War has been "creative force" behind civilisation, scientists claim

War has been the “driving force” which has created the societies we live in today, a new study claims.

War (Conan the Barbarian, 1982)

War has been the “driving force” which has created the societies we live in today, a new study claims.

Over 3,000 years, war - and in particular, warriors on horseback - have spread “civilisation” across the world, according to a new study.

Innovations such as farming technologies or writing are not enough to “spark” changes in society by themselves - chariots, cavalry, fire and the sword spread these ideas across the world.

Without war, large, complex societies such as today's may not have developed.

The study - watching how war, and ideas “spread” across the world on a computer simulation - accurately predicted the rise of real empires over 3,000 years, and could even help us “predict the future,” the researchers say.

[Alien bugs "found in Earth's atmosphere"]

Researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Exeter created a realistic simulation of Africa, Europe and Asia from 1,500BC to 1,500BC - and found that innovation “spread” through warfare.

Violent attacks by nomads on horseback disrupted peaceful farming societies - but spread technologies that helped those societies, in turn, to become more warlike.

“War was indeed a disruptive innovation which  greatly accelerated the evolution of social complexity (and dramatically increased the size of political units),” says Sergey Gavrilets of the University of Tennesee-Knoxville. “Notethere were no horses in pre-Columbian America which might have contributed to a slower development of societies there.

Forces of warriors on horseback allowed large, powerful societies to flourish - by eliminating the weak, and spreading technologies which allowed more war.

“Steppe nomads influenced the dynamics of agrarian societies both directly, byeliminating weaker and less cohesive states, and indirectly, by innovating and spreading technologies that intensified warfare” the researchers say.

Conquered societies would tend to adopt traits such as religion, education and a bureacratic class from their conquerors - as well as learning their military techniques. Chariots and cavalry spread civilisation through the ancient world.

The method could even help us predict how technologies might spread in the future.

"What's so exciting about this area of research is that instead of just telling stories or describing what occurred, we can now explain general historical patterns with quantitative accuracy. Explaining historical events helps us better understand the present, and ultimately may help us predict the future," said the study's co-author Sergey Gavrilets, NIMBioS director for scientific activities.

We have also chosen to focus on agrarian societies during a particular timeframe and in a particular part of the world. Future work will extend this approach to examine the
evolution of social complexity in the Americas and in the Old World after 1,500 AD.

The researchers believe that their work show there is a “pattern” in history - and that applying these methods can reveal more about our past, or even our future.

“Our analyses, however, also provide support for the idea that the story of the past is not just a case of “one damned thing after another” but that there are general mechanisms at play in shaping the broad patterns of history,” the researchers write.

“We are still very early in the development of the theory, working on simple "building blocks". But the history of mathematical modeling in other sciences  (such as physics, chemistry,economics, and biology) tell us that once mathematical theory becomes more sophisticated and thoroughly tested against data (which need to be accumulated and analysed), more precise predictions become possible,” says Gavrilets.