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James T. Watson – “Can’t We All Just Get Along? Domestic Disputes and Warfare in the Prehistoric Sonoran Desert”

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on Jun 16, 2014.

Jim Watson in the Field
Jim Watson in the Field

Sibling squabbles. Coworker disagreements. Political sniping. Government protests. Full-scale warfare. The contentious nature of humans is neither new nor modern, nor exclusive to specific parts of the world. Anthropologists all over the world strive to understand our most destructive motivations and behaviors. Numerous studies have documented violence, warfare, and perhaps even cannibalism throughout the prehistoric Desert West. Traumatic injuries are common among skeletal samples from early farming communities of the Sonoran Desert and have the potential to document some of the earliest evidence for interpersonal violence in this region.  Skeletal trauma observed in a large sample of individuals from the Early Agricultural period (2100 B.C.-A.D. 50) site of La Playa, located in northern Sonora, yields strong evidence for regular violent interactions among early farmers in the Sonoran Desert.  Violence is also manifest in the unusual and irreverent interment of several individuals at the site.  As residents of the earliest permanent village settlements based on agricultural investment in the region, members of these irrigation communities likely experienced considerable social tensions generated by balancing public cooperation for the management and maintenance of irrigation systems and private property interests among households controlling agricultural fields and production.  Investments at specific (irrigable) locations along a narrow floodplain would have also made communities vulnerable to conflict with adjacent farming communities.