Women and Warfare in Human Evolution

Evidence suggests that warfare is an ancient part of human life, dating back to when all humans lived as hunter-gatherers. Scientists who study the evolution of the human mind have paid considerable attention to the challenges that warfare posed for men and how it might have shaped male minds, but not to the effects that it might have had on women. This invites the question: What were those effects, and how might they have shaped female psychology?

An overlooked source of data on this question is the oral traditions of indigenous foraging peoples collected by explorers and anthropologists over the last few centuries. In forager groups, warfare takes the form of lethal raiding — a brief, surprise attack on a neighboring group by a coalition of males, followed by a hasty retreat to their home territory. Anthropologists have long noted that forager war narratives contain accurate descriptions of lethal raiding tactics and practices. Since our ancestors were foragers as well, these narratives are one of the best models we have of what warfare might have been like in early human groups. To date, however, no one has used them to study cross-cultural patterns —> Read More Here


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