Spring 2019

Created 12/05/05

Revised 1/1/2019 

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


In this course we survey human warfare from anthropological and evolutionary perspectives. Therefore, we will largely focus on small scale societies (bands and tribes) where we have spent nearly all of our evolutionary history.  As a consequence, we will barely cover war in nation states.  There are a large number of courses in history and political science that already cover war in historic and contemporary nation states.  The major exception to this will come in the form of an analysis of how traditional ethnic social structure affects the conduct of war in some contemporary situations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, & Somalia).

Given this course takes a comparative and evolutionary  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 behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology of aggression, dispute settlement, territoriality, demographic and health impacts of war, the psychology of collective violence, warfare ideology, tactics and organization, game theoretic models of cooperation and aggression, colonial contact and warfare, reconciliation, the adaptive utility of aggression and warfare, and the effects of warfare on social organization, and xenophobia.    

Students are expected to come prepared by having read the current week's readings (both text and web), engage in classroom discussion, and attend all class meetings.

Required Texts:

Required On-Line 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.  

Sixty percent of your grade will be derived from the three mid-term exams (20% each) and 40% will be from a term paper due on 27 April.

Course Schedule


Week of




Jan 7

Introduction to course & discussion of evolutionary approaches to territoriality and violence

In class film The New Chimpanzees



Jan 14

Primate Aggression: coalitionary violence in chimpanzees.


In class Film: Dead Birds I


Jan 21

Peaceful societies, hunter-gatherers, capital punishment, social substitutability, and "real war"

In class film Dead Birds II



Jan 28

Goals and kinds of Mae Enga warfare

In class film Dead Birds III

  • Keeley Chapter 2 & Chapter 11
  • Meggitt Chapter 3
  • Review for exam next week


Feb 4


Guest Lecture: Dr. Phil Geib on Feb 5th: on  archaeological context and warfare.  Click here (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and read an article on the research he will be presenting.



Feb 11

Exam 1: Feb 12

Archaeological and Biological Evidence of Warfare


In class video Less Violence Today (Steve Pinker)


Feb 18

The psychology of warfare & female aggression



Feb 25

  • Warfare by Social Formation
  • Acts of Mercy in War


  • Meggitt Chapters 4-5


Mar 4

  • Who pays the costs and who receives the benefits of war: first and second order collective action problems.
  • In class video "The Feast".



View: Introduction to The Feast (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.


Mar 11

History of the Anthropological Study of Warfare

Exam 2: 14 March


  • Keeley Chapters 8, 9; 


Mar 18

Work on your research paper


Mar 25

  • A close study of Andaman warfare
  • Compassion and peace through non-zero relationship



  • Robert Wright TED video "Compassion and the Golden Rule"


Apr 2

Warfare debates in Amazonia

In class video "The Ax Fight"


Apr 8

War in the Tribal Zone and the Fourth World War 

 Term paper proposal due 13 April. 


Apr 15

Conciliation & Peacemaking 

Optional Term paper rough draftsdue 20 April by midnight



Apr 22

The Fourth World & Warfare and the Evolution of the State.  Term paper  due midnight, 27 April.

Keeley Chapter 12; Meggitt Chapters 8-10; 


Apr 29 Finals Week

Exam 3: 29 April, from 7:30-9:30 AM



First Segment Review Questions
Second Segment Review Questions
Third Segment Review Questions

 Honesty, Term Papers, and Exams

Honesty: I do not wish to impugn anyone's integrity by raising this issue.  I will not tolerate cheating on exams or term papers.  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. Please read the student code of conduct for details at 

Grading Basics

Exams: There will be three exam of 40 multiple-choice questions each.  Each exam is counts 20% of your final grade.  Make-up exams will only be given to students who have a medical excuse documented by a note from a doctor, or a bereavement (e.g., funeral), official university activity,  or some other unavoidable extenuating circumstance (e.g., court date).  There are no extra-credit options if you peform poorly.  The best remedy for poor performance is to meet with me so we can devise a plan for improvement.  

Exam 1: 40 points
Exam 2: 40 points
Exam 3: 40 points
Paper Proposal   10 points
Research paper: 80 points
Total Points: 210

Term Paper: 

The term paper is worth 80 points or 40% of your final grade.

Term papers should be at least 3,000 words long, not counting references (or about 10 pages in length without figures or tables), double-spaced, and with one inch margins all around. Each paper should have a minimum of seven references from the scholarly literature on the topic.  Scholarly references are those found in academic books and professional journals and are not blogs, news reports on research, or Wikipedia entries (see below "A Note On Sources").  If you have questions about references, please ask.  By the way, do not attempt to pad the paper length by including block quotes of more than two lines.

