Alternative Ecological Explanations of Human Warfare

Alternative Ecological Explanations of Human Warfare -...

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Alternative Ecological Explanations of Human Warfare Let's now consider some alternative explanations for occurrence of warfare that have an ecological slant: 1. "Unnatural Crowding" explanation 2. Population Control explanation 3. Land scarcity/competition explanation (1) "Unnatural Crowding" explanation: This view (popular among the public but not among specialists) holds that warfare is a form of social pathology in response to overcrowding in urban civilization, in same way that rats in a cage or monkeys in a crowded zoo engage in excessive aggression and other unnatural forms of behavior not seen in wild populations of same species It is ecological only in the very limited sense that it focuses on population density (in an absolute sense, not "population pressure") as a determinant; in some versions, it argues that warfare is a strictly post-agricultural or even post-urbanization phenomenon -- a result of our expulsion from the Eden of a "natural" foraging lifestyle A direct test of this hypothesis would be to examine the occurrence of warfare archaeologically, but in very old sites it is difficult to distinguish warfare from other forms of homicide, or even homicide from mortuary rituals (e.g., were H. erectus fossils whose skulls had base broken out and cut marks on facial area victims of head-hunting, or did they die natural deaths and become objects of veneration by kin who wished to preserve their skulls by removing brains and flesh, or to engage in the kind of ritual consumption of deceased kin as found among some modern New Guinea peoples?) Late in the prehistoric record it becomes quite easy to find archaeological evidence of warfare: fortified villages, graveyards with victims of violence, weaponry and armor, etc. The fact that such finds are almost always in context of agricultural, often urbanized, societies may support hypothesis the "crowding" hypothesis, or it may simply reflect the fact that the great increase in population density following development of agriculture makes such sites much more numerous (and easier to find), as well as the "hard" technological manifestations of specialized weaponry and defense that come with a sedentary way of life An indirect but workable test of the crowding hypothesis is possible if we use subsistence mode (foraging vs. low-density horticulture vs. intensive agric.) as a proxy for population density, which is reasonable since foraging populations are 1 to 2 orders of magnitude less dense than agricultural populations Returning to same 87-society sample we used earlier, we find that this version of the hypothesis can be rejected: warfare is not statistically more common or more frequent among agriculturalists than foragers, nor among intensive agriculturalists (who include
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Alternative Ecological Explanations of Human Warfare -...

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