Bronze age warfare and warriors

The birth of tactics & strategy


Early Origins; Before the bronze age

Historians often dates the start of organized warfare to the bronze age, for good reasons: From large, well organized and professional, standardized standing armies to an alreay refined set of tactics, management of spplies, fortfied garrisons, spying or information cirtculation, all the trademarks of "modern" warfare was there. It lacked only one thing that will dominate the battlefields for minnelia, straight to the late XIXth century: Cavarly, ina shape that we can recoignised. Instead, Bronze age warfare was of course marked by the adoption of bronze weaponry, the first great revolution of that era, around xxx, and the domestication of horse, at first used for charioteering, and the technology associated. The palette of bronze weaponry went from crude axes to well-crafted swords and various infantry types were developed at the same time as well as organized tactics. But before ? What the hostorians know about the neolithic age warfare if there was even one ?

Before even the neolithic there was a transition called the Copper Age, often associated by historians to the brone or "metal age" at large, since this was a technological gap large enough before the neolithic. Generally the "copper age" or Chalcolithic. In Old World archaeology, it was also called the "Eneolithic", and metallurgy appeared alongside widespread use of stone tools. The first weapons made of copper as well as tools, appeared, but there was still not empires or large organized cities to speak. It went back to around 7500 BC and from Timna Valley in the Negev Desert to a site in Serbia evidence was found of malting copper going back nearly 3,000 years before the bronze age. The technique was likely invented independently in Asia and Europebut emerged apparently from the Fertile Crescent, also the birthplace of the Bronze Age in the 4th millennium BCE, contested however after the earlier finds of the Vinča culture in Europe. Timna Valley showed copper mining going back to 9,000 to 7,000 years ago, so almost "post-flood era" and in any case past the last ice age. The transition to Chalcolithic in the Middle East is shown by tool assemblages and loss in quality in raw material.



This bring up to even earlier times, divided in three eras:

Paleolithic warfare (or absence thereof)

Prehistoric weapons of that time diverged as much was the materials supply and skills of the population using these. Anthropologist and ethnographer Raymond C. Kelly showed that early hunter-gatherer societies (Homo erectus) did not knew "warfare" as we hear it, since the population pressure mostly dictated it, and there was none. mortality was high, resources were scarce and dangers of the natural environment (like predators) enough to keep the opulation low. No armed conflict, therefore, but weaponry indeed. The throwing-spear for example, a development of ambush hunting techniques, could have been the only tactic for potential violence between hunting parties. Coperation or spreading of low population densities on large territories by agreement between family-based "tribes" prevented competition for resources. The migration out of Africa some 1.8 million years in the past was also one of its consequences. Survival was the order of the day. The "Paleolithic warlessness" persisted during the rise of Homo sapiens, 315,000 years ago, but economic and social shifts which came from a sedentary existence provoked the end of a scrcity of resources and therefore, contrary behavious on tribes that became predators in this new envirnement, preferring pillaging these first settlements, easy to find, rather than going on in their hard hunter-gatherer life. Organized raiding therefore between the "sedentary" and "nomads" became a trop for millenias. The weapons used were dictated by hunting tools, namely the wooden javelin, the spear, often associated with silex spearheads. Cave paintings of the Upper Paleolithic never depicts proper battle scenes but human beings pierced with arrows (30,000 years old) up to the early Magdalenian (17,000 BC), and "spontaneous confrontations over resources" with hostile trespassers on a defined territory was killed, but there were other interpretations. Skeletal and artifact evidence of organized warfare is absent in any case.

