Este Blogue tem como objectivo a discussão da violência em geral e da guerra na Pré-História em particular. A Arqueologia da Península Ibérica tem aqui especial relevo. Esperamos cruzar dados de diferentes campos do conhecimento com destaque para a Antropologia Social. As críticas construtivas são bem vindas neste espaço, que se espera, de conhecimento.

Guerra Primitiva\Pré-Histórica
Violência interpessoal colectiva entre duas ou mais comunidades políticas distintas, com o uso de armas tendo como objectivo causar fatalidades, por um motivo colectivo sem hipótese de compensação.

Monday, 29 March 2010



Biskupin is an archeological site in Poland, it was reconstructed and serves as a life-size model of Iron Age fortified settlement probably established 700 BC.

Did Warfare Among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherers Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors? - Samuel Bowles 1,2

Science 5 June 2009:
Vol. 324. no. 5932, pp. 1293 - 1298

Since Darwin, intergroup hostilities have figured prominently in explanations of the evolution of human social behavior. Yet whether ancestral humans were largely "peaceful" or "warlike" remains controversial. I ask a more precise question: If more cooperative groups were more likely to prevail in conflicts with other groups, was the level of intergroup violence sufficient to influence the evolution of human social behavior? Using a model of the evolutionary impact of between-group competition and a new data set that combines archaeological evidence on causes of death during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene with ethnographic and historical reports on hunter-gatherer populations, I find that the estimated level of mortality in intergroup conflicts would have had substantial effects, allowing the proliferation of group-beneficial behaviors that were quite costly to the individual altruist.

1 Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.
2 University of Siena, Siena 53100, Italy. E-mail:

Postgraduate Degree in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology

Natasha Ferguson - Mar 26

MLitt/PgDip Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology

We are delighted to announce that the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology’s groundbreaking postgraduate course MLitt/PgDip in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology will be entering its fifth year this autumn, 2010. We are also pleased to offer a new optional module, ‘Introduction to Forensic Archaeology’, which will be available in semester 2.

The MLitt/PgDip in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology is a unique course which reflects the key role played by the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow in the worldwide development of battlefield and conflict archaeology. Over recent years battlefields, both ancient and modern, have come to be accepted as important elements of the world’s cultural heritage and this course provides an ideal grounding for those interested in the archaeological potential of these fields of conflict. The course also places an emphasis on the social role and impact of warfare and additionally explores issues of conflict not directly related to warfare. The course draws on a wide range of international experts in order to familiarise the student with the latest developments in this exciting and rapidly evolving area of study.

Scotland is generously populated with historic battlefields, ranging from the Roman era to Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil, and other sites of conflict, such as castles and coastal defences. Excursions to a number of these sites play an important role in the course and among those on the itinerary are: Bannockburn and Culloden battlefields, Edinburgh and Stirling castles and Hadrian’s Wall.

Students benefit from privileged access to the extensive collection of arms and armour held by Glasgow Museums. The Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, in conjunction with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, also holds a small armoury of 18th century muskets and cannon, which students have the opportunity to handle and operate during the ballistic tests run as part of the course. Where opportunity permits students will also be encouraged to play an active part on the various archaeological projects undertaken by the Centre.

The course programme is structured around a number of core and optional modules which are available in the first and second semesters respectively. The core modules provide a secure grounding in the study of battlefields and conflict, whereas the optional modules allow the student to explore particular areas of study in more detail.

Core Modules

• The Art of War: provides a worldwide introduction to the study of battle and warfare in its various forms, ranging from prehistoric conflict up to the twentieth century. .
• Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology – Theory and Practice: explores the various implications of battlefields and other sites of conflict as culturally important sites and examines the nature of the archaeological record.

Optional Modules

A wide range of optional modules are available in the second semester which draws on the particular interests and expertise of members of staff, including the new module in forensic archaeology.

• Early Modern Warfare - 16th century to the First World War. provides students with an introduction to the military history and archaeology of the early modern and modern period. It will focus on the archaeological impact of these conflicts, with relevance not only to military experience but also the social context of conflict using a series of archaeologically based case studies.
• British Battlefields. provides an overview of the military archaeology and history of Britain, including battlefields, castles, forts and more modern military installations such as cold war airfields. As well as exploring the various aspects of Britain’s battlefield heritage to gain an understanding of their importance as an archaeologically sensitive cultural resource.

• Roman Warfare. focuses on what understanding may be drawn from the Roman army’s representation in archaeological monuments and material culture throughout the Roman Empire, as well as assessing the problems and potential of Roman battlefield archaeology in the understanding of conflict in this era.
• Introduction to Forensic Archaeology. provides students with an introduction to the basic concepts, specialist techniques and methodologies used within the discipline of forensic archaeology. Case studies from across the world, including the investigation of crime scenes such as clandestine graves, international war crimes, mass grave excavations and mass fatality incidents, will form an integral part of the course.

Students may also choose any one of the specialist modules offered by the MLitt in Professional Archaeology, which include:
• Archaeological Geophysics
• Aerial Photography
• Archaeological Data Management
• Using CAD for Archaeological Projects
• Advanced Survey Techniques
• Human Remains

More detailed information on the course and individual modules, as well as information on how to apply for the course is available on the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology website and the Department of Archaeology website. The Centre also has its own Facebook page to keep up to date with recent news, projects and activities. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Centre’s Administrator:

Centre for Battlefield Archaeology:

Department of Archaeology Course Prospectus:

Journal of Conflict Archaeology

University of Glasgow - Centre for Battlefield Archaeology

Founded and edited by Tony Pollard and Iain Banks, the Journal of Conflict Archaeology first made an appearance in the autumn of 2005 and is an English-language journal devoted to battlefield and military archaeology and other spheres of conflict archaeology, covering all periods with a worldwide scope. Additional fields of interest will include the archaeology of industrial and popular protest, contested landscapes and monuments, nationalism and colonialism, class conflict, the origins of conflict, forensic applications in war-zones and human rights cases etc. Themed issues will carry papers on current research, subject and period overviews, fieldwork and excavation reports - interim and final reports, artefact studies, scientific applications, technique evaluations, conference summaries and book reviews. To date three journals have been published based on themes ranging from prehistoric warfare (Volume 2) and to the archaeology of the First World War (Volume 3).

Volume One and Hardback edition Past Tense (2005)

Lon E. Bulgrin The Tudela Site: Fire and Steel over Saipan, 15 June 1944.

John and Patricia Carman Ancient Bloody Meadows: Classical Battlefields in Greece.

Peter Doyle, Peter Barton and Johan Vandewalle Archaeology of the Great War Dugout: Beecham Farm, Passchendaele, Belgium.

Iain Ferris Suffering in Silence: The Political Aesthetics of Pain in Antonine Art.

Peter Harrington Siege Fields: An Archaeological Assessment of English Civil War 'Small' sieges.

Václav Matoušek Building a Model of Field Fortification of the 'Thirty Years War' near Olbramov, Czech Republic.

Tony Pollard and Iain Banks Survey and Excavation of an Anglo-Zulu War Fort at Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Jon Price Orphan Heritage: Issues in Managing the Heritage of the Great War in Northern France and Belgium.

Dean Saitta, Wark Walker and Paul Reckner Battlefields of Class Conflict: Ludlow Then and Now.

Kylie Seretis An Island Divided: Politicised Landscapes, Modern Borders and Shifting Identities.

Birger Stichelbaut The Application of Great War Aerial Photography for Battlefield Archaeology: The Example of Flanders.

Timothy Sutherland The Battle of Agincourt: An Alternative Location?

Natalie Swanepoel Socio-political change on a slave-raiding frontier war, trade and 'Big Men' in nineteenth century Sisalaland, Northern Ghana

Volume 2 and Hardback edition War and Sacrfice (2007)

Ian Armit, Chris Knüsel, John Robb and Rick Schulting Warfare and Violence in Prehistoric Europe: An Introduction

Detlef Gronenborn Climate Change and Socio-Political Crises: Some Cases from Neolithic Central Europe

Mariya Ivanova Tells, Invasion Theories and Warfare in Fifth Millennium B.C. North-Eastern Bulgaria

Paul Logue and James O'Neill Excavations at Bishop's Street Without: 17th Century Conflict Archaeology in Derry City

J.P. Mallory Indo-European Warfare

Mags McCartney Finding Fear in the Iron Age of Southern France

Roger J. Mercer By Other Means? The Development of Warfare in the British Isles 3000 - 500 B.C.

