Primitive society

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The primitive society is a term that, according to Friedrich Engels, describes the original coexistence of people in prehistoric times , before the first written records arose. A distinction can be made between the species of Homo sapiens as humans, which biologically hardly differ from today's humans (although anthropology has doubts here), and other representatives of the homo genus such as Homo erectus or Neanderthals . Engels asserted "that animal families and human primitive society are incompatible things" because "the primitive humans who worked their way up from animal life either knew no family at all or at most one that does not exist in animals." The American anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan and the Translations of his books also use the term primeval society.

In detail, this long period of time is not directly accessible in terms of sources . Nevertheless, there are various ways of gaining knowledge about this period in archeology by examining material cultures , as well as in sociobiology , in religious studies by analyzing the many myths or in social anthropology .


The so-called primeval society, or more appropriately: the primeval societies probably span by far the longest period in the history of mankind, more than three million years, while other forms of society only existed for a relatively short period of time in comparison (less than 1 percent of the period ).

The term Stone Age comes from archeology for the time when stone tools ( hand axes ) are the oldest finds that can be classified and roughly dated. Other, even older, tools and objects made of natural or animal materials (wood, bones, furs) fell apart and were not preserved. This Stone Age also saw the development of new social structures around 20,000 to 6,000 years ago. In general, the emergence of agriculture and livestock farming is seen as the transition to the Neolithic and the end of this phase. The Neolithic Revolution was followed by the Bronze Age in some areas (around 2200 to 800 BC), but it also ran in parallel in some areas .

Theoretical assumptions

A society is formed by social groups of different sizes acting together . At different geological times as well as in different climatic and ecological zones , human societies were quite different.

The only gradual expansion of the early human groups (estimated 1 to 10 kilometers per year) initially made little demands on them and their generational succession - they did not perceive any changes, especially in equatorial areas . However, drastic environmental changes such as ice ages and warm periods, to which the hikers in the destination area were exposed, brought about new forms of adaptation with corresponding social structures. Food production and weather protection as well as the use of fire were socially successful. A high degree of social differentiation between basic social forms of organization is not to be assumed. The first tangible societies and similar contemporary groups appear to be relatively equal ( egalitarian ).

The isolation of individual groups during the Ice Ages led to traditions and also to racial differentiations. The comparatively rare contacts were found by a pedestrian, generally stationary company in the immediate vicinity. Whether the exogamy (outside marriage) indicates that humans became aware of reproductive biology ( conception ) is doubted; Sociologically, exogamy is more likely to be seen as a reliable safeguarding (re) integration of diverging groups (for example in lineage or clan alliances with reciprocal marriages).

Some religious traditions also speak of a primordial society and thus mean the pre-forms of later religions that are spread across all hunter groups and that are derived from the social practice of their members. The distinction between the shepherd and the farmer, which still exists today, can be seen in the written cultures , for example in the biblical story of Cain and Abel . Even in modern macro-sociological theories, there are sophisticated assumptions about common features of a primitive society, for example in Thomas Hobbes , Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Friedrich Engels.

Whether the early humans lived free of domination or anarchic or already established leadership positions ( chiefs ) is only a justifiable assumption. Likewise, whether they organized themselves as social hordes , cultivated religious cults (with ancestral cult or totemism ?) And already knew narrators culturally or familiarly with the nuclear family . In economic terms, this society is ascribed a self-sufficiency that varies depending on geological time or vegetation zone : a life as a hunter, fisherman and gatherer ( hunter ). During the Ice Age their focus was on hunting in Central Europe and North America, for example , while collecting and fishing also gained great importance elsewhere , for example in Central Europe after the migration of large animal fauna in the Middle Stone Age (compare Scandinavian Køkkenmøddinger ).

In the Marxist theory on the social development of mankind, especially in historical materialism , the primitive society is also called classless " primitive communism called" because it is just as in the on capitalism following " Communism is no" private ownership of means of production was.

See also


Web links

  • Wolfgang Currlin: Stone Age. In: History Center - learning environment for web-based classroom teaching. Friedrichshafen, February 13, 2013, accessed on April 21, 2014 (multi-part tutorial).

Individual evidence

  1. a b Friedrich Engels: The origin of the family, private property and the state (1884), in: MEW 21, page 36-84
  2. ^ Lewis Henry Morgan: Die Urgesellschaft , first German translation from 1908