This May Be First Evidence of Hunter-Gatherer War

27 people killed in 10,000-year-old massacre in what is now Kenya
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2016 12:49 PM CST
This May Be First Evidence of Hunter-Gatherer War
This photo shows the skeleton of a victim killed in a 10,000-year-old massacre.   (Nature)

Scientists working on the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya have uncovered a grisly scene: the bodies of 27 people, killed around 8,000BC. Experts say the spot, called Nataruk, may be the first to reveal evidence of a massacre—or perhaps even war—between two nomadic hunter-gatherer groups, one of which triumphed while the other was vanquished. Twelve complete skeletons and 15 partial ones show men, women, and children were attacked with clubs, spears, arrows, and some other weapon with embedded stone blades, per the New York Times. They suffered nasty injuries, including crushed skulls, and were found where they fell. One man was hit twice in the head with arrows or spears and once in the knee with a club. A pregnant woman died via a blow to the head; scientists found the skeleton of a fetus preserved in her belly.

"That scale of death—it can't be an individual murder or homicide amongst families," a study author tells Live Science. The site shows "before we have settled life, groups were competing over resources," he adds, per the BBC. The groups may have fought over food. As there were no remains belonging to children over 6, the victors may have also taken older children captive. "There's no other find like it," a researcher says of the site; an earlier site in Sudan shows evidence of violence between groups, but they were likely more sedentary. Unnatural obsidian found at Nataruk suggests the attackers traveled some distance, but one expert argues the groups may have been fairly settled. "It may be jumping the gun to call this 'war'" given that there are no "fortifications, villages built in defensible locations, specialized weapons of war, [or] artistic or symbol depictions of war," he adds. (Scientists recently found 13,800-year-old rock art.)

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