Joerg Orschiedt and Miriam Noel Haidle The LBK Enclosure at Herxheim: Theatre of War or Ritual Centre? References from Osteoarchaeological Investigations

Damian Shiels The Potential for Conflict Archaeology in the Republic of Ireland

Joonäs Sippila and Antti Lahelma War as a Paradigmatic Phenomenon: Endemic Violence and the Finnish Sub-neolithic

Volume 3 and Hardback editon Scorched Earth (2007)

Iain Banks Ghosts in the Desert: The Archaeological Investigation of a Sub-Saharan Battlefield

James Bonsall The Study of Small Finds at the 1644 Battle of Cheriton

Conor Brady, Emmet Byrnes, Gabriel Cooney & Aidan O'Sullivan An Archaeological Study of the Battle of the Boyne at Oldbridge, Co. Meath

Natasha N. Ferguson Platforms of Reconciliation? Issues in the Management of Battlefield Heritage in the Republic of Ireland

Tom Fisher Objects for Peaceful Disordering: Indigenous Designs and Practices of Protest

Derek Allsop and Glenn Foard Case Shot: An Interim Report on Experimental Firing and Analysis to Interpret Early Modern Battlefield Assemblages

Alistair H. Fraser & Martin Brown Mud, Blood and Missing Men: Excavations at Serre, Somme, France

William O. Frazer Field of Fire: Evidence for Wartime Conflict in a 17th Century Cottier Settlement in County Meath, Ireland

Padraig Lenihan Unhappy Campers: Dundalk (1689) and After

Damian Sheils Battle and Siege Maps of Elizabethan Ireland: Blueprint for Archaeologists

David Sneddon Newfoundlanders in a Highland Forest During WWII

Tina L. Thurston Rituals of Rebellion: Cultural Narratives and Metadiscourse of Violent Conflict in Iron Age and Medieval Denmark

Jonathan Trigg Memory and Memorial: A Study of Official and Military Commemoration of the Dead, and Family and Community Memory in Essex and East London

Volume Four and Hardback edition Bastions and Barbwire

N A Roberts, J W Brown, B Hammett & P D F Kingston A Detailed Study of the Effectiveness and Capabilities of 18th Century Musketry on the Battlefield

Xavier Rubio Campillo An Archaeological Study of Talamanca Battlefield

Gavin Hughes and Jonty Trigg Remembering the Charge of the Light Brigade: A Re-appraisal of Historical and Monumental Sources with Specific Reference to Commemoration, War Memorials and Memory

Nicolas K Grguric Fortified Homesteads: The Architecture of Fear in Frontier South Australia and the Northern Territory, CA. 1847-1885

David G Passmore & Stephan Harrison Landscapes of the Battle of the Bulge: WW2 Field Fortifications in the Ardennes Forests of Belgium

Tony Pollard and Iain Banks Archeological Investigation of Military Sites on Inchkeith Island

James E. Snead War and Place: Landscapes of Conflict and Destruction in Prehistory

Tony Pollard The Archaeology of the Siege of Leith, 1560

Tony Pollard with a contribution by Olivia Lelong The Archaeology of the Siege of Fort William, 1746

Adrian T. Myers Between Memory and Materiality: An Archaeological Approach to Studying the Nazi Concentration Camps

Volume Five: Available soon in Spring 2010

Tim Sutherland Killing Time: Challenging the Common Perceptions of Three Medieval Conflicts - Ferrybridge, Dintingdale and Towton

Arne Homann and Jochim Weise The Archaeological Investigation of Two Battles and an Engagment in North Geremany from the 19th Century: A summary of work carried out at Idstedt, Großbeeren and Lauenburg

Oula Seitsonen & Liisa Kunnas Ahvola 1918: Archaeological Reconnaissance of a Finnish Civil War Battlefield

Thomas J. Nolan Geographic Information Science as a Method of Intergrating History and Archaeology for Battlefield Interpretation

Tim Sutherland An Archaeological Watching Brief and Metal Detector Survey at Gill House Farm, Long Marston, North Yorkshire

Stefano Vanin, Margherita Turchetto, Andrea Calassi & Cristina Cattaneo Forensic Entomology and the Archaeology of War

Jon Cooper What's Missing Here? Homing in on Haddington's Lost Defences

Volker Demuth Those who survived the battlefields: Archaeological Investigations in a Prisoner of War Camp near Quedlinburg (Harz/Germany) from the First World War

Carlos G. Landa, Emanuel G. Montanari, Facundo Gόmez Romero, Horacio De Rosa, Nicolás C. Ciarlo and Ignacio Clemente Conte Not All Were Spears and Facones*: Firearms from Otamendi Fortlet (1858-1869), Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

Tim Whitford & Tony Pollard For Duty Done: A WWI Military Medallion Recovered from the Mass Grave Site at Fromelles, Northern France

David Pearson & Graham Connah Battlefield Casulty: The Archaeology of a Captured Gun

Michelle Defreese Kosovo: Cultrual Heritage in Conflict

Book Reviews

Review Article: Jen Novotny Digging deeper: recent publications on First World War archaeology

John Schofield Aftermath: Readings in the Archaeology of Recent Conflict [Adrian Meyers]

Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate

Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to strip life of meaning and purpose.

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in the desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.

Pinker tries to inject calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about rich human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Projectile points as signs of violence in collective burials during the 4th and the 3r millennia cal. BC in the North-East of the Iberian peninsula

Belén Márquez 1, Juan Francisco Gibaja 2, Jesus Emilio González 3, Juan Jose Ibánez 4 and Antoni Palomo 5

1 Museo Arqueológico Regional, Alcalá de Hen ares, Madrid, Spain
2 bMuseu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
3 Universidadde Cantabria. Santander,,
4 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Institución Mila i Fontanals, Barcelona, Spain,
5 Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya- Centre d'Arqueologia Subaquática de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Summary. During the Late Neolithic and the Chalcolithic in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula two main changes in the burials take place with respect to the previous period: the appearance of collective burials and the high proportion ofprojectile points among the tools recovered inside the monuments. What is the meaning of these projectile points? Without ruling out the possibility that some of these points were intentionally deposited, stressing the symbolic relevance of these hunting/war tools, we think that many of them must have entered the burial place inside the bodies of the deceased people, indicating human violence. We analyse three collective burials showing many signs of violence: some points inserted in the human bones, other points broken by impact, some traumatic fractures in skulls, etc. We think that the violence observed in these burials can be characterised as systematic and organised, showing the social importance of war in this period.

Résumé. Pendant le Néolithique supérieur et le Calcolithique au NE de la Péninsule Ibérique les sépultures ont expérimentée deux changements principales en rapport avec la période précédente: l'apparittion des sépultures colléctives et la proportion elévée des pointes de projectiles parmi les outils récupérés à l'intérieur de ces monuments. Quel est la signification de ces pointes de projectiles? Sans exclure la possibilité de qu'une partie des pointes furent déposés intentionellement, en souslignant le simbolisme de ces outils de chasse ou de guerre, nous pensons que la plupart d'elles ont du être introduites dans les sépultures à l'interieur des corps des morts, en indicant violence humaine. Nous analysons trois sépultures collectives qui montrent quelques évidences de violence: des pointes insérées dans les os humaines, des autres cassées par impact, quelques fractures traumatiques aux crânes, etc. Nous pensons que les évidences de violence observées à ces sépultures peuvent être caractérisées comme systématiques et organisées, en montrant l'importance sociale de la guerre à cette période.

Key words: Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Iberian Peninsula, arrowheads, violence.


At the end of the 5th millennium cal. BC, in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula, people were buried in individual graves and offering deposits accompanied the bodies (i.e. sites of Los Cascajos, in Navarre or Bobila Madurell, in Catalonia). Among these offerings we can find several types of tools (sickle elements, blades for working hide, wood, butchery, etc., microliths used as projectile tips, endscrapers for softening hides, etc.). The correlation between the activities represented in the tools and the individuals in the graves showed the existence of a certain division of labour by age and gender. During the 4th millennium cal. BC, at the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic, two main changes in funerary practices took place: individuals were buried in collective graves (hypogea, artificial caves, megaliths) and arrowheads became the most common tools recovered in these contexts. What is the meaning of the prevalence of arrowheads among the tools deposited in the graves?

Fig. 1: Location map.

We have carried out analysis on the arrowheads recovered at three collective graves located in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula (Fig. 1): 1) the hypogeum of Longar, located in Navarre and dated to 2500 BC; 2) the approximately contemporary rockshelter of San Juan Ante Portam Latinam, located in Alava (Vegas 1999, p.3) The megalith of Can Martorell, in Catalonia, dated to 2500 cal. BC (Mestres i Torres 2003).

The remains of SJAPL have been dated to the end of the 4th IV millennium cal. BC. More than 300 individuals were buried (Fig. 4). All the ages and sex are represented, although males are over represented. The study of pathologies shows some wounds surely produced by arrows. Other are not so clear but probably have been caused by the same agent.

One-hundred-and thirty-one lithic object has been recovered. There are 61 arrow points, and some pieces of worked bone (ornaments and tools). There are only a few fragments of ceramics. From a typological point of view the sample of arrow points from San Juan can be grouped into leaf points and barbed-and-tanged points. The latter group has scarcely developed barbs. None of them are heavier than 5 gr. Longar (Armendariz e Irigaray 1995)

Fig. 2: The site after the removal of the roof (after Armendariz e Irigaray 1995).

Longar (after Armendariz e Irigaray 1995)

The hypogeum of Longar is located in Navarre (North Spain). This region offered in the past a perfect natural environment to develop the first productive economies in the northern Peninsula. The density of sites with collective burials is very high.

Longar was discovered in 1989 and excavated from 1991 to 1994. Today, the preserved remains can be visited.

The roof of the chamber collapsed on the inner deposits (Fig. 2). The structure was filled with human remains. The NMI is 112, and all the ages and sex are represented. Some of the corpses were in anatomic position and were deposited through time. There are no elements of personal adornment. Only a small vessel, some flakes, blades and arrowheads have been recovered.

All the arrows are of the leaf type with invasive retouch on one or both faces. 4 of them are directly related to skeletal parts (Fig. 3), and so, the authors consider that they came into the chamber inside the corpses of four adult males.

San Juan Ante Portam Latinam (Vegas 1999)

The archaeological site of San Juan Ante Portam Latinam (SJAPL) is located at Alava, North Spain. It was discovered in 1985 during the works of enlargement of a path, when a singular deposit of human remains was affected by the machines. The deposit, located into a little shelter, was sealed by the roof collapse. Once the slab was removed, the deposit was excavated in 1985 and then in 1990 and 1991.

