In a study* published in the July 19th issue of the journalScience, researchers point to evidence that suggests early humans killed each other mostly for personal reasons, as opposed to killing through organized group conflict, or war. The findings contradict popular paradigms of early human groups killing each other in organized group campaigns, such as is typical in waging war, supporting a theory that humans are not warlike in nature.
Douglas Fry of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and Patrik Söderberg of Åbo Akademi University in Vasa, Finland, analyzed 148 incidents of lethal aggression within a cross-cultural sample of 21 random mobile forager band societies. They found that individuals acting on their own were responsible for the majority of the deaths, with about 85 percent of them involving killers and victims that belonged to the same group. The evidence suggested that about two-thirds of the events could be attributed to family feuds, competition over a mate, accidents or "group-sanctioned executions" (such as punishment for an act that the group would consider a crime). They found little evidence suggesting war-like behavior, such as clear traces of specialized weapons, skeletal trauma among many individuals in a location, group burials showing many cases of violent death, fortified sites, and placement of settlements in defensive locations. Most of the finds showed evidence of lethal trauma on single prehistoric skeletons.