by Brooks Hays
Yamaguchi, Japan (UPI) Mar 30, 2016
There's plenty of evidence of violence perpetrated by and against early humans. Scientists have long grappled over the evolutionary significance of violence. Are violent conflict and warfare inherent?
Some researchers say the carnage found in the fossil record is proof violence is innate and inevitable. But researchers in Japan say the peaceful hunter-gatherers of the islands' Jomon period, from 13,000 to 800 B.C., offer a counter-narrative.
A team of scientists analyzed the bones of some 2,500 early humans and found little evidence of violence. Only 0.89 percent of the Jomon period bones -- 1.8 percent of adult bones -- featured damage indicative of violence.
Similarly aged fossils from hunter-gatherer groups in Europe and elsewhere reveal a rate of violence between 12 to 14 percent.
"Our results suggest that the mortality due to violence was low and spatio-temporally highly restricted in the Jomon period, which implies that violence including warfare in prehistoric Japan was not common," the researchers wrote in their study, published this week in the journal Biologic Letters.
The evidence, researchers say, is perhaps proof that humans aren't as inherently violent as previously thought.
"It is possibly misleading to treat a few cases of massacre as representative of our hunter-gatherer past without an exhaustive survey," the scientists said. "We think warfare depends on specific conditions, and the Japanese data indicate that we should examine these more closely."
Study: Indonesian 'hobbits' likely died out sooner than thought
But researchers at Australia's Griffith University say theories that the diminutive species disappeared 11,000 to 13,000 years ago are incorrect.
In a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists suggest the hobbits, or Flores man, went extinct at least 50,000 years ago -- just shortly after the arrival of Homo sapiens.
The misinformation was a result flawed dating at Liang Bua, a famed fossil-rich limestone cave found on the Indonesian island of Flores.
"The science is unequivocal,'' Aubert said.
"The youngest Hobbit skeletal remains occur at 60,000 years ago but evidence for their simple stone tools continues until 50,000 years ago," Maxime Aubert, a geochronologist and archaeologist at Griffith's Research Centre of Human Evolution, said in news release. "After this there are no more traces of these humans."
The early excavations that uncovered the first Flores man fossils were limited in size and scope. Scientists confused remains from an older layer with a younger overlying layer. More recent and comprehensive digs have offered greater clarity to the order and dates of archaeological layers in the cave.
"This problem has now been resolved and the newly published dates provide a more reliable estimate of the antiquity of this species,'' Aubert said.
The latest research didn't attempt to determine what happened to the hobbits 50,000 years ago, but the evidence suggests the species was pushed out by modern man.
"They might have retreated to more remote parts of Flores, but it's a small place and they couldn't have avoided our species for long," Aubert said. "I think their days were numbered the moment we set foot on the island."
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