Lithic Warfare

Mundane Day. Back to Gym. Not too bad. Podcast a repeat of a twenty-five year old program on the impact of the Great Patriotic War on the children of fascists and religionists.

Not at all bad. In fact, better than I expected. But then it is quite old and reflects the standards of a previous generation of journalists. So better. Less EMO. More objective. Fewer glitches and errors.

But it did put me to mind of a recent series of articles (e.g. [Link]) about the find of a group of twenty-seven (?) skeletons in Kenya. What makes this particular is that this appears to be a massacre of a hunter-gatherer band. The size is almost classically right, and the skeletal remains indicate violent demise.

The anthropologists have labeled this evidence of war before agriculture. Which is the why of this blot.

Anthropologists and many artsy-sciencey types equate any evidence of violence above the singleton with war. To them, any after-schule or bar-room brawl is war. But this is not what those who actually study war think. Their thinking is considerably more rational and deliberate.

War is not, fundamentally, violence. It is about imposing policy. As such war without organization is nonexistent. Fights between criminal gangs may indeed by war but pick up fights are not.

Often the only way to pursue that imposition of policy is with violence. Largely because of contention. One side wants one policy; the other a different policy. Humans are fighters/fleers Violence will ensue.

Now let’s talk about primitive war. Those who are interested in filling my gaps can read the works of Turney-High. War emerges from hunting, so generally hunters double as warriors in simple social organizations (e.g., hunter-gatherer bands.) So maybe one-sixth of the band’s population may fight. (Assuming the band to be approximately one-third children, one-third young adults, and one-third “seniors – slanted more to the young adults – and evenly divided by gender.) So not a big fraction can fight but more so than in more “civilized” social organizations. 

War is rare. The risks are too great. Lose half of your hunter-warriors and the band starves. This puts a premium on raiding over pitched battles. Ambushes. 

Alliances are difficult. In fact, one of the main types of raiding may be bride stealing. There is some interaction among bands (incest avoidance appears to be VERY old) but military alliances? Logistically disfavored because of food deprivation. So alliances probable only in dire circumstances: overpopulation or nekulturny behavior. 

So this massacre is problematic. Much further thought is needed beyond the anthropologists amateur analysis. (Publicity grab?)

Also, we have to consider that this may have been humanitarian. If you do fight and a band is reduced to the point where it will starve from loss of hunters/gatherers, then killing the band quickly is actually a good deed.

Advertisements