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The Very First War

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  • The Very First War

    https://www.bbc.com/future/article/2...-our-ancestors

    Exactly why the Neanderthals died out 40,000 years ago is still greatly debated, but evolutionary biologist Nicholas Longrich looks at the evidence for a war between them and modern humans.

    A round 600,000 years ago, humanity split in two. One group stayed in Africa, evolving into us. The other struck out overland, into Asia and then Europe, becoming Homo neanderthalensis – the Neanderthals. They weren’t our ancestors (with the exception of a little interbreeding), but a sister species, evolving in parallel.

    Neanderthals fascinate us because of what they tell us about ourselves – who we were, and who we might have become. It’s tempting to see them in idyllic terms, living peacefully with nature and each other. If so, maybe humanity’s ills – especially our territoriality, violence, wars – aren’t innate, but modern inventions.

    Biology and palaeontology, however, paint a darker picture. Far from peaceful, Neanderthals were likely skilled fighters and dangerous warriors, rivalled only by modern humans.

    Predatory land mammals are territorial, especially pack-hunters. Like lions, wolves and our own species Homo sapiens, Neanderthals were cooperative big-game hunters. Other predators, sitting atop the food chain, have few predators of their own, so overpopulation drives conflict over hunting grounds. Neanderthals faced the same problem – if other species didn’t control their numbers, conflict would have.

    This territoriality has deep roots in humans. Territorial conflicts are also intense in our closest relatives, chimpanzees. Male chimps routinely gang up to attack and kill males from rival bands, a behaviour strikingly like human warfare. This implies that cooperative aggression evolved in a common ancestor of chimps and ourselves, at least seven million years ago. If so, Neanderthals will have inherited these same tendencies towards cooperative aggression.

    Warfare is an intrinsic part of being human. War isn’t a modern invention, but an ancient, fundamental part of our humanity. Historically, all peoples warred. Our oldest writings are filled with war stories. Archaeology reveals ancient fortresses and battles, and sites of prehistoric massacres going back millennia.

    To war is human – and Neanderthals were very like us. We’re remarkably similar in our skull and skeletal anatomy, and share 99.7% of our DNA. Behaviourally, Neanderthals were astonishingly like us. They made fire, buried their dead, fashioned jewellery from seashells and animal teeth, made artwork and stone shrines. If Neanderthals shared so many of our creative instincts, they probably shared many of our destructive instincts, too.

    The archaeological record confirms Neanderthal lives were anything but peaceful.

    Neanderthalensis were skilled big game hunters, using spears to take down deer, ibex, elk, bison, even rhinos and mammoths. It defies belief to think they would have hesitated to use these weapons if their families and lands were threatened. Archaeology suggests such conflicts were commonplace.
    Some injuries could have been sustained in hunting, but the patterns match those predicted for a people engaged in intertribal warfare


    Prehistoric warfare leaves tell-tale signs. A club to the head is an efficient way to kill – clubs are fast, powerful, precise weapons – so prehistoric Homo sapiens frequently show trauma to the skull. So too do Neanderthals.

    Another sign of warfare is the parry fracture, a break to the lower arm caused by warding off blows. Neanderthals also show a lot of broken arms. At least one Neanderthal, from Shanidar Cave in Iraq, was impaled by a spear to the chest. Trauma was especially common in young Neanderthal males, as were deaths. Some injuries could have been sustained in hunting, but the patterns match those predicted for a people engaged in intertribal warfare – small-scale but intense, prolonged conflict, wars dominated by guerrilla-style raids and ambushes, with rarer battles.

    War leaves a subtler mark in the form of territorial boundaries. The best evidence that Neanderthals not only fought but excelled at war, is that they met us and weren’t immediately overrun. Instead, for around 100,000 years, Neanderthals resisted modern human expansion.

    Why else would we take so long to leave Africa? Not because the environment was hostile but because Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe and Asia.

    It’s exceedingly unlikely that modern humans met the Neanderthals and decided to just live and let live. If nothing else, population growth inevitably forces humans to acquire more land, to ensure sufficient territory to hunt and forage food for their children. But an aggressive military strategy is also good evolutionary strategy.

    Instead, for thousands of years, we must have tested their fighters, and for thousands of years, we kept losing. In weapons, tactics, strategy, we were fairly evenly matched.