Fig. 3: Vertebra with flint arrow-point attached (after Armendariz e Irigaray 1995).

Fig. 4: Detail of the deposit of San Juan Ante Portam Latinam (Photo. J.I. Vegas).

The hypothesis to the formation of SJAPL sample, points to a deposition in a short period of time. The objects recovered by the corpses did not correspond to ritual offerings but belongings or were included inside the bodies (e.g. some of the arrows) (Vegas 1999).

After the use-wear analysis of the arrows, we can say that apparently most of their fractures are due to their use (Marquez 2007). In fact, we can distinguish some of the type of fractures due to impact showed at the performed experimental programs with arrow points. For example, "burin" (Fig. 5), "flute-like" (Fig. 6) and bending fractures are frequent. "Right" fractures do not mean impact breakage but can be produced by trampling or other non-use processes. Impact striations are also found in 9 of the 37 studied pieces (Fig. 7). They are in fact bright lines generally oriented following the long axis of the arrow and so the direction of motion. Use polish is generally hidden by patination and then we can ensure only that few spots of polish are due to impact.

Fig. 5: Broken arrow by impact. It can be seen a burination in the right distal part of the arrow (left).

Among the sample there are two apical parts of an arrow and two medial fragments. Nevertheless proximal parts of the arrows are lacking. These parts normally remain attached to the shafts, which used to be recovered by the hunters. And so, it's easier to find the arrow tips and their medial parts which use to be attached to the game.

Fig. 8: General view of the entrance to the megalithic structure.

Can Martorell (Mercadal 2003)

This site is located in a mountainous region in Dosrius, Barcelona (North-East Spain). It was discovered in 1995 by a member of the Archaeology Section of Mataró Museum, when some slabs of stone could be observed emerging from the ground. A rescue excavation campaign determined that this was a multiple inhumation structure, with a megalithic entrance (Fig. 8). From a topographic point of view, this site is located in an excellent place, at 205m a.s.l., above two water sources.

The chamber is a semicircular space of about 7 m2 excavated into the granite substrate.

There are three archaeological levels. The lower one corresponds to the burial where all the arrow points were found. Four C14 dates have been obtained yielding 3rd millennium cal. BC dates for the human bones. The osteological study points to the presence of 161 individuals (Fig. 9). Adults are the group best represented followed by youngsters and children (Mercadal and Agusti 2003).

There is no proportion between the lithic material, 68 arrow points, and the scarce fragments of pottery.

The lithic elements found are barbed-and-tanged points made of flint (Palomo and Gibaja 2003). Two types of arrows can be recognised: arrows with well developed barbs and short stems, and arrows with scarcely developed barbs and long stems. A different use for the two types can be supposed. More of the 80% of the arrows show fractures. The same kind of fractures owe to impact are recognised. Only 19 are complete or with little microscopic fractures which cannot be produced by the use. On the other hand, in most of the pieces (33%) we have recorded striae due to impact (Fig. 10) or contact with a hard material. Also, intense roundings have been found at the external edges of the barbs which can be produced by the contact with the leather of the quiver (45% of the pieces) (Fig. 11).

The first conclusion after the study of the pieces of Can Martorell is that most of them were used as projectiles. The fractures recorded at the point, barbs and stems, can only be caused by impact towards a hard object. Most of the pieces could come to the site included in the corpses. As it occurs in SJAPL, neither barbs nor stems have been found at the burial, perhaps because they were recovered together with the shafts. Contrary to what happen in Longar and SJAPL, we have no direct proof of death by an arrow point. Neverthless, the paleopathological study suggest that some traumatic lesions could have been caused by violent attack.

Fig. 9: Detail of the deposit of Can Martorell.

Finally, in relation to those unbroken points, we can say that they can be part of the offerings, although our experiments show that not all the arrows which have been thrown, broke.


The quantity of individuals buried varies from around one hundred at Longar (Armendáriz and Irigaray 1995), to near two hundred at Can Martorell and three hundred at San Juan (Vegas 1999). All segments of the population (gender and age) are represented in the graves. Some of the bodies are in anatomic position, while other human remains have been removed and concentrated at the sides of the grave, in groups of skulls, or long bones. All this indicates that the graves were used to bury all the individuals of prehistoric communities during a certain period of time, when the grave was in use.

Fig. 10: Striation due to impact.

Fig. 11: Rounded edge.

The human remains showed abundant signs of violence. Several individuals bear arrowheads inserted in the bones, 9 cases at San Juan and 4 cases at Longar. Some of the individuals survived the wounds while others seem to have died because of the injury. Fractures in the skull, some of them incising, and in the forearms are also common. All these signs of violence affect young males. Use-wear analysis of the arrowheads shows that most of them had been shot (Marquez 2007; Palomo and Gibaja 2003), so these tools were not elaborated specifically for ritual offerings. A certain proportion of arrowheads were inserted in the bones. Some others were broken by impact and were not functional any more. As the custom of offering tools that were potentially functional in the graves is well established we think that these arrowheads entered the grave inside some of the bodies. In conclusion, many of the arrowheads were not part of the offerings, although we cannot rule out this possibility for some of them.

We think that the violence observed in these burials can be characterised as systematic (recurrent in time and space) and organised (affecting young males), so the existence of war can be suggested. There seems to be an increase of systematic violence in these area and at this time, when compared to previous periods. The arrowheads inserted in the bodies are a direct sign of this violence, while the arrowheads deposited as offerings speak about the symbolic relevance of violence. Social and economic factors could explain the importance of war in this period, as the need of new territories in a moment when population seem to be stressing their attachment to land (megalithic phenomenon) or the need of prestige in a context of social ranking that was beginning to develop.


J.I., Vegas Aramburu, director of San Juan Ante Portam Latinam excavations and J. Armendáriz and S. Iriagaray, directors of the excavation of Longar, allowed us to perform this study.


ARMENDÁRIZ, A. AND IRIGARAY, S., 1995. Violência y muerte en la Prehistoria. El hipogeo de Longar. Revista de Arqueologia, 168, 16-29. MÁRQUEZ, B., 2007, Estúdio de huellas de uso realizado sobre materiales de San Juan Ante Portam Latinam (Laguardia, Álava). In: J. 1. VEGAS ARAMBURU, dir., San Juan Ante Portam Latinam. Una inhumación colectiva prehistórica en el valle medio del Ebro. Memoria de las excavaciones arqueológicas, 1985, 1990 y 1991. Memorias de Yacimientos Alaveses. Fundación José Miguel de Barandiaran Fundazioa and Diputación foral de Álava. 12,143-148.

MERCADAL, O., ed. 2003. La Costa de can Martorell (Dosrius, El Marésme). Mort i violência en una comunitat dei litoral català durant el tercer milleni a.C. Laietania. Estudis d'arqueologia i d'historia, 14.

MERCADAL, O. AND AGUSTI, B„ 2003. Estudi paleontropològic. In: O. MERCADAL, ed. La Costa de can Martorell (Dosrius, El Marésme). Mort i violência en una comunitat dei litoral català durant el tercer milleni a.C. Laietania. Estudis d'arqueologia i d'historia, 14, 75-115.

MESTRES i TORRES, J-S., 2003. La datació per radiocarboni de l'hipogeu de Can Martorel. In: O., MERCADAL, ed. La Costa de can Martorell (Dosrius, El Marésme). Mort i violência en una comunitat dei litoral català durant el tercer milleni a.C. Laietania. Estudis d'arqueologia i d'historia, 14, 221-228.

PALOMO, A. AND GIBAJA, J. F., 2003. Estudi tecno-tipològic, traceològic i experimental de les puntes de fletxa. in: O. MERCADAL, ed. La Costa de can Martorell (Dosrius, El Maresme). Mort i violência en una comunitat dei litoral català durant el tercer milleni a.C. Laietania. Estudis d'arqueologia i d'histôria, 14, 179-214.

VEGAS, J.I., 1999. San Juan ante Portam Latinam. Catálogo de exposición. Museo de Arqueologia de Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For other uses, see Feud (disambiguation).
"Avenger of blood" redirects here. For the biblical and Jewish concepts, see Goel.
Look up feud in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

A feud (pronounced /ˈfjuːd/) (referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud or vendetta or faida) is a long-running argument or fight between parties—often, through association fallacy, groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party (correctly or incorrectly) perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another. Intense feelings of resentment trigger the initial revenge, which causes the other party to feel equally aggrieved and vengeful. The dispute is subsequently fuelled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence. This continual cycle of provocation and retaliation makes it extremely difficult to end the feud peacefully. Feuds frequently involve the original parties' family members and/or associates, can last for generations and may result in extreme acts of violence.

Until the early modern period, feuds were considered legitimate legal instruments and were regulated to some degree. Once modern centralizing states asserted and enforced a monopoly on legitimate use of force, feuds became illegal and the concept acquired its current negative connotation.

1 Blood feuds/vendetta
1.1 Vendetta History
1.2 Vendetta in modern times
1.2.1 Philippines Causes Statistics Resolution
2 Famous blood feuds
2.1 Fictional blood feuds
2.2 Wrestling feuds
2.3 Football rivalries
3 See also
4 Notes
5 Further reading
6 External links

Blood feuds/vendetta
A blood feud is a feud with a cycle of retaliatory violence, with the relatives of someone who has been killed or otherwise wronged or dishonored seeking vengeance by killing or otherwise physically punishing the culprits or their relatives. Historically, the word vendetta has been used to mean a blood feud. The word is Italian, and originates from the Latin vindicta (vengeance). In modern times, the word is sometimes extended to mean any other long-standing feud, not necessarily involving bloodshed.

