Human evolution News

Our prehistoric ancestors were just as violent as ourselves?

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From Amy Middleton at Cosmos:

The team calculated the percentage of deaths caused by members within the same species, which might include aggression, infanticide or cannibalism; or, among humans, war, homicide or execution.

According to the findings, interpersonal violence represents about 2% of all deaths across the history of humans. This number was close to the estimates for our evolutionary ancestors, which may suggest a certain amount of our tendency to kill each other is built into us from way back when our species first evolved.

Importantly, the findings show that the killing of other humans varies across different populations, suggesting that social and cultural factors also play a role.

That used to be called human nature, or—by religious sources—original sin. In other words, the researchers learned nothing not already well known.

Get this:

Our level of violence “has changed as our history has progressed, mostly associated with changes in the socio-political organisation of human populations.”

There’s hope for us yet. More.

The most violent century, not that this crowd likely noticed it, was the last one, principally because of the technological refinement of methods of mass slaughter.

See also: The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise

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One Reply to “Our prehistoric ancestors were just as violent as ourselves?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    I wonder how they scored “deaths caused by members within the same species”?

    For example, in 1943 perhaps 3 million Bengalis starved to death (non-violently?) because of an English fear that the Japanese would advance westward from Burma. So the English administrators confiscated the harvest from the region they thought might be occupied by the Japanese.

    Similarly, Mao killed (is responsible for the deaths of) 100 million Chinese. Again, many of these people died from starvation caused by the Cultural Revolution.

    If you only count people who were killed by swords or bullets, you’re missing most of the casualties. On the other hand, I’ve never read a single mention of ANYONE being murdered by fellow Bushmen or Aborigines. So I have to wonder about the guessing that for all of human history 2% of annual deaths have been caused by the intentional actions of their fellow humans.

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