Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Way to Settle a Dispute

The Aborigines of Australia have a unique method for settling land disputes. And if the evidence of ancient aboriginal bones dated at up to 11,000 years old indicate that this tradition goes back a long, long way.

It seems that when a property dispute arose between two Aborigines, the opponents resorted to heavy wooden clubs in order to settle the quarrel. The men face each other and take turns swinging their clubs at one another’s head, with the other man attempting to parry the blow. The disagreement is considered settled when one of the men is so seriously injured that he cannot continue.

The opponents are usually young adults who are seeking land on which to build homes for themselves and their families. It is interesting that almost half of all Aboriginal skulls found in southern Australia show evidence of deep head wounds, usually on the front or on the left side of the skull. These are often accompanied by healed forearm fractures which may represent attempts to parry blows.

This behavior reminds me of the actions of sheep, goats, and other animals who routinely fight for mates or territory by charging at one another in an attempt to physically overwhelm or overcome their rivals. Perhaps, in some ways, humans aren’t so different from other animals after all.

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