Vendetta History
Originally, a vendetta was a blood feud between two families where kinsmen of the victim intended to avenge his or her death by killing either those responsible for the killing or some of their relatives. The responsibility to maintain the vendetta usually falls on the closest male relative to whoever has been killed or wronged, but other members of the family may take the mantle as well. If the culprit had disappeared or was already dead, the vengeance could extend to other relatives.

Vendetta is typical of societies with a weak rule of law (or where the state doesn't consider itself responsible for mediating this kind of dispute) where family and kinship ties are the main source of authority. An entire family is considered responsible for whatever one of them has done. Sometimes even two separate branches of the same family could come to blows over some matter.

The practice has mostly disappeared with more centralized, rationalistic societies where law enforcement and criminal law take responsibility of punishing lawbreakers.

In ancient Homeric Greece, the practice of personal vengeance against wrongdoers was considered natural and customary: "Embedded in the Greek morality of retaliation is the right of vendetta . . . Vendetta is a war, just as war is an indefinite series of vendettas; and such acts of vengeance are sanctioned by the gods".[1]

In the ancient tribal Hebraic context, it was considered the duty of the individual and family to avenge evil on behalf of God. The executor of the law of blood-revenge who personally put the initial aggressive killer to death was given a special designation: go'el haddam, the blood-avenger or blood-redeemer (Num. 35: 19, etc.). Six cities of refuge were established to provide a "cooling off" phase as well as due process for the accused. As the Oxford Companion to the Bible states: "Since life was viewed as sacred (Gen. 9.6), no amount of blood money could be given as recompense for the loss of the life of an innocent person; it had to be 'life for life'" (Exod. 21.23; Deut. 19.21)".[2]

The Middle Ages, from beginning to end, and particularly the feudal era, lived under the sign of private vengeance. The onus, of course, lay above all on the wronged individual; vengeance was imposed on him as the most sacred of duties ... The solitary individual, however, could do but little. Moreover, it was most commonly a death that had to be avenged. In this case the family group went into action and the faide (feud) came into being, to use the old Germanic word which spread little by little through the whole of Europe--'the vengeance of the kinsmen which we call faida', as a German canonist expressed it. No moral obligation seemed more sacred than this ... The whole kindred, therefore, placed as a rule under the command of a chieftain, took up arms to punish the murder of one of its members or merely a wrong that he had suffered.
—Marc Bloch, trans. L. A. Manyon, Feudal Society, Vol. I, 1965, p. 125-126

The Celtic phenomenon of the blood feud demanded "an eye for an eye," and usually descended into murder. Disagreements between clans might last for generations in Scotland and Ireland. Due to the Celtic heritage of many whites living in Appalachia, a series of prolonged violent engagements in late- nineteenth-century Kentucky and West Virginia were referred to commonly as feuds, a tendency that was partly due to the nineteenth-century popularity of William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, both of whom wrote semihistorical accounts of blood feuds. These incidents, the most famous of which was the Hatfield-McCoy feud, were regularly featured in the newspapers of the eastern U.S. between the Reconstruction era and the early twentieth century, are are seen by some as linked to a Southern culture of honor with its roots in the Scot-Irish forebears of the residents of the area.[3]

Chariot racing in the Byzantine Empire also included the racing clubs. The Blues and the Greens were more than simply sports teams. They gained influence in military, political,[4] and theological matters. The Blue-Green rivalry often erupted into gang warfare, and street violence had been on the rise in the reign of Justin I. Riots culminated in the Nika riots of 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, with nearly half the city being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.[5]

In Japan's feudal past the Samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, or their lord by katakiuchi (敵討ち), or revenge killings. These killings could also involve the relatives of an offender. While some vendettas were punished by the government, such as that of the 47 Ronin, others were given official permission with specific targets.

At the Holy Roman Empire's Reichstag at Worms in 1495 the right of waging feuds was abolished. The Imperial Reform proclaimed an "eternal public peace" (Ewiger Landfriede) to put an end to the abounding feuds and the anarchy of the robber barons and it defined a new standing imperial army to enforce that peace. However, it took a few more decades until the new regulation was universally accepted.[6] In 1506, for example, knight Jan Kopidlansky killed somebody in Prague and the Town Councillors sentenced him to death and had him executed. Brother Jiri Kopidlansky revenged himself by continuing atrocities.[7]

More than a third of the Ya̧nomamö males, on average, died from warfare. The accounts of missionaries to the area have recounted constant infighting in the tribes for women or prestige, and evidence of continuous warfare for the enslavement of neighboring tribes such as the Macu before the arrival of European settlers and government.[8]

The Clan Gordon was at one point one of the most powerful clans in middle Scotland. Clan feuds and battles were frequent, especially with the Clan Cameron, Clan Murray, Clan Forbes, and the Chattan Confederation.

In Corsica, vendetta was a social code that required Corsicans to kill anyone who wronged the family honor. It has been estimated that between 1683 and 1715, nearly 30,000 out of 120,000 Corsicans lost their lives to vendetta.[9]

Throughout history, the Maniots—one of Greece's toughest populations—have been known by their neighbors and their enemies as fearless warriors who practice blood feuds. Some vendettas went on for months and sometimes years. The families involved would lock themselves in their towers and when they got the chance would murder members of the opposing family.[10]

The Basque Country in the Late Middle Ages was ravaged by bitter partisan wars between local ruling families. In Navarre, these conflicts became polarised in a violent struggle between the Agramont and Beaumont parties. In Biscay, the two major warring factions were named Oinaz and Gamboa. (Cf. the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy). High defensive structures ("towers") built by local noble families, few of which survive today, were frequently razed by fires, sometimes by royal decree.

Leontiy Lyulye, an expert on conditions in the Caucasus, wrote in the mid-19th century: "Among the mountain people the blood feud is not an uncontrollable permanent feeling such as the vendetta is among the Corsicans. It is more like an obligation imposed by the public opinion." In the Dagestani aul Kadar, one such blood feud between two antagonistic clans lasted for nearly 260 years, from the 17th century till the 1860s.[11]

An alternative to feud was blood money (or weregild in the Norse culture), which demanded payment of some kind from those responsible for a wrongful death (even an accidental one). If these payments were not made or were refused by the offended party, a blood feud would ensue.

Vendetta in modern times
Vendetta is reputedly still practiced in some areas in France (especially Corsica), Italy (especially Sicily, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria, Apulia) and Croatia (especially Dalmatia) and other areas of Southern Italy),[12] in Mani and Crete (Greece), among Kurdish clans in Iraq and Turkey,[13][14][15] in northern Albania, among Pashtuns in Afghanistan [16], among Somali clans,[17] among the Berbers of Algeria,[18] over land in Nigeria,[19] in India (a caste-related feuds among rival Hindu groups)[20][21], between rival tribes in the north-east Indian state of Assam,[22] among rival clans in China[23] and Philippines,[24] among the Arab Bedouins and Arab tribes inhabiting the mountains of Yemen and between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq,[25] in southern Ethiopia,[26][27] among the highland tribes of New Guinea,[28] in Svaneti, in the mountainous areas of Dagestan, many northern areas of Georgia and Azerbaijan, a number of republics of the northern Caucasus and essentially among Chechen teips where those seeking retribution do not accept or respect the local law enforcement authority. Vendettas are generally abetted by a perceived or actual indifference on the part of local law enforcement.

In Albania, the blood feud has returned in rural areas after more than 40 years of being abolished by Albanian communists led by Enver Hoxha. More than 5,500 Albanian families are currently engaged in blood feuds. There are now more than 20,000 men and boys who live under an ever-present death sentence because of blood feuds. Since 1992, at least 10,000 Albanians have been killed due to blood feuds.[30]

Mutual vendetta may develop into a vicious circle of further killings, retaliation, counterattacks, and all-out warfare that can end in the mutual extinction of both families. Often the original cause is forgotten, and feuds continue simply because it is perceived that there has always been a feud.

There is a scene in The Godfather, in which Michael Corleone, hiding from U.S. police in Sicily, walks through a village with his two bodyguards. Michael asks, "Where are all the men?" The bodyguard replies, "They're all dead from vendettas."

Some of the gang wars between organized crime groups are effectively forms of vendetta, where the criminal organization (like the Mafia "family") has taken the place of blood relatives.[31]

Family and clan feuds, known locally as rido, are characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups, as well as between communities. It can occur in areas where the government or a central authority is weak as well as in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security. Rido is a Maranao term commonly used in Mindanao to refer to clan feuds. It is considered one of the major problems in Mindanao because apart from numerous casualties, rido has caused destruction of property, crippled the local economy, and displaced families.

Located in the southern Philippines, Mindanao is home to a majority of the country’s Muslim community and includes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Mindanao is a region suffering from poor infrastructure, high poverty rates, and violence that has claimed the lives of more than 120,000 people in the last three decades. There is a widely held stereotype that the violence is perpetrated by armed groups that resort to terrorism to further their political goals, but the actual situation is far more complex. While the Muslim-Christian conflict and the state-rebel conflicts dominate popular perceptions and media attention, a survey commissioned by The Asia Foundation in 2002 and further verified by a recent Social Weather Stations survey revealed that citizens are more concerned about the prevalence of rido and its negative impact on their communities than the conflict between the state and rebel groups. The unfortunate interaction and subsequent confusion of rido-based violence with secessionism, communist insurgency, banditry, military involvement and other forms of armed violence shows that violence in Mindanao is more complicated than what is commonly believed.

