Monday, October 26, 2020


The 2020 Netflix drama series "Cursed", is a vaguely Arthurian tale of a powerful fairy princess and a young man named Arthur, in a medieval world in which a powerful church is seeking to exterminate the fey. These fairies are human-like, with only subtle differences from the humans and a greater connection to nature, more another race of humans from an earlier time, than another type of being entirely.

While it is obviously fiction (fairies, magic, etc.), it does a better job, I think, at conveying the deeper emotional, social, and cultural reality and feel of the genocidal ethnic, racial and religious wars of the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age transitions (and beyond), than many non-fiction efforts to describe these historical events. Sometimes fiction can be truer than non-fiction at conveying the human essentials.

Indeed, the King Arthur story itself, is a legendary history of one such transition in Britain itself, so it makes sense that done well, it would.


bellbeakerblogger said...

Always like a good Netflix recommendation! Sounds good.

Freman said...

I thought religion wars were a relatively modern thing.

andrew said...

@Freman Often ethnic warfare and religious warfare are difficult to disentangle (as in "Cursed" itself).

There was violent use of military force by Christian establishments to wipe out paganism in the Roman Empire (roughly the 3rd to the 7th centuries CE). There was anti-Christian warfare in England in the first century by the Celts, and the Saxon invasion of England had religious and ethnic overtones. The Punic Wars (starting in the 3rd century BCE) had a religious component to them (because the religion in what is now called Tunisia was considered barbaric).

The Hebrew Bible recounts genocidal warfare waged by the Hebrews against the existing residents of the Southern Levant with a strong religious and ethnic component (e.g. in the Books of Judges and Numbers), in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age (the Philistines with whom the Hebrews battled at the tail end of these series of wars arrived in the Southern Levant ca. 1200 BCE). Relatively close in time and space, the Ethio-Semitic languages have an ethnic and probably religious war behind it. The Bronze Age wars between Kassites barbarians and Mesopotamians were probably ethnic and religious in character as were most other conflicts of that era.

Neolithic expansion of the first farmers in Europe was accompanied by the genocidal destruction of the racially distinct hunter-gatherers who preceded them, in what surely included some warfare as well as just outnumbering the locals. Other Neolithic expansions also probably had this character.

The Bronze Age expansion of the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples into Europe from deep genetic origins in what is now called the Ukraine likewise had a significant military component and was also ethnic and religious in character to a significant extent. So did parallel expansion by the Indo-Aryans into South Asia, the Avestians in Iran, the Hittites in what is now Turkey, and the Mycenaean Greeks in the Aegean.

There were Buddhist military campaigns across East Asia and Southeast Asia, and Muslim ones in the 7th century and beyond. Bantu expansion had an ethnic component to it and almost surely a religious one as well.

Navajo people's arrival in the American Southwest was an ethnic war and possibly a religious one, and there are also indications of religious warfare around Y1K in the demise of the ancient Puebloans.

andrew said...

@Freman If you go back far enough there were almost surely some violent conflicts between Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe, Southwest Asia, West Asia and South Asia, with a strong ethnic component, and there were almost surely violent conflicts between Denisovans and modern humans in Southeast Asia and possible East Asia and North Asia as well with an ethnic dimension, and probably violent conflicts between archaic hominins and modern humans in Africa.

Keep in mind in that early Neolithic that early Iranian farmers (and the Caucasian hunter-gatherers from whom they were derived), and Levantine Natufian and early farmers derived from them were as genetically different as East Asians from Europeans. So were European hunter-gatherers from the Anatolian farmer derived populations they encountered. The predominant modern European phenotype didn't even really come into existence until the middle Bronze Age.

The Jomon-Yaoyi conflict in Japan would be another example.

Freman said...

Convincing. Thank you, Andrew!