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Nature. 2016 Jan 21;529(7586):394-8. doi: 10.1038/nature16477.

Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya.

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Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Street, Cambridge CB2 1QH, UK.
Turkana Basin Institute, Nairobi, Kenya.
National Museums of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta House, PO Box 152-30500, Lodwar, Kenya.
Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueologia, UNED, c/ Paseo Senda del Rey, 7, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
National Museums of Kenya, PO Box 40658-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, PO Box 62000-00200, Nairobi, Kenya.
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Building 142, Mills Road, Acton, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia.
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.
Research Centre for Human Evolution, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.
Department of Geology, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600025, India.


The nature of inter-group relations among prehistoric hunter-gatherers remains disputed, with arguments in favour and against the existence of warfare before the development of sedentary societies. Here we report on a case of inter-group violence towards a group of hunter-gatherers from Nataruk, west of Lake Turkana, which during the late Pleistocene/early Holocene period extended about 30 km beyond its present-day shore. Ten of the twelve articulated skeletons found at Nataruk show evidence of having died violently at the edge of a lagoon, into which some of the bodies fell. The remains from Nataruk are unique, preserved by the particular conditions of the lagoon with no evidence of deliberate burial. They offer a rare glimpse into the life and death of past foraging people, and evidence that warfare was part of the repertoire of inter-group relations among prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

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