Re: War

Mon, 29 May 1995 12:35:34 GMT

> the nature and frequency of warfare among or within hunter-gatherer
> societies.
> Is the pattern of warfare within these groups indistinguishable from
> seen when there is some form of significant agrarian dependency?


Hunter gathers identify with the territory in which they were born they
don't have to defend that territory in order to earn their living. Hence
acquisition of additional territory through the rout or annihilation of
enemy forces is seldom a conscious motive for joining battle. Families
and individuals were constantly changing band and allegiance. Bands [of
hunter gathers] usually initiate combat as a result of an accumulation
of personal grievances between influential individuals.
A good account of conflict between hunter gathers is given by Pilling
and Hart (1960 The Tiwi of Northern Australia). The Tiklauila-Rangwila
and the Mandiiumbula bands of Bathhurst and Melville Islands (Northern
Australia) agreed to meet in an open space where there was plenty of
room. They lined up opposite each other and after a lot of shouting two
or three individuals were singled out for special attention, thus when
spears were thrown they were thrown by individuals for individual
reasons. If (note the if) anyone was hit then hostilities stopped
until the implications of the incident could be assessed by both sides.

With the settling of specific pieces of land and the development of
agriculture combat increased. Permanent facilities and crops intensified
the sense of territorial identity and villages remained enemies across
the generations.
The extreme conflicts described by Chagnon in Yanomamo: The Fierce
People (1968) show that 33 per cent of adult males were lost through
conflict. They indulged in extreme and intense continuous raids, ambushes
and sneak attacks where all ages and sexes were targets.

I have drawn liberally from Marvin Harris's Cannibals an Kings. The
Origins of Cultures 1978.