How long have humans been warring? New discovery sheds some light

Evidence of 10,000-year-old massacre uncovered in Africa.

Approximately 10,000 years ago, a band of humans lived near the shore of what is now Kenya’s Lake Turkana and apparently had either formed a society or were an extended family that included men, women and small children.

Possibly, they had begun to start farming the fertile soils around the lake, or maybe they just liked the area, but other humans coveted whatever they had found enough to try to take it away from them.

According to an article on Quartz, a group of researchers from Cambridge University have found the remains of that small band of early humans, and the evidence shows they were massacred in some type of battle-like engagement.  Some of the remains had their skulls crushed in, others were hit by arrows in their heads and necks.

Also among the remains was a pregnant woman, with evidence showing her hand and feet were bound when she was killed.  The research team also uncovered the remains of the nine-month-old fetus she was carrying.  At least three other skeletons were position as if they had been bound before they were killed as well.

The team speculates they were attacked by a rival, possibly hunter-gatherers from a nearby tribe looking to steal whatever the society had accumulated.  The attack was brutal, with the marauders using heavy clubs, and spears and arrows to fell their victims.  They did not attempt to bury anyone, just leaving the bodies to rot as they moved on.

In all, the researchers have found remains of 27 individuals, including six children and eight women, and 12 nearly-complete skeletons.  The bones appear to have been scattered into a lagoon that has since dried up, preserving the bones in the sediment.

This evidence indicates that humans have been fighting each other for goods or territory for thousands of years, and fuels the question, is the human species inherently violent?

Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr, of Cambridge University’s Leverhulme Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, and lead author on the study, said the massacre could have been the result of an attempt to seize resources, or it may have just been an antagonistic response to an earlier encounter between two social groups.

Dr. Lahr adds the site is a “testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war.”

Findings from the study can be found in the journal Nature.

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