism appeared in the wetter Saharasian borderlands after, and only after, it first developed within the desiccating Saharasian core. As aridity gripped Saharasia, and as the armored, patrist response increasingly gripped Saharasian peoples, migrations out of the dry regions increasingly put such peoples into contact with the more peaceful peoples of the moister Saharasian borderlands. Increasingly, the migrations out of Saharasia took place in the form of massive invasions of the more fertile border territories. In these borderlands, patrism took root not by virtue of desertification or famine trauma, but by the killing off and replacement of the original matrist populations by the invader patrist groups, or by the forced adoption of new patrist social institutions introduced by the invading, conquering peoples. For example, Europe was sequentially invaded after c.4000 BCE by Battle-Axe peoples, Kurgans, Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks. Each took a turn at warring, conquering, looting, and generally transforming Europe towards an increasingly patrist character. European social institutions progressively turned away from matrism towards patrism, with the far western parts of Europe, notably Britain and Scandinavia, developing patrist conditions much later and in a more dilute form, than either Mediterranean or Eastern Europe, which were more profoundly influenced by Saharasian peoples.

Across the Old World, in the moister parts of China, peaceful matrist conditions likewise prevailed until the coming of the first extreme patrist Central Asian invaders, the Shang and Chou, after c.2000 BCE. Subsequent invasions by the Huns, Mongols and others would reinforce patrism in wetland China.  Japanese culture remained matrist a bit longer, given the isolating influence of the China Sea and Korean Strait, until the coming of the first invading patrist groups from the Asian mainland, such as the Yayoi, around c.1000 BCE. In South Asia, the peaceful, largely matrist settlements and trading states of the Indus River valley collapsed after c.1800 BCE, under the combined pressures of aridity and patrist warrior-nomad invaders from arid Central Asian lands. Patrism spread thereafter into India, and was intensified in later centuries by Hunnish, Arab, and Mongol invasions, which also came from Central Asia. Matrism similarly predominated in Southeast Asia until the onset of progressive patrist migrations and invasions, by both land and sea, from the patrist kingly states of China, India, Africa, and Islamic regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, available evidence suggests that patrism first appeared with the arrival of various southward-migrating peoples, around the time that North Africa dried up and was abandoned. Pharaonic Egyptian, Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Bantu, Arab, Turkish, and Colonial European influences also increased African patrism in later years (DeMeo 1985, Chapter 6 of 1986).

The geographical patterns in these migrations, invasions, and settlement patterns are most striking. Two major patrist core zones appear in the data after c.4000 BCE, one in Arabia and the other in Central Asia, the respective homelands from which Semitic and Indoaryan peoples would migrate (Figure 3). These were also the first parts of Saharasia to start desiccating, though other portions of Saharasia would begin to dry up and convert to patrism within a few centuries. Another historical aspect of these irruptions of desert warrior nomads can be seen in Figures 4 and 5, which map the territories occupied at one time or another by the Arabs and Turks, respectively (Jordan & Rowntree 1979; Pitcher 1972). The territories of these two groups, who were the last of a series of invaders coming from Arabia and Central Asia, encompass fully 100% of desert Saharasia, spilling outward into its moister borderlands.

Figure 3: Generalized Paths of Diffusion of Armored Human Culture (Patrist Cultural Complex) in the Old World, For the period starting around c.4000 BCE.
                    1. Arabian Core        2. Central Asian Core

Figure 4. Areas Influenced or Occupied by Arab Armies Since 632 AD.
(after Jordan & Rowntree, 1979)

Figure 5. Areas Influenced or Occupied by Turkish Armies Since 540 AD
(after Pitcher, 1972)

These facts of geography explain why matrism was preserved to a greater extent in those regions most far removed from Saharasia. Regions at the periphery of Saharasia (particularly islands), such as England, Crete, Scandinavia, the Asian Arctic, Southern Africa, Southern India, Southeast Asia, and Island Asia, demonstrate a later historical acquaintance with or adoption of patrism, and a consequent dilution of patrism with pre-existing native matrist social institutions. From the various sources used to construct my data base, Figure 3 was developed, suggesting patterns of diffusion of patrism within the Old World. The vectors are only a first approximation, but are in agreement with prior studies on the migrations and diffusion of peoples. These geographical patterns, taken from the literature of archaeology and history, are independently supported by a very similar spatial pattern in the more recent anthropological data, as previously given in Figure 1, the World Behavior Map.

The Diffusion of Patrism into Oceania and the New World

These observations regarding the migrations of patrist peoples may be extended to include the trans-oceanic diffusion of patrism from the Old World, through Oceania, and possibly even into the New World. A map of these suggested pathways is given in Figure 6, which assumes no source region for patrism other than Saharasia. This last map was derived from the various maps presented above, including the World Behavior Map, and from other sources given in my dissertation. Additional research will clearly be needed to confirm or clarify these suggested pathways.

