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Hunter-Gatherers and War

Humanity found fruit to pick, animals to hunt and edible plants to gather, but they were not living blissfully in some kind of paradise. People had to contend with diseases without knowing anything about the world of microbes. There were no medical doctors or hospitals. People were mobile, living in temporary shelters. Life was an endless camping trip with one's relatives, and filled with hostile creatures. People had no sense of humanity beyond their own little group. They were inclined to call themselves "the people," and for all they knew strangers might be evil spirits. (They had no science that classified other people as human.) They were aware that strangers might be intent on doing them harm. Outsiders might raid, taking what little food they had stored, or they might kidnap a woman or a child, and there was no police department or national guard they could call when evil appeared on the horizon.

Nomadic societies tended to be warrior societies – as among hunter-gatherers in the 1800s or so in what today is the United States. To be respected, men wanted to be good at warfare. And in some societies men exercised their skills as warriors by raiding.

People living in the Stone Age might rush to battle believing that sickness or disease among them was caused by a member or members of a nearby society having cast an evil spell on them.

A science article in BBC News (21 January 2016) describes archaeologists uncovering a massacre among hunter-gathers that occurred around 10,000 years ago. The archaeologists found the remains of 27 people – hunter-gatherers – who had been killed violently and had not been buried. Arrowheads made of glass-like volcanic rock obsidian were found at the site. The victims, according to the archaeologists, were clubbed or stabbed to death in a single event. The place was near Lake Turkana in what today is Kenya.


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Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.