"We are violent primates, but the only ones capable of reconciliation"

Did we never have a peaceful and happy ancestor?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 10:34
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"We are violent primates, but the only ones capable of reconciliation"

Did we never have a peaceful and happy ancestor?

I'm afraid we've been violent since we've been human...

That's sad!

...But being human also gives us a capacity that no other primate has: that of reconciling after being attacked.

Franz de Waal already explained here that chimpanzees plan chimpicides.

Chimpanzees plan, it is true, to murder congeners; but bonobos, on the other hand, settle their disputes…

...De Waal observed that with gifts and sex.

...But it is not proven that our ancestors were premeditatedly violent like chimpanzees.

You excavated paleohuman fossils that evidenced a planned slaughter.

I discovered it by chance, because I was working with fossils much older than those there in Turkana. And it was by chance to find the evidence of that slaughter 10,000 years ago.

Does that killing show that we have always killed each other and there was no happy savage?

Let's say it is more evidence in favor of those who think that violence is innate in humans and against those who, on the contrary, believe that planned killings only occurred later and only as a consequence of the beginning of the 'agriculture and, with it, private property.

Were nomadic humans without territory as aggressive as those who already had one?

Some colleagues believed that before agriculture and land ownership we were not violent and that only with possessions did we begin to plan violence and civilizations, armies, homelands and religions...

Didn't nomadic hunters kill for hunting grounds or prey?

It is true that in the bipeds that lived up to 2 million years ago, nothing shows that there was conflict between groups. And that we found violence, cannibalism... but those fossils are only bits and pieces for now.

Why are they not valid for testing violence?

Because... how do I know that this isolated piece of fossil with signs of violence is not an isolated case of aggression out of momentary anger and in no way a planned killing?

Isn't killing a brother-in-law in a brawl the same as planning the slaughter of a tribe?

It is not the same at all: planning or not is not relevant. And there is evidence of isolated homicides in the Paleolithic, but before agriculture we have not found organized slaughter. On the other hand, in the Neolithic, already with agriculture and property, violence between farmers is endemic. And, in addition, they buried the victims in cemeteries.

Do you also think that agriculture was a sad regression for humans?

Fossils testify that the first farmers lived less and much worse than the last nomadic hunter-gatherers; but also that the nomads ceased to be nomads because hunting no longer provided for everyone to survive.

Were we farmers and shepherds because otherwise we would starve?

And we almost starved when we switched from nomadic hunting to agriculture: fossils of early farmers show that they were much more malnourished and sicker than nomads.

So why did they continue to farm?

Because once this first stage of need, hunger and disease was overcome, we improved agricultural techniques and began to generate and store surpluses and thus develop culture and progress.

Wasn't progress only for some?

A social hierarchy was created; those who commanded fared better than those who obeyed them. The world of the nomadic hunter was primitive but egalitarian; that of the shepherd farmer was hierarchical and unequal, but cultured. If you don't have food stored and someone to grow it for you, you don't have time to write poetry.

In Australia where until recently there were only nomads there was no violence?

Tremendous, and that's why I don't think organized violence appeared with agriculture, but much earlier.

Since when are we violent?

We have been violent for 100,000 years and much earlier: we have been since we were human, but what makes us violent is also the ability to reconcile.

Of reconciling and fighting again and reconciling again... is that called politics?

In traditional societies, they still reconcile by marrying and exchanging goods. And we also have the ability, which chimpanzees don't have, to regulate ourselves by rules, education, morals, principles that make us predictable.

Predictable also to attack?

The chimpanzee does not fight over ideas; but also these ideas allow us the immense progress of coexistence and cooperation until the achievement of already being 8,000 million humans and the risk that we endanger the balance of the planet.