All term paper topics must be cleared with me well in advanced of the due date.  Before writing the paper and after you have consulted with me, you will write a 200 word (minimum) paper proposal and it is due on 10 April.  You ought to select a topic in which you have a genuine interest.  If you so desire you, can submit a complete rough draft by 20 April of your paper.  This is an option and not a requrement.  If you do choose to submit an early draft, I will give you a preliminary grade and detailed comments on what you can do to improve your paper.  I will return your manuscript and my comments to you by 24 April.  The final version of the paper is due 27 April.

Your paper should be analytic.  That is, you will focus on a specific issue or problem (e.g., marital choice, divorce, inheritance, or parental investment in offspring).  At the outset you should review the relevant historic and theoretical approaches to the issue, and then read some of the empirical research.on the topic. In the end, I encourage you to take a position and, if possible suggest future lines of productive research.  I encourage you to be aware of what your peers are doing so that you may provide one another with support especially on topics that overlap or when one of you have a particular expertise you can offer a peer.

Guidance Your paper should be analytic. That is, you will focus on a specific issue or problem (e.g., external war among foragers, technology change and warfare, colonial contact and warfare).  At the outset you should review the relevant historic and theoretical approaches to the issue, and then read some of the empirical research.on the topic. In the end, I encourage you to take a position and, if possible suggest future lines of productive research.  I encourage you to be aware of what your peers are doing so that you may provide one another with support especially on topics that overlap or when one of you have a particular expertise you can offer a peer.for writing a term paper can be found in the following link: term paper link  When you arrive at the page, read "How to Write a Research Paper."  Then click on "literature review" or "research paper" to learn how to structure your research and writing. Nearly all of you will end up writing a literature review.  The directions in both are very useful and general and will serve you well in other courses where research writing is required.  Finally, references should be formatted following the American Anthropologist style sheet located here.   

Academic Honesty and Term Papers: 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 exetnsively describe other people's research. 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 a 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 should normally run to no more than three lines.  As mentioned, please do not fill your work with long block quotes.  If you do, your grade will suffer.

For those of you who need help in writing a term paper, I would suggest registering at UNL's Writing Center (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..  

A Note on Sources: Academic or professional sources have gatekeepers known as editorial boards who review research to ensure it meets accepted standards of accuracy, logic, originality, and recognition of previous scholarship.  Many web sites commonly lack such safeguards unless, of course, they are on-line mirrors of hard-copy publications or scholarly organizations.  Anyone with web site can set himself or herself up as an authoritative source and "blog-on".  If you are unsure about a source, check with me.  Google Scholar (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. is an excellent starting place for research.  Queries in Google Scholar normally yield primary scholarly research.  Frequently, query results point to journals requiring subscription to access. When confronted with this problem use our library's electronic journal finder (or TDNet under E-Resources) at to determine whether we electronically subscribe to the journal.  If so, you can download the article you need.  Alternatively, if we don't have an electronic subscription check to see if we have a hard copy in the library by using "Catalog". 

In addition, we have other on-line resources such as "E-Resources" or "Electronic Database Trials" that may prove helpful.  For Anthropology, go to  and  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.clickon "Anthropology and Archaeology" (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..  The best single source is "Anthropological Literature".  As far as I know, it is the most comprehensive compendium of anthropological sources in the world.  Its search tools are very refined. 

Finally, Wikipedia is a wonderful source of information.  In fact, I donate to it yearly to keep it going.  However, only use it as a starting point to uncover authoritative sources.

Possible Paper Topics

Primate Aggression

Bride capture and warfare

Women and warfare

Feud, revenge, and vendetta

Primate violence

Economics, resources, & environment in warfare

Warfare, conquest and the evolution of states

Popular culture and images of warfare

Peace Making and Compensation

Colonial contact and 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 peace making and conflict resolution from an anthropological perspective

Prehistoric warfare

Warfare technology

Modern ethnic conflicts and wars

The social organization of warfare

The psychology of warfare: ethnocentrism & xenophobia  

In-groups & out-group social psychology, & motivation

Religion and warfare

Social complexity and warfare

Restorative justice

Battlefield archaeology


Keeping up to Date

Facebook Page on Anthropology in the News (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Anthropology and  War in the News

Web Sites and Articles Related to Warfare, Aggression, and Peace


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