Whither Canaan? Abel Slays Brother Cain


Copyright George S. Svokos

September 2014

            The polished skull shone brightly in the early summer sunshine: the farmer’s skull. The hunter admired his handiwork, taking great pride and care preparing the skull for preservation in his band’s “trophy” case. The random assortment of post-cranial bones, he could care less about, and were discarded with the rest of the food detritus in the midden outside his tent. But, in the far recesses of their sacred cave, the hunting rituals continued as they had for millennia. Subtly altered, but essentially the same rituals that “The Old Ones” had practiced. The chieftain of this particular hunting and gathering band was after a different kind of “big game:” a kind that the other hunter-gatherers tended to shun. Thus, this “lone wolf” predator chieftain would preside over the rituals, with his shaman performing the actual ceremony for hunting success. And successful he was, leading his veteran hunters against the ever burgeoning farming community. The polished skulls of the farmers and their families were reverently placed in their niches carved out of the softer rock in the cave’s interior. All game, especially the more dangerous types, were respected and treated accordingly. The hearth at the ceremonial center contained the shattered bones of the farmer’s cadavers which had been systematically disarticulated, defleshed, cooked, and consumed according the rituals handed down to them by “Lone Wolf’s revered grandfather, the greatest hunter of humans his band had ever seen. He had been the chieftain who refused parley with the farming community. His son, “Lone Wolf’s” father, had continued the tradition. Now it was his turn to lead the hunter-gatherers of his organic extended kinship group.

With the end of the Younger Dryas interglacial “cold snap,” the Neolithic Revolution had rapidly accelerated and expanded to essentially replace the primal environment of evolutionary adaptation and the hunter-gatherer way of life. Farming, the resulting overpopulation, and shrinking hunting territories now led a few of the hunting and gathering bands going “rogue” in the estimation of the settled, semi-civilized farming communities. The farmers had their share of friction, but they did not consider themselves prizes to be taken and consumed by voracious hunters who acted more like wild animals. The farmers had real work to do and considered the hunters as anachronistic and generally a nuisance to their more “civilized” way of life. “Lone Wolf” and his band, on the other hand, still heard the “call of the wild” and refused to become a domesticated animal like the cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs the farmers tended. The farmers were themselves domesticated, a lifeway that “Lone Wolf” despised as unnatural. He wondered who the “rogues” really were: his band of hunter-gatherers living in their primordial environment of evolutionary adaptation; or the new farmers who squabbled over their plots of land which had formerly been prime hunting territory. Well, in his mind, it was still prime hunting territory, even with the loss of the megafauna, the sudden increase in population the warming conditions of the Holocene brought, and the loss of habitat to this new way of life. Now the “big game” had switched from extinct wild megafauna to domesticated “long pig.” “Lone Wolf” could smell his prey…and their fear. Hemingway famously stated that “there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” Perhaps Hemingway should have added “the eating of man,” too. That was now the only way “Lone Wolf” would have it. His predatory hunter-gatherers reverted to a much more ancient and satisfactory way of life: that of humanity’s environment of evolutionary adaptation. The predator hunter chieftain had not forgotten The Old Ones and their primeval, natural, and normal way of life spanning back through the ages. “Lone Wolf” was respected, and even feared by the other hunter-gatherer chieftains who generally gave him a wide berth. They had acquiesced to the farmer’s new way of life, even though they did not espouse it. These other hunter-gatherers recognized a certain kind of new power the farmers exuded and therefore remained in their remote woodlands, which was unsuited to farming and continued their hunting and gathering ways even as their ancestors did. However, they paid their respects to the new farming way of life by trading, interacting, and “co-existing” with the farmers. And by not “trespassing” on “their land.” Not so “Lone Wolf” and his hunters. They preyed on the farmers who were seen as the “eighth domesticate” and a new kind of big game. The megafauna may have disappeared, but there was a new “big game” afoot. The farmers may now have domesticated the three wheats and grains and the four animal species they husbanded, but in the process also domesticated themselves. They were no longer “wild” and natural men. True, they could be dangerous, but they were no longer predators like “Lone Wolf’s” hunters. Farmers had acquired the social characteristics of the hunted. “Power” was something that he and his hunting and gathering band wielded, not the farmers. These domesticated humans had a high opinion of themselves, including their notions of who “controlled” the land. It was all about power…and the humiliation these “long pigs” would suffer for their indiscretions, ritual power to be taken within.

“Lone Wolf” gathered his seven other warriors in his tent to discuss the details of the next “hunt” against the farmers. The shaman had already predicted success, but the predator chieftain liked to plan and coordinate his hunts all the same. The farmers could defend themselves, and like any other dangerous big game, he wanted to make sure that he did not accidentally lose one of his seasoned warriors to them. He would set an ambush from the edge of a forest glade which was nearest to one of the farming “long-houses.” They would use their powerful bows for the most part, though some of his older hunters still preferred the spear-thrower and deadly darts they were accustomed to hunting with. The “long pigs” would be taken by surprise and easily overwhelmed. This tactic had worked on previous hunts and “Lone Wolf” did not see any reason to change a successful strategy. The eight predators collected their weapons and prepared to trek the short distance from their river-edged woodland territory to the big game preserve – the nearby farming communities. They left at dawn, since they knew the farmers started their tilling of the soil and animal husbandry chores early. Stealthily, they approached their unsuspecting prey and took up their hunting positions. The prey “items” were under observation by the hunters, yet had no idea they were being stalked. The “nuclear family” of farmers went about their business as usual. The predators were silent, invisible, and inexorable. They sprang their trap with the precision born of a primordial hunter, no different than a leopard pouncing upon its hapless prey; deadly arrows and razor-sharp darts hissed through the air. One of the younger farmers thought he heard something in the woods and turned around. Within seconds, it was all over; “Lone Wolf” would savor the victory, the trophies, and the ensuing ritual meal. Amen.


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