[Marxism] Prehistoric Massacre Hints at War Among Hunter-Gatherers
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Thu Jan 21 07:58:06 MST 2016
NY Times, Jan. 21 2016
Prehistoric Massacre Hints at War Among Hunter-Gatherers
By JAMES GORMAN
The scene was a lagoon on the shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. The time
about 10,000 years ago. One group of hunter-gatherers attacked and
slaughtered another, leaving the dead with crushed skulls, embedded
arrow or spear points, and other devastating wounds.
The dead, said the scientists who reported the discovery Wednesday in
the journal Nature, seem to have been scattered in no apparent order,
and eventually covered and preserved by sediment from the lake. Of 12
relatively complete skeletons, 10 showed unmistakable signs of violent
death, the scientists said. Partial remains of at least 15 other people
were found at the site and are thought to have died in the same attack.
The bones at the lake, in northern Kenya, tell a tale of ferocity. One
man was hit twice in the head by arrows or small spears and in the knee
by a club. A woman, pregnant with a 6- to 9-month-old fetus, was killed
by a blow to the head, the fetal skeleton preserved in her abdomen. The
position of her hands and feet suggest that she may have been tied up
before she was killed.
Violence has always been part of human behavior, but the origins of war
are hotly debated. Some experts see it as deeply rooted in evolution,
pointing to violent confrontations among groups of chimpanzees as clues
to an ancestral predilection. Others emphasize the influence of complex
and hierarchical human societies, and agricultural surpluses to be raided.
With Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at
Harvard, Dr. Glowacki has traced the evolutionary roots of human warfare
in chimpanzee behavior. And, he said, this find “shows warfare occurred
before the invention of agriculture.”
Douglas P. Fry, a professor of anthropology at the University of
Alabama, who was not involved in the research, agreed that the evidence
looked like a massacre of one group by another but said that “based on
skeletal evidence from one site in an area, it may be jumping the gun to
call this ‘war.’”
Dr. Fry said in an email that nomadic foragers were unlikely to practice
war, which tends to arise in more complex societies, and that these
foragers may have already been in transition to a more settled life.
He said he would like to see “fortifications, villages built in
defensible locations, specialized weapons of war, artistic or symbol
depictions of war,” and more than one site before calling it warfare.
The Birth of War
An archaeological survey concludes that warfare,
despite its malignant hold on modern life, has not
always been part of the human condition.
By R. Brian Ferguson
Thirty years ago all the anthropologists studying war would have fit
into one small room. Granted—and guaranteed—that room would frequently
erupt in heated debate, but few outside would notice or care. Tribal
warfare? Exotic, maybe, but so what? Anthropologists see war as
potentially lethal violence between two groups, no matter how small the
groups or how few the casualties. But how much light could such a broad
definition of conflict, or cases of precivilized human strife, shed on
modern warfare, the struggles that have flared in Iraq, Kosovo, Rwanda,
Vietnam, Korea—and on and on?
How times have changed! The anthropological study of war has expanded
and matured. Ideas from academic debates are finding their way into
foreign policy journals and, yes, the mass media. The questions raised
by anthropologists and the once-academic disputes within the discipline
have become important public issues, to be debated by pundits and
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