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posted by janrinok on Thursday March 16 2023, @03:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the turning-ploughshares-into-swords dept.

Violence and warfare were widespread in many Neolithic communities across Northwest Europe:

Of the skeletal remains of more than 2300 early farmers from 180 sites dating from around 8000 – 4000 years ago to, more than one in ten displayed weapon injuries, bioarchaeologists found.

Contrary to the view that the Neolithic era was marked by peaceful cooperation, the team of international researchers say that in some regions the period from 6000BC to 2000BC may be a high point in conflict and violence with the destruction of entire communities.

The findings also suggest the rise of growing crops and herding animals as a way of life, replacing hunting and gathering, may have laid the foundations for formalised warfare.

[...] More than ten per cent showed damage potentially caused by frequent blows to the head by blunt instruments or stone axes. Several examples of penetrative injuries, thought to be from arrows, were also found.

Some of the injuries were linked to mass burials, which could suggest the destruction of entire communities, the researchers say.

Journal Reference:
Linda Fibiger, Torbjörn Ahlström, Christian Meyer, and Martin Smith, Conflict, violence, and warfare among early farmers in Northwestern Europe [open], PNAS, 2022. DOI:

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Thursday March 16 2023, @05:22PM (7 children)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday March 16 2023, @05:22PM (#1296527) Journal

    Less violent compared to when?

    It seems like the previous hunter gatherers were relatively peaceful compared to these early farmers so it got more violent as time progressed during that period.

    It makes sense, though, in that a centralized food store like a farm would have a better cost/benefit ratio for a violent attack.

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  • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Thursday March 16 2023, @07:22PM (4 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Thursday March 16 2023, @07:22PM (#1296542)

    The main reason early hunter-gatherer societies were fairly "peaceful" is that there was simply not many human packs and a vast, vast amount of land. In prehistoric times, maybe 100,000 humans roamed the earth. That's plenty of space for a very, very small amount of humans. The chance to even encounter another tribe was fairly small and the resources were not scarce enough to warrant the risk of losing members.

    Only when the amount of humans increased, the reason to fight over resources started to become an issue.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Reziac on Friday March 17 2023, @03:10AM (3 children)

      by Reziac (2489) on Friday March 17 2023, @03:10AM (#1296618) Homepage

      Also, I recall reading an anthropology paper contending that in all current societies that lead a neolithic or hunter/gatherer lifestyle and are "untouched by modern life", interpersonal violence is the leading cause of death. (Something like 40% of males dying by violence, don't recall the % for females.) There was one tribe cited where ALL males died by interpersonal violence.

      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by r1348 on Friday March 17 2023, @09:10AM (2 children)

        by r1348 (5988) on Friday March 17 2023, @09:10AM (#1296655)

        Something similar is described in "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond, where he described how encounters between hunter-gatherer bands in Papua New Guinea worked: they started very long conversations about their ancestors to see if they had some in common, otherwise the default reaction would be homicide.

        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday March 17 2023, @05:33PM (1 child)

          by Reziac (2489) on Friday March 17 2023, @05:33PM (#1296717) Homepage

          And that's approximately how it works in other pack-oriented predators. Do you smell like us? Okay, friends. If not? Death to the foreigners. Evolved behavior to favor your broader kin group in the competition for resources.

          [Spotted hyenas have multiple levels of kinship, much like humans.]

          And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @02:28AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @02:28AM (#1297099)
            Plenty of territorial birds and fish too. No coming to my territory, I kill you! Unless you're a female that I like...
  • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Thursday March 16 2023, @09:35PM

    by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 16 2023, @09:35PM (#1296565) Journal

    OK, but remember that "less" is a relative term. Violent death due to weapons was a frequent cause of the deaths that archeologists find.

    Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Thursday March 16 2023, @10:02PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday March 16 2023, @10:02PM (#1296572)

    If anything, it seems that the bigger stick we carry, the less we actually use it.

    WW I and II were horrific, but killed a relatively small percentage of our populations as compared to an invading horde who burst through town hurling rocks, spears, and possibly exotic diseases.

    The Cold War was (is?) absolutely existentially terrifying, but compare the number of humans who have died by nuclear detonation in anger vs those shot by machine guns...

    Lately we seem to need to fight "restrained" wars with smaller arms, just so people will put up with the violence.

    So, it absolutely makes sense that early agricultural societies, lacking even metalworking for swords and ploughshares, would have gone around pummeling each other with fists, rocks, and pointy sticks much more often than we hurl H bombs at each other.

    🌻🌻 []