Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/315

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THE ETHICS OF TRIBAL SOCIETY.

but communal. It was the realization, to some extent, of the socialistic ideal of collective or governmental ownership of landed property, the return to which a modern school of reformers would fain persuade themselves and others to regard as a step in advance.

It is also interesting to note that this most important and epoch-making transition from pasturage to tillage was due to the initiative and activity of woman. Everywhere in the growth of society women have been the first agriculturists. While the men were leading the life of hunters or herdsmen, with frequent episodes of pillage and predatory warfare, women began to cultivate the soil and to rear domestic fowls, to spin and to weave, and to develop, in a rude way, various kinds of industry. This is the condition in which we still find all savage and semi-civilized tribes. Herodotus (vol. vi) says of the Thracians, "They regard tillage as the most degrading and pillage as the most honorable occupation." The savage looks upon all forms of manual labor, and especially husbandry, as ignoble, and therefore leaves such work to his squaw.

At first, her efforts in this direction were quite ignored and often thwarted by the sudden removal of the tribe to another place before she could reap the fruits of her toil. The little patch of ground which she had planted was deemed of small account, compared with the pleasures and products of the chase, and was frequently abandoned without hesitation before the meager harvest was ripe. For this reason barley was the earliest grain cultivated, because it is the hardiest of all grains and matures soonest. It was a long time before the fields tilled by women became of sufficient importance, as supplying means of subsistence, to keep the tribe settled for a whole season in one spot, or even to induce them to return thither in the autumn and remain there until the crop was gathered. This semi-nomadism was the first step toward a sedentary life and the starting point of a higher civilization, and woman was the chief agent in its accomplishment, although unconscious of the immense change which her humble efforts were effecting.

For a similar reason the weakest male members of the tribe were the first artificers and mechanical inventors. Men who were crippled or otherwise incapable of waging war and following the chase, if they had not been left to perish at their birth, remained at home and made hunting implements and weapons of war for their more vigorous and valorous tribesmen, and thus acquired skill in handicraft, sharpened their wits, and developed their inventive faculties. In mythology, the gods of the smithy, Hephaestus, Vulcan, and Veland, are represented as lame, and the experts in ores and workers in metals are dwarfs, gnomes, and creatures