Given the paucity of evidence available, scholarship in archaeology and the social sciences is deeply divided over the question, how old is human violence? Some scholars have concluded that humans are intrinsically violent, and others that they are basically nonviolent, but in both interpretive schools there is a pronounced tendency to rely on simple naturalist epistemology. In contrast, this article offers an interpretation focusing on the structural foundations of violent action. Instead of tracing violent or nonviolent behavior to “human nature,” the origins of violence are linked to the rise and proliferation of complex social organizations.

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