Surprise! Ancient humans were violent.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

There seems to be a vague consensus in our society that ancient peoples were peaceful and contented in their gathering and hunting.  Only in recent times have humans become greedy, war-like, and violent.

Some recent articles have challenged that assumption. That these reports are noteworthy demonstrates the bias that exists claiming only in relatively recent times have we humans become mean and hateful.

Of course, anyone who has read the first few chapters of the book of Genesis know that the human heart is violent and desperately wicked.

But in case you need research to support the dreary idea that humans are broken in their core, consider …

1/20/16 – The Guardian – Stone-age massacre offers earliest evidence of human warfare – Brutal intergroup violence is not a recent invention. An archaeological dig in Kenya has found a group of 27 people who were killed and thrown into a marshy pool. There were at least six children and eight women, one of whom was pregnant.

The fossilized remains have been dated to around 10,000 years ago. The hunter-gather groups at the time received and inflicted violence.

Injuries included obvious blunt force trauma in the head along with arrow and blade wounds. Researchers concluded four of the victims had their hands bound before they died.

Article says this is the earliest dated indication of hunter-gatherer groups having violent confrontations. Suggestions of a violent fight include the lack of any indication of an intentional burial, the violent wounds, and some victims having been bound prior to death.

Please scratch off your list of ideas that the noble hunter-gatherers were just a bunch of peaceful wanderers living in complete harmony with their neighbors.

8/18/15 – Gizmodo – Europes’s First Farmers Were Shockingly Violent An archaeological dig in Germany discovered a mass grave dating from the Early Neolithic era (Neolithic period ran from 4000 BC through 2400 BC in Europe). At the time, burials were ritualistic, with adornments. This is a mass grave revealing 26 adults, primarily male. Speculation is the women were abducted. Additional speculation is this is a result of a fight, perhaps an ambush, by members of one village against their near neighbors. Injuries include skull fractures and still-impaled arrows. Archaeologists speculate some of the broken legs were caused before death. The bodies were dumped in a mass grave.

The underlying report indicates this level of violence is a relatively new indication from archeological evidence but is not the only one of its kind: the article quotes the underlying report saying:

The new evidence presented here for unequivocal lethal violence on a large-scale is put into perspective for the Early Neolithic of Central Europe and, in conjunction with previous results, indicates that massacres of entire communities were not isolated occurrences but rather were frequent features of the last phases of the [Linear Pottery culture people].

The full report can be found here. The abstract indicates this level of prehistoric warfare is not new information; there are multiple sites supporting the conclusion there was a lot of violence. Of particular news is the torture and mutilation of those on the losing side.

Radiocarbon dating indicates the skeletons are somewhere from 5193 BC through 4860 BC, if I’m reading the detailed results halfway correctly.

10/27/16  – Live Science – Revenge Killings: Irreverent Burials Suggest Ancient Blood Feuds – This example of ancient cruelty is not too far in the past, perhaps in the rather wide range of 2100 BC through 50 AD.

Researchers looking at 170 burial sites in the Sonoran Desert spanning the US-Mexico border found most of the skeletons indicated a respectful burial, which at the time meant flexed (curled up in fetal position) on the left side.

For 7 skeletons, the arrangement of bones indicate a disrespectful burial and two of the individuals met a violent end.

The researchers concluded the 7 were most likely revenge killings, which indicate the intertribal and intratribal violence in play at the time. More specifically, the researchers concluded these burials suggest the 7 deaths were due to blood feuds.

Of course, anyone who has read more than a few chapters of the bible or studied any ancient history will be completely unsurprised that from maybe 2000 BC through 50 AD there was lots of violence, killing, jealousy, revenge, and blood feuds resulting in lots of violent deaths. Think Roman Empire if you want to ponder extra-biblical sources.

Now for some really, really old evidence…

5/28/15 – BBC News – Evidence of 430,000-year-old human violence found – Researchers don’t know why an ancient community dropped 28 bodies down a deep vertical shaft. Best guess it was some sort of funeral arrangement.

One of the bodies has yielded long-held secrets: the two fractures in the front of the skull were due to blunt trauma, likely having been stuck at least twice with likely the same item.

This was due to

Intentional interpersonal violence.

Murder, in other words.

From 430,000 years ago.

Yeah, the human heart is cruel, violent, hateful, deceitful and beyond cure. Who can possibly understand it? (Paraphrase of Jeremiah 17:9.)

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