Prehistoric massacre in Kenya called oldest evidence of warfare

Science

Prehistoric massacre in Kenya called oldest evidence of warfare

Man’s inhumanity to man, as 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns put it, is no recent development. Scientists said on Wednesday they had found the oldest evidence of human warfare — fossils of a band of people massacred by a troop of attackers with weapons that included arrows, clubs and stone blades on the shores of a lagoon in Kenya about 10,000 years ago. University of Cambridge paleoanthropologist Marta Mirazón Lahr said evidence indicates these people — who hunted animals, caught fish and gathered edible plants — possessed valuable resources and were slain in a premeditated attack by raiders, perhaps from another region.

The massacre at Nataruk could be seen as resulting from a raid for resources. … [But it could also indicate] a standard antagonistic response to an encounter between two social groups. … [Either way, the deaths] are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war.

A study about the massacre

Our species arose 200,000 years ago in Africa. The origins of war-making are a controversial topic, touching as it does on the very essence of human nature — are we born with a capacity for organized violence, like our close cousins the chimpanzees, or do circumstances make us so? Some anthropologists have suggested war arose along with the concept of ownership that came with humans settling down to till the land. But the new study contends that warfare was a feature of humanity when we were still mainly nomadic.

Evidence for that, before you have sedentary societies, before you have villages and cemeteries — that is very unique.

Marta Mirazón Lahr