Archaeologists have found what they call “undeniable evidence” of the earliest known massacre that occurred about 10,000 years ago at a place called Nataruk in Kenya. The remains of 27 people, including six children and eight women, were discovered near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. According to a study published in the journal Nature, the victims were members of an extended family group of hunter-gatherers who were brutally murdered by a rival group.
A fetal skeleton also found in Nataruk, Kenya
Lead author Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr of the University of Cambridge said 10 of the 12 relatively complete skeletons showed signs of extreme violence. Ribs were broken, skulls and faces were smashed. Some of the skeletons also had evidence of arrow wounds. Scientists also found a fetal skeleton in the abdomen of one of the female skeletons. Partial remains of 15 other people belong to victims of the same attack.
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Dr. Marta Mirazón Lahr said the massacre might be the result of an attempt to seize resources, territory, women, or children. Violent attacks were common in food-producing agricultural societies. But scientists have debated for years whether the aggressive and violent behavior was passed on to us from our primate ancestors or it came after the development of agriculture-led settled societies. Before the latest discovery, the earliest known massacre occurred in Germany about 7,000 years ago.
Hunter-gatherers were difficult to attack
Prehistoric humans who lacked permanent possessions and homes were “difficult to attack” and there was not much point doing it, said co-author Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge. Of course, other human remains with signs of violent death have also been found elsewhere. But they have been dismissed as hunting incidents or fights between two members of the same community. The Nataruk site in Kenya represents undeniable evidence of group-on-group violence.
Nataruk shows that humans showed violence much before the development of agriculture societies. “They are people who met an unpleasant end,” said researchers.