Pretty much pisses on that Noble Savage idea, eh?

A chilling prehistoric ‘war grave’ containing the smashed remains of hunter-gatherers is the first evidence of a human massacre and demonstrates the terrifying aggression of early man.
The fossilised bones of a group of 27 hunter-gatherers, who were murdered 10,000 years ago, was discovered at Nataruk near Lake Turkana in Kenya.
Four victims, including one heavily pregnant woman were bound by the hands and feet before they was slaughtered. The others showed signs of extreme violence and some had blades and arrows still buried in their skulls.

Hmm:

The origins of human aggression are controversial, with many archaeologists believing that hunter-gatherers were largely peaceful, and did not resort to warfare until after the agricultural revolution, when groups grew jealous of the land and possessions of their rivals.

Possession of a hunting ground, a foraging area, is a possession. Think how aggressive nomads are today at preserving ownership of grazing rights….

This idea that all was peace and love in some early beginning simply cannot be true. We only need to observe humans today to see what we must have been like. Partly we can observe those societies that are still, roughly, hunter gatherers, various Amazon and Papua New Guinea etc. The murder and violent death rates there are stratospheric. Secondly, we can just observe in and out group behaviour among modern humans. That the Lower Bash Street Boys try to beat up the Upper Bash Street Boys after the footie has nothing at all to do with the footie, booze, the collapse of civilisation or which model of Doc Martens people should be wearing. It’s the remnant of that early past, that young men are like that. And a society in which young men are like that ain’t all that fun for everyone else.

Our forebears were ghastly, vicious, thugs. That’s why they survived and bred.

56 thoughts on “Pretty much pisses on that Noble Savage idea, eh?”

  1. Our forebears were ghastly, vicious, thugs. That’s why they survived and bred.

    Quite so. And it also explains our intelligence. Once you’ve got fire and a certain security from other predators you don’t need much brains to follow where the vultures are circling and steal a meal. But throw in your neighbour’s nasty violent propensity to betray and murder you… Then getting brains, with all its calorific expense and risk, is The Right Thing To Do.

  2. I remember reading an archived article – I think Mark Steyn quoted it – which desperately tried to convince readers that Ötzi the Iceman’s rather sophisticated axe was not a weapon but “a form of currency”. I once read about what American Indian tribes used to do to each other, and it made me feel sick.

  3. I’ve been a keen amateur reader about archaeology since about 1960. It’s been quite clear throughout that the great waves of fashionable views have been largely evidence-free, inspired by gushes of emotion, sentimentality, and wishful thinking.

    It’s largely been genetics that has hit their silly notions over the head with a big club. Did the arrival hereabouts of the neolithic involve conquest in large numbers? Yes. The Bronze Age? Yes. Dark Ages Britain? Yes.

  4. I’ve never thought of early human civilisation as ‘peaceful’.

    Why would it be? There’s always been asset ownership.

    Which is what you’ve just said. So yeah, I agree

  5. Given our hands are evolved to make a fist for punching and male jaw bones have evolved to take being punched violence seems pretty much a given.

  6. Fists are for holding, though. You can punch quite happily without the opposable thumb. Also strong jaws probably developed for eating tough stuff.

    If humans were evolved to fight, we wouldn’t have a soft underbelly or such fragile ribs.

  7. Also strong jaws probably developed for eating tough stuff.

    If that were true, then wouldn’t we expect female jaws to be just as strong as male?

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    So. Anyone mentioned Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization yet?

    The biggest cause of fighting is not about property. It is about sex. People will put up with grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth. But disproportionately distributing women is asking for violence.

  9. …the great waves of fashionable views have been largely evidence-free, inspired by gushes of emotion, sentimentality, and wishful thinking.

    Yes, indeed. Politically correct or feminist or leftist ‘explanations’ are proffered on the basis of the tiniest amount of often ambiguous evidence.

    It’s largely been genetics that has hit their silly notions over the head with a big club.

    Maybe; but I fear PC can distort the interpretation of evidence. I am not qualified to judge, but – for example – I can’t help feeling sceptical about the ‘out of Africa’ hypothesis when so many geneticists seem to see the hypothesis as a bulwark against racism and so have so much emotionally invested in it.

  10. dearieme,

    It’s always going to happen because people project contemporary thinking onto the past. My wife likes things like Time Team and you can see how they talk about stuff about say, what women did, and how it’s rather different from the archaeology of 20 or 30 years earlier, which emphasised that women generally raised the kids and looked after the home.

