Advertisement

Human Nature

pp 1–21 | Cite as

Pacifying Hunter-Gatherers

  • Raymond HamesEmail author
Article

Abstract

There is a well-entrenched schism on the frequency (how often), intensity (deaths per 100,000/year), and evolutionary significance of warfare among hunter-gatherers compared with large-scale societies. To simplify, Rousseauians argue that warfare among prehistoric and contemporary hunter-gatherers was nearly absent and, if present, was a late cultural invention. In contrast, so-called Hobbesians argue that violence was relatively common but variable among hunter-gatherers. To defend their views, Rousseauians resort to a variety of tactics to diminish the apparent frequency and intensity of hunter-gatherer warfare. These tactics include redefining war, censoring ethnographic accounts of warfare in comparative analyses, misconstruing archaeological evidence, and claiming that outside contact inflates the intensity of warfare among hunter-gatherers. These tactics are subject to critical analysis and are mostly found to be wanting. Furthermore, Hobbesians with empirical data have already established that the frequency and intensity of hunter-gatherer warfare is greater compared with large-scale societies even though horticultural societies engage in warfare more intensively than hunter-gatherers. In the end I argue that although war is a primitive trait we may share with chimpanzees and/or our last common ancestor, the ability of hunter-gatherer bands to live peaceably with their neighbors, even though war may occur, is a derived trait that fundamentally distinguishes us socially and politically from chimpanzee societies. It is a point often lost in these debates.

Keywords

Hunter-gatherers War Chimpanzees Peace Comparative research 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank Phil Geib, Azar Gat, Bernard Chapais, three anonymous reviewers and especially Michael Wilson for their careful reading and useful comments on the manuscript. I also would like to thank my research assistant Victoria Salinas for her tabulations of the SOI data in Fry and Söderberg (2013).

