The deep past of future society. Questioning the western perspective on the reconstruction of human history
The deep past is an invaluable source of data with which to prepare for the future. Yet, the reconstruction of the human past is especially sensitive to the societal context upon which it is built. Almost all discussions of a sustainable future for our planet share a worldview grounded in the idea of modernity that was constructed in western institutions over the past centuries. Here, we argue for the importance of alternative worldviews to shape our future and assert that it is possible to find such ‘ontologies’ in our deep past.
Within several of the key concepts used in our current construction of the human past we place ourselves in a superior position. We named ourselves Homo sapiens assuming that we are, and were, cognitively superior to previous hominins; we seek to uncover the invention of agriculture in the Levant and its spread to other continents; we envision the Greeks and the Romans as (culturally) superior to others from Antiquity and therefore inscribe them as our cultural ancestors; and we want to perceive the history of the world since 1492 as a story of the rise of the West alone. Each of these thresholds for human history has been interpreted in terms of modernity; with precedence of subjects over objects; culture over nature; humans over non-humans, men over women; rationality over magic; technology over traditional knowledge, sapiens over faber; et cetera. Here, we explore an alternative perspective and evaluate its implications for addressing current global challenges.