The teams’ study consisted of analyzing the remains of approximately 2,500 people that lived in Japan during the Jomon period [(from 13,000 – 800 BC)], looking for examples of violence, e.g. broken or damaged bones. The team reports that they found evidence of violence in just 1.8 percent of all the adult bones represented and in just 0.89 percent of the population as a whole. A very low number compared to the 12 to 14 percent seen in other hunter-gatherer populations of around the same time period (which strongly suggested a violent existence). This, the researchers claim, suggests that the people of that time lived peacefully among themselves and did not conduct war against others that might have lived nearby. And that, they add, suggests that humans may not be quite as predisposed to violence as others have suggested, which counters other arguments that it was warfare that led people to band together into groups forming communities that allowed for the promotion of intra-group altruism and even more advanced warfare against other such groups—a selective from of evolutionary behavior. More.
A clear advantage would be gained by just leaving “evolution” out of the picture. It comes with a ready-made set of clangers that occlude analysis.
For example, there is an underlying assumption that early humans behaved without reason, the way an aggressive animal would.
If we assume that early humans perceived and responded to their environment in a human way, we will not be surprised that some groups were not especially violent, just as some groups are not especially violent today.
Humans are not inherently violent, but rather inherently capable of violence. The usual approach to study is to ask how their societies’ circumstances differ from those of societies with high rates of violence.
A personal favourite is: Early man wanted lots of offspring, to spread his selfish genes. But did he? Didn’t it occur to him that that would mean more people to feed and protect?
He might, of course, think the trouble worthwhile. But the theorist usually doesn’t assume that early man is doing any forward thinking at all. Which leads one to ask, how much evidence do we have for a time when human beings did not do any thinking at all?
See also: The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise
Early human religion: A 747 built in the basement with an X-Acto knife
Human origins: The war of trivial explanations
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