Raised in Europe during WWII and having seen domestic violence first-hand through her work with women’s refuge centers, Adele Änggård studied the ancient origins of social ills such as warfare and gender inequality. Here, the author examines the roots of our present-day social woes by looking at what has come down to us from past civilizations as reflected in their artworks, from Stone Age figurines to Classical Greek drama.
Änggård posits that the Stone Age civilization she calls the “Old Europeans” had an egalitarian social structure before the arrival on the scene of militaristic proto-Indo-Europeans. She frames Europe’s pre-history in terms of a paradise lost in which a “matrilocal,” cooperative society was eclipsed by patriarchal white males who introduced slavery, warfare and social stratification. Änggård’s research encompasses thousands of years of history to show that warfare is not inevitable and that a return to a more balanced, humane social order is still possible.
The book is carefully researched and documented, containing numerous pictures of the artworks she discusses. However, Änggård’s reading of the history fits too neatly into modern political preconceptions. The Classical Greeks and their latter-day admirers are cast as the villains here and held responsible for a host of evils. Certainly the cryptic artworks left to us from the Stone Age support a variety of interpretations, but the author offers few readings of the historical record that might provide balance to her narrative.
Despite her sweeping, revisionist view of thousands of years of European history, Änggård’s optimism about the possibility of a more humane world is refreshing, and she has presented her ideas well. Those who can overlook the tenuous nature of her argument will find an interesting and informative read in these pages.