CHENNAI: Rewriting the history of human warfare, an international research team that included a professor from Anna University, Chennai, has discovered brutal mass killing which happened 10,000 years ago from a prehistoric lagoon in Kenya.
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So far, the oldest-known warfare was believed to have happened 6,000 years ago, according to archaeologists.
The researchers found remains of skulls smashed by blunt-force and bones of hapless victims, including a pregnant woman chopped before receiving the death blow, at the site. In all, there were 27 bodies in the site at Nataruk near Lake Turkana in Kenya. For archeologists, it was crucial.
“These evidences suggested that human conflict or inter-tribal rivalry existed way before sedentary (or non-migratory) societies,” said professor Hema Achyutham from the Department of Geology, Anna University, the only Indian in the Cambridge University-led multi-institutional research which began four years ago.
Other institutes which funded the research were Turkana Basin Institute, Kenya, and Jomo Kenyatta House. The research paper was published in Nature.
This is an important discovery in the history of warfare, as the earliest confirmed instance of warfare was 6,000 years ago, in Sudan. Though earlier research had suggested that wars were common among sedentary societies, “this is the first time we have recorded evidence of intentional killing of a small band of foragers or hunter-gatherers in prehistory”, Hema told Express.
There is another incident that goes back 12,000 years, but it has not been proved conclusively as an instance of ‘war’. The exact reason for the massacre is yet to be ascertained, but the researchers found evidences of pottery indicating the practice of food storage, thus giving rise to the belief that rival tribal groups could have raided the area for resources – territory, women, children and food.
Referring to an obsidian stone (naturally occurring volcanic glass stone) lithic, which was embedded in the foot bones of a skeleton, first author of the paper Mirazon Lahr said: “The fact that obsidian is relatively rare in other late Stone Age sites in the region may suggest that the two groups confronted at Nataruk had different home ranges.” Hema added that the paper offers not only evidence of changing conditions towards a settled, materially-richer and demographically-denser way of life, but also of a standard antagonistic response to an encounter between two social groups.