Some 10,000 years ago a woman in the last stages of pregnancy met a terrible death, trussed like a captive animal and dumped into shallow water at the edge of a Kenyan lagoon. She died with at least 27 members of her tribe, all equally brutally murdered, in the earliest evidence of warfare between stone age hunter-gatherers.Actually, more than evidence of war, it would appear to be evidence of the first war crime, as we understand it. People killing each other in conflict over land, property and sex is old news. Killing bound captives is something different. You would think captive women and children might be kept as slaves, unless maybe, it was beyond the ability of the tribe to support them, and they realized it.
The fossilised remains of the victims, still lying where they fell, preserved in the sediment of a marshy pool that dried up thousands of years ago, were found by a team of scientists from Cambridge University.
The evidence of their deaths was graphic and unmistakable: the remains, which include at least eight women and six children, show skulls smashed in, skeletons shot through or stabbed with stone arrows and blades, and in four cases, hands almost certainly bound.But at least there doesn't seem to have been evidence of cannibalism. I'm a little surprised.
The discovery, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, was made in 2012 at Nataruk, a site 30km from Lake Turkana in northern Kenya’s Rift Valley, and is the earliest securely dated evidence of violent confrontation between nomadic hunter-gatherer groups.
“The deaths at Nataruk are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war,” said Marta Mirazón Lahr, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge, who led the study.
“These human remains record the intentional killing of a small band of foragers with no deliberate burial, and provide unique evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among some prehistoric hunter-gatherers.”
The fragmentary remains of the children, all under six except for oneteenager, were found with the women’s skeletons.
Most skeletons had severe skull fractures including extreme blunt force injuries to cheek and facial bones, broken hands, knees and ribs, arrow marks in the neck and, in the case of two men, arrow tips still lodged in their skulls and chests.
It's the traditional method of settling major differences between two groups of people.
Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: Nighthawks" up for viewing at The Other McCain.