Update on Saharasia

Regarding the book:
Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence,
in the Deserts of the Old World,
by James DeMeo (Natural Energy Works, 1998.)
Available for purchase here.


1. A new article "Update on Saharasia: Ambiguities and Uncertainties on War Before Civilization," is now available in Pulse of the Planet #5, 2002.

2. The Saharasia book was reprinted in 2006. The new printing included a few minor corrections in the text, but also now includes a new Preface and Appendix document, as follows, which are available for internet download, for those who already purchased the first edition (pre-2006):

* "Preface to the 2006 Revised Second Edition": 2 pages of text with citations, 16 KB download

* New Appendix for the 2006 Revised Second Edition: "Update on Saharasia: New Findings Since the First Printing". This is basically the same "Update" article as given in Point #1, above, but has a few additional points of evidence presented, with more to say on New World versus Old World comparisons, and a map showing a recently-determined pathway for diffusion of armoring and patrism into Europe from the Middle East, during the prehistorical period. 22 pages of text with citations, new maps and graphics, 870 KB download


In the year 2000, the following letter was sent to several scholars familiar with Reich's work who had expressed an interest in Saharasia, but who also had critical questions regarding apparent evidence for human violence in the archaeological record prior to c.4000 BCE.  Such evidence would, if proven true, tend to undermine the basic thesis presented in Saharasia.  The purported evidence was examined, traced back to its original sources, and found not to conflict with the findings presented in "Saharasia".  In most cases, the reported evidence actually supported and strengthened the Saharasian findings, and the results of that line of inquiry now appear as a new article in Pulse of the Planet #5, and as an Appendix in the 2006 edition of Saharasia, as noted above.

This letter is being posted mainly for historical value, but also to show how rational and constructive, scientific open critique (as opposed to irrational and destructive attacking) plays an important part in the discovery process. It is an example on how science should work, how clear and open challenges to new ideas can help the progress of science.

A big thanks to Art Efron and Hideohito Shirai for their constructive criticisms.

James DeMeo, Ph.D.


28 January 2000

To:  Art Efron, Hidehito Shirai, SUNY Buffalo

RE: Defending Saharasia Against "War Before Civilization"

Dear Art and Hidehito,

I'm sharing this communication with a number of persons who might find it of

Following email discussions with you both some months back about possible
evidence for violence at a few archaeological sites well before my
Saharasia marker-date of c.4000-3500 BCE, and some discussion about a
possible new chronology for climate-change in the Sahara, I undertook to
obtain the books you recommended.  Notably, I surveyed Lawrence Keeley's
book "War Before Civilization" which was very rich in citations to
original-sources on these issues (see bottom of this email).  I obtained
the most centrally-challenging citations in his book from our Inter-Library
Loans here in Ashland.  I can report, finally, of the materials I was able
to review, most are in agreement with what I've already written in
Saharasia -- there are no strong contradictions and in fact quite a lot of
additional supporting evidence, though a few questions are raised which at
present have no clear answer.

I'm currently putting together an article "Update on Saharasia" which will
address these issues in detail, but for now wanted to share with you some
preliminary observations.  Unfortunately, Saharasia continues to occupy a
prominent spot on the Index Expurgatorius, so its not likely my "update"
will appear in any major publication.  For now, here's what I've learned:

1.  Skeletal remains in some of the studies cited by Keeley were factually
described in the original sources as death by violence, but not accurately
dated -- in general, an archaeological site might start with its first
habitation many thousands of years before the first evidence for violence
appeared, but Keeley would mix up the dates of "first habitation" with that
of "first violence" without careful reference.  In short, he extrapolated
the violence backward in time, without evidence.  I've run into this
before.  "Evil humanity", "selfish genes", etc.

2.  In this context, a whole series of "causewayed encampments" across
Western and Central Europe were misrepresented as "fortifications" (Keeley
is not alone on this).  The archaeologists who excavated these encampments
clearly were unconvinced of any clear war-defensive functions, as the
shallow earth hills and trenches  composing these sites were repeatedly
broken with broad avenues, lined with fences, to allow the free passage of
people in and out of those encampments, from the periphery all the way into
the core.  They appeared more for the purpose to corral domesticated
animals and probably served the functions of a central place for trading
and seasonal gatherings.  Later in the archaeological sequences, many of
these encampments were raided by warriors using bows and arrows, and
battle-axes, and the encampments were only then transformed into closed
fortifications which rapidly were destroyed and/or abandoned.  The dates of
the first battles and destructions are fully in keeping with Saharasian
chronology for the first-origins of warfare in Europe -- these encampments
show signs of the earliest conflicts in the east (Bavaria)(c.3200 BC)
followed by later conflicts in France and Denmark (c.2800 BC), followed
lastly by conflicts in England (c.2500 BC) -- this is excellent
confirmation for Saharasia.  Keeley mentioned these only as

