Friday, May 18, 2012

Warfare Began with Human Hunter-Gatherers?

Author Robert Ardrey's* popularization of the theory that modern humans are in part a product of their violent primate ancestral past may have some merit, with a twist, according to Dr. Christopher Boehm, Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California. In a review published in the May 18, 2012 issue of the journal Science, he suggests that, though the common ancestor to modern-day chimpanzees, bonobos and humans may have used conflict to solve problems and achieve objectives, it was not until the later human hunter-gatherers that the more organized, full-scale features of aggression and conflict that define actual warfare developed.

Boehm (pictured right) draws this insight based on comparative behavioral studies among humans and their closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees and the bonobos. Chimpanzees and other apes, like humans, have been observed to exhibit violence as a means of addressing their environment or relating to others. Bonobos, although not strangers to conflict and violence, have been observed as beng significantly less agressive. The characteristics common to warfare, however, which include the application of social, organizational and technological skills not found among non-human primates, were observed first only among human hunter-gatherer groups.

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