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The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory Paperback – December 27, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1405112604 ISBN-10: 1405112603 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“‘Nasty, brutish, and short’ was how Hobbes characterized human life in a state of nature, but for the last thirty years prehistorians have largely contrived to forget the nasty side. This lively and authoritative volume goes a long way to redressing the balance, giving a superb overview of the more aggressive side of life in early Europe.” Andrew Sherratt, University of Oxford


“There are few more intriguing yet disturbing subjects than the origins of human violence. This richly detailed account provides dramatic insights into a distant and often violent world, but one that is only too familiar in its contemporary relevance. Essential reading for all who are interested in the human past.” Chris Scarre, University of Cambridge

"An intriguing and convincing account of violence and conflict in deep antiquity ... The authors have successfully produced a stimulating and thought provoking text." Archaeology Ireland

Book Description

Stretching across continents and centuries, The Origins Of War provides a fascinating examination of executions, torture, ritual sacrifices, and other acts of violence committed in the prehistoric world. Until recently what little has been written on prehistoric violence and warfare focused on the symbolic interpretations of archaeological remains. This engrossing book demonstrates that violence has always been far more than just symbolic by combining such interpretations into prehistory with a medical understanding of these violent acts. The authors, one an eminent prehistorian and the other a respected medical doctor, are the ideal guides through such evidence and enable the reader to understand this violence at a human level, without a sophisticated understanding of history or archaeology.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405112603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405112604
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on January 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
With a "somewhat evolutionary approach," the in-depth, wide-ranging investigation looks to economic changes, environmental use, technological progress, and social structures as not only prompting war at different times, but also as bringing about changes in the ways wars were waged. The authors accept that the penchant for waging war is innate in human beings. This attribute was not engendered at some point in human evolution. The authors show that violence can be seen in archaeological findings of the earliest groups. The earliest violence was the use of techniques in hunting against other human beings. Human sacrifice, and possibly torture, can be seen in cave drawings. Even the development of agriculture and settled communities did not quell the penchant for violence, but in some ways carried it to the next level. The authors have no political or social agenda--they do not go into implications of their well-substantiated postulate that warfare is derived from inherent characteristics of human beings. Zammit is a doctor and paleopathologist whose knowledge of these fields brings a special insight into signs of violence on human remains and psychology and behavior which are the sources of war and go into war when it breaks out. Guilaine's fields are archeology and social science; which allow him to offer unfamiliar, yet plainly pertinent and unassailable disclosures about societies' penchants for war. With their different perspectives, the co-authors hone in on the core human characteristics accounting for the constancy of war in culture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By i-Palikar on September 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is very well written and erudite. However, depending on your definition of "origins", there is a good argument to be made that the title is quite misleading. Unlike other books focused upon explaining the actual origins of war, this main focus of this book is the various forms of archeological evidence regarding primitive violence in prehistory. It is not a detailed discussion on how war originated. As such, this book is not about the philosophies and/or theoretical concepts regarding the initial origins of war. Rather, the details of archaeological evidence in this book help to "support" perspectives on the development / evolution of early forms of war - not how war originated as a integral part of human history. If the reader is truly seeking quality information regarding the philosophies or theoretical concepts on origins of war (how war originated), then there is much greater satisfaction in reading the books by Livingstone Smith, Keeley, and Otterbein on that subject. This book is a good supplement to those books.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jaclyn H. Harlow on August 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting for Anth majors and laymen alike! Wonderful information, great for writing papers and getting answers. Also, very thought-provoking material. It's an eclectic mix of time-periods, so it's a good book to get (along with a few others) for a topical/theoretical overview of prehistorical warfare.
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The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory
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