3.  A rock-art drawing cited by Keeley of what is supposed to be the
earliest portrayal of warfare, an archery battle from the "late Neolithic"
of NE Spain, appears to be chronologically connected to the same appearance
of violence in the above causewayed encampments.  Again, support for

4.  Skeletal remains in China for "very early violence" reported by Keeley
do not violate Saharasia, but rather confirm it.  A single skeleton of a
man with an arrowhead in his thigh is found buried in a Yangshao (peaceful)
archaeological strata which holds no other evidence for war or violence,
suggestive of a hunting accident.  This idea was also considered by the
original field archaeologists.  Later periods show a general cultural
transformation, and extreme violence and warfare became clear-cut and
unambiguous in Chinese archaeology, as described in Saharasia.

5.  An ancient cemetery at Jebel Sahaba in Egypt contains 50 or so persons
who appear victims of a massacre, shot up with projectile points and
showing other signs of violent death.  The violence is unquestionable, and
I had come across discussion of this site during my original Saharasian
research (ie., Michael Hoffman's "Egypt Before the Pharaohs") but at the
time was not able to obtain Fred Wendorf's original archaeological reports
on the site to properly evaluate it.  This site is widely reported as
evidence of very ancient violence, but now that I've got Wendorf's original
reports ("Prehistory of Nubia") I can address the issue more definitively
-- or, at least with as much "definitive" capacity as anyone else.  This
site is very ambiguously dated to 12,000 BC, with no radiocarbon dates nor
any other kind of firm quantitative or stratigraphic markers.  Wendorf is
clear about this, and his report contains many conditional statements about
the dates, with many qualified statements such as "could be", "if",
"possible" and question-marks in parentheses "(?)". The authors who
subsequently discuss this site, such as Hoffman and Keeley, misrepresent it
casually, as if it the date was fully established in a solid manner.  Not
so.  The date is "established" by comparisons of the flint projectile
points found in the skeletons to ancient stone tools used at other nearby
archaeological sites -- but those same stone industries range from 12,000
BC all the way down to 5000 or even 4500 BC -- and the only bit of evidence
used to anchor the cemetery and victims at the older end of that long time
span was one single artifact which Wendorf openly questioned if it was part
of the assemblage, and not an "intrusion" from another strata -- it wasn't
found in any of the graves, but only "nearby" (unspecified distance).
Since the cemetery was exposed nearly on the hard-pan desert surface
surface in a wind-blown deflated area, where an unknown quantity of more
recent strata was eroded away, he couldn't tell exactly what was happening
chronologically.  Maybe it was in a very deep and old strata, or in a more
shallow and young strata.   No other cemeteries dated to that older period
show any such signs of violence, nothing even mildly approaching it.
Wendorf is clear that the date of 12,000 BC was speculative, and if there
was some other compelling evidence then it could easily be attributed to a
much younger date, in keeping with what's already known about Saharasian
violence in the Nile Valley region.  I would argue the violence itself is
such a form of "compelling evidence" and therefore should allow the site to
be connected to other nearby sites showing similar violence -- and that
would suggest it is a much younger site.  Hoffman also speculated the site
might date to as recent as 4500 BC (which I accepted for Saharasia) based
upon a very similar line of argument.  At best, this example falls into a
highly ambiguous category, and cannot be used to defeat the arguments in
Saharasia -- if anything, it supports Saharasia.   A larger question is:
has anyone tried to date the site from the bones themselves?  There are
newer methods available, and possibly they would shed new light on the site.

6. The "Great Mid-Holocene Arid Phase" cited in Shaw's "The Archaeology of
Africa" is very poorly supported so far as I can tell.  The one graph
provided in his book showing this arid phase is exceedingly generalized,
and is itself unattributed.  By contrast, the climate graphs in Saharasia
for "Climatic Pulsations in North African Lakes" were taken from the work
of Sharon Nicholson, from her several published articles and books on this
specific subject, cited in Saharasia.  Nicholson's work, and my other cites
show regional variations which suggest the larger Neolithic Wet Period of
North Africa (from the end of the Pleistocene to c.2500 BC) was
occasionally punctuated by a limited "dry phase" in some areas -- but this
"dry phase" does not appear to have been either widespread or continuous.
It would appear there is no solid challenge to the climatic chronology in
Saharasia from the unclear evidence in Shaw's otherwise very detailed book
-- his book cannot compare in detail to the specialized paleoclimatic
studies cited in Saharasia.  Those citations are maybe 10 years older than
the Shaw book, but the findings remain valid.  The authors in Shaw's book
often cite some of the same studies I cited in Saharasia, so I remain
puzzled how this "Great M-H Arid Phase" could be established.

