Humans engaged in large-scale warfare in Europe 5,000 years ago – 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study cited by the Mail Online and BTA.
Analysis of more than 300 sets of skeletal remains indicates that dozens of individuals were victims of the earliest period of warfare in the history of the Old Continent.
The study provides the first evidence of major battles more than 1,000 years earlier than previously thought and shows that periods of conflict lasted for months.
During the bloody clashes, the ancient warriors used bows and arrows, axes and blades, and many of the injuries were in the head area.
Previous research has suggested that conflicts during this period, known as the Late Neolithic, consisted of short raids that lasted no more than a few days and involved small groups of 20-30 people.
Therefore, until this point it was assumed that early societies did not have the logistical capabilities to sustain longer and larger-scale conflicts.
To test this, a team of scientists from the University of Oxford examined the remains of 338 people from a mass burial in northern Spain dated 5,000 years ago.
They found that about a quarter of the individuals had skeletal injuries, with 107 of them having head injuries.
Most of the head injuries are due to blunt force trauma, which may have been caused by axes, wooden clubs, slingshots or thrown stones.
The researchers also found that most injuries occurred in adolescents or males – significantly more often than females. The findings indicate that many of the people in the burial were exposed to violence and were likely victims of conflict.
The relatively high rate of healed injuries also suggests that the conflict lasted several months.
About 50 flint arrowheads were found at the same site, as well as 64 blades and two ground stone axes.