References

  1. Allen, M. W. (2014a). Hunter-gatherer conflict: The last bastion of the pacified past. In M. W. Allen & T. L. Jones (Eds.), Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers (pp. 15–25). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, M. W. (2014b). Hunter-gatherer violence and warfare in Australia. In M. W. Allen & T. L. Jones (Eds.), Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers (pp. 97–111). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, M. W., & Jones, T. L. (Eds.). (2014). Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  4. Allen, M. W., Bettinger, R. L., Codding, B. F., Jones, T. L., & Schwitalla, A. W. (2016). Resource scarcity drives lethal aggression among prehistoric hunter-gatherers in Central California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(43), 12120–12125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, R., Head, G., Jenike, M., Owen, B., Rechtman, R., & Zechenter, E. (1989). Hunting and gathering in tropical rain forest: Is it possible? American Anthropologist, 91, 59–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bamforth, D. (2018). What do we know about warfare on the Great Plains? In A. P. Clark & D. Bamforth (Eds.), Archaeological perspectives on warfare on the Great Plains. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.Google Scholar
  7. Bar-Yosef, O. (2017). Multiple origins of agriculture in Eurasia and Africa. In F. J. Ayala (Ed.), On human nature (pp. 297–331). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beckerman, S., & Valentine, P. (2008). Revenge in the cultures of lowland South America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.Google Scholar
  9. Beckerman, S., Erickson, P. I., Yost, J., Regalado, J., Jaramillo, L., Sparks, C., Iromenga, M., & Long, K. (2009). Life histories, blood revenge, and reproductive success among the Waorani of Ecuador. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(20), 8134–8139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Binford, L. (2002). Constructing frames of reference: An analytical method for archaeological theory building using ethnographic and environmental data sets. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Boehm, C. (1993). Egalitarian behavior and reverse dominance hierarchy. Current Anthropology, 34, 227–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boehm, C. (2012). Ancestral hierarchy and conflict. Science, 336(6083), 844–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bowles, S. (2009). Did warfare among ancestral hunter-gatherers affect the evolution of human social behaviors? Science, 324(5932), 1293–1298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burch, E. S. (1974). Eskimo warfare in Northwest Alaska. Anchorage: University of Alaska.Google Scholar
  15. Burch, E. S. (2005). The world system of the Iñupiaq Eskimos: Alliance and conflict. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chagnon, N. (1988). Life histories, blood revenge, and warfare in a tribal population. Science, 239, 985–992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chagnon, N. (1997). Yanomamö. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  18. Chapais, B. (2009). Primeval kinship: How pair-bonding gave birth to human society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Chapais, B. (2010). The deep structure of human society: Primate origins and evolution. In P. Kappeler & J. Silk (Eds.), Mind the gap: Tracing the origins of human universals (pp. 19–51). London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Culotta, E. (2013). Latest skirmish over ancestral violence strikes blow for peace. Science, 341(6143), 224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Damas, D. (1969). Characteristics of central Eskimo band structure. Contributions to Anthropology: Band Societies. National Museums of Canada Bulletin, 228, 116-134. Toronto.Google Scholar
  22. De Waal, F. (2010). The age of empathy: Nature's lessons for a kinder society. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  23. Dow, M. M., & Eff, E. A. (2008). Global, regional, and local network autocorrelation in the standard cross-cultural sample. Cross-Cultural Research, 42(2), 148–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dyson-Hudson, R., & Smith, E. A. (1978). Human territoriality: An ecological reassessment. American Anthropologist, 80, 21–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ember, C. R. (1978). Myths about hunter-gatherers. Ethnology, 17(4), 439–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (1992a). Resource unpredictability, mistrust, and war. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 36(2), 242–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (1992b). Warfare, aggression, and resource problems: Cross-cultural codes. Behavior Science Research, 26, 169–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (1997). Violence in the ethnographic record: Results of cross-cultural research on war and aggression. In D. Martin & D. Frayer (Eds.), Troubled times: Violence and warfare in the past (Vol. 3, pp. 1–20). Longhorne: Gordon and Breach.Google Scholar