    Neanderthals probably had tactical and strategic advantages. They’d occupied the Middle East for millennia, doubtless gaining intimate knowledge of the terrain, the seasons, how to live off the native plants and animals. In battle, their massive, muscular builds must have made them devastating fighters in close-quarters combat. Their huge eyes likely gave Neanderthals superior low-light vision, letting them manoeuvre in the dark for ambushes and dawn raids.

    Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don’t know why. It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics. Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.

    Even after primitive Homo sapiens broke out of Africa 200,000 years ago, it took over 150,000 years to conquer Neanderthal lands. In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives, before a final offensive by modern Homo sapiens, starting 125,000 years ago, eliminated them.

    This wasn’t a blitzkrieg, as one would expect if Neanderthals were either pacifists or inferior warriors, but a long war of attrition. Ultimately, we won. But this wasn’t because they were less inclined to fight. In the end, we likely just became better at war than they were.

  • #2
    Evidence already suggests tribes were larger than previously thought in the hunther gatherer era. Perhaps a charisamatic leader united homo sapien and improved our operational capabilities and started a successful invasion, but techological and tactical advacements seem obvious drivers.

    A prolonged series of wars that ebbed and flowed over tens of thousands of years punctuated by long eriods of relative peace likely had a major influence in shaping human evolutionary history. We certainly didnt give up the war habit. It seems we just learnt faster despite the fact they had superior strength and vision.
    Last edited by tantalus; 11 Nov 20,, 20:21.

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    • #3
      I imagine the 'first war' was not against other homids for the fact that they were different but for resources - land where berries and fruit could easily be gathered.

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      • #4
        Cain v. Abel.
        1/4 of the global population wiped out in a single battle.
        Trust me?
        I'm an economist!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by DOR View Post
          Cain v. Abel.
          1/4 of the global population wiped out in a single battle.
          Got in trouble in high school for asking the....wait a minute....where did Nod come from?

          Jesuits...they want you to be critical thinkers but then yell at you when you think critically.

          Make up your mind, Father!!!!
          “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
          Mark Twain

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          • #6
            Just like me even before high school.

            We have Adam and Eve. They have two sons Cain and Able and Cain kills Able. Isn't that an evolutionary dead end or was there some funny business going on with Eve or maybe the snake?

            They really only want you to think critically about secular matters where facts matter. The only time facts were throw out the window was for religion where faith was the word. Obviously priests, nuns and I never got along once the word faith was thrown in. Speaking of faith that is what Trump has counted on with his base.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by DOR View Post
              Cain v. Abel.
              1/4 of the global population wiped out in a single battle.
              Rather think the Cain and Abel story has to be taken non factually, for example Cain was married and had a son (Enoch) but his Wife was not a daughter of Adam and Eve. It is myth and should be treated as such probably simplified versions of several oral traditions (the story of Eve, the serpent and the apple being one story and the fratricidal brothers another) mashed together and attributed to a single 'tradition'. If you take those two stories separately they both resemble other legends in early European myth; Paris and his 'Golden Apple' decision in Greek myth (started by the Goddess Eris, Goddess of discord). It was only later Christian terms that Eve eating the apple came to represent a 'downfall of mankind' but the 'choice' often involving an apple, is common; Pandora's Box in Greek myth. The two Brothers (often depicted as twins or 'Divine Twins') has several versions in early Indo European myth; Romulus and Remus in Rome; Hengist and Horsa in Anglo Saxon, other versions in Vedic and even Baltic myth. Often in the later myths (the Roman and Anglo Saxon versions) one of the Brothers dies. Sometimes they rescue the dawn, others they are connected to horses.

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              • #8
                A myth?

                Ya think?

                Gee, that's not going to go down well with the fundamentalist evangelical literalists.

                ADD: Another bumper sticker, this one apparently a school pride one:
                Holy Family
                Lions
                Trust me?
                I'm an economist!

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                • #9
                  I mean 'myth' as in the story/historical memory of the 'Great Flood' (Noah and his ark et al) and the fact of some pre-historic flood in the Mesopotamian area as attested in other more local 'myths'; the flood in Gilgamesh etc...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tantalus View Post
                    Evidence already suggests tribes were larger than previously thought in the hunther gatherer era. Perhaps a charisamatic leader united homo sapien and improved our operational capabilities and started a successful invasion, but techological and tactical advacements seem obvious drivers.

