Were (are) hunter-gatherers warlike?



Scant Evidence that Early Prehistoric People were Warlike, Anthropologist claims - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/scant-evidence-early-prehistoric-people-warlike-020251#sthash.AuCly8Qn.dpuf


Never did buy it. Pinker is an apologist for industrial civ, anyways.


Hi, I only have anecdotal references, but here goes.

A friend from Papua stayed with me for a year, and then later again for 9 months. He was from a tribe in the central highlands. He told me that his mother and father were married after his father “abducted” her during a raid on a nearby tribe. This often happens, apparently. The people in Papua have a reputation for being “warlike”.

He told me they often went on such raids, and were often raided in return. What the anthropologists don’t tell you is that the girls know beforehand that the raid is coming, and they know where to stand, and exactly who they want to be “abducted” by.

Other raids can be just a big fight, not about women at all. Sometimes someone gets killed, and when that does happen, everyone is horrified and the raiding party runs away.

Some people may be “disgusted” by such traditions. It’s none of their fscking business. Papuans don’t come over here telling us how to live. If we have a better way, then intelligent people everywhere would be able to appraise our systems and adapt what they find good about them. They do come here, and they do appraise our systems, and they are disgusted by them. As I am.

Incidentally, right now, 2015, not some time in history, if the Papuans want to talk to the missionaries, they have to go to their house. They stand outside the gate and wait for someone to come out to talk to them, sometimes for hours. They can’t go up to the house and knock on the door, they have to wait outside.

Anthropology is a sham. Entomologists study insects. An ant knows more about ants than any entomologist ever could, but we can’t read books by ants, and they can’t make documentaries about ant society, at least not in english…

But primitive people can talk. Those who decide they want to can write as well as any european, and they could make documentaries if someone was interested enough in what the subject of the documentary has to say, rather than pontificating and showcasing their own expertise. So we really do need people who study ants if we want to know about ants, but we don’t need people who study people, because we can just ask them ourselves.

hmmm, well, I hope that helps!


Thanks for sharing Nameless.

I love that the people already “know.” It reminds me of what Martin Prechtel says about some of the rites of passage when they come and take kids from their parents.


Found this gem last night:

Examining the bone collection from Makapansgat, Dart observed that there was a high proportion of antelope skulls present, but very few neck vertebrae or tailbones. This suggested to him that the game animals had been intentionally decapitated and that the australopiths were headhunters. Dar reasoned that the australopiths were:

“Confirmed killers: carnivorous creatures that seized living quarries by violence, battered them to death, tore apart their broken bodies, dismembered them limb from limb, slaking their ravenous thirst with the hot blood of victims and greedily devouring livid writhing flesh (Dart 1953: 209.”

The idea that human lineage is innately violent soon penetrated into popular culture. Dart’s lurid view of early hominin behavior was popularized by science writer Robert Ardrey in a best-selling book African Genesis (1961). Stanly Cubrick’s classic 1969 film 2001: A Space Odyssey opens with a series of scenes of violent, club-wielding australopiths."

Of course, his speculation has been disproven, and the chapter goes on to explain how.

It’s interesting how the religious idea that humans are flawed found it’s way into science. This was carried on through Jane Goodall’s contextually inappropriate study of Chimps “in the wild.” The belief of modern science being: If there is no god, who made us flawed, than we must be flawed by our nature. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, people continue these myths by inappropriately studying indigenous cultures as well.


Thanks for posting that. They have an interesting take on the meaning of “reasoned”

I guess this is why anthropology and archaeology are arts and not sciences. The art of extrapolation! From half a broken bedpan, an archaeologist can extrapolate a whole society, if qualified enough. Perhaps most people are unaware of the differences between science and art, lumping everyone with letters after their names in the same class; experts.

It’s funny to see the actual sources of anthropological notions and realize that they’re based on something really tenuous combined with the preconceptions and prejudices of someone who is an an expert in different field to the source of those preconceptions.

It seems this Dart person is an expert in collecting and categorizing bones, yet is able to get away with pontificating on on the sociology of a group of people long gone from the face of the earth. The view of humanity he held clouded his view, and imposed his own mind on those of the people he was studying.

I have an equally untestable “theory”: There was a game they played which involved throwing the neck vertebrae and tailbones in the river. If I had letters after my name I could call it reasoning too I spose.

In a way it’s not the anthropologists’ fault. If they merely report their findings they won’t be in the front of the queue for the next grant. The fools who hand out grants are as much to blame, at least, as are we who support the stupid system that takes our money by force and then hands out what’s left over by the warmongers to the grant givers.

