Spring 2006

Created 12/05/05

Revised 4/01/06 

Class time: Wednesday, 9:00-11:15, Room 827.1 Oldfather Hall


Office Hours: M&F 8:00-10:00; Tuesday & Thursday. : 3:30-4:00

    This course is an overview of human warfare from an anthropological perspective. We will largely focus on small scale societies (bands and tribes) in which we have spent much of our evolutionary history.  Because this course takes a comparative, evolutionary, and historical perspective we will also review the primate literature (especially  chimpanzees) and the archaeological record.  Therefore, the scope is broad and includes the following topics: the evolution of aggression, evolutionary psychology of aggression, game theoretic models of cooperation and aggression, the adaptive utility of aggression and warfare,  and the affects of warfare on social organization, psychology and belief systems.

    Students are expected to come prepared by having read the current week?s readings (both text and web) and to engage in classroom discussion.

Required Texts:

Raymond Kelly Warless Societies and the Origin of War

Mervyn Meggitt Blood is their Argument

Lawrence Keeley War before Civilization

Douglas Fry The Human Potential for Peace

Required Readings:

All hyperlinked articles in the "Readings" column are required.  They are in a "pdf" format and can be read on-line or downloaded and printed.  

40% of the grade will be derived from two mid-term exams (20% each), 50% will be from a term paper due on May 9th, and 10% from classroom discussion.

Course Schedule






Jan 11

Introduction to Course

None: Film Chimpanzees Today


Jan 18

Primate Aggression: infanticide & dominance contests.  Foragers and the EEA

Fry Chapters 13-14;  Meggitt Chapter 1;
Wrangham ?Coalitionary Violence"

Mac video file of chimpanzee killing (very violent). Requires Quicktime Player (free download here)


Jan 25

Primate Aggression: coalitionary violence in chimpanzees. Peaceful Societies

Kelly (PNAS); Kelly Introduction and Chapter 1; Meggitt Chapter 2; Fry Chapters 17, 18 


Feb 1

History of the Anthropological Study of Warfare

Keeley Chapters 1-2; 11; Fry Chapters 5-7; Meggitt Chapter 3


Feb 8

Archaeological and Biological Evidence of Warfare

Keeley Chapter 3; Walker ?A bioarchaeological perspective on the history of violence?; Fry Chapter 11


Feb 15

Warfare among Foragers

Keeley Chapters 4-5; Kelly Chapter 2: Meggitt Chapters 4-5.  Guest Speaker: Dr. Martha McCullough "Equestrian Warriors and EuroAmericans in the Southern Plains"


Feb 22

1st Exam; Costs and Benefits of War

Keeley Chapters 6-7; Fry Chapters 9-11; Meggitt Chapter 6


March 1

 History of the Anthropological Study of Warfare

Keeley Chapter 8, 9.  Guest Speakers: P. Bleed & D. Scott "Battlefield Archaeology"


March 8

War and Social Organization

Kelly Chapters 3-4 (end); Fry Chapter 8


March 15

Spring Break



March 22

Peaceful Societies, Female Aggression, and Women Warriors

Fry, Chapter 1, 5-6


March 29

Warfare debates I: New Guinea

Fry Chapters 2-4; Keeley Chapter 10


April 5

Warfare debates II: Amazonia

Fry Chapter 12.  Guest Speaker Melissa Connor "Forensics of Genocide"


April 12

Conciliation & Peacemaking 

Fry Chapters 13-15;


April 19

The Fourth World & Warfare and the Evolution of the State.  Term paper rough drafts due.

Fry Chapter 17-20; Keeley Chapter 12; Meggitt Chapters 7-10; Neitschmann "The Fourth World: Nations versus States"


April 26

Last day of class

2nd Exam



Finals Week

Papers Due May 1st







First Segment Review Questions
Second Segment Review Questions

Honesty: Term Papers and Exams
    Exams: I do not wish to impugn anyone's integrity by raising this issue.  I will not tolerate cheating on exams.   So,  DON'T DO IT! If  you cheat and I discover it, then standard University procedures will be executed to deal with the matter. In the event these procedures find a student guilty of cheating, then in addition to whatever penalties the University exacts, the student will receive a failing grade in the course.
    Term Paper: For your research paper plagiarism will be dealt with in the same manner as cheating on an exam. Plagiarism is "the submission of another's work as one's own, without adequate attribution." In scholarly work, it is common practice to describe other people's research results. So long as you properly cite their work - in other words, so long as you make it clear that it is their work and not yours - this is not plagiarism. It is also common practice to quote other people's writings directly. So long as you enclose their words in quotation marks and properly cite their work - in other words, so long as you make it clear it is their words and not yours - this, too, is not plagiarism. Note, however, that such quotes normally run to no more than one or two sentences, rarely more than a paragraph, and only in the most exceptional cases to more than a page.

Term Paper Details
Papers should be from 13 to 18 pages in length (at about 300 words per page), double-spaced, and with one inch margins.  All term paper topics must be cleared with me well in advanced of the due date.  I suggest that this be done as soon as possible, or no later than 15 March.  You ought to select a topic in which you have a genuine interest.  I would like you all to write excellent term papers.  To assist you in this endeavor you can submit a complete rough draft by 21 April.  I will give you a preliminary grade and detailed comments on what you can do to improve it.  I will return your manuscript and my comments to you by 26 April.  The final (or only) version of the paper is due 1 May.
    Guidance for writing a term paper can be found in the following link: term paper link

When you arrive at the link, click on "literature review".  It is the best general format for writing a paper for this course.  Ordinarily, the structure should consist of an introduction, the body, and conclusion. Under "Paper Topics" I have listed some possible topics.


Possible Paper Topics

Primate Aggression Bride capture and warfare
Women and warfare Terrorism
Nationalism and war Colonialism, contact, and warfare
Massacres as collective behavior Warfare, conquest and the evolution of states
The role of conflict and aggression in non-human primates Economics and its role in warfare
Warfare, conquest and the evolution of states Popular culture and images of warfare
Economics and its role in warfare Forensic anthropology and violence & warfare
History of anthropological theories of warfare Oral history/personal experience in conflict and warfare
Particular episodes and case studies of conflict/war from an anthropological perspective Particular episodes of conflict/war from an anthropological perspective
Prehistoric warfare Warfare technology
Ethnic conflicts and wars The psychology of warfare: ethnocentrism, xenophobia, in-groups & out-group social psychology, & motivation
Religion and warfare Warfare technology


Style Sheet for Term Paper

  • Title page with title of paper, author, course, and date
  • Body of paper:
  • References in the following format:

        In the text of the paper: (Service, 1971)
        In reference section:
           For a book:
              Service, Elman R.
                1971 Primitive Social Organization: An Evolutionary Perspective, Second Edition.  Random House, NY.
           For a journal article:
            Service, Elman, R.
                1971 Prehistoric Warfare in Eastern North America. Journal of Archaeological Research 5:191-220.
           For a chapter in an edited volume:
            Service, Elman, R.
                 1971 An Osteological Perspective on Prehistoric Warfare. In Regional Approaches to Mortuary Analysis , edited by
                 Lois  Beck, pp. 221-244. Plenum, NY. 

Web Sites Related to Warfare and Aggression