Rido has wider implications for conflict in Mindanao primarily because it tends to interact in unfortunate ways with separatist conflict and other forms of armed violence. Many armed confrontations in the past involving insurgent groups and the military were triggered by a local rido. The studies cited below investigated the dynamics of rido with the intention of helping design strategic interventions to address such conflicts.

The causes of rido are varied and may be further complicated by a society’s concept of honor and shame, an integral aspect of the social rules that determine accepted practices in the affected communities. The trigger of conflicts range from petty offenses, such as theft and jesting, to more serious crimes, like homicide. These are further aggravated by land disputes and political rivalries, the most common causes of rido. Proliferation of firearms, lack of law enforcement and credible mediators in conflict-prone areas, and an inefficient justice system further contribute to instances of rido.

Studies on rido have documented a total of 1,266 rido cases between the 1930s and 2005, which have killed over 5,500 people and displaced thousands. The four provinces with the highest numbers of rido incidences are: Lanao del Sur (377), Maguindanao (218), Lanao del Norte (164), and Sulu (145). Incidences in these four provinces account for 71% of the total documented cases. The findings also show a steady rise in rido conflicts in the eleven provinces surveyed from the 1980s to 2004. According to the studies, during 2002-2004, 50% (637 cases) of total rido incidences occurred, equaling about 127 new rido cases per year. Out of the total number of rido cases documented, 64% remain unresolved.[32]

Rido conflicts are either resolved, unresolved, or reoccur. Although the majority of these cases remain unresolved, there have been many resolutions through different conflict-resolving bodies and mechanisms. These cases utilize the formal procedures of the Philippine government and/or the various indigenous systems. Formal methods may involve official courts, local government officials, police, and the military. Indigenous methods to resolve conflicts usually involve elder leaders who use local knowledge, beliefs, and practices, as well as their own personal influence, to help repair and restore damaged relationships. Some cases using this approach involve the payment of blood money to resolve the conflict. Hybrid mechanisms include the collaboration of government, religious, and traditional leaders in resolving conflicts through the formation of collaborative groups. Furthermore, the institutionalization of traditional conflict resolution processes into laws and ordinances has been successful with the hybrid method approach. Other conflict-resolution methods include the establishment of ceasefires and the intervention of youth organizations.[32]

Photo - A fortified tower used as refuge for men involved in a blood feud that are vulnerable to attack. Thethi, northern Albania.

Photo - A Kasbah in the Dades valley, High Atlas. Historically, tribal feuding and banditry were a way of life for the Berbers of Morocco. As a result, hundreds of ancient kasbahs were built.

Photo - The defensive towers built by feuding clans of Svaneti, mountains of Caucasus.

Photo - In rural Yemen, state authority is weak, and disputes between tribes are frequently solved through violence.[29]

Famous blood feuds
Njál's saga, an Icelandic account of a Norse blood feud
The Percy–Neville feud (1450s; England)
The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487; England)
The Campbell–MacDonald feud, including the Massacre of Glencoe (1692; Scotland)
The Battle of the North Inch, Michaelmas, 1396, Scotland; a set-piece inter-clan "battle to the death" between 30 members each of two long-feuding rival clans of the Clan Chattan Confederation, Clan Macpherson and Clan Davidson; staging the event received royal and legal approval citing the Scottish concept of trial by combat; the battle of fictionalised in the novel The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott, in which one combattant for the Macphersons, the blacksmith Henry Gow or Hal o' the Wynd, was immortalised.
The Donnelly–Biddulph community feud (1857-1880; Ontario, Canada)
The Lincoln County War (1878-1881; New Mexico, USA)
The Clanton/McLaury–Earp feud (see also Earp Vendetta Ride), also known as the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1881; Arizona, USA)
The Hatfield–McCoy feud (1878–1891; West Virginia & Kentucky, USA)
The Pleasant Valley War, also known as the "Tonto Basin Feud" (1882–1892; Arizona, USA)
The Capone–Moran feud, including the St. Valentine's Day massacre (1925–1930; Chicago, Illinois, USA)
The Castellammarese War (1929–1931; New York City, USA)
The Gunn–Keith feud (1464-1978; Scotland)
The Talbot–Berkeley feud
The Great Mafia War (1981–1983; Sicily, Italy)
The Feud of Scampia (2004–2005; Naples, Italy)
The Maguindanao Massacre (2009; Ampatuan, Philippines)

1^ Griffiths, John Gwyn (1991), Divine Verdict: A Study of Divine Judgement in the Ancient Religions, BRILL, p. 90, ISBN 900409231
2^ Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D. (1993), The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, p. 68, ISBN 0195046455
3^ Malcolm Gladwell, "Outliers" (2008), Chapter 6, citing, for example, David Hackett Fischer, "Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America")
4^ At the root of the political power eventually gained by the factions was the fact that from the mid-fifth century the making of an emperor required that he should be acclaimed by the people (Liebeschuetz, The Decline of the Roman City, 211).
5^ McComb, Sports in World History, 25
6^ Maximilian I
7^ The State of the Estates
8^ Keeley: War before civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage
9^ Corsican Soup and Pulp Fiction
10^ Vendetta
11^ Chechen society and mentality, Dr. Emil Souleimanov
12^ Police search Calabrian village as murders are linked to clan feud, The Independent
13^ Feud Between Kurdish Clans Creates Its Own War, New York Times
14^ In Turkey, a lone peacemaker ends many blood feuds,
15^ Kurdish Families - Kurdish Marriage Patterns
16^ "Independent Appeal: The Afghan peace mission"
17^ Somali feuding 'tit-for-tat', News24
18^ Anthony Wilkin, Among the Berbers of Algeria, (T. F. Unwin: 1900), p.253
19^ Nigeria deploys troops after 14 killed in land feud, Reuters
20^ India's caste row leaves six dead, BBC News
21^ Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables”, (Human Rights Watch Report, 1999)
22^ Thousands flee Assam tribal feud, BBC News
23^ Clan Feuds, an Old Problem, Are Still Threatening Chinese, New York Times
24^ Clan feuds fuel separatist violence in Philippines, study shows, International Herald Tribune
25^ 'In the Land of the Blood Feuds', The Washington Post
26^ Tribe - Nyangatom, BBC
27^ No guns at Ethiopian peace talks, BBC News
28^ Deadly twist to PNG's tribal feuds, BBC News
29^ Yemen Country Study
30^ Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania's blood feuds,, June 24, 2008
31^ Gang mayhem grips LA, The Observer
32^ a b Torres, Wilfredo M (ed). 2007. “Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao.” Makati: The Asia Foundation.

Further reading
Jonas Grutzpalk: Blood Feud and Modernity. Max Weber's and Émile Durkheim's Theory. In: Journal of Classical Sociology 2 (2002); p. 115–134.[1]
Kreuzer, Peter. 2005. “Political Clans and Violence in the Southern Mindanao.” Frankfurt: Peace Research Institute Frankfurt.
Torres, Wilfredo M (ed). 2007. “Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao.” Makati: The Asia Foundation.

External links
BBC: In pictures: Egypt vendetta ends May, 2005, One of the most enduring and bloody family feuds of modern times in Upper Egypt has ended with a tense ceremony of humiliation and forgiveness. Police are very edgy. After lengthy peace talks, no one knows if the penance—and a large payment of blood money—will end the vendetta which began in 1991 with a children's fight.
Blood feud in Caucasus
Blood feuds tearing Gaza apart
Albania: Feuding families…bitter lives
Blood feuds blight Albanian lives
Thousands fear as blood feuds sweep Albania
Blood feud in Medjugorje, 1991-1992
Chad: Clan Feuds Creating Tinderbox of Conflict
Tribal Warfare and Blood Revenge
Iraq's death squads: On the brink of civil war
Bedouin family feud
A "Yakuza War" has started in Central Tokyo
Gangs clash in Nigerian oil city
NZ authorities fear retaliatory attacks between rival gangs
Gang mayhem grips LA
Mafia feuds bring bloodshed to Naples' streets
Blood in the Streets: Subculture of Violence
Mexico drugs cartels feud erupts
State Attorney: Problems Posed By Haitian Gangs Growing
Calabrian clan feud suspected in slayings
Violent ethnic war looms between Filipino and Vietnamese gangs
Tribal warfare kills nine in Indonesia's Papua
Crow Creek Massacre
BBC News, July 2008 - Family Feud in Ireland Involves 200 rioters
Maratabat and the Maranaos, From the blog of Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas, “Reflections on the Bangsa Moro.” Posted 1 May 2007.
Rido and its Influence on the Academe, NGOs and the Military, An essay from the website of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. Posted on 28 February 2007.
2 clans in Matanog settle rido, sign peace pact, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 30 January 2008.
Villages in “rido” area return home, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 1 November 2007.
15 clan feuds settled in Lanao; rido tops cause of evacuation more than war, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 13 July 2007.
’Rido’ seen major Mindanao security concern, From the Inquirer website. Posted on 17 November 20006.
Children as teacher-facilitators for peace, from the Inquirer website. Posted on 29 September 2007.
Rido, From The Asia Foundation Rido Map website.
Retrieved from ""

Thousands fear as blood feuds sweep Albania

In Telegraph
By Bojan Pancevski and Nita Hoxha in Tirana
Published: 12:01AM BST 03 Jun 2007

Stuck in their cottage outside the northern Albanian village of Mnela, 14-year-old Flori Bardoku and his younger sisters watch suspiciously whenever anybody makes the hour-long journey up the path to their home.

The reason for their caution is understandable: while most of their trickle of visitors are villagers bearing food and gifts, they know that one day someone may come to kill them.

