The end of the “noble savage”

The end of the “noble savage” January 27, 2016

Archaeologists have discovered the site of a deadly massacre in which 27 people were killed by primitive weapons.  The researchers date the site at some 10,000 years ago and say the people were hunter-gatherers.  This upsets the theory that warfare and organized violence appeared only when early humans settled down into permanent settlements.

This also upsets the perhaps related theory of the “noble savage” of Jacques Rousseau, according to which primitive people in “the state of nature” live lives of peace and virtue, with violence and other evils coming only as a result of “civilization.”  Apparently, human beings have been fallen and sinful as far back as we can see.

From Camila Domonoske, Discovery Of Ancient Massacre Suggests War Predated Settlements : The Two-Way : NPR:

A pregnant woman with her hands and feet bound. A man with an obsidian blade embedded in his skull. Men and women with arrow wounds to the head and neck.

That’s the grisly scene archaeologists describe at Nataruk, in modern-day Kenya, where they say they’ve uncovered unique evidence of violence in prehistoric, nomadic hunter-gatherer communities.

The massacre they’ve uncovered is striking, they say, because it pushes back against a theory that warfare didn’t become a feature of human culture until communities settled down.

Archaeologists from Cambridge University excavated the remains of 27 people, including at least eight women and six children, in a region that was once the edge of a lagoon, near modern-day Lake Turkana. The remains included 12 skeletons that were fairly complete, “preserved by the particular conditions of the lagoon,” the researchers write in Nature this week.

They all appeared to have died at the same time, 10,000 years ago or so. The researchers focused on the 12 skeletons — 10 showed evidence of fatal injuries, including sharp-force and blunt-force trauma, and several had blades or projectiles embedded in them.

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