Republished from the conversation

Two victims from Jebel Sahaba. The pencils mark weapon fragments.
Image from the Wendorf Archive, Used under a creative commons license.

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PhD in Ecological Systems of Cooperation, UCL

 

The question of whether warfare is encoded in our genes, or appeared as a result of civilisation, has long fascinated anyone trying to get to grips with human society. Might a willingness to fight neighbouring groups have provided our ancestors with an evolutionary advantage? With conflicts raging across the globe, these questions have implications for understanding our past, and perhaps our future as well.

The Enlightenment philosophers Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau had different visions of prehistory. Hobbes saw humanity’s earliest days as dominated by fear and warfare, whereas Rousseau thought that, without the influence of civilisation, humans would be at peace and in harmony with nature.

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