When was war first fought in Europe? Three hundred skeletons in a Spanish cave come up with a surprising answer

A recent reanalysis of more than 300 skeletons recovered from a Spanish cave in northern Spain suggests that war was raging in Europe 1,000 years earlier than thought.

From the research, which has been published in the science journal Scientific Reports, it appears that the mass grave examined contains a disproportionate number of male skeletons. However, the most unique finding is the fact that many skeletons show signs of two types of injuries: injuries that have already healed in the past and unhealed injuries. This is significant because, according to the researchers, it could well mean that these skeletons were actually warriors who died fighting.

The healed injuries come from previous conflicts and the unhealed injuries come from the conflict in which they died. Since the skeletons are 5,000 years old, that would mean that war was fought in Europe 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. Finally, 52 flint arrowheads were also found in the mass grave. Of these, 36 showed signs of hitting a target.

Looting tour
Scientists are currently finding it difficult to understand conflicts that took place during the European Neolithic period. This period lasts from about 9000 to 4000 years ago and is the period before the Bronze Age, which runs from 4000 to 2800 years ago. Until now, it was thought that the first wars only took place during the Bronze Age, because according to researchers this was probably the first time when humans had developed the logistical capabilities to support a large-scale war. It was assumed that conflicts during the European Neolithic often mainly consisted of smaller raids that lasted a maximum of a few days. These raids were mainly carried out by smaller groups of about 20 to 30 warriors.

Months of conflict
However, as new research suggests that 338 soldiers are buried in the Spanish cave, it is likely that the conflict that played out in the Spanish landscape was much bigger than just a raid. It could well be that the conflict was one of the first European wars ever. A conflict that lasted not days, but months.

It is not exactly clear what the reason for the conflict was. The study speculates that it could be due to tensions between different cultural groups in the region. In any case, the Spanish skeletons have helped us a step further in understanding conflicts during the European Neolithic period, 5,000 years after their death.