An Ancient Perspective On War

Why do human beings make war on each other?  It’s a question that has intrigued philosophers and scientists, poets and peasants for centuries.

A more interesting question, though, might be not why, but when — because figuring out when the mass killings began might help us to isolate why the human species fights wars in the first place.

prehistoric-skull-discovered-nataruk-kenya-reuters-640x480A recent archaeological dig indicates that war is, unfortunately, much more ancient than we might have suspected.  The find at Nataruk, Kenya, on the east coast of Africa, reveals a horrific battle between two tribes of hunter-gatherers that happened 10,000 years ago.  One band captured the other, tied them up, and ruthlessly slaughtered every man, woman and child, including a woman whose pregnancy was far advanced.  The 12 victims of the attack were shot with arrows, beaten, and suffered crushed skulls and broken necks.  Their bodies were then shoved into a lagoon, where they sank into sediment and were preserved, to be found and studied by modern-day scientists.

Modern wars have been blamed on religion, nationalism, ideology, and quests for political power and glory by ruthless leaders.  One school of thought — reflected in John Lennon’s Imagine — postulates that if those causes of conflict were somehow removed, people would live in peace.  But the find in Kenya undercuts that simple premise, because 10,000 years ago was before the development of towns and villages, much less nation states, before the development of agriculture that caused humans to settle and begin to accumulate wealth, before the development of any known organized religion, and before any of the other attributes of modern culture that are typically cited as the causes of war.

The slaughter on the banks of the lagoon long ago occurred between two roaming bands of hunter-gatherers on what must have been a fertile and sparsely populated plain, with plenty of food for everyone.  So, why the slaughter of an entire tribe, rather than the decision to reach an accord, share the land, and live in peace?  It may be that humans, as a species, are just predisposed to war — which is a sobering thought, indeed.

Blogs Worth Noting

In case your New Year’s resolution was to read more blogs — and what a fine resolution that would be! — here are some suggestions.

elroyjones is a blog written by a Mainer who has become a great internet acquaintance.  She reads our blog, and we read her blog — and it’s well worth a gander.  The subtitle of her blog is “random ordinary life observations,” and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of the normal content.  EJ always has interesting things to say about her personal life, about Maine, about modern society, and about the world in general.

Our Big Crazy Family, on the other hand, is the blog of the Daubenmier family.  Here at Webner House, of course, we have a weakness for family blogs.  In this case, Mark Daubenmier was one of Richard’s favorite teachers, and a fine person, besides.  Recently he and his wife moved their family to Kenya on a ministry mission.  Their blog is about “the joy that comes from family life,” spiced with interesting anecdotes about their life in Africa.  When you read the blog, you just have to respect the work they are doing in that faraway land.

And speaking of faraway lands, I can’t help but mention, again, two other blogs I’ve noted previously.  14 South, 170 West is the blog of a friend who lives in American Samoa, and Breakfast Club Food For Thought is the work of an old pal who lives in Seattle and is a huge fan of juices of all kinds.

Between these four blogs, we’ve spanned America coast to coast and gotten a glimpse of distant places — all through the eyes of ordinary folks who occasionally like to tap the keyboards on their computers.  You may want to check them out.