Paleolithic warfare



Evidence at least shows a prehistoric massacre at Jebel Sahaba, committed by the Natufians against a Qadan culture (far northern Sudan= tribal group. The cemetery shows a large number of bodies dating back 13,000 to 14,000 years old, with arrowheads embedded in their skeletons, incontestably showing signs of warfare. It was likely provoked by an local ecological crisis, therefore creating pressure for rarer resources. At Nataruk (Kenya) a 10,000-year-old skeleton shows traumatic injuries associated with weaponry, notably obsidian bladelets embedded. Pottery had been found narby showing a semi-sedentary way of life but the scene depicted early intragroup violence. Rock art showing warfare between hunter-gatherers groups was found in Northern Australia , dating back also from 10,000 years ago. In Mesolithic Europe other sites shows similar depictions in Europe, but it was always localized and temporarily restricted until the Early Neolithic. There was an Iberian cave art from the Mesolithic showing a battle between archer, at Cova del Roure (Castellón, Valencia). Another larger "battel" was found in Les Dogue, Ares del Maestrat also in Valencia. At Alcañiz in Aragon, a scene shows seven archers with heager mde of plumes fleeing eight archers in hot pursuit. Therefore the era is synonimous with the development of bows, maces, and slings. The bow seems to have been prevalent in early warfare, due to its range. It i,volved indeed less risk than in mêlée combat. Clubs or melee weapons are never shown. Organized warfare showed always two or more groups attacking each other with bows, and these men had at least a basic tactic, organized in line, with a distinctly garbed leader forward. Flankings and envelopments tactics are also shown.

Neolithic warfare



"Systemic warfare appears to have been a direct consequence of the sedentism as it developed in the wake of the Neolithic Revolution. An important example is the massacre of Talheim Death Pit (near Heilbronn, Germany), dated right on the cusp of the beginning European Neolithic, at 5500 BC. Investigation of the Neolithic skeletons found in the Talheim Death pit in Germany suggests that prehistoric men from neighboring tribes were prepared to brutally fight and kill each other in order to capture and secure women. Researchers discovered that there were women among the immigrant skeletons, but within the local group of skeletons there were only men and children. They concluded that the absence of women among the local skeletons meant that they were regarded as somehow special, thus they were spared execution and captured instead. The capture of women may have indeed been the primary motive for the fierce conflict between the men.

More recently, a similar site was discovered at Schöneck-Kilianstädten, with the remains of the victims showing "a pattern of intentional mutilation".[27] While the presence of such massacre sites in the context of Early Neolithic Europe is undisputed, diverging definitions of "warfare proper" (i.e. planned campaigns sanctioned by society as opposed to spontaneous massacres) has led to scholarly debate on the existence of warfare in the narrow sense prior to the development of city states in 20th-century archaeology. In the summary of Heath (2017), accumulating archaeology has made it "increasingly harder" to argue for the absence of organised warfare in Neolithic Europe. Warfare in pre-Columbian North America has served as an important comparandum in the archaeological study of the indirect evidence for warfare in the Neolithic. A notable example is the massacre at the Crow Creek Site in South Dakota (14th century).



The onset of the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) saw the introduction of copper weapons. Organised warfare between early city states was in existence by the mid-5th millennium BC. Excavations at Mersin, Anatolia show the presence of fortifications and soldiers' quarters by 4300 BC. Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that Hamoukar was destroyed by warfare by around 3500 BC-—probably the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Continued excavations in 2008 and 2010 expand on that. Military conquests expanded city states under Egyptian control. Babylonia and later Assyria built empires in Mesopotamia while the Hittite Empire ruled much of Anatolia. Chariots appear in the 20th century BC, and become central to warfare in the Ancient Near East from the 17th century BC. The Hyksos and Kassite invasions mark the transition to the Late Bronze Age. Ahmose I defeated the Hyksos and re-established Egyptian control of Nubia and Canaan, territories again defended by Ramesses II at the Battle of Kadesh, the greatest chariot battle in history. The raids of the Sea Peoples and the renewed disintegration of Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period marks the end of the Bronze Age.

The Tollense valley battlefield is the oldest evidence of a large scale battle in Europe. More than 4,000 warriors from Central Europe fought in a battle on the site in the 13th century BC. Mycenaean Greeks (c. 1600-1100 BC) invested in the development of military infrastructure, while military production and logistics were supervised directly from the palatial centers. The most identifiable piece of Mycenaean armor was the boar's tusk helmet. In general, most features of the later hoplite panoply of classical Greek antiquity, were already known to Mycenaean Greece. The Bronze Age in China traverses the protohistoric and historic periods. Battles utilizing foot and chariot infantry took place regularly between powers in the North China Plain.

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