NEW YORK—In a major breakthrough that provides new insight into the region’s deep-seated instability, researchers at Columbia University presented evidence Tuesday that indicates the long-running conflict currently engulfing the Middle East predates all human civilization.
According to the team of leading historians, archaeologists, and paleontologists, the regional turmoil appears to have originated long before the Sunni-Shiite rift of the seventh century or even the first proto-urban settlements in Mesopotamia some 11,000 years earlier, with data suggesting that the violent struggle has been raging across the same 5-million-square-mile area since the dawn of life on earth.
“In our efforts to trace the underlying origins of the Middle East conflict, we found that the brutal hostilities started almost 4 billion years earlier than we previously thought,” said lead researcher Anthony Jackson, who added that the conflict could now be linked back to savage guerrilla attacks launched by the first single-celled organisms to emerge in what would later be known as Jordan. “Eons before there were Israelis or Palestinians in the region—or anyone else, for that matter—fighting broke out at the microbial level, with the unusually fierce clashes soon spreading into what is now Iraq, Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and Turkey. Of course, it was just a barren, featureless landscape covered by a prehistoric sea at that point, but nevertheless, unrest was highly concentrated in this area.”
“While the recent bloodshed in Syria is horrific, it has yet to reach the intense level of carnage wrought by giant land-dwelling theropods during the Cretaceous period.”
“This discovery allows us to put developments from the Holocene epoch of the past 12,000 years—the Arab Spring uprisings, the 1982 Lebanon invasion, the Yom Kippur War, and so on—into a much fuller context,” he continued. “We can now say that today’s fighting in Syria and Iraq is simply a continuation of the battles waged in the primordial soup of the Precambrian age.”
Based on an analysis of the fossil record, scholars have determined that the Middle East conflict includes a vast array of violent events spanning more than four-fifths of the earth’s history, including a mid-Paleozoic massacre that wiped out nearly all millipedes on the Gondwana supercontinent, a vicious marine life territory dispute during the Silurian period that left millions of organisms floating dead in the bitterly contested waters above present-day Yemen, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and a key battle fought 700,000 years ago in the Golan Heights by members of the species Homo erectus who had just discovered fire.
Jackson explained that the conflict escalated dramatically when Pleistocene megafauna first occupied what is now the land around Jerusalem. For hundreds of millennia, according to the researcher, control shifted back and forth between woolly mammoths and giant rhinoceroses, each of which reportedly sought to eradicate the other species entirely and establish a permanent homeland in the region.
“While the recent bloodshed in Syria is horrific, it has yet to reach the intense level of carnage wrought by giant land-dwelling theropods during the Cretaceous period,” said Jackson, citing fossils unearthed in Saudi Arabia that reveal these dinosaurs helped destabilize the entire region with ferocious, large-scale attacks, often against members of their own species. “The ruthless nature of daily life in the region and perpetual threat of deadly violence displaced millions of parasaurolophus and triceratops, driving them hundreds of miles from their natural habitats and leaving them to forage for food and shelter in totally unfamiliar terrain. It was pure chaos.”
“However, there have been a small handful of peaceful lulls in the region—most notably in the first six months following the 2008 Israel-Hamas ceasefire agreement and during the 215 million years of the Cryogenian ice ages, when the earth was blanketed in thick continental glaciers,” he added. “But these periods of relative calm offered only temporary respite.”
Since the beginning of prehistory, Jackson estimated, more than 50 trillion innocent and defenseless organisms from every known phylum have been bitten, stung, trampled, or clawed to death in the area of Gaza alone. Nonetheless, he expressed optimism that the Middle East will one day be free of violence.
“Of course, finding a viable solution will be difficult given the incredibly complex geopolitical, sectarian, historic, prehistoric, and evolutionary factors contributing to the unrest,” Jackson explained. “That said, there is still hope that a lasting peace in the region will eventually be achieved once the sun burns out in about 5 billion years.”