War Histories in Evolutionary Perspective: Insights From Prehistoric North America

Patricia M. Lambert

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738403
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 War Histories in Evolutionary Perspective: Insights From Prehistoric North America

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This chapter takes an evolutionary perspective on the causes of violence and warfare in prehistoric North America. Three culture areas of western North America—the Santa Barbara Channel Area of southern California, the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, and the northeastern Great Plains—provide geographic foci for exploring the relationship between environmental variables and levels and types of violence as indicated by archaeological settlement data and injuries in human skeletal remains. All three regions reveal an association between unpredictable, drought-prone conditions and the escalation of serious warfare during the Late Prehistoric period (ca. ad 1000–1500). In all three areas males emerge as the primary, though not exclusive, targets in violent conflict and to the extent ascertainable, also its primary participants. These data shed light on environmental contexts that may be conducive to war, and they support a multitiered explanatory model of warfare causation ultimately rooted in the evolutionary history of our ancestors.

Keywords: archaeology; bioarchaeology; California; Great Plains; human skeletal remains; North America; prehistoric warfare; projectile injuries; Southwest; violence

Article.  12070 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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