What’s the end game of late-stage capitalism? What provisions are The Powers That Be making for the Coming Collapse; for Climate Chaos and other Catastrophes? This is the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. In this series we’ll see how they plan on making their getaway, and how we can work to steal the future back.
plague may have played a larger role in the past than we imagined”
That was made in relation to the discovery of “flea-like creatures” in fossils from the Age of the Dinosaurs that are thought now to be one of the agents of their extinction; insects which, acting as “carriers of disease, may have played a role in the demise of the ancient reptiles.”
In today’s news we learn that the role plague has played in shaping human history has been pushed back by 3000 years, to mark the beginning of the Bronze Age. That in fact, plague may have caused the mass migration and cultural and technological transfer that kick started this new era of human civilisation.
The Black Death notoriously swept through Europe in 1347, killing an estimated 50 million people. Yet DNA from Bronze Age human skeletons now shows that the plague had first emerged at least as early as 3,000 bc. The earlier outbreak probably did not spread as ferociously, the analysis reveals — but it may nonetheless have driven mass migrations across Europe and Asia.
The Bronze Age — between about 3000 and 1000 bc — was a tumultuous period that saw new cultural practices and weapon and transport technologies spread rapidly across Eurasia. Earlier this year, a pair of ancient-genome studies documented a massive exodus of people from the steppe of what is now Russia and Ukraine; they scattered west into Europe and east into central Asia.
“But we didn’t know what the cause of these quite sudden migrations was,” says Morten Allentoft, an evolutionary geneticist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, who was part of a team that sequenced DNA from 101 Bronze Age skeletons.
Such outbreaks could have aided the spread of Eastern European steppe herders known as the Yamnaya during the Bronze Age, says Johannes Krause, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. The Yamnaya rapidly supplanted local farming populations in Western Europe between 3000 and 2500 bc. “How is it possible that the local farmers have been replaced by people from the steppe? A pandemic is a good possibility,” Krause says.
Just who were these people then, the people who’s advanced technology totally disrupted the local cultures of Eurasia? (Sidenote: how awesome is paleogenetics?!). Nature again has the details:
The first Homo sapiens to colonize Europe were hunter-gatherers who arrived from Africa, by way of the Middle East, around 45,000 years ago. (Neanderthals and other archaic human species had begun roaming the continent much earlier.) Archaeology and ancient DNA suggest that farmers from the Middle East started streaming in around 8,000 years ago, replacing the hunter-gatherers in some areas and mixing with them in others.
But last year, a study of the genomes of ancient and contemporary Europeans found echoes not only of these two waves from the Middle East, but also of an enigmatic third group that they said could be from farther east.
…the team also found proof of a previously unknown migration, beginning several thousand years later. DNA recovered from steppe herders that lived in western Russia around 5,000 years ago closely matched that of 4,500-year-old individuals from Germany, who were part of a group known as the Corded Ware culture.
The herders, named the Yamnaya, lived in present-day Russia and Ukraine and represent “a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery”, Reich and his team say in a paper posted on the bioRxiv preprint server on 10 February. Yamnaya ancestry survives in varying degrees in the genomes of contemporary Europeans, with northern groups such as Norwegians, Scots and Lithuanians maintaining the strongest link. The geographical extent of the Yamnaya migration is not clear, nor is its nature. But Reich’s team says it is possible that the eastern migrants completely replaced existing populations in Germany.
The Yamnaya, the researchers also contend, imported at least part of the Indo-European language family into Europe. The origin of these languages — which include Germanic, Slavic and Romance languages as well as many of the languages spoken on the South Asian subcontinent — is mired in controversy. Some researchers say that the tongues were spread by Middle Eastern farmers around 8,500 years ago. But Reich and his team say that their data are more consistent with the ‘steppe hypothesis’ favoured by other researchers, according to which herders living around the Black and Caspian Seas spread the languages around 6,000 years ago, after horse domestication and the invention of the wheel allowed them to start travelling great distances.
Carles Lalueza-Fox, a palaeogeneticist at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain, says that the study also supports the idea that the first farmers to reach Europe were a homogeneous bunch, with little genetic variation. “Things start changing with the arrival of metallurgic technologies,” he says. “Then, there are dramatic population movements and turnovers, probably related to technical improvements in tools and warfare.”
So what we’re looking at is the establishment of a new pattern of history.
Here we have the era known as the Bronze Age being recontextualised. Rather than being some hitherto categorised “natural stage of progress”, this time is the result of an apocalyptic event being witnessed an by advanced civilisation separate from the rest of the world. One that flees its affects – that are probably the consequence of its progress (plague seems to work like that) – and in the process causes a period of “tumultuous change” for the areas it relocates to.
Plague & Progress is, of course, a pattern we can apply to the colonisation of the Americas by Europeans. That time, the colonisers brought the plague with them, causing the near extinction of the local population.
It bears constant repeating that the mythic images that populate the popular consciousness, of Native Americans on horseback, shooting rifles, are of the post-apocalyptic descendants making use of the technologies of their conquerors… the people who stole their world… to fight back against them. Or just survive on the fringes left to them.
It is almost too easy to compare the Corded Ware culture fleeing the Russian Steppes, with their advanced technology of domesticated horses and wheeled vehicles, arriving to (re)settle the new lands of greater Eurasia to that of the Plutocracy today, currently making their Exit, laying a ratline to Mars that leads from their gated communities – via a Hyperloop – to their private spaceports and head off Earth to settle space. [That’s the pitch of the Plutocratic Exit Strategy in one sentence if there ever was one.]
That the best the rest of us can hope for then is to survive the tumultuous times to come – or already here if, for instance, your passport says Syria on it – and patrol the edges of a ruined, looted world with re-purposed military tech. The technodruids of the Exclusion Zones.
OR… We can become self-aware citizens in the midst of a planetary scale theft marketed as an Eschatonic Event, and turn every piece of technology into Infrastructure for Building Through the Collapse before it can ever used by the Agents of the Apocalypse.
The question that remains then is: how do we Wake the World?