The earliest forms of class systems began with human sacrifices, and seems to have stemmed from ancient societies originating from Taiwan. The ritual of killings spread across the Pacific to New Zealand, keeping the poor degraded, while the affluent continued to thrive.
According to the Washington Post, this theory was uncovered by a team of researchers who analyzed more than seven dozen Austronesian culture, and revealed that “the practice of human sacrifices tended to make societies increasingly less egalitarian and eventually gave rise to strict, inherited class systems.” Results of the study are published in the journal, Nature.
Originally there appeared to be no clear cut reason for the human sacrifices, since each society that carried them out all had various reasons for doing so, including having a more bountiful harvest, better weather conditions or safe passage across waters.
While no differences were found in the classes of people that were mutilated, it was found that groups carrying out the carnage were diverse. They ranged from “small egalitarian family-based communities of the Isneg in the Philippines and the huge societies of the Hawaiian islands, which were home to complex states with royal families, slaves and more than 100,000 people who often came into conflict,” according to the study which delves deep into the Austronesian cultures.
Historical and ethnographic accounts were used to rate the cultures “according to their level of stratification,” the cultures that practiced ritual sacrifice were pinpointed. Although the ancients were sacrificed for various reasons, the one constant across all lines identified those killed always were of a lower social class than those who carried out the killings.
Twenty egalitarian societies were studied. The more stratified the societies became, the higher the ritual killings, particularly where inherited class differences were “strictly enforced with little opportunity for social mobility,” 65 percent of ritual killings emanated from these societies, which demonstrated higher social status.