The four siblings and their mother have lived in fear of their lives ever since their father, Martin, killed his cousin's wife in Mnela after discovering her in bed with another man. He is serving 10 years in jail for her death, but in conservative rural Albania, justice is seldom served by courts alone. In accordance with ancient clan tradition, the murdered woman's brothers have declared a "blood feud" against Bardoku's family - which means any of his nearest and dearest can be killed in exchange.

Bardoku's family is believed to be one of more than 20,000 in the country who live under an ever-present death sentence because of such blood feuds. After his arrest, his children had to stop going to school and can never leave their homestead, a ramshackle place with no electricity and only a half a roof. It is, in many ways, just as much a prison as their father's.

"We would like to be able to go outside to play with our friends, but we can't" said Flori. "Here we have no books or magazines to read. I want to go back to school."

By rights, medieval customs such as blood feuds should be a thing of the past. While Albania remains a clan-based society, today's younger generation are generally much more reluctant than their ancestors were to spill blood in defence of family honour. Yet recently, the problem has got much worse - after clan chiefs, in a bizarre adaptation to 21st century ways, ruled that families could "outsource" blood feuds to professional contract killers.

The ruling, last year, has seen blood feuds being pursued with far more ruthless efficiency than before, resulting in an explosion in the number of the killings. The government is desperately trying to curb the problem by setting up a database of families affected by blood feuds in an attempt to provide monitoring and protection.

"Times have changed," said Edmond Dragoti, a sociologist based in the capital, Tirana, who has studied the history of blood feuds. "We no longer see men saying proudly 'I am the avenger'; on the contrary, the executors are anonymous, hired killers."

The blood feuds are regulated by a set of harsh tribal laws called the Kanun - The Code - drafted by Lek Dukagjini, a feudal lord who fought against the Ottoman invaders in the 15th century. It served as the country's constitution for centuries and was upheld by the council of elders, a tribal legislative body consisting of the oldest males from prominent families of each village or region.

The Kanun was banned during the totalitarian rule of the Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, whose hard-line communist regime held an iron grip on the country until 1991. But during the chaos that followed the fall of communism, it was reinstated as a way of dealing with disputes. The councils of elders were re-established and now exist parallel to state institutions. In some conservative rural areas, where distrust of the police lingers, the councils' pronouncements effectively outweigh those of government.

Since the decision was made in mid-2006, the number of feud-related killings has doubled, confirming the government's suspicions that people find it far easier to hire a hit man than to commit a murder themselves.

According to the National Reconciliation Committee (NRC), a government body that deals with blood feuds, a total of 78 people died as a result of them in 2006. The real figure may be much higher, as many murders are not reported as blood feud killings, or not reported at all.

The new freedom to hire contract killers has spread to all Albanian-populated areas, including the western part of neighbouring Macedonia, Kosovo and southern Serbia, where the number of killings has also risen.

Many families facing potential retribution hide their children away. Adults in fear of assassination often carry weapons as they go about their daily business.

Gjin Marku, the chairman of the NRC, claims that today's contracted-out vendettas have little in common with the spirit of the Kanun.

"Some of these new brutal forms of revenge include the execution of the victim and his entire family, the killing of children younger than 18, as well as planting explosives," he said. In the past, he added, only single women or lone mothers were allowed to use contract killers, when there were no male members of the family left.

Blood feud retaliations are severely penalised by Albanian law, but prosecutors often face a lack of co-operation from traditional communities that prefer to adhere to the ancient code.

As an alternative, the government's new proposals recommend establishing a structure based on close collaboration between local leaders and police.

Mr Dragoti said the situation was made worse by the abundance of unlicensed weapons among the population, dating back to the 1997 meltdown after the crash of a big pyramid-type savings scheme. In a week-long riot, army barracks were looted by angry mobs, and thousands of Kalashnikovs and other weapons have since been circulating in the country.

Yet, despite languishing in prison with his children fearing for their lives, Bardoku accepts the blood debt as part of traditional Albanian life. In a recent interview with officials from the NRC, he remarked: "Life reserves such grave fates for us. Now things have happened, they can not be undone."

Clan Feuds, an Old Problem, Are Still Threatening Chinese

In the New York Times
Published: January 17, 1993

PAN SHI, China— The memory of clan warfare comes back suddenly to Mai Bingsong, and his eyes widen as if he can once again hear the gunshots that exploded around him 74 years ago when he was a small, frightened child.

"A lot of people died then," said the 83-year-old Mr. Mai, his head rolled back as he grasped at images from the past. "Nothing since has been as terrible as that. Not the Japanese, not the Cultural Revolution."

Clan rivalries are an ancient problem in China, and they have returned in the last decade as Communism has subsided and tradition has re-emerged. Huge battles between rival clans are regularly reported in China, and just last month such a battle led to a riot and several deaths elsewhere in Guangdong Province.

Like many villages in China, Pan Shi is made up of a single clan so all the men have the same surname and feel a sense of kinship that often expands into a network of connections outside the village.

Pan Shi was founded 200 years ago by a family with the last name Mai. The Mai family originally came from a nearby village, called Xing, which they shared with the Li clan.

But the two clans constantly feuded, and so a group of Mais fled to form Pan Shi. At the turn of the century the battle between the Mai clan and the Li clan propelled many residents, including Mai Xizhou, the maternal grandfather of this reporter, to join a growing wave of peasants fleeing for Macao, Canada and the United States. Feuding Remembered

On the main track that runs through Pan Shi, Liang Jingzhen, a frail woman who says she is 100 years old, remembers the squabbles between the Mai and Li clans. Like most peasant wives, Ms. Liang retains her own surname but left her family to move into Pan Shi with her husband and his parents.

Sitting in her dark gray-brick hut, where she now spends most of her life, Ms. Liang describes how she fled with Mai Xizhou and his family to Macao to escape the Mai and Li battles, when houses were burned and people killed. She could escape more easily than other women because her feet were not bound, a custom many women throughout China followed for centuries, including Huang Yufeng, the woman Mai Xizhou married.

Ms. Huang, the grandmother of this reporter, accompanied her husband to Canada, but her stunted feet were so tiny it was difficult to travel. Her children remember that she always walked slowly and strangely, the product of a society whose customs were alien to them.

Ms. Liang, however, was not as adventuresome as Ms. Huang and returned to Pan Shi, where the Mai-Li battles had subsided. Now she has softened on the feud. Her grandson fell in love with Li Yuqin, a member of the Li clan from the village of Xing. After they got married, a clan battle broke out in the late 1960's, and Ms. Li had to retreat to her own village to avoid being attacked by the Mai clan in Pan Shi.

The villagers say outbursts between the clans occur about once every 40 years, partly because of the gods.

"No one knows why it's this way," Ms. Li said as she scrubbed away at a pile of dirty clothes in her kitchen. "Everyone knows that it has been this way for a couple of centuries. It doesn't make sense. Our life is better. It's stable. People are educated. Maybe we won't fight again."

Clan feuds fuel separatist violence in Philippines, study shows

In The New York Times
By Carlos H. Conde
Published: Friday, October 26, 2007

MANILA — Clan violence has contributed greatly to bloodshed in the southern Philippines, with government forces and Islamic separatists often drawn into the violence unnecessarily, complicating the decade-long search for peace there, a new study shows.

The study released Wednesday by the Asia Foundation said that the peace process in Mindanao, the region in the southern Philippines where Islamic separatists have been fighting for self-determination since the 1970s, would have a better chance of succeeding if clan violence - called "rido" by Filipino Muslims - were addressed.

The study said "rido" is a "type of conflict characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups as well as between communities. It can occur in areas where government or a central authority is weak and in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security." Two common causes of this type of conflict are political disputes and quarrels over land.

The project's researchers, which included Islamic scholars and anthropologists, found that, from the 1930s to 2005, there had been 1,266 cases of clan violence in Mindanao, in which 5,500 people were killed and thousands were displaced. Of these cases, 64 percent have not been solved, the perpetrators never identified nor brought to justice.

While clan conflict is common in many societies around the world, "rido" is unique in that it has, according to the study, "wider implications for conflict in Mindanao, primarily because it tends to interact in unfortunate ways with separatist conflict and other forms of armed violence."

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Islamic separatist group, have been engaged in peace negotiations since 1997 but no substantial agreement has been reached.

According to the study, half of the clan violence documented occurred between 2000 and 2004. During this period, the cease-fire between the government and the Islamic front was broken many times by fighting caused by clan feuds.

"Most of the hostilities during this period were complicated by 'rido,' " said Teresita Quintos-Deles, who was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidential adviser on the peace process from 2003 to 2005. In fact, Deles said Wednesday, fighting between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front decreased in 2004 and 2005 and most of the hostilities during that period were triggered by clan violence.

Typically, according to the study, two warring families would petition either the Islamic front or the military for help. In many instances, feuding families were also members of the front or had connections with the military.

"At times, local conflicts trigger large-scale armed confrontations between government and rebel forces," said the study, which cited several incidents of such confrontations. "In these events, parties to localized conflicts are able to exploit, deliberately or not, the military resources of both forces."

Clan violence in Mindanao, it said, has caused death and suffering, destroying of property, crippling the local economy, displacing communities, and sowing fear among communities.

Gutierrez Mangansakan 2nd, a Muslim Filipino film maker, knows only too well the impact of clan violence: his family battled another for years. He was only eight in 1985 when his family and the other clan began a conflict that lasted for more than two decades. He said he saw shootings in his village that triggered it, and the situation worsened, he said, until family was forced to leave.