Something Matsuo Basho said fits this nicely:
“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo; And in doing so, you must leave behind your subjective occupation with yourself, otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn.”


Nice contribution, nameless. Weird how reluctant many folks are to actually have a conversation with whatever, or whoever they’re wanting to learn more about (ants included! - not that I personally have that ability…) I’ve been turning this one back on myself lately, pointing out that nearly all of my understanding of indigenous people comes from books written by white writers, often based on information recycled from 2nd or 3rd hand sources. How reliable can this information really be, when most of the observers didn’t take the time to immerse themselves properly in those cultures for the many years it would take to discard the preconceptions instilled by their own culture, to the point where they could begin to understand what was going on in any depth? Liedloff (Continuum Concept) did some time, Sorenson (Preconquest Consciousness) too and Abram (Spell of the Sensuous), Prechtel probably most of all (Secrets of the Talking Jaguar), but I still got the feeling even he was just scraping at the surface. What about Quinn, Jensen, Zerzan - have they spent any time with indigenous people, or enough time to respectfully be able to speak on their behalf? Probably it’s important to have these ‘halfway’ voices, so the culture shock isn’t too great and civilised audiences can still relate, up to a point, but I’m thinking you would need to hear directly from people born and raised in longstanding indigenous traditions in order to approach a fuller understanding of what that way of living is truly like. (Sidenote: can anyone point me to indigenous writers who have tried to do this - preferably in English!)

Anyway, I was thinking this topic could probably apply to hierarchy, or rather perceptions of hierarchy by western observers in indigenous populations, which tend to dissolve or turn into something completely differet upon closer inspection. Prechtel, for example, did a good job of showing how the Mayan shamans he was apprenticed to, while viewed by outsiders as a religious upper class in a western-type hierarchical relationship to those beneath them, actually had a totally different position within that society which didn’t jibe with the usual western conceptions of power and subjugation. The shamans were providing an essential service with the - oftentimes dangerous - spiritual work they were undertaking. Ordinary people recognised this and offered support in the form of expensive gifts, meaning the shamans were released from the usual obligations of subsistence and could concentrate their full energies on their work. At the point where Prechtel makes enough money that he can afford to pay himself out of the debt he owes to these other villagers, they are affronted when he tries to do so, with one explaining that an attempt to get out of ‘mutual indebtedness’ - kas-limaal - was an attempt to ‘push us away,’ ‘refuse us,’ ‘pretend to forget us […] we don’t have a word for that kind of death, that isolation of not belonging to all life’ (Long Life, Honey in the Heart, p.347). A world of difference between forced taxation for a superior elite, and the use of voluntary gifts and a notion of universal debt to keep a society together through bonds of mutual obligation. And that’s the slippery, but fundamental kind of difference you can only discover (I’m guessing!) through long periods of direct involvement in another culture.

It's funny to see the actual sources of anthropological notions and realize that they're based on something really tenuous combined with the preconceptions and prejudices of someone who is an an expert in different field to the source of those preconceptions.

Indeed, it’s the racist use of indigenous people, past and present, as a blank canvas for civilised people to indulge their prejudices and brain-dead philosophies. The trick is they actually have to be silent - easily done with prehistoric cultures, but more complex with those who still survive, in spite of concerted attempts by the same people who alternately romanticise or demonise them, while continuing to take their land, kill them off and enslave their remaining populations. Again, there has to be a real two-way conversation if anything is to be learned. Otherwise it’s all confirmation bias and sock puppetry and we end up just talking to ourselves, using other people merely as props to suit whatever argument we happen to be making then.

I suppose the next question is: how do you have a conversation with someone who died tens of thousands of years ago, and whose cultural traditions have long since vanished from the face of the earth?



PS: the Brian Ferguson chapters from War, Peace and Human Nature are online here (pdf files):


and here:


Other satisfying takedowns of Pinker’s arguments:

Herman & Peterson, from a leftist perspective, mainly dealing with recent history:


Stephen Corry of Survival International, dealing with Pinker’s misrepresentation of indigenous people:


and, one I haven’t read yet, John Gray:




Hi Ian,

That’s interesting about the Shamans and their position in society. Strangely, about the best description of a gift economy I’ve found was in an article about open source software.
That chapter is well worth reading I think.

Good question. With current technology we can’t, but at least we can talk with those who are left. But as you point out, that’s easier said than done. Even my friend from Papua was only able to tell me about his father’s experience mostly. His father was part of the generation who made first contact with the missionaries.

