I am currently reading The Origins and History of Consciousness by Erich Neumann. The book is essentially an application of recapitulation theory to the development of human consciousness, asserting that the gradual stages through which human consciousness developed anciently are re-lived by each individual as their consciousness develops from infancy to maturity, and that these stages are represented in the human psyche in symbols which are seen throughout the various mythologies of the world. The first section of the book describes the stage in which the individual consciousness struggles to break free from the influence of the unconscious. Since this stage is lived in humans while they are dependent on their mothers for sustenance, the unconscious is therefore symbolized as feminine in mythology. The book seems to imply that this feminine symbol being dominant in the earliest stages would lead early civilizations to be structured as matriarchies, and, on page 73 (of my edition), says

But with the passing of the matriarchal reign of the Egyptian Queens and the rise of the partriachal Horus, the sun-god, under the Pharaohs, Isis gradually became merged with the archetype of the Good Mother, who presided over the patriarchal family.

This seems to explicitly assert that the period of Egyptian history characterized by patriarchy and the reign of the Pharaohs (symbolizing the eventual breaking free of consciousness from unconsciousness as Horus, the son of Isis) was preceded by a phase characterized by matriarchy. However, Neumann does not provide references to support this claim historically. I tried some google searching, but all the results I found seemed to reference the anomalous presence of Queens during the age of the Pharaohs, and not any pre-Pharaohnic era. This answer also seems to imply the existence of matriarchal society in ancient times, but does not provide sources.

Is there any evidence that such a matriarchy existed at some time in Egypt or any other ancient culture?

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    Feminists and Mary Renault notwithstanding, there's no archeological or historical evidence that large-scale matriarchal societies ever existed as precursors of patriarchal societies. Jan 28, 2021 at 16:36
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    There's an old question on this topic here with multiple highly-rated answers: Has the existence of a matriarchal society really been discredited? . I think it answers your question.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 28, 2021 at 17:50
  • Does this answer your question? Has the existence of a matriarchal society really been discredited?
    – Tom Sol
    Jan 29, 2021 at 12:03
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    I reopened and reclosed this as a dup, so the link would be at the top. But for the record this was a user-voted closure.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 29, 2021 at 14:42
  • This is very useful, but not quite a full answer to my question. It establishes that it was once believed that human society in general progressed through a matriarchal phase, that there is no first-hand historical evidence to support this, and that modern anthropologists tend to disbelieve this theory. However, it does not exclude a prehistoric matriarchal phase, nor does it say what evidence existed to suggest/inspire the matriarchal phase hypothesis to begin with. The character count prevents me from continuing here--should I edit the question to emphasize these aspects more?
    – The Ledge
    Jan 29, 2021 at 19:22


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