The Asia Foundation intends to use its study to try to resolve more cases of clan violence and deal with it constructively.

"The Asia Foundation published this book to empower communities to break the cycle of violence," said Wilfredo Torres, who coordinated the research and edited the book. In doing the study, he said, "we have already seen the positive results of fresh, constructive dialogue through a better understanding of 'rido.' "

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Prehistory of Warfare

In Archaeology
Volume 56 Number 3, May/June 2003
by Steven A. LeBlanc

Humans have been at each others' throats since the dawn of the species.

In the early 1970s, working in the El Morro Valley of west-central New Mexico, I encountered the remains of seven large prehistoric pueblos that had once housed upwards of a thousand people each. Surrounded by two-story-high walls, the villages were perched on steep-sided mesas, suggesting that their inhabitants built them with defense in mind. At the time, the possibility that warfare occurred among the Anasazi was of little interest to me and my colleagues. Rather, we were trying to figure out what the people in these 700-year-old communities farmed and hunted, the impact of climate change, and the nature of their social systems--not the possibility of violent conflict.

One of these pueblos, it turned out, had been burned to the ground; its people had clearly fled for their lives. Pottery and valuables had been left on the floors, and bushels of burned corn still lay in the storerooms. We eventually determined that this site had been abandoned, and that immediately afterward a fortress had been built nearby. Something catastrophic had occurred at this ancient Anasazi settlement, and the survivors had almost immediately, and at great speed, set about to prevent it from happening again.

Thirty years ago, archaeologists were certainly aware that violent, organized conflicts occurred in the prehistoric cultures they studied, but they considered these incidents almost irrelevant to our understanding of past events and people. Today, some of my colleagues are realizing that the evidence I helped uncover in the El Morro Valley is indicative of warfare endemic throughout the entire Southwest, with its attendant massacres, population decline, and area abandonments that forever changed the Anasazi way of life.

Steven A. LeBlanc is director of collections at Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Dezenas de portugueses são escravizados todos os anos

In Publico
Por José Bento Amaro
16.03.2010 - 07:46
A Polícia Judiciária (PJ) estima em mais de três dezenas as pessoas que, todos os anos, são vítimas de sequestro e traficadas de Portugal para Espanha, onde depois são escravizadas em instalações agrícolas.

O mais recente inquérito de sequestro, tráfico de pessoas e escravidão foi remetido ontem a tribunal através do Departamento de Investigação Criminal da PJ da Guarda e reporta-se a um caso que envolve um homem de 27 anos que, em Agosto do ano passado, terá sido transportado contra a sua vontade para uma quinta em Espanha onde trabalhou sem receber salário.

Há dois arguidos no processo, os quais ficavam com o dinheiro da vítima e a ameaçavam de cada vez que esta dizia querer voltar à sua terra.

Após a fuga do homem e denúncia do caso, a Polícia Judiciária concluiu que os suspeitos, de 33 e 48 anos, serão ainda responsáveis por um outro caso de escravidão, envolvendo um casal português, e suspeitos de terem praticado o mesmo delito com mais uma dezena de pessoas arregimentadas em pequenas aldeias da região da Serra da Estrela.

Segundo a Judiciária, as vítimas escolhidas pelos traficantes de seres humanos são pessoas com fracos recursos financeiros, que aceitam ir para Espanha a troco de vencimentos que em pouco excedem o ordenado mínimo em Portugal, e que também possuem "diversas debilidades", seja porque a sua instrução é muito reduzida ou porque são influenciáveis e cedem a chantagens.

São, muitas vezes, desempregados que, nas suas terras, não possuem qualquer ocupação.

No final do ano passado, no final de mais uma investigação deste tipo de crimes, a Polícia Judiciária chegou ainda a uma zona agrícola de Espanha onde os trabalhadores arrregimentados em Portugal eram, no final do dia de labuta, encerrados e acorrentados num aviário.

Quem procedia a esta tarefa eram os recrutadores, que também lhes ficavam com os vencimentos e com os documentos pessoais, de modo a dificultarem eventuais tentativas de fuga.

No caso do homem de 27 anos cujo inquérito foi agora concluído pela PJ não foram recolhidos indícios que apontem para a responsabilização dos proprietários das herdades espanholas para onde são encaminhadas as pessoas.

As investigações dizem que a total responsabilidade dos crimes é dos suspeitos identificados, os quais são não só angariadores, mas também raptores e até trabalhadores dessas mesmas explorações.

Research finds chimp violence is organized

In Yale Daily News
By Alberto Masliah
Staff Reporter
Published Monday, April 4, 2005

Chimpanzees and Al Capone have more in common than opposable thumbs. While a chimp would never be seen gunning down its foes against a brick wall, Yale's anthropology professor David Watts is delving into the arena of organized chimpanzee violence.

Watts has been studying the behavior, ecology and social make up of chimpanzee communities. He researches how they protect their territory, and their women as an extension of that territory. As a relatively new field, essentially started by Jane Goodall in the 1960s, the social behavior of primates is still somewhat of an unknown, Watts said.

The majority of Watts' work is conducted out in the field, where he can roam the territory with the chimpanzees themselves. He said the premier place to analyze chimpanzee communities is Ngogo, which is in Kibale National Park, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Uganda. The Ngogo chimpanzees live in groups three times larger than found anywhere else, Watts said.

"[Ngogo] is a really exciting research place, because there are about 150 chimps in the community," he said.

It is not always happy and peaceful in Ngogo -- the chimpanzees get aggressive with each other. Studying the animals' behavior takes a lot of time, because at first, Watts said, the chimpanzees are terrified of human scientists. The chimpanzees must first become acclimated to having their less furry evolutionary siblings following them around, and humans have to give the chimpanzees nourishment so the animals realize it is beneficial to be followed.

But when they do become comfortable with their new companions, the showdown begins. Watts and his team are trying to determine why that happens.

Chimpanzees roam their land in what anthropologists call a party, a component of the larger community. In this case, Watts said, the community is Ngogo.

Male chimpanzees stay in the community that they are born in, and young females migrate to a community where their mating capacity will be needed. Watts said this behavior is not found in most mammals.

"What people realized at [Ngogo] is that the chimpanzees from one community meet and hear the chimps from neighboring communities and are actually quite good at assessing the amount of chimpanzees in the other group," he said. "If there are too many in the other community, they will do one of two things, either make a show with some noise and charge around for a while and eventually leave, or just leave and concede silently."

This, Watts said, is a way for the community to measure whether or not they would be able to fight off the other community and defend their territory and females. If they do decide to stay and defend their territory, the males will congregate and move toward the edges of their land before charging into the neighboring territory.

"It really all depends on the numbers -- if there are 15 of them and 10 of us, we would probably say 'No. Too much risk,'" Watts said. "But, if there are 15 of us and two of them, we would say 'Let's do it.'"

According to Watt's research, there is one main reason explaining why the chimpanzees interact in this manner, and, as can be seen in human interaction, it stems from the mystery baffling men for ages -- women.

Females are something the male chimpanzees must defend and find, and this may not always be possible without aggression.

"Since this is a group of mammals in which the women move around, and not them, the men have to put up a show to say 'Look, we're tough chimps' and beat each other up because, if they don't prove their strength, how will they show the females that they will be strong enough the protect the infants?" Watts said. "In addition, these females need protection from being attacked."

Since chimpanzees are the only group of animals, other than humans, to have this sort of aggression with neighboring communities, and since they are the only animals where it is the females and not the males that roam about, Watts said violence can erupt which sometimes ends in death.

Students who work with Watts said he is passionate about his work.

"When we were out on the field for seven months at Ngogo, he was out with the chimps from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week," Simone Teelen GRD '05 said. "You could really say that he loves his work, especially since he would only go into town once every two or three months to renew his visa, and that trip really kind of made him unhappy."

Even in the classroom, where students who are not necessarily interested in animals may encounter Watts, students pick up his excitement about chimpanzees.

"You can just tell that he is really interested in what he does, and that is really nice to see in a professor," Kristin Andersen '07, a student in Watts' "Primate Ecology and Social Behavior" class, said. "He always has great pictures of the chimpanzees which makes his class pretty interesting, especially since I have never taken a class that has to do anything with animals."

Watts will be featured in the final episode of the three-part PBS television series "Deep Jungle" on the show "Nature." The series airs April 17, April 24 and May 1.

Courtesy David Watts
Anthropology professor David Watts focuses his research on the communities of chimpanzees in Ngogo, part of the Kibale National Park in Africa.

Conjunto Batalhas da Terra e do Mar 2 Senhor(a)

O Centro de História da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, através da sua linha de investigação Segurança & Defesa, vem por este meio divulgar o III Curso de História Militar «Marchando com os Exércitos...» e o II Curso «Guerra no Mar», a que chamamos o «Conjunto Batalhas da Terra e do Mar 2».

O Curso Livre «Os Rostos da Batalha», coordenado pelos Professores António Ventura e José Varandas, consta de dez sessões, que decorrerão todas as quartas-feiras, de 7 de Abril a 9 de Junho de 2010, entre as 18h00 e as 20h00, no Anfiteatro III da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa. Já o Curso Livre «Guerra no Mar», coordenado pelos Professores Francisco Contente Domingues e José Varandas, consta de nove sessões, a decorrerem semanalmente à quinta-feira (excepto a última sessão, terça-feira), entre os dias 8 de Abril e 1 de Junho de 2010, no mesmo horário e local do anterior.