  29. Ember, M., & Ember, C. R. (2001). Myths about preindustrial war: Possible lessons for peace from worldwide cross-cultural research. In J. Ramirez & D. Richardson (Eds.), Cross-cultural approaches to aggression and reconciliation (pp. 149–166). Hauppauge: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  30. Ferguson, R. B. (1990). Blood of the leviathan: Western contact and warfare in Amazonia. American Ethnologist, 17, 237–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ferguson, R. B. (2014). Anthropologist Brian Ferguson challenges claim that chimp violence is adaptive. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2014/09/18/anthropologist-brian-ferguson-challenges-claim-that-chimp-violence-is-adaptive/. Retrieved 1/20/2018.
  32. Ferguson, R. B., & Whitehead, N. L. (Eds.). (1991). War in the tribal zone. Santa Fe: SAR Press.Google Scholar
  33. Fox, R. (1969). Professional primitives: Hunters and gatherers of nuclear South Asia. Man in India, 49(2).Google Scholar
  34. Fox, E. A., van Schaik, C. P., Sitompul, A., & Wright, D. N. (2004). Intra- and interpopulational differences in orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) activity and diet: Implications for the invention of tool use. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 125(2), 162–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fried, M. H. (1957). The classification of corporate unilineal descent groups. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 87(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fruth, B., & Hohmann, G. (2018). Food sharing across borders: First observation of intercommunity meat sharing by bonobos at LuiKotale, DRC. Human Nature, 29(2), 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fry, D. P. (2006). The human potential for peace: An anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.Google Scholar
  38. Fry, D. P. (2007). Beyond war: The human potential for peace. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Fry, D. P. (2013). War, peace, and human nature: The challenge of achieving scientific objectivity. In D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, peace and human nature (pp. 1–21). London: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fry, D. P., & Söderberg, P. (2013). Lethal aggression in mobile forager bands and implications for the origins of war. Science, 341(6143), 270–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Fry, D. P., & Söderberg, P. (2014). Myths about hunter-gatherers redux: Nomadic forager war and peace. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 6(4), 255–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gabbatiss, J. (2017) Is violence embedded in our DNA? https://www.sapiens.org/evolution/human-violence-evolution/. Retrieved 1 July, 2017.
  43. Gat, A. (2000). The human motivational complex: Evolutionary theory and the causes of hunter-gatherer fighting, part I: Primary somatic and reproductive causes. Anthropological Quarterly, 73(2), 20–34.Google Scholar
  44. Gat, A. (2015). Proving communal warfare among hunter-gatherers: The quasi-Rousseauan error. Evolutionary Anthropology, 24(3), 111–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Gintis, H., van Schaik, C., & Boehm, C. (2015). Zoon politikon: The evolutionary origins of human political systems. Current Anthropology, 56(3), 327–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Glowacki, L., & Wrangham, R. (2015). Warfare and reproductive success in a tribal population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(2), 348–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Goodall, J. (1986). The chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Haas, J. (2001). Warfare and the evolution of culture. In D. Price & G. Feinman (Eds.), Archaeology at the millennium (pp. 329–350). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Haas, J., & Piscitelli, M. (2013). The prehistory of warfare: Misled by ethnography. In D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, peace, and human nature (pp. 168–190). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hames, R. (1989). Time, efficiency, and fitness in the Amazonian protein quest. Research in Economic Anthropology, 11, 43–85.Google Scholar
  51. Hames, R. (2007). The ecologically noble savage debate. Annual Review of Anthropology, 36, 177–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hart, T. B., & Hart, J. A. (1986). The ecological basis of hunter-gatherer subsistence in African rain forests: The Mbuti of eastern Zaire. Human Ecology, 14(1), 29–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Headland, T., & Bailey, R. (1991). Introduction: Have foragers ever lived in tropical rain forests independently of agriculture? Human Ecology, 19(2), 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Helm, J. (1965). Bilaterality in the socio-territorial organization of the Arctic drainage Dene. Ethnology, 4(4), 361–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Henrich, J. (2004). Cultural group selection, co-evolutionary processes, and large-scale cooperation. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 53, 3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Hill, K. R., Wood, B. M., Baggio, J., Hurtado, A. M., & Boyd, R. T. (2014). Hunter-gatherer inter-band interaction rates: Implications for cumulative culture. PLoS One, 9(7), e102806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Horgan, J (2016) 10,000-year-old massacre does not bolster claim that war is innate. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/10-000-year-old-massacre-does-not-bolster-claim-that-war-is-innate/ [Retrieved 1/22/2018].
