A few days ago, we talked about how researchers were perplexed by the sheer scale of violence in Bronze Age northern Europe, as was recently evidenced from a huge battle (3,250 years ago) that probably involved over 4,000 people. In fact, episodes of massacre have also been discovered by archaeologists, with examples pertaining to even prehistoric times, like the 10,000-year-old brutal scene in Kenya and the 7,000-year old battered skeletal remains in Germany. However this time around, Japanese researchers (in collaboration with British researchers) have made a study that suggests that not all of our ancestors were predisposed towards violence and conflicts. Their detailed analysis focused on the Jomon period (from 13,000 – 300 BC) based in Japan, and the assessment of skeletons and remains showed very little evidence of violent deaths.
Delving into the scope, the study was focused on around 2,500 people who had lived in Japan during the Jomon period – with the population mostly relating to the hunter-gatherer type. And while inspecting for any physical impact on the human remains (like being broken or fractured), the researchers came across only 1.8 percent of all adult bones that bore the mark of violence. The figure further goes down to 0.89 percent if the analysis takes into account the entire population spectrum (i.e., also including children). Now if we take the comparative route, other hunter-gatherer groups residing in the world during the same time accounted for 12-14 percent violent deaths among their population, thus suggesting their brush with incessant conflicts that were far larger in scale.
On the proverbial ‘other side of the coin’, the Jomon culture showcased their penchant for ‘peace’, thus suggesting that few hunter-gatherer groups were not predisposed towards violence and wars. And beyond just the ambit of prehistoric warfare itself, this study also presents a contrasting perspective on how not all communities were formed due to mutual needs of security. In essence, there may been rare cases where humans banded together possibly due to their collective scope of economy (as opposed to fear of external intrusion) – that evolved from hunting to increasing levels of sedentism and cultural affluence.
The study was originally published in Biology Letters.