News / Science & Technology

    Prehistoric Massacre in Kenya Called Oldest Evidence of Warfare

    Detail of the skull of the skeleton of a man found lying prone in the sediments of a lagoon 30km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, at a place called Nataruk, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters, Jan. 20, 2016.
    Detail of the skull of the skeleton of a man found lying prone in the sediments of a lagoon 30km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, at a place called Nataruk, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters, Jan. 20, 2016.
    Reuters

    Man's inhumanity to man, as 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns put it, is no recent development.

    Scientists said Wednesday they had found the oldest evidence of human warfare, fossils of a band of people massacred by a troop of attackers with weapons including arrows, clubs and stone blades on the shores of a lagoon in Kenya about 10,000 years ago.

    The remains of 27 people from a Stone Age hunter-gatherer culture were unearthed at a site called Nataruk roughly 20 miles (30 km) west of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

    One man's skeleton was found with a sharp blade made of a volcanic glass called obsidian still embedded in his skull.

    Another man had wounds from two blows to the head apparently with a club, crushing his skull. A woman in the last stages of pregnancy appeared to have been bound by her hands and feet.

    Victims also had projectile wounds to the neck and broken skulls, hands, knees and ribs.

    'Brutal, physical, lethal'

    University of Cambridge paleoanthropologist Marta Mirazon Lahr said evidence indicates these people, who hunted animals, caught fish and gathered edible plants, were slain in a premeditated attack by raiders, perhaps from another region.

    "It is a brutal, physical, lethal attack with the intention to kill those individuals who could put up a defense or mount a counter-attack, or who perhaps were of no use to them, whether it was a man or a very pregnant woman, too young or too old," Mirazon Lahr said.

    Our species arose 200,000 years ago in Africa. Many scholars had thought warfare first emerged long after the time of the Nataruk people when humans formed settled communities instead of a nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence.

    The Nataruk fossils "raise the question of whether warfare has been part of the human experience for much longer than previously thought," Mirazon Lahr added.

    A planned attack would suggest that resources the Nataruk people possessed — perhaps water, dried meat or fish, nuts or even women and children — were considered valuable, she said.

    There were remains of 21 adults and six children, most under age 6. There were no older teenagers.

    "Whether they managed to escape, or were taken, we will never know," she said.

    "At the end, all massacres are savage," Mirazon Lahr said.

    "How many examples do we have from our very recent, and current, history? But finding the remains of a massacre among the skeletons of hunter-gatherers of this period was totally surprising," she said.

    The research appeared in the journal Nature.

    You May Like

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora