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article imageEvidence of earliest massacre found dates back 10,000 years

By Karen Graham     Jan 21, 2016 in Science
The fossilized bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers have been unearthed near Lake Turkana in Kenya, at a place called Nataruk. The smashed remains give evidence of the first human massacre and the brutality of early man.
Researchers from Cambridge University's Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies have found the partial fossilized remains of 27 individuals, including eight women and six children.
The archaeologists believe the remains are members of an extended family group of hunter-gatherers who were apparently set upon by a rival group. The researchers believe their find, dated at 10,000 years old, is the earliest scientifically dated evidence of human conflict, older than an earlier discovery found in Germany that is dated to approximately 5000 B.C., according to Fox News.
The research team say that four of the victims, including a near-term pregnant woman, were bound by the hands before they were slaughtered. The skeletal remains of 12 male individuals and one young male, thought to be around 12 to 13 years old were found apart from the remains of the women and children.
All the bodies showed evidence of blunt-force trauma, with deep cranial and facial fractures, as well as broken hands, knees and ribs. Some showed arrow lesions in the neck and two of the men had stone projectiles lodged in the thorax areas of their bodies, reports Science Daily.
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Marta Mirazón Lahr
"The ... massacre may have resulted from an attempt to seize resources – territory, women, children, food stored in pots – whose value was similar to those of later food-producing agricultural societies, among whom violent attacks on settlements became part of life," said lead study author Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr of the University of Cambridge.
The origins of human aggression are controversial
Many archaeologists believe that hunter-gatherers were a peaceful sort, with close extended family groups, not resorting to warfare until after the agricultural revolution. This is when people began to be jealous of other groups' land and possessions.
Before this latest find, researchers from the University of Mainz found the remains of 26 individuals in what was, at the time, the earliest war grave in Darmstadt, Germany in 2006.
The Darmstadt find was the earliest evidence of a deliberate and preplanned massacre of other humans. Now, with this latest find, we have even earlier evidence of human massacre.
With the massacre that took place at Lake Turkana, the aggressors carried weapons that weren't used for hunting and fishing. They obviously had clubs and knives, as well as arrows, what some scientists call hallmarks of inter-group conflict, says the Smithsonian.
Dr. Lahr says, “This implies that the resources the people of Nataruk had at the time were valuable and worth fighting for, whether it was water, dried meat or fish, gathered nuts or indeed women and children. This shows that two of the conditions associated with warfare among settled societies—control of territory and resources—were probably the same for these hunter-gatherers and that we have underestimated their role in prehistory.”
We are told that what is being found in this case is not to be confused with early evidence of prehistoric battles, as was found at the 14,340- to 13,140-year old Mesolithic site known as Cemetery 117 located on the Nile near the Egypt-Sudan border.
two victims of violence at Jebel Sahaba  Sudan. (Cemetery 117).
two victims of violence at Jebel Sahaba, Sudan. (Cemetery 117).
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Interestingly, the Cemetery 117 skeletal remains were also said to be the earliest evidence of communal violence between groups, possibly as a result of the environmental disaster we call the Ice Age which could have caused the attackers to be living in close proximity to the victims, creating friction, reported the Daily mail.
Luke Glowacki, an anthropologist with Harvard University's Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, suggests the findings of this type of violent behavior in early man points to deep evolutionary roots. He reminds us that we aren't the only species to engage in lethal attacks on our own kind.
“To deliberately stalk and kill members of other groups, as the chimps do, that alone is very suggestive of an evolutionary basis for warfare,” he says.
More about earliest massacre, Prehistoric, Stone age, huntergatherers, human conflict
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