September 29th, 2010

The Pueblo killing fields

Those noble savages: maybe not so noble after all.

14 Responses to “The Pueblo killing fields”

  1. Bob from Virginia Says:

    There seems to be some sort of trend towards nonviolence in certain civilizations. The early civilizations of Europe and Asia turned from constant war, trials by combat, raiding for money and arguments that ended in murder to benign societies.

    The Arabs seem to have avoided that trap.

  2. Beverly Says:

    How does a cannibal praise a meal?

    –“This is really good: who was it?”

    [hat tip to Seinfeld]

  3. gcotharn Says:

    Southpark kids encounter not-so-noble-savages:

    Related (even bigger language warning)

  4. zhombre Says:

    Bob from VA: it only appears so. Civilization is always thin ice. It will crack. And the kerplunk you hear is not an apotheosis.

  5. LAG Says:

    Actually this is old news. A good summary from the Annual Review of Anthropology from 2001 can be found at

    Bottom-line is not flattering and not supportive of arguments in favor of the existence of our better nature. Humans are red in tooth and nail–always have been, everywhere. (Political aside–I believe conservatives accept this, liberals don’t.)

    The abstract says in part, “Bioarchaeological research shows that throughout the history of our species, interpersonal violence, especially among men, has been prevalent. Cannibalism seems to have been widespread, and mass killings, homicides, and assault injuries are also well documented in both the Old and New Worlds. No form of social organization, mode of production, or environmental setting appears to have remained free from interpersonal violence for long.”

  6. pst314 Says:

    “throughout the history of our species, interpersonal violence, especially among men, has been prevalent.”

    …except that the percent of persons who die violent deaths today is far lower than in prehistoric times. And that’s in spite of the appalling genocides of the 20th Century.

  7. anna Says:

    pst314 – haha put a big “DUUUUUUH” after your first statement, cracks me up that PhDs in anthropology can’t get that LOL. Sometimes PhDs are the dumbest people out there.

  8. LAG Says:

    pst314, you’ll have to explain your ‘except’ to the folks in Rwanda and Cambodia. Fewer, while accurate in relative terms, is not the point. The capacity of humans for violence remains whether or not they chose at any particular moment to exercise that capacity. Unless you think we’ve forgotten how…?

  9. sergey Says:

    It is well established fact that 3/5 of males in each generation in primordial societies perished in combat. Establishing of Confucian society in China was the result of 300 years of permanent bloody civil war like 30 years war in Germany – but 10 times longer. They well remembered this lesson for 2000 years, until Mao resumed the butchery.

  10. waltj Says:

    Rousseau, Margaret Mead, and the “noble savage” take another well-deserved hit. Pre-Columbian America was not some idyllic paradise where the natives lived in harmony with nature and sang kumbaya around the bonfire every night. No, their chiefs had better things to do, like plotting ways to ambush the tribe in the next valley. And I won’t even get into the Aztecs and their religious “celebrations”, which would have made Stalin puke.

  11. Bob from Virginia Says:

    zhombre, you are probably right, civilization seems to be a function of eight hours sleep and a full stomach. In fact I can relate a story illustrating the point that happened to me in college ROTC of all places.

    We cadets went out for a weekend training exercise one summer. One team was supposed to maneuver and attack an opposing team. The odd thing was after being awake for over 24 hours and hiking through humid dense forests by the time we did “attack” we were at a point were if we had real guns we would have used them to kill. And this was among friends.
    For a few hours in a Cook county forest civilization did die, fortunately there were no guns around.

  12. Don Says:

    I’ll throw in that the English who settled Jamestown in 1607 were under orders to treat the indians well and they bought land from the indians. In 1622 the indians launched a surprise attack that was intended essentially as genocide.

  13. Richard Aubrey Says:

    If you don’t recall, look up the gentle Tasaday. It was a hoax, but it fit the desired zeitgeist.

  14. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Richard, I remember being shown the film about the Tasaday in college, with a required discussion afterward about the ethics of exposing them to our new technologies – like metals. It was perhaps a chink in the armor of liberalism for me, because when I brought up “what about medicines?” it didn’t seem to dent most of the professors’ ideas of the sanctity of cultural preservation. Only one, who had originally trained as a missionary, demurred.

    Both pst314 and LAG have good points. Only in the past two hundred years has there been much respite from constant misery. Perhaps one can grant that there was gradual relief from warfare up until that point – but intermittent and very localised. (Bob’s “sleep/full stomach” theory may apply.) Since that time, we may indeed have learned a little – enough that Americans (and a few others) now think living in peace is the normal state of affairs.

    Reverse caution, however. If none of the tribes of man has truly been peaceful, it is at least also true that the growth of cooperation, driven by trade, has been underreported. Crops, orchards, vineyards – all these point to at least some stability and security for folks over the last 8000 years. Empire has proved successful at keeping a kind of peace; unfortunately, their periods of expansion and collapse are among the worst of times. One cultural idea, primarily but not uniquely Christan, of a belief in moral accountability at the end of all things, seems to have had an improving effect.

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