Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Concept Of War May Be A More Modern Invention Than Previously Thought

New Study of Prehistoric Skeletons Undermines Claim That War Has Deep Evolutionary Roots*

When did war begin? Does war have deep roots, or is it a modern invention? A new analysis of ancient human remains by anthropologists Jonathan Haas and Matthew Piscitelli of Chicago’s Field Museum provides strong evidence for the latter view.


But before I get to the work of Haas and Piscitelli, I’d like to return briefly to my last post, which describes a study of modern-day foragers (also called hunter gatherers), whose behavior is assumed to be similar to that of our Stone Age ancestors. The study found that modern foragers have engaged in little or no warfare, defined as a lethal attack by two or more people in one group against another group. This finding contradicts the claim that war emerged hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago.

Defenders of the Deep Roots Theory have leveled various criticisms at the forager study. [*See Clarification below.] They complain that foragers examined in the study—and modern foragers in general–have been pacified by nearby states. Or the foragers are “isolated,” living in remote regions where they rarely come into contact with other groups. In other words, these foraging societies are atypical.

For the rest of the story:

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