  58. Joiris, D. V. (2003). The framework of central African hunter-gatherers and neighbouring societies. African Studies Monographs, 28, 57–79.Google Scholar
  59. Keeley, L. (1997). War before civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Kelly, R. C. (2002). Warless societies and the origin of war. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  61. Kelly, R. L. (2013). From the peaceful to the warlike: Ethnographic and archaeological insights into hunter-gatherer warfare and homicide. In D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, peace, and human nature: The convergence of evolutionary and cultural views (pp. 151–167). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Kissel, M., & Kim, N. C. (2019). The emergence of human warfare: Current perspectives. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 168(S67), 141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Knauft, B. (1987). Reconsidering violence in simple human societies: Homicide among the Gebusi of New Guinea. Current Anthropology, 28, 457–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lambert, P. M. (2002). The archaeology of war: A North American perspective. Journal of Archaeological Research, 10(3), 207–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Layton, R., O’Hara, S., & Bilsborough, A. (2012). Antiquity and social functions of multilevel social organization among human hunter-gatherers. International Journal of Primatology, 33(5), 1215–1245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lee, R. B. (1979). The !Kung San: Men, women and work in a foraging society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Lorenz, K. (1963). On aggression. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  68. Mace, R., Pagel, M., Bowen, J. R., Gupta, B. K. D., Otterbein, K. F., Ridley, M., et al. (1994). The comparative method in anthropology. Current Anthropology, 35(5), 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Manson, J. H., & Wrangham, R. W. (1991). Intergroup aggression in chimpanzees and humans. Current Anthropology, 32(4), 369–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mead, M. (1940). Warfare is only an invention — not a biological necessity. Asia, XL, 402–405.Google Scholar
  71. Mirazón Lahr, M., Rivera, F., Power, R. K., Mounier, A., Copsey, B., Crivellaro, F., Edung, J. E., Maillo Fernandez, J. M., Kiarie, C., Lawrence, J., Leakey, A., Mbua, E., Miller, H., Muigai, A., Mukhongo, D. M., Van Baelen, A., Wood, R., Schwenninger, J-L., Grün, R., Achyuthan, H., Wilshaw, A., & Foley, R. A. (2016). Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya. Nature, 529(7586), 394–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Murdock, G. P., & White, D. (1969). Standard cross-cultural sample. Ethnology, 8(4), 32–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Otterbein, K. F. (1968). Internal war: A cross-cultural study. American Anthropologist, 70(2), 277–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Otterbein, K. F. (2004). How war began. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Pardoe, C. (2014). Conflict and territoriality in aboriginal Australia: Evidence from biology and ethnography. In M. Allen & T. L. Jones (Eds.), Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers (pp. 112–132). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  76. Pilloud, M. A., Schwitalla, A. W., & Jones, T. L. (2014). The bioarchaeological record of craniofacial trauma in Central California. In M. Allen & T. L. Jones (Eds.), Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers (pp. 257–272). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  77. Pisor, A. C., & Surbeck, M. (2017). Tolerance in intergroup encounters: Payoffs and plasticity in non-human primates and humans. PeerJ Preprints, 5, e3400v3401.Google Scholar
  78. Portman, M. V. (1899). A history of our relations with the Andamanese (Vol. 1). London: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing.Google Scholar
  79. Power, M. (2005). The egalitarians—Human and chimpanzee: An anthropological view of social organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Prosterman, R. L. (1972). Surviving to 3000: An introduction to the study of lethal conflict. London: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  81. Rambo, A. T. (1988). Why are the Semang? Ecology and ethnogenesis of aboriginal groups in peninsular Malaysia. In A. T. Rambo, K. Gillogly, & K. Hutterer (Eds.), Ethnic diversity and the control of natural resources in Southeast Asia (pp. 19–36). Ann Arbor: Center for South East Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  82. Rodseth, L., & Wrangham, R. (2004). Human kinship: A continuation of politics by other means. In B. Chapais & C. M. Berman (Eds.), Kinship and behavior in primates (pp. 389–419). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Rodseth, L., Wrangham, R. W., Harrigan, A. M., Smuts, B. B., Dare, R., Fox, R., King, B. J., Lee, P. C., Foley, R. A., Muller, J. C., Otterbein, K. F., Strier, K. B., Turke, P. W., & Wolpoff, M. H. (1991). The human community as a primate society. Current Anthropology, 32(3), 221–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Roscoe, P. (2014). Foragers and war in contact-era New Guinea. In M. W. Allen & T. L. Jones (Eds.), Violence and warfare among hunter-gatherers (pp. 223–240). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  85. Roser, Max. (2018). Ethnographic and archaeological evidence on violent deaths. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/ethnographic-and-archaeological-evidence-on-violent-deaths [Online Resource].
