“The gift of Nanshe’s family, farming, turned out to be no gift to women. In her time, equality existed between man and woman, dividing the tasks of hunting and finding food. In her times, women bore fewer children. Today, the needs of the farm and harvest favor the larger families. Women have been pushed into domestic roles, raising child after child until they can bear no more. The great vision of the matriarchy of Nanshe could not compete with the farming patriarchy, as fathers pass land to sons and women are traded like cattle. The Ki warrior of peace and faith will never happen again. Not in my lifetime.”

Amanta, High Priestess of the Followers of Illyana, 8500 BCE







Why a patriarchy?

Spring 2016. Brainstorming with a trusted colleague. I bounce around the idea of a novel that traces an oral legacy back to a patriarchy linked to the founding of the monolithic sanctuary at Gobekli Tepe. “Patriarchy,” she says. “Why not a matriarchy? A patriarchy is so stereotypical.” And so the book with a placeholder name of “The Object” took its first major thematic change.

But why was thinking of a patriarchy such a first natural thought? In 1911, Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes in her book, Our Androcentric Culture: “Our historic period is not very long. Real written history only goes back a few thousand years, beginning with the stone records of ancient Egypt. During this period we have had almost universally what is here called an Androcentric Culture. The history, such as it was, was made and written by men.”

Conkey and Spector carried forth a similar supposition in their 1984 paper, Archaeology and the Study of Gender: “Androcentrism takes several different forms in anthropology. One principal feature is the imposition of ethnocentric assumptions about the nature, roles, and social significance of males and females derived from our own culture on the analysis of other groups. Researchers presume certain “essential” or “natural” gender characteristics. Males are typically portrayed as stronger, more aggressive, dominant, more active, and in general more important than females. Females, in contrast, are presented as weak, passive, and dependent.”

Following these logic, one can easily fall in the trap of thinking the builders of the world’s oldest temple must have been male hunter-gathers. Traditional anthropology proposed that pre-historic humans split tasks by gender – males hunted and females gathered. Or was that really true?

When did patriarchy start?

In 1986, Dr. Gerda Lerner released the book, The Creation of Patriarchy, where she proposes how the notion of property formed in the Neolithic period when ownership of herds of domesticated animals, farms, led to “herder” men wanting to pass these assets down to blood relations, their sons. She postulates that the plow culture created by agriculture created a gender task split. “….It strengthens the influence of older males and it increases the tribes’ incentive for acquiring more women. In the fully developed society based on plow agriculture, women and children are indispensable to the production process, which is cyclical and labor intensive. Children have now become an economic asset. At this stage tribes seek to acquire the reproductive potential of women, rather than women themselves.”

Similarly in 1991, Sebastien Kramer writes in his paper, The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process: “Male supremacy came about not through greater skill at hunting but, rather, when men had consolidated their economic advantage in herding and agricultural societies by inventing creators in their own image, which also effectively made up for their perceived reproductive disadvantage.”

In 1956, Marija Gimbutas proposed the Kurgan hypothesis where migration from the steppes above the Black Sea and Caspian Sea led to the spread of the Proto-Indo European culture and language, see blog post:


She postulated that the Kurgans were a patriarchal culture and their invasion into Europe gave rise to patriarchy in western societies. She also postulated that the lore of an Eden where man and woman lived in paradise stemmed from the pre-PIE Europeans longing for the days of peace and gender equality they had before the Kurgan invasion.

Did the plow create patriarchy?

In 1970, Ester Boserup proposed a difference in gender roles between sifting and plowing agricultural societies. Sifting with sticks is a labor intensive process where productivity from both women and men are equivalent. The plow is a capital intensive device that requires the upper body strength of males to most effectively use. In the latter societies, men tended to work outside the home and women tended to in home tasks.

In 2011, Nunn, et al., published a study examining a database of over 1,200 societies and validated Bosup’s hypothesis. “Using data from the FAO, we identify the geo-climatic suitability of finely defined locations for growing plough-positive cereals (wheat, barley and rye) and plough-negative cereals (sorghum and millet). We then use the relative differences in ethnic groups’ geo-climatic conditions for growing plough-positive and plough-negative cereals as instruments for historical plough use….Traditional plough use is associated with attitudes of gender inequality, as well as less female labor force participation, female firm-ownership, and female participation in politics.”

The matriarchy in The Matriarch Matrix

As the premise of this book, a parallel patriarchy and matriarchy formed. The patriarchal side is represented in modern day by Alexander Murometz, one of the most powerful men in 2021, who is chasing the secrets of the oral traditions passed from father to son since the times of Gobekli Tepe. The matriarchal side is represented by Sara, great grandmother of the main female protagonist, Zara Khatum, who passed to her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grand daughter the wisdom, words, and an artifact that passed from her maternal lineage.

Likewise, the speculative early Neolithic world of Nanshe and Orzu features two cultures in the lands north of the Black Sea. One of a patriarchal society of the Reindeer Giants which enslaved women as reproductive resources for their domain. The other a society in which men and women shared equally. Where women and men hunted for game equally. In the case of Orzu, his sister Illyana was a better hunter. And Nanshe’s eldest daughter, Ki, carried forth this tradition as they fled the Reindeer Giants to the lands south of the Big Black Lake. Nanshe’s descendants carry forth with spiritual leadership from her blessed daughters and their daughters.

“The voice is beautiful, but we were not ready for beauty
When you are once again ready to know beauty
Not the beauty of the skin, but the beauty of the soul
The beauty in the collective in all of us
Then you are ready to seek the object
It is said it must be man and woman
But it must be man who loves woman
Not for her skin, not for her fertility, not for her family
But for her
For her inner beauty seeking to be with the voice.”

Amanta, High Priestess of the Followers of Illyana, 8500 BCE

Further Reading:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Our Androcentric Culture, or The Man Made World, Charton Co., 1911

Margaret W. Conkey and Janet D. Spector, Archaeology and the Study of Gender, Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 7 (1984), pp. 1-38

G. Learner, The Creation of Patriarchy (Women and History), Oxford University Press (April 17, 1986)







Glenn Collins, Patriarchy: Is It Invention Or Inevitable?, New York Times, April 1986

S. Kraemer, The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process, Fam Proc 30:377-392, 1991

Alberto F. Alesina, Paola Giuliano, Nathan Nunn, On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plow, Working Paper 17098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, May 2011

Photo: Licensed from depositphoto.com


From Patriarchy to Matriarchy and Back
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