Countering the prevailing notion that humankind is naturally predisposed to war, new research suggests that primitive humans existed mostly peacefully, with war developing much later than previously thought.
The study's author, Patrik Soderberg, who worked with a team from Abo Academy University in Finland and published their research in the journal Science, said their research questioned "the idea that human nature, by default, is developed in the presence of making war and that war is a driving force in human evolution."
The findings, Soderberg said, challenge "the idea that war was ever-present in our ancestral past."
The study, "paints another picture where the quarrels and aggression were primarily about interpersonal motives instead of groups fighting against each other," said Soderberg.
The research pulls from observations of modern day people and tribes who are still isolated from contemporary society—living like hunter-gatherers did thousands of years ago—as the best living examples of how humans interacted in primitive times.
"About 12,000 years ago, we assume all humans were living in this kind of society, and that these kind of societies made up about for about 90% of our evolutionary path," Soderberg said.
The study found that of all the recorded deaths in these groups, most were considered individual "homicides," while only a few were caused by ongoing feuds. And, as Soderberg writes, "only the minority could be labeled as war."
"Over half the events were perpetrated by lone individuals and in 85% of the cases, the victims were members of the same society."
The researchers said that studying today's hunter-gatherer communities was not a perfect method for understanding ancient societies, "but said the similarities were significant and did provide an insight into our past," BBC News adds.
“It has been tempting to use these mobile foraging societies as rough analogies of the past and to ask how old warfare is and whether it is part of human nature. Our study shows that war is obviously not very common,” said study co-author Douglas Fry.