    I bet there’s the damaging influence of the state in there. If you do a thorough analysis and conclude that women did the breeding, cooking and raising, you aren’t as likely to get a grant as if you say “we’ve found that women weren’t as traditional as once thought and were actually out there on the battlefield with the men”.

  11. Fists are for holding, though. You can punch quite happily without the opposable thumb.

    This sounds as though you’re unaware that the thumb goes on the outside. Try punching a bag with the thumb in any position other than where a boxer puts it.

  12. “If that were true, then wouldn’t we expect female jaws to be just as strong as male?”

    Yes I suppose it would, but is there such a big difference in chimpanzees. There is some, but is it because they’re fighty?

  13. Yes TN, I’m aware of my thumb, I’m just saying that the opposable thumb didn’t evolve for punching, which is a far less efficient way of hurting something than jumping on it and biting, or flinging your arms around like clubs.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    Our hands are actually pretty useless for punching people. Punch something hard and you will break your fingers.

    Tim Newman – “I remember reading an archived article – I think Mark Steyn quoted it – which desperately tried to convince readers that Ötzi the Iceman’s rather sophisticated axe was not a weapon but “a form of currency”.”

    Not just one article. People were very reluctant to admit that perhaps he was a little bit involved in violence. I like the weapons-as-currency argument myself. Given he was carrying:

    Other items found with the Iceman were a copper axe with a yew handle, a flint-bladed knife with an ash handle and a quiver of 14 arrows with viburnum and dogwood shafts. Two of the arrows, which were broken, were tipped with flint and had fletching (stabilizing fins), while the other 12 were unfinished and untipped. The arrows were found in a quiver with what is presumed to be a bow string, an unidentified tool, and an antler tool which might have been used for sharpening arrow points.[35] There was also an unfinished yew longbow that was 1.82 metres (72 in) long.

    American Express would have been easier to carry.

    But they found him in 1991.

    In 2001 X-rays and a CT scan revealed that Ötzi had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder when he died,[50] and a matching small tear on his coat.[51] The discovery of the arrowhead prompted researchers to theorize Ötzi died of blood loss from the wound, which would probably have been fatal even if modern medical techniques had been available.[52] Further research found that the arrow’s shaft had been removed before death, and close examination of the body found bruises and cuts to the hands, wrists and chest and cerebral trauma indicative of a blow to the head. One of the cuts was to the base of his thumb that reached down to the bone but had no time to heal before his death. Currently, it is believed that the cause of death was a blow to the head, however researchers are unsure of what inflicted the fatal injury.

    So it took them a decade to realise he had been shot with an arrow that was still in place, had died due to a blunt force injury to the head and had defensive wounds on his hands?

    At my university, when I was a student, archaeology was for people too stupid to hack it in psychology.

  15. SMFS,

    Napoleon Chagnon’s book on the Yanomamo made the same point in the 1960s. The men killed each other for access to women.

  16. The myth of the Noble Savage is alive and well in popular culture.

    And it’s sequel, the pastoral idyll, is also alive – even though the two of them are mutually incompatible. After all, the people of the pastoral idyll exist because they destroyed the noble savage.

    It permeates everything about middle-class ‘right-thinking’ culture. It pops up everywhere. In the recent BBC series ‘Victorian bakers’, the first scenario was working in a shit-hole pre-Victorian rural bakery from dawn till dusk, eating nothing but bread, cheese and wine.

    But it was ‘natural’. And the characters rhapsodised about the purity of the lifestyle. One even said (without any trace of irony) this would be a fantastic life – if only he could have all of the accoutrements of modern life as well.

    Doh!

  17. Sorry, this just can’t be true. Capitalism is the cause of all the bad things in the world, we already know that. So this just can’t be true.

  18. Jared Diamond, in “Guns, Germs and Steel”:-

    +++++
    For example, I happened to be visiting New Guinea’s Iyau people at a time when a woman anthropologist was interviewing Iyau women about their life histories. Woman after woman, when asked to name her husband, named several sequential husbands who had died violent deaths. A typical answer went like this: “My first husband was killed by Elopi raiders. My second husband was killed by a man who wanted me, and who became my third husband. That husband was killed by the brother of my second husband, seeking to avenge his murder.”
    +++++

    Peaceful pastoral hunter-gatherers, huh? I rather upset my MA assessor with an essay including that among other examples of why humans tend to be nasty violent creatures unless restrained; she said she was sure there was evidence of peaceful happy primitive peoples somewhere. (She gave me a distinction and some very positive feedback for the essay, though, even though she evidently disagreed with it – decent integrity there)

  19. SMFS
    Agreed. Those guys from Innsbruck “university” should hang their heads in shame.
    The iceman was pretty tooled up (expecting a dispute over grazing rights?) but the copper axe is puzzling. Copper’s pretty useless against anything harder than a human head. So may be more for show than for everyday use.