It is significant that patrism in the Americas was identified on the World Behavior Map primarily among peoples who lived along the coasts or among peoples whose ancestors developed their earliest patrist communities on coastal regions. Furthermore, it is significant that the early patrist peoples of the Americas were the very same cultures for whom others have argued, on the basis of material culture, artwork, or linguistics, a pre-Columbian connection with the ocean-navigating patrist states of the Old World.(6) Nevertheless, a more limited patrism may have developed independently in Oceania and the New World through a desert-famine-migration mechanism similar to that argued for Saharasia, possibly within the Australian Desert, in the arid Great Basin of North America, and/or in the Atacama Desert (DeMeo 1986, Chapter 7).

Figure 6. Suggested Patterns of Diffusion of Patrism Around the World. Prior to Columbus and the European migrations.



The theory of the Saharasian origins of armored patrism was developed from a systematic geographical review of archaeological, historical, and anthropological data. The mapping of the various data was undertaken in an attempt to better understand the genesis of patrism, and to test the predictive power of the basic starting assumptions. This was accomplished through examination of the geographical dimensions of specific social institutions which either thwart basic biological maternal-infant and male-female bonding impulses, or which indicate a high level of male dominance, social hierarchy, and destructive aggression. As such, the basic starting assumptions of the study, namely the sex-economic theory of human behavior, the matrist-patrist schema, and the causal links between desertification and patrism, have been further verified and strengthened.

These findings strongly suggest that the innate portions of behavior are limited to the pleasure-directed aspects of life and social living, which impart distinct survival and health advantages to the growing child, and work to preserve the social unit. These are the matrist behaviors and social institutions, which support and protect the bonding functions between newborn babies and their mothers, which nurture the child through its various developmental stages, and which encourage and protect the bonds of love and pleasurable excitation which spontaneously develop between the young male and female. From these pleasure-directed biological impulses come other socially cooperative tendencies, and life-protecting, life-enhancing social institutions. Such impulses and behaviors, which are prochild, profemale, sex-positive and pleasure-oriented, have been demonstrated to exist in more recent times predominantly outside the bounds of the Saharasian desert belt. However, they once were the dominant forms of behavior and social organization everywhere on the planet, before the great Old World desiccation occurred. Given the new evidence presented here, patrism, to include its child-abusive, female-subordinating, sex-repressive, and destructively aggressive components, is best and most simply explained as a contractive emotional and cultural response to the traumatic famine conditions that first developed when Saharasia dried up after c.4000 BCE, a response which subsequently spread out of the desert through the diffusion of traumatized and affected peoples, and their altered social institutions.


1. My survey involved over 100 seperate sources, to include a number of classical sexological works: Brandt 1974; Bullough 1976; Gage 1980; Hodin 1937; Kiefer 1951; Levy 1971; Lewinsohn 1958; Mantegazza 1935; May 1930; Stone 1976; Tannahill 1980; Taylor 1953; Van Gulik 1961.

2. Some time after my dissertation had been completed, I learned of Riane Eisler's (1987a) study Chalice and the Blade, which indentified dominator and partnership types of social organization. These are nearly identical in concept to the respective patrist and matrist forms of social organization as defined here.

3. The structure of the argument here demands that we make a sharp distinction between facts, and theories about facts. All behavior science theories attempt to explain a variety of observed clinical and social facts. A few even make the attempt to incorporate into theory the facts of anthropology, that is, behavior in other cultures. However, most of such theories fail to be either global or geographical in nature. That is, they do not attempt to simultaneously explain human behavior among a significant number of the better-studied cultures within each world region. Most behavioral theories, if they address the anthropological literature at all, focus only upon patrist cultures, and fail to pass the test of being both systematically-derived and global. Cross-cultural studies are a great step forward in these matters, but the combined global geographical and cross-cultural approach is an additional, necessary refinement, which will force all behavioral theories to henceforth address the specific facts of history, migration, culture-contact, and natural environment.

4. The 15 variables were: Female Premarital Sex Taboos, Segregation of Adolescent Boys, Male Genital Mutilations, Bride Price, Family Organization, Marital Residence, Post-Partum Sex Taboo, Cognatic Kin Groups, Descent, Land Inheritance, Movable Property Inheritance, High God, Class Stratification, Caste Stratification, and Slavery.