A inscrição em cada um dos cursos é de EUR 70 para os alunos da Universidade de Lisboa e EUR 100 para o público em geral. As inscrições para os dois cursos que compõem o «Conjunto Batalhas da Terra e do Mar» terá um desconto de EUR 30 sobre o total (EUR 110 para estudantes e EUR 170 para restante público). Para mais informações, queira consultar os cartazes de divulgação apensos, ou contactar com o secretariado dos Cursos Livres, através de email, ou por telefone, de 3.ª a 6.ª feira, entre as 10h e as 12h e as 14 às 18h.

Esperando que esta iniciativa vá de encontro aos V/ interesses, subscrevemo-nos com os melhores cumprimentos,

José Varandas

International Conference on "Archaeology in Conflict"

6-10 April 2010
Austria Center Vienna, Bruno-Kreisky-Platz 1
Vienna International Center (VIC), UNO-City
1220 Vienna, Austria, EU

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Conflicting evidence? Weapons and skeletons in the Bronze Age of south-east Iberia

by Gonzalo Aranda-Jiménez1, Sandra Montón-Subías2 and Silvia Jiménez-Brobeil3
in Antiquity - Volume: 83 Number: 322 Page: 1038–1051

1*Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, Universidad de Granada, Campus Cartuja s/n, 18071 Granada, Spain (Email: 2*ICREA Departament d'Humanitats, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Ramon Trias-Fargas 25-27, 080010 Barcelona, Spain (Email: 3Laboratorio de Antropología Física, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Granada, Av. de Madrid, 11, 18071 Granada, Spain (Email:

With its forts, swords, halberds and daggers the Argaric people of south-east Spain has long been seen as a warrior society. The authors dismantle this model, showing that defences around settlements and weapons and knives in tombs have quite different social roles. An analysis of skeletons showed that while these Bronze Age people might have been periodically clubbing each other on the head, they were not doing a lot of lethal stabbing.

Keywords: Iberia, Bronze Age, warfare, violence, halberds, swords

Cut marks on bone suggest burial rituals of Early Britons

August 7, 2009 in

Research on human remains from Kent’s Cavern in Devon has led scientists to believe that humans from the Mesolithic period (after the Ice Age) may have engaged in complex ritualistic burial practices, and possibly cannibalism.

Oxford University researchers examined a fragment of arm bone from Devon’s famous prehistoric cave. They conclude that it belonged to a human adult and the seven cut marks it carries were made by a stone tool. The cut marks are significant because they are believed to be consistent with the act of de-fleshing or dismemberment.

Cut marks have been recorded on human remains from the preceding Upper Palaeolithic period at Gough’s Cave, Cheddar Gorge. But this latest find at Kent’s Cavern reveals another new element, as the fragment of forearm is also fractured. This was probably done while the bone was still fresh.

The possibility of cannibalism has been considered by some archaeologists at Gough’s Cave, and can be considered at Kent’s Cavern as well, although the case for this theory is by no means certain.

The bone was examined and radiocarbon dated by a team from the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology.

Dr Thomas Higham, from the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, said: ‘Our radiocarbon dating is very accurate because the bone was particularly well preserved and shows the bone is just under 9,000 years old. It was found in the black mould layer of Kent’s Cavern and is the oldest date yet attained for any specimen from that layer.'

Human remains from the Mesolithic period in Britain are very rare with no other known examples showing cut marks except at Gough’s Cave.

Dr Rick Schulting, from the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, said: ‘The co-occurrence of both the cut marks on the bone and an apparent fracture, which seems to have occurred around the time of death, makes this find particularly interesting and may shed some light on the circumstances involved. Both are relatively rare in British, and indeed European, prehistory. Perhaps they are evidence of early humans being engaged in cannibalistic rituals, complex and extended burial practices or dismemberment for transportation.

'We can clearly see a series of fine parallel lines on the bone. These cuts may have been made to help the body decompose more quickly and speed up the process of joining the ancestors. Finds like this highlight the complexity of mortuary practices in the Mesolithic period, many thousands of years before the appearance of farming in the Neolithic period, which is more usually associated with complex funerary behaviour.’

The bone fragment had been kept among animal remains in storerooms at Torquay Museum, where it was noticed by curator Barry Chandler during ongoing research and documentation involving the Kent Cavern collections.

Torquay Museum’s Curator of Collections, Barry Chandler, said: ‘I noticed the ulna fragment in a group of bones from the black mould layer. The cut marks, which are in several groups, were immediately noticeable; but the excellent preservation of the bone made me believe it was probably from the Bronze Age or maybe Neolithic so the 9,000 year old date came as a bit of a shock.’

Early archaeologist and geologist William Pengelly first discovered the bone in 1866 in the black mould layer of the ‘Sloping Chamber’ of the cave. The interpretation of the Kent’s Cavern find is hampered by the age of the excavation and the poor records from this layer of the dig. Other fragments of human bone have been identified from the same area of the Sloping Chamber and it is hoped more detailed analysis of the rest of the remains will follow.

The research is part of a larger project examining prehistoric violence in a European context, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Provided by Oxford Universtiy

Peace or War? How Early Humans Behaved By Heather Whipps

Special to LiveScience
posted: 16 March 2006 08:14 am ET

Depending on which journals you've picked up in recent months, early humans were either peace-loving softies or war-mongering buffoons.

Which theory is to be believed?

A little bit of both, says one archaeologist, who warns against making generalizations when it comes to our long and varied prehistory.

The newest claim concerns Australopithecus afarensis, who lived approximately five million years ago and is one of the first hominids that can be linked directly to our lineage with some certainty. Hardly an expert at tearing other animals limb from limb, scientists say the small and furry creature likely spent most of its time avoiding becoming the lunch of those saber-toothed mammals you see in natural history museums today.

That's a far cry from the spear-wielding image most of the public has of our earliest ancestors, Robert Sussman of Washington University told an audience at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last month.

"I think that the ‘Man the Hunter' model is so popular because it fits into Western thought so easily. Western humans (especially men) like to think of themselves as completely in charge of their surroundings," Sussman told LiveScience.
Other research appearing in current scientific journals, however, paints a different picture of early man.

Groups of humans likely engaged in occasional violent encounters in order to increase their territory, argues Raymond C. Kelly of the University of Michigan in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to Kelly, this may have continued up until about a million years ago, when distance weapons like the spear were invented and increased the risks of attacking other groups.

How can scientists see things so differently?


Human evolution just isn't that simple, says Michael Bisson, professor of anthropology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. People tend to make generalizations about our early ancestors, even though they lived for a period of several million years and include many entirely different species of hominids.

As for the peaceful nature of Australopithecus afarensis, Bisson wholeheartedly agrees with Sussman.

"Afarensis was small and completely non-technological. No one has ever argued that they were predatory. They are bipedal, ground-eating apes," Bisson said in an interview.

Interpretations get trickier, however, as time moves forward and hominids become more prevalent and diverse. When humans began to eat meat and use weapons, around two million years ago, some inter-group killings were almost certainly going on in the cases where individuals encroached on each other's territory.

Still, at this point hominids are mostly timid scavengers, according to Bisson, not mammoth-hunters.

"The interesting thing about early hominids and meat-eating is that all of the evidence we have for it is little animals that might have been caught and dismembered by hand and big animals that were scavenged," he said. "It fades in very slowly. After two million [years ago], there's about a half-million-year transition before you get to hunting of some kind."

Spear or tooth?

It's around this time where mistakes can be made in the fossil record, experts say. With humans beginning to hunt animals, weapons in hand, it's easier to assume they are also killing each other. Puncture wounds in a skull from an animal bite can be mistaken as injuries from a spear attack, for example.

The fossil record is not always an easy thing to read, Bisson explained.

"Cause of death is almost impossible to determine on all of these (fossils)," he said. "They have almost all been subject to scavenging. Since there's no deliberate burial at that time, the bodies end up part of the food chain, so we simply can't say what happened."

A lot can depend on how archaeological remains are interpreted. Sussman calls this the "5 o'clock news" version of history and science, one that applies to today's humans as easily as those of several million years ago.

"Human groups are much more likely to live in peace than in war," he explained. "What we usually find is that what is reported or emphasized is any violent encounter that takes place. Thus, instead of using the actual statistics, we emphasize the rare events."

Context of war

Bisson agrees that the archaeological remains must be put in context depending on who makes the find, even. He pointed to the discovery of some Australopithecus remains in the 1920s, in what is now Botswana. Along with a skull, the material found included tools made from the bones of gazelles, antelopes and wild boar. The archaeologist working there mistakenly interpreted them as a cache of weapons, while later testing would show the points were used simply for digging in termite holes.

"A lot of this stuff was written between the First and Second World War," he reasoned. "It was very easy to see warfare and violence as inherent in the human condition during a period when humanity was literally trying to exterminate itself."

Mainstream media can also have a lot to do with what the public believes as fact.

"No archaeologist in the last 40 years has bought the ‘Killer Ape' interpretation, but it did get ingrained in popular culture in the intro sequence to the famous Stanley Kubrick film ["2001: A Space Odyssey"]," Bisson said. In the movie, ape-like humans are shown having the eureka moment that bones can be used as weapons, thus evolving to become hunters and killers. "It's a fairly literal dramatization of the hypothesis, complete with leg bones used as clubs."

Even if early humans were mostly cooperative with each other during the Paleolithic era—a period lasting about two million years—there is plenty of evidence to suggest that (like today), some people were just plain nasty. Cannibalism was clearly practiced in some areas, according to Bisson.

"We know that there is at least one case of Homo erectus with extensive cuts on the cranium indicating that the person was essentially scalped and the eyes gouged out," he said.