  20. Anyone who has kids – particularly boys – knows that violence comes naturally and has to be drummed out of them from an early age.

  21. @BiF
    Probably because you’ve only seen copper refined to a high purity for ductility. Smelted straight from the ore, it’ll usually contain other metals & it doesn’t take much to produce a useful alloy. That said, even pure copper in a couple kilo lump, given an edge, would fell a tree.

  22. @SMFS
    The biggest cause of fighting is not about property. It is about sex. People will put up with grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth. But disproportionately distributing women is asking for violence.

    The Swedes and the Germans are experiencing this in a big way at the moment. They basically have four choices. Leave hundreds of thousands of marauding single males from the most violent misogynist societies on earth, hugely screwing the male/female ratio in that age cohort. Allow them to bring in wives. Make other countries take them. OR send them back. No other countries want them, and they don’t want to go there anyhow. Can we really see the Germans deporting masses of people, they’d need to grow a big pair to do that. And still more are coming, tow thousand a day even in Winter.

    Actually there is a fifth alternative, give Turkey huge bungs to keep them, but I still think there’d be seepage across the border in that case.

    That barren bitch Merkel has a lot to answer for.

  23. The one I remember is that the Amerindians (or whatever the proper name is) were supposed to live in an exquisite balance with nature, until it was realised that to hunt they’d sometimes drive an entire herd of buffalo off the edge of a cliff into a ravine, then just eat a couple and leave the rest to rot.

    Bet it was superb fun.

  24. bis
    Well I’ve seen the actual axe. Didn’t seem very business-like to me.
    Incidentally, the museum at Bolzano is great. “Best museum EVER”, according to my boy, with all the authority of his seven years.

  25. @Ian Reid,

    > “The biggest cause of fighting is not about property. It is about sex. People will put up with grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth. But disproportionately distributing women is asking for violence.”

    Sounds like you’ve read this excellent summary of the connections between sex, violence, genetics, and ISIS:
    The Sexual Motivation of Religious Extremists

  26. FA

    I don’t think you’ll find many that disagree with the entrenched psychology of second or third generation “unemployables”, at least anecdotally. I think the ‘shouting down’ aspect comes from the fact that not every claimant is in that subgroup.

    Too often the rhetoric is that everyone who’s unemployed can get on their bike and find some work. It’s plainly untrue, and whereas there are genuine swathes of jobless that are ‘layabouts’ and ‘scroungers’, it’s not fair to label all welfare claimants like that.

    The only way the cycle of inherited behaviour can be broken is by intervention. There needs to be a drive to educate the younger parents and the children.

    Incidentally that sub-group are much more likely to vote for right wing politics; anti-immigration, anti-government, anti-authority and anti-social.

    Mr Ecks, basically.

    It would be interesting if he had an overly large mandible.

  27. Bloke in North Dorset

    Arnald,

    “Too often the rhetoric is that everyone who’s unemployed can get on their bike and find some work. It’s plainly untrue, and whereas there are genuine swathes of jobless that are ‘layabouts’ and ‘scroungers’, it’s not fair to label all welfare claimants like that.

    The only way the cycle of inherited behaviour can be broken is by intervention. There needs to be a drive to educate the younger parents and the children.

    Incidentally that sub-group are much more likely to vote for right wing politics; anti-immigration, anti-government, anti-authority and anti-social.”

    Right wing politics maybe, but not right wing, in the classic free market sense, economics.

  28. Arnald: “Yes TN, I’m aware of my thumb,”

    Pulled it out of your arse have you.

    “I’ve never thought of early human civilisation as ‘peaceful’.”

    You’ve never thought. Full stop.

    “Why would it be? There’s always been asset ownership.”

    It was once said that the useless scum of the left would not only return the human race to the stone-age but even then wouldn’t want us to be allowed to personally own a spear to hunt with.

    And above you have literal confirmation.

    Right out of the horses rectum.

    “whereas there are genuine swathes of jobless that are ‘layabouts’ and ‘scroungers’, it’s not fair to label all welfare claimants like that.”

    The great fucking leftist hero slags large numbers of the proles as work-shy.

    Just another middle-class prick. What’s up Larry? Hot flushes? The change of life on you? Coming to terms with your hatred of Mummy/Daddy at last?

    It’ll be whitewall tyres on the bike next.