  86. Ryan, C., & Jetha, C. (2012). Sex at dawn: How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  87. Schebesta, P. (1929). Among the forest dwarfs of Malaya. London: Hutchinson & Company.Google Scholar
  88. Schwitalla, A. W., Jones, T. L., Pilloud, M. A., Codding, B. F., & Wiberg, R. S. (2014). Violence among foragers: The bioarchaeological record from Central California. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 33, 66–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Secoy, F. (1953). Changing military patterns on the Great Plains. Seattle: American Ethnological Society.Google Scholar
  90. Silberbauer, G. B. (1972). The G/wi bushmen. In M. G. Bicchieri (Ed.), Hunters and gatherers today (pp. 271–325). New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  91. Silk, J. B., & Boyd, R. (2010). From grooming to giving blood: The origins of human altruism. In P. Kappeler & J. Silk (Eds.), Mind the gap (pp. 223–244). London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Sussman, R. W., & Marshack, J. (2010). Are humans inherently killers? Global Non-Killing Working Papers, 1, 7–28. Honolulu: Center for Global Non-Killing. http://nonkilling.org/pdf/wp1.pdf
  93. Walker, R. S., & Bailey, D. H. (2013). Body counts in lowland South American violence. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(1), 29–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wendorf, F. (1968). Site 117: A Nubian Final Paleolithic graveyard near Jebel Sahaba, Sudan. In F. Wendorf (Ed.), The prehistory of Nubia (Vol. 2, pp. 954–995). Dallas: Southern Methodist University.Google Scholar
  95. White, D. (1989). Focused ethnographic bibliography: Standard cross-cultural sample. Behavior Science Research, 23, 1–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. White, F. J., Waller, M. T., & Boose, K. (2013). Evolution of primate peace. In D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, peace and human nature: The convergence of evolutionary and cultural views (pp. 389–405). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wiessner, P. (2016). The rift between science and humanism: What’s data got to do with it? Current Anthropology, 57(S13), 154–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wilson, M. (2013). Chimpanzees, warfare, and the invention of peace. In D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, peace and human nature: The convergence of evolutionary and cultural views (pp. 361–388). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Wilson, M. (2014). Human impacts. http://blog.michael-lawrence-wilson.com/2014/09/30/human-impacts/. Retrieved 1/22/2018 2018.
  100. Wilson, M., & Glowacki, L. (2017). Violent cousins: Chimpanzees, humans, and the root of war. In M. N. Muller, R. W. Wrangham, & D. Pilbeam (Eds.), Chimpanzees and human evolution (pp. 464–508). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Wilson, M. L., Boesch, C., Fruth, B., Furuichi, T., Gilby, I. C., Hashimoto, C., Hobaiter, C. L., Hohmann, G., Itoh, N., Koops, K., Lloyd, J. N., Matsuzawa, T., Mitani, J. C., Mjungu, D. C., Morgan, D., Muller, M. N., Mundry, R., Nakamura, M., Pruetz, J., Pusey, A. E., Riedel, J., Sanz, C., Schel, A. M., Simmons, N., Waller, M., Watts, D. P., White, F., Wittig, R. M., Zuberbühler, K., & Wrangham, R. W. (2014). Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts. Nature, 513(7518), 414–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Wrangham, R. W. (1999). Evolution of coalitionary killing. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 42, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Wrangham, R. (2013a). Why evolution matters for war. Presented at “Evolution, The Human Sciences, and Liberty,” Mont Pelerin Society Special Meeting, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Galapagos Campus, San Cristobal Island, June 22–29.Google Scholar
  104. Wrangham, R. (2013b). Chimpanzee violence is a serious topic: A response to Sussman and Marshack’s critique of Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. Global Non-Killing Working Papers, 1(1), 29–45. Honolulu: Center for Global Non-Killing.Google Scholar
  105. Wrangham, R., & Glowacki, L. (2012). Intergroup aggression in chimpanzees and war in nomadic hunter-gatherers: Evaluating the chimpanzee model. Human Nature, 23, 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Wrangham, R. W., Wilson, M. L., & Muller, M. N. (2006). Comparative rates of violence in chimpanzees and humans. Primates, 47(1), 14–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA

Personalised recommendations