Surviving in the Atacama Desert was not easy, but nature was not the real danger here. No one would have thought that farming here would be easy.
And yet, the brutal hardships of living in one of Earth’s driest, harshest environments proved fatal to many, and not all dangers were imposed by the desert.
Instead, here’s an oasis near where the bodies were found.
Some of the most terrifying dangers here were the people themselves.
In a new study, scientists examined the human remains of some of the first farmers to till the Atacama Desert in what is now Chile, about 3,000 years ago.
Experts examined the remains of 194 inpiduals and found they were routinely beaten during a time of societal and ecological upheaval
In addition to the difficulty of growing crops in this very barren land, social tensions during the period of social and cultural transformation led to horrific violence, with traces of which are clearly visible on the skeletons.
Inpiduals with trauma in a mass grave, in atypical body positions.
The new socio-cultural structure and land use can trigger social tensions, conflicts and violence among farmers.
As part of the study, the scientists examined the remains of 194 adults buried in ancient cemeteries in the desert’s Azapa Valley, which was once one of northern Chile’s most fertile valleys.
Given the desert conditions, the skeletons dated to 800-600 BC are very well preserved, some even with hair and soft tissues.
But many of these farmers’ skeletons show signs of violence and fighting.
“Of the 194 human skeletons, 21% had injuries consistent with interpersonal violence. 10% had fatal injuries and 14 had skull fractures.” says.
Of the 194 skeletons studies, 40 of them ‘exhibited trauma compatible with interpersonal violence, regardless of the degree of completeness of the bodies’
Some were fatal blows from a head-on collision or a rear attack. Scientists believe the injuries were caused by wooden sticks, batons or thrown weapons.
Scientists believe that one of the causes of conflicts among former farmers is the struggle for habitat, fertile soil and water due to climate change.
“This may have provoked rivalries, tensions and violent conflicts among neighboring social groups in the Azapa Valley,” they say.
“In light of the changing socio-cultural conditions, the new leaders sought to assert their power and control the fertile land, which is why such conflicts arose,” Standen says.