Is warfare as old as mankind? Does violence run through our veins? These are two questions that popped into archeologists’ minds when they discovered what may seem the evidence of oldest war.
Researchers found the remains of 27 people that apparently were slaughtered in a local war near Lake Turkana in Kenya. Several displayed traumas to their skulls, while others bore arrows in their heads and upper parts of their bodies. Even a pregnant woman with her limbs tied showed signs of a merciless execution.
Though the region is now arid, scientists believe that when the war occurred it was a fertile area. This may be the first evidence of warfare in small communities of hunters and gatherers. Previous findings had reveled only evidence of violence in more advanced societies.
To date, historians believed that since hunters and gatherers didn’t have a place to call their own due to their migratory life, they were less likely to engage in fights over ownership of land or possessions.
This is why, for years, researchers believed that these societies were among the most peaceful history has ever witnessed, while warfare was an invention that appeared after humans learned how to farm for a living.
But the Kenyan massacre contradicts those theories, and puzzles scientists worldwide. A team at University of Cambridge, in the U.K., argued that the 27 victims, which included kids under age of 6, were killed on a single occasion.
The sight was very disturbing. Some of the victims were found face down, while others apparently were tied before they were killed. The skeleton of a pregnant woman that shared a similar fate and the remains of her 9-month-old unborn child were also retrieved at the scene.
The Cambridge team believes that the group was ambushed by rival hunter-gatherers. The attackers had clubs, spears, and arrows, which were usually used to hunt down and kill prey. Since corpses were not buried, they were left to rot in the open field.
Study authors speculate that warfare might be as old as mankind. Yet, Robert Foley, a researcher involved in the new analysis, believes that so is altruism. He is convinced that violence and altruism are our innate features, which are basically the sides of the same coin.
A study on the discovery was published in the latest issue of journal Nature.
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