                    A prolonged series of wars that ebbed and flowed over tens of thousands of years punctuated by long eriods of relative peace likely had a major influence in shaping human evolutionary history. We certainly didnt give up the war habit. It seems we just learnt faster despite the fact they had superior strength and vision.
                    Homo Sapiens lost that first war though. Those groups participating in that early expansion from 200,000 years ago had died out by 80,000 years ago and are not related to "us" by mitochondrial DNA tracing. While that war likely broiled low for 100,000 years, the beginning glaciation of the Northern half of Europe starting 115,000 years ago may have pushed Neanderthal tribes south to where these "reinforcements" may have overwhelmed the invaders.

                    The actual successful invasion of Neanderthal (and Denisovan) lands came around 50,000 years ago as a new wave, possibly triggered by a resurgence in the wake of the global disaster caused by the Toba eruption (coinciding with the Maritime Isotope Stage 3 global warming), with the conquering of the European heartlands occuring within a relatively short timespan around 45,000+-2,000 years ago and eradication of Neanderthals within a few thousand years thereafter.

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                    • #11
                      I've thought about this topic a lot and I'm not sure it was factually a 'war' or even the first war. For a start it seems likely that our ancestors were more than happy to fight each other (or anyone else) before they even started their long expansion into Europe. Same thing for goes for the Neanderthals, the evidence suggests they were enough like us to be aggressive if necessary, so there's no compelling reason they wouldn't have fought amongst themselves from time to time as well. Which is not the same thing as saying either 'side' were in a constant state of armed conflict and that conflict alone resulted in the Neanderthals extinction.

                      This is for three reasons I can see. The first is that sheer population density (or rather the lack of it) would have limited the opportunities for contact between small bands of migratory or semi-migratory hunter gatherers to clash in a continent the size of Europe. Secondly even when groups of the two species did meet there are three options open to both both sides, avoidance, peaceful contact/trade & warfare. So I think these options place an upper limit (for want of a better term) on how big an impact warfare had on the demise of the Neanderthals. An impact yes, the biggest impact not necessarily.

                      The next major issue I see is the clear difference in relative cultural development. It would appear that our human propensity for social interaction and technical adaptation gave us a survival advantage over the Neanderthals. Pretty much from day one of their migration into Europe homo sapiens were leaving behind clear evidence of their propensity of ceremonial artifacts, and arts and craft in general. Evidence of this in the Neanderthal populations is scare at best and remained that way up to late in their history. Which is not to say they did not engage in these activities themselves they did, but if definitely seems to have been less common than in human groups. So we seem to have had a higher capacity for innovation - which from what I remember reading might also have lead to us to being more flexible/having a wider range for food/prey types than the Neanderthals. (Prepared to be contradicted on this last bit - just something I recall reading i.e. that examination of Neanderthal diets showed greater reliance on a smaller selection of large game animals that the same analysis of Homo Sapien diets did. At least until towards the end of the Neanderthal's reign)

                      Lastly there's the issue of population reserves. Europe went through some pretty big climate swings during the period concerned with the Neanderthals being hit hard by one extended cold period in particular (cant remember which off hand). Importantly these cold periods would impact the population across almost their entire range. So you have situation where one species is reliant for population growth on however many bands of hunter gathers made it though from one hard season to the next. Given their hunting choices/apparent lifestyles prolonged cold periods would have hit their population level, across their entire historic range hard. The result would be that Neanderthals would go though population cycles based on climate change. Declining intense cold periods increasing again during inter-glacial warming periods.

                      Now its likely human groups in Europe would be hit just as hard as the Neanderthals were, at least as first. But unlike Neanderthals we had a constant source of replacement colonists available from outside of the effected region i.e. Africa and the middle East. No matter how many groups might be killed off in random locations across the continent by war, starvation or disease etc come spring other groups would be walking in to take their place, pushed along by migratory pressure from those behind them. The Neanderthal's had no way of competing with that kind of population 'bonus'.

                      So from the Neanderthal's perspective even when the opportunity arose to expand into new territories they would find them constantly being confronted by a people that had a higher population (and always would have), were more adaptable/capable of extracting resources from a given peace of land than they were and who were just as good in a fight. Hell, given the first two advantages we wouldn't need to be as good at warfare (e.g. as strong, tough etc) just almost as good. Number win out.

                      So I think we just out competed them, VHS versus Betamax style. Although that was also referred to as a 'war' so maybe?
                      Last edited by Monash; 12 Jan 21,, 01:25.
                      If you are emotionally invested in 'believing' something is true you have lost the ability to tell if it is true.

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