5. My study was possible only by the grace of the prior good works of many other scholars. Besides the work of Reich, my ideas on environmental and cultural transformations drew in large measure from the prior works of Bell (1971), Gimbutas (1965), Huntington (1907, 1911), Stone (1976) and Velikovsky (1950, 1984), though I take full responsibility for the conclusions and maps presented here.

6. This finding directly challenges the assertion that all Pre-Columbian peoples of the New World arrived by migrating across the Bering Strait during glacial times predating c.10,000 BCE. If patrism had been carried into the New World at that time, it would have been more homogenously distributed. The quantity and quality of data supporting the idea of Pre-Columbian contacts has grown tremendously in recent years. For a sumary of such evidence, see Chapter 7 of DeMeo, 1986.

POSTSCRIPT NOTE: See my new article "Update on Saharasia" for a discussion on newer archaeological evidence from the pre-historical period. A few sites have been discovered with evidence of social violence prior to my c.4000 BCE marker date, but these all occurred within early arid sub-phases within Saharasia, or were consequent to the out-migrations of peoples from those early arid regions, thereby being "exceptions which prove the rule" of a desert-famine-starvation effect upon early human behavior. This new article is contained as an Appendix in the second revised edition of the Saharasia book which is now being sold in bookstores, but also it is available as a free download PDF at the main Saharasia Website.


Aykroyd, W. 1974. The Conquest of Famine. London: Chatto & Windus.

Bell, B. 1971. "The Dark Ages in Ancient History, 1: The Firs Dark Age in Egypt". American J. Archaeology. 75:1-26.

Budyko, M.I. 1958. The Heat Balance of the Earth's Surface.N.A.Stepanova, trs. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Commerce.

Brandt, P. 1974. Sexual Life in Ancient Greece. NY: AMS Press.

Bullough, V. 1976. Sexual Variance in Society and History. NY: J.Wiley.

Cahill, K. 1982. Famine. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

DeMeo, J. 1980. "Cross Cultural Studies as a Tool in Geographic Research". AAG Program Abstracts, Louisville, 1980Washington, DC Association of America Geographers. Annual Meeting. p.167.

DeMeo, J. 1985. "Archaeological/Historical Reconstruction of Late Quaternary Environmental and Cultural Changes in Saharasia." Unpublished Monograph, Geography Department, University of Kansas.

DeMeo, J. 1986. On the Origins and Diffusion of Patrism: TheSaharasian Connection. Dissertation. University of Kansas Geography Department. (Revised version now published as Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World, Natural Energy Works, Ashland, Oregon, 1998.)

DeMeo, J. 1987. "Desertification and the Origins of Armoring, Part 1", Journal of Orgonomy. 21(2):185-213.

DeMeo, J. 1988. "Desertification and the Origins of Armoring, Parts 2 & 3", Journal of Orgonomy. 22(1):185-213 & 22(2):268-289.

Dingwall, E.J. 1931. Artificial Cranial Deformation. London: J. Bale,Sons, & Danielson, Ltd.

Eisler, R. 1987a. The Chalice and the Blade. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Eisler, R. 1987b. "Woman, Man, and the Evolution of Social Structure." World Futures. 23(1):79-92.

Elwin, V. 1947. The Muria and their Ghotul. Calcutta: Oxford U. Press.

Elwin, V. 1968. The Kingdom of the Young. Bombay: Oxford U. Press.

Fisher, H. 1982. The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior. NY: William Morrow.

Gage, M. 1980. J. Woman, Church & State. Watertown, MA: Persephone Press.

Garcia, R. 1981. Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Vol. 1 of the Drought and Man series. IFIAS Project. NY: Pergamon Press.

Garcia, R. & Escudero, J. 1982.The Constant Catastrophe:Malnutrition,Famines, and Drought, Vol. 2 of the Droughtand Man series. IFIAS Project. NY: Pergamon Press.

Gimbutas, M. 1965. Bronze Age Cultures in Central and EasternEurope. The Hague: Mouton.

Gimbutas, M. 1977. "The First Wave of Eurasian Steppe Pastoalists into Copper Age Europe". Journal of Indo-EuropeanStudies, 5(4), Winter.

Gimbutas, M. 1982. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe.Berkeley: U. of California Press.

Gorer, G. & Rickman, J. 1962. The People of Great Russia: APsychological Study. NY: W.W. Norton.

Hallet, J.P. & Relle, A. 1973. Pygmy Kitabu. NY: Random House.

Hare, K. 1977. "Connections Between Climate andDesertification". Environmental Conservation. 4(2):81-90.

Hodin, M. 1937. A History of Modern Morals. NY: AMS Press.

Hosken, F. 1979. Hosken Report on Genital and Sexual Mutilation of

Females, 2nd Ed., Lexington, MA: Women's International Network News.

Huntington, E. 1907. The Pulse of Asia. NY: Houghton-Mifflin.

Huntington, E. 1911. Palestine and its Transformation. NY: Houghton-Mifflin.

Jordan, T & Rowntree, L. 1979. The Human Mosaic. NY: Harper & Row. p.187.

Kiefer, O. 1951. Sexual life in Ancient Rome. NY: Barnes & Nobel.

Klaus, M.H. & Kennell, J.H. 1976. Maternal-Infant Bonding: The Impact ofEarly Separation or Loss on Family Development.St. Louis:C.V. Mosby.

LeBoyer, F. 1975. Birth Without Violence. NY: Alfred Knopf.

Levy, H.S. 1971. Sex, Love, and the Japanese. Washington, DC: Warm-Soft Village Press.

Lewinsohn, R. 1958. A History of Sexual Customs. NY: Harper Bros.

Malinowski, B. 1927. Sex and Repression in Savage Society.London: Humanities Press.

Malinowski, B. 1932. The Sexual Life of Savages. London: Routledge & Keegan Paul.

Mantegazza, P. 1935. The Sexual Relations of Mankind. NY: Eugenics Press.

May, G. 1930. Social Control of Sex Expression. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Montagu, A. 1945. "Infibulation and Defibulation in the Old and New Worlds". Am. Anthropologist, 47:464-7.

Montagu, A. "Ritual Mutilation Among Primitive Peoples". CibaSymposium. pp.421-36, October.

Montagu, A. 1971. Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. NY: Columbia U. Press.

Murdock, G.P. 1967. Ethnographic Atlas. U. Pittsburgh Press.

Pitcher, D.E. 1972. An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire. Leiden: E.J. Brill. Map V.

Prescott, J. 1975. "Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence". Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. November, pp.10-20.

Prescott, J., Read, M. & Coursin, D. 1975. Brain Function andMalnutrition. NY: J. Wiley & Sons.

Reich, W. 1935. The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality. 3rd Edition. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux edition. 1971.

Reich, W. 1942. Function of the Orgasm. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux edition. 1973.

Reich, W. 1945. The Sexual Revolution. 3rd Edition. NY: Octagon Books edition. 1973.

Reich, W. 1947. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. 3rd Edition. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux edition. 1970.

Reich, W. 1949. Character Analysis. 3rd Edition. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux edition. 1971.

Reich, W. 1953. People in Trouble. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux edition.1976.

Reich, W. 1967. Reich Speaks of Freud. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Reich, W. 1983. Children of the Future. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Stewart, D. & Stewart, L. 1978a. Safe Alternatives in Childbirth. Chapel Hill, NC: NAPSAC.

Stewart, D. & Stewart, L. 1978b. 21st Century Obstetrics Now! Vols. 1 & 2. Chapel Hill, NC: NAPSAC.

Stone, M. 1976. When God Was a Woman. NY: Dial.

Sorokin, P. 1975. Hunger as a Factor in Human Affairs. Gainesville: Univ. Florida Press.

Tannahill, R. 1980. Sex in History. NY: Stein & Day.

Taylor, G.R. 1953. Sex in History. London: Thames & Hudson.

Turnbull, C. 1961. The Forest People. NY: Simon & Schuster.

Turnbull, C. 1972. The Mountain People. NY: Simon & Schuster.

Van Gulik, R. 1961. Sexual Life in Ancient China. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Velikovsky, I. 1950. Worlds in Collision. NY: Macmillan.

Velikovsky, I. 1984. Mankind in Amnesia. NY: Doubleday.

Additional Articles and Materials:

* Click here to review and/or purchase books and videos
on Anthropological/Archaeological issues related to Saharasia,
including on peaceful societies.

* Click here to review and/or purchase books and videos
on Saharasia Today,
addressing the sex-economic dimensions of modern world problems.

* The Orgone Biophysical Research Lab: James DeMeo's Research Website.

* The Saharasia web page.

* The Complete OBRL / Natural Energy Works On-line Bookstore and Product Shop

Click here for more information on SAHARASIA             Click here for our Online Books & Products Page
    saharasia.org                           naturalenergyworks.net

If you enjoyed and benefited from these materials, please consider to
purchase our publications on similar topics, or to
make a donation to the OBRL research fund.
Thank you!

Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory, Inc.
A Non-Profit Science Research and Educational Foundation, Since 1978
Greensprings Center,
Ashland, Oregon, USA
E-mail to: info(at)orgonelab.org
(Click or copy into your email program and insert the "@" symbol)

Return to Saharasia Home Page

Return to OBRL Home Page

This page, and all contents, Copyright (C)
by James DeMeo and the Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory, Inc.

Visitor Count:

web analytics