    “The only way the cycle of inherited behaviour can be broken is by intervention. There needs to be a drive to educate the younger parents and the children.”

    Educate them to what? Realise that the great leftist is planning to cut their handouts off?

    How’s that gonna go down at ZaNu HQ?

    “Incidentally that sub-group are much more likely to vote for right wing politics; anti-immigration, anti-government, anti-authority and anti-social.”

    Oh now I see–its the new “undeserving poor” –those who don’t want to kiss the arse of middle-class Marxism. Those who don’t support Arnie’s pet causes. Destruction of the British by imported 18-30 women-hating thugs and the promotion of authoritarian socialist tyranny. All popular viewpoints of discussion as gyros are cashed across the UK

    “Mr Ecks, basically.”

    Glad to be associated with any group that gets up your patrician nostrils pal.

    This has to be a new depth of stupidity and wickedness even for offal like you Arnald. Socialist scum produce a class of benefits-dependant dummies and then look down your nose and sneer at them because they don’t swallow your middle-class Marxist coprolites.

    If only all the mugs out there who vote Labour because their Dad did could feel viscerally for one second the hatred and contempt middleclass leftist shite like you have for them. That would be enough to finish ZaNu instantly–even with their Islamic postal vote fraud scams.

  29. “a sociology professor whom the publishers had asked to peer-review the book refused to do so on the grounds that any book linking benefit dependency to personality must be nonsense because personality is a ‘capitalist construct’.”

    Well, what a surprise.

  30. “I don’t think you’ll find many that disagree with the entrenched psychology of second or third generation “unemployables”, at least anecdotally. I think the ‘shouting down’ aspect comes from the fact that not every claimant is in that subgroup.”

    He didn’t say every claimant is like that. He claimed a link between benefit-dependency and certain personality types.

  31. The first and most primal posession is Mating Rights.
    This is a bit of a theme in biology, as it’s the prime reason why there’s intraspecies fights, before even resources: Who Gets To Mate.
    The bluff, bluster, and showing off is Advanced Technology “designed” to do less damage to the males, and more or less stay in a state where you can still mate, but violence, quite often lethal, is always the end result if the showing off fails.

    Incidentally… Using your fists to fight is stupid. Marquis de Fantaillier stupid. Our real instincts are to grab hold of something, and either throw it, or hit the bloody bajeezus out of something with it, just like our chimp cousins.
    Who aren’t that nice and peaceful as well, and have the body strength to rip us limb from limb if they feel like it too…

    Any notion that somewhere in our history Peace Broke Out is simply…insane.

  32. Arnald: I had a job for 38 years.

    I took early retirement. The occupational pension/no state benefits –at all– kind.

    So as a prognosticator you are as useless as at everything else.

  33. drive an entire herd of buffalo off the edge of a cliff

    From which we get the most wonderfully named canadian place “Broken Head Buffalo Jump” – story goes someone wanted to watch from below, but the hunt was better than expected ….

  34. Incidentally that sub-group are much more likely to vote for right wing politics;

    Are they? I thought people on benefits more likely to vote labour party ( and to be anti immigration ). Anybody got an facts on this?

  35. “Incidentally that sub-group are much more likely to vote for right wing politics;”

    I think a citation is needed here.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    Flatcap Army – “Until some pesky fact-obsessed researcher found out that they were a) extremely violent and b) cannibals”

    In fairness, I don’t think they were cannibals. It is more likely that they fell the stronger peoples (who may or may not be the ancestors of the Navajo). Who burnt their homes, took their women and then ate them.

    You know, Europe’s future.

  37. @ everybody talking about fists
    The Marquess of Queensberry introduced gloves to protect the hands.
    Modern boxers use “Amended Queensberry” rules.
    One of my friends claims to have broken his fist on my jaw fifty years ago

  38. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Fists are terrible for hitting people with. Elbows are much better. Better yet is a mahogany table leg. Better than that is a ranged weapon. Better than that is a ranged weapon, from cover.

  39. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke in Costa Rica – “Fists are terrible for hitting people with. Elbows are much better. Better yet is a mahogany table leg. Better than that is a ranged weapon. Better than that is a ranged weapon, from cover.”

    If you just add nuking them from orbit we would have pretty much covered the first few minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Civilisation: such a great and noble thing

  40. “I think a citation is needed here.”

    Sun readers? UKIP swing? Anecdata. There’s a very real dislike for the way the main parties have dealt with immigration, and all that.

  41. BiCR,

    > “Fists are terrible for hitting people with. Elbows are much better.”

    The pointier the better, I presume?

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