Hunter-gatherers live in relative peace

We hope that the front page we’ve started at will become the thing that people find first when they hear about “rewilding,” wonder what it means, and type it into Google. We tried to make it flow like a story that unfolds as you scroll down the page to lead you from the standard way that WEIRD people think to the point where you might join this forum. So we start by pointing out that we have some big problems, and then pointing out some context for those problems. Then we get to the first batch of essays, all about overturning the usual stereotypes about hunter-gatherer life.

I think we can continue developing these over time, so I want to start a thread here to collect your comments, critiques, and suggestions. Think of this thread like an ongoing working group.

Hunter-gatherers live in relative peace.

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This was awesome! I think one section that could be added to the list of tribes is actually the whole Chimpanzee/Jane Goodall’s Bananas story. How different people use other animal’s behavior to claim the violent nature in humans (or claim the nurturing nature via Bonobos) but rather than environment creates different behaviors.


That’s a super interesting essay! It’s always great to hear critiques of Jared Diamond and the like, folks who seem to be just rationalizing the expansion of civilization and the narrative of progress. Cognitive dissonance is amazing… if you frame the data in certain ways anything can be made to appear possible. One thing I might add would be a bit more information specifically using examples of more peaceful, egalitarian hunter-gatherer-land tending peoples whose systems worked better than the ones that are mentioned in order to disprove the claims of Diamond and the others. To me the information about those cases such as the Amazon and New Guinea are very convincing but also may be good to balance it with some examples of more stable societies to prove the point instead of focusing more on refuting those that claim the contrary. Sorry that’s probably confusing but hope it comes across well enough. Overall a great read though!

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Hey. New here. Great essay, but no author’s name I could find. I’d like to credit the work. Any help?


@jason is writing most of them with some input from all of us, with in the intent of collectively editing them as we learn more/discuss the ideas here. I’ve requested that he attribute them to “Contributing Author Jason Godesky” but he hasn’t updated them yet.

Hi! I’m new here.

I’ve only glanced at this article but I find what I’ve seen to be very interesting and compelling.

I’m a dog trainer, using Natural Dog Training techniques (which Willem has written about here). And I’m interested in the site’s subject matter from a very specific perspective. I’m writing a piece on the “12 Reasons Dominance Hierarchies Don’t Exist in Nature.” And one of the 12 reasons springs from the work of Christopher Boehm.

In his book, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Societies, Boehm theorizes that “humans are innately disposed to form social dominance hierarchies similar to those of the African great apes, but prehistoric hunter-gatherers, acting as moral communities, were largely able to neutralize such tendencies—just as extant hunter-gatherers do. The ethnographic basis for that hypothesis was that present-day foragers apply techniques of social control in suppressing both dominant leadership and undue competitiveness.”

In other words, Boehm believes that hunter-gatherer societies evolved away from the template of the dominance hierarchy seen in apes. But I don’t think that makes any sense. It makes more sense that pre-historic human and animal societies were both egalitarian. Once we developed agriculture and formed permanent settlements, I think that’s when we developed the concept of social
dominance. I also believe that dominance wasn’t a behavioral trait we inherited from apes, that, in fact, apes developed what appear to be dominance hierarchies as a result of human observation and expectation.

It’s interesting to note that when female researchers are left to their own devices they generally don’t see the dominance hierarchies that male researchers do. (It took Jane Goodall 10 years before she saw any aggression in chimpanzees.) Thelma Rowell and Shirley Strum, who both studied baboons in the wild saw no dominance hierarchies, rather they saw affiliative hierarchies run by the females of each troop. Yet Robert Sapolsky saw some really mean, totally unnecessary dominance behaviors in the male the baboons he studied. Interestingly, when the troop he studied was decimated by food tainted with tuberculosis, the only monkees that died were the “most dominant.” And the troop re-formed itself in such a way that any baboon who showed dominant tendencies was quickly shunned.

Anyway, you guys may already know all this stuff. I just found this topic fascinating and can’t wait to read the entire article.

Lee Charles Kelley

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