Others I have met, though they attempt to get a message out, are compromised by the system and values they have to adopt in order to become “popular” enough to survive as “activists”. That’s not a criticism of them, more of the people who pretend to be supporters of them.

What we need more than anthropologists or journalists is neutral intermediaries who can just go out there, learn the languages and see if anyone wants to do blogs, articles, facebook (spit), youtube, etc. The effort involved in writing a well-researched book is greater than that would be.

P.S. there is a lot of really good info buried in these forums, do you think a wiki might be a good idea? Stuff could be transferred to pages of the wiki and then the original authors, you could try to contact them and get them to contribute there. I think info would be easier to find in a wiki, like a reference section of rewild.com.


Hey Nameless - I don’t want to hijack the conversation… can you post a proposal for the wiki in the Forum Board? It’s the last one I think. We used to have a wiki, but unfortunately it died in 2009 I think, mostly my fault. I let the hosting expire I think, and we lost the whole thing. Remnents exist on the way back machine. It’s something I’ve been thinking about bringing back for a while, but we really need more momentum here on the site before that can happen. Please start a new thread to discuss it. :smiley:

I am not particularly fond of many anthropologists, but there are plenty of them out there, who have befriended indigenous people, and then been asked by them to write books. Two that come to my mind, are Henry Zenk, the “compiler” of the Chinuk Wawa dictionary and Douglas Deur, author of Pacific Northwest Foraging. I think this may be a better trade off than indoctrinating indigenous people into writing in the English language. I don’t know though.

I do think Martin is probably the best example of both worlds.

As for the vertebrae thing, the book goes on to talk about how they were able to disprove all the bullshit that Dart has come up with, and all the… wait for it… bones they had to pick with him. :wink:

It has to do with the weight of bones, the dispersal of bones, the edibility of certain bones. They figured out that vertebrae get eaten/scavenged by animals and other things. It’s fairly common to find only the bones they found, for various reasons. I’m really enjoying Exploring Prehistory. It’s funny because Daniel Quinn simplified things so much, and now I’m actually interested in the details. Because every little detail actually matters I think. Maybe not. I don’t know. lol


Peter, thanks for the clarification on the bones thing!

I’ll start a wiki thread as you say. From woozletracker we could get a good start on a books page.


Curious if any of you have read Saharasia by James DeMeo, and if so what you think about it. I haven’t found many people who have read it, and it’s been a while for me too. http://www.orgonelab.org/saharasia.htm


Hey LucyBearokee,

I tried to go to the link but it just forwards me immediately to a spam page and I can’t get back to the content…

(also, please introduce yourself in the introductions thread. :smiley: )


Hehe, I just found the “quote” feature. That should make things easier. Anyway, you reminded me of some conversations with my friend from Papua.

He told me how his Dad would go off to the big house with all the other men, to make Important Decisions. When he got back, if things had not gone the way his Mum wanted, he’d be in big trouble, sometimes even physical violence. I mean, a good slapping, not beaten up or anything.

Overall, the impression I got was that the men did do some useful stuff, like building and hunting, but most of the work (and there wasn’t much, compared to us) was done by the women. The women had their places where they’d hang out for various purposes and the men had theirs.

When the men were kids, and the women had important stuff to do, they would send the boys off, give them something “important” to do, to keep them out of the way without hurting their feelings. That doesn’t change just because they grew up. And if an anthropologist were to visit, and start asking the women questions, well, of course, they’d send them to the men, and the men would tell them what an important role they have in everything.

The anthropologist would report all this story back home, and then all the political correctness buttons would be pressed at once. This is why “aid” is so harmful. Often it demands that things like women’s coops be set up and stuff like that, with no consideration for the community at all. In some places, especially the more civilized ones, there may be some merit in this, for sure, but they make it a universal policy, and often grants are only available if “women’s rights” are forefront. They assume that these people are as backward and unenlightened as they are, without checking first.

In places I’ve stayed in Morocco (up in the mountains, not so much the city) I’d be invited in by the men, and sit and talk with them. Very few women would sit with us, and fewer still would talk with me alone. It just isn’t done. The women are together in one place, and the men in another.

At first, this seems like exploitation, especially since usually it’s the women who bring in the food to us. But when I’ve visited with a female companion, she’s gone off to talk with the women. They are having a great time, laughing and joking, and when asked, they wonder why on earth they’d want to be in the other room with the men.

There’s so much we don’t know. In our world of so-called equality, we see nothing but conflict. Our laws just make things worse, not better. Our rulers bombard us with propaganda about “multiculturalism” and all it seems to achieve is more division, which I think is their purpose.

Any ideas, or thoughts?