Endemic warfare

Endemic warfare

An armed woman of the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia

Endemic warfare is the state of continual, low-threshold warfare in a tribal warrior society.

Warfare is known to several tribal societies, but some societies develop a particular emphasis of warrior culture (such as the Nuer of Sudan,[1] the Māori of New Zealand, the Yanomamö (dubbed "the Fierce People") of the Amazon,[2] or the Germanic tribes of Iron Age Europe).

Endemic warfare is not equivalent to "primitive warfare" in general, but is reserved for perpetual low-threshold conflicts. Communal societies are well capable of escalation to all-out wars of annihilation between tribes. Thus, in Amazonas, there was perpetual animosity between the neighboring tribes of the Jivaro. A fundamental difference between wars enacted within the same tribe and against neighboring tribes is such that "wars between different tribes are in principle wars of extermination".[3]

The Yanomamö of Amazonas traditionally practiced a system of escalation of violence in several discrete stages: the chest-pounding duel, the side-slapping duel, the club fight, and the spear-throwing fight. Further escalation results in raiding parties with the purpose of killing at least one member of the hostile faction. Finally, the highest stage of escalation is Nomohoni or all-out massacres brought about by treachery.

Similar customs were known to the Chimbu of New Guinea, the Nuer of Sudan and the North American Plains Indians. Among the Chimbu, pig theft was the most common cause of conflict, even more frequent than abduction of women, while among the Yanomamö, the most frequent initial cause of warfare was accusations of sorcery. Warfare serves the function of easing intra-group tensions and has aspects of a game, or "overenthusiastic football".[4]

See also


  1. ^ Diamond, Jared (2012). The world until yesterday : what can we learn from traditional societies?. New York: Viking. pp. 79–129.  
  2. ^ Diamond, Jared (2012). The world until yesterday : what can we learn from traditional societies?. New York: Viking. pp. 79–129.  
  3. ^ Karsten, Rafael (1923). Blood revenge, war, and victory feasts among the Jibaro Indians of eastern Ecuador. Kessinger Publishing. p. 277.  
  4. ^ Orme, Bryony (1981). Anthropology for Archaeologists. Cornell University Press. p. 196.  

Further reading

  • Zimmerman, L. The Crow Creek Site Massacre: A Preliminary Report, US Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, 1981.
  • