Since the 1970s, most archaeologists working on hunters and gatherers have moved beyond ethnographic analogies for making inferential statements about the nature of hunting and gathering societies. However, the realm of warfare is the one glaring exception to this understanding of a major disconnect between past and present hunters and gatherers. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and other social scientists studying the origins of warfare have found the archaeological record somehow lacking in their efforts to understand the beginnings of warfare in the ancient past. To fill in the perceived gaps, they have turned to the historic record of hunters and gatherers, and in doing so have fallen into the trap of ethnographic tyranny. This chapter argues that the biggest problem with using historical ethnographies to make inferences about patterns of past human behavior is that they burden us with pictures only painted in the light of the modern, dense, colonial world of nation states. Another problem with the major studies based on ethnographies is that lots of other scholars take them as gospel. Declaring that warfare is rampant amongst almost all hunters and gatherers fits well with a common public perception of the deep historical and biological roots of warfare. The fact that there is extremely limited empirical evidence of any warfare among past hunters and gatherers is pushed to the wayside as an intellectual inconvenience.
Project: 6. Under a cloak of terror: violence and armed conflict in Europe.
Scope: Secondary Education, Higher Education
Resource type: Chapter
Source: Oxford Academic
Owner: Porto group (Modernalia)