7.  The discussions in Keeley about Jericho are also in agreement with
what's already give in Saharasia -- as noted on p.258-259 and later in
Table 9 on p.365, Jericho and a few other sites across the Levant, Near
East and Central Asia experienced a sub-phase of aridity about a thousand
years before (c.5000 BC) the onset of the more widespread and devastating
aridity that spread across Saharasia (c.4000-3500 BC).  But even there, the
most significant evidence for continuous and widespread violence comes much
later, in Saharasian times.  I'm nevertheless wondering if this sub-phase
of aridity affecting Jericho might have been more widespread, as per the
"Great M-H Arid Phase" in point #6 above, which might then explain the
violence observed in the Egyptian cemetery in point #5 above (albeit with a
more recent chronology at c.5000 BC).

8.  Keeley's book was a frustration to read, as the most damning evidence
he gives for violence at the dawn of humanity was not given any tracable
citations, only references to conferences with unpublished oral
presentations which would require a lot of time to track down -- and I
haven't been able to do that as yet.   So, I cannot evaluate his weakly
supported statements on "very ancient trophy heads in the Ofnet Cave in
Germany" nor  on the "Talheim Massacres of 7000 BC", as neither were
tracable to any source.  I believe I am within my rights to disregard such
material, putting the burden on the shoulders of the advocates for ancient
violence, but will try to find out what he refers to -- I'll bet they are
additional examples of ambiguous or mis-identified chronology, as given
above.  Again, I would emphasize that Saharasia is as much about employing
an explicit and systematic historical-geographical methdology as a specific
argument and discovery on the origins of violence.

There are several other books on violence in prehistorical periods, but
none was a rich as Keeley's, which unfortunately tended to bias everything
towards his own basic assumptions of the inevitability of war -- that's not
uncommon in todays world where "genetics" dominates the sciences.  He's
totally correct about violence among some "primitives" and his citations on
warfare among North American Indian cultures has proven a treasure of
additional evidence to support my Saharasian maps for the New World -- his
cites on pre-Columbian warfare match nearly perfectly with the regions on
my behavior maps for New World Patrism.  I learned from one of his
citations, for example, that the ancient Nazca culture of western Peru were
headhunters, thriving close to the oldest fortified site in the New World
-- and since that cultural group pushed east and influenced a large
territory with their violence, it might explain similar very old
head-hunting practices of groups like the Jivaro, also in Peru.  That's a
region with all sorts of patristic qualities, and much pre-Columbian
contact evidence, including big pyramids.  Lots of connections here, and
they all appear to match up geographically.

Too bad this discussion cannot be taking place in one or more of the
professional journals, instead only in emails.

Again, thanks for the interesting correspondence and constructive criticism
which has in fact strengthened my work and the overall Saharasian thesis.
Feel free to send this email to any scholar whom you feel might shed
additional light on the questions -- with the proviso everyone understands
this is a very preliminary communication.

Warm regards,
James DeMeo


"War Before Civilization" by Lawrence H. Keeley, NY Oxford  Univ. Press, 1996.

"Warfare in the Ancient World", John Hackett, Facts on File, NY 1989.

"Enclosures and Defences in the Neolithic of Western Europe, Vol.1 & 2",
Colin Burgess, et al, Editors, BAR International series 403(i) and (ii),

"Cultures in Conflict: Current Archaeological Perspectives", Diana Tkaczuk
and Brian Vivian, eds. Univ. of Calgary, Canada, 1989.

"The Prehistory of Nubia, Vol.2", Fred Wendorf, ed., Southern Methodist
Univ. Press, 1968.

"The Archaeology of Africa", Thurstan Shaw, et al, editors, Routledge, NY 1993

"Egypt Before the Pharaohs", by Michael Hoffman, Barnes & Nobel, NY, 1979

"Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child-Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World", by James DeMeo, Natural Energy Works, Ashland, 1998.


For more information on "Saharasia", see:
Available for $34 (plus postage) from OBRL (see below)

For more information on Saharasia, see:

Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World, by James DeMeo, Ph.D. 450+ pages, over 100 illustrations and maps, with comprehensive bibliography and index.

Summary Article on "The Origins and Diffusion of Patrism in Saharasia: Evidence for a Worldwide, Climate-Linked Geographical Pattern in Human Behavior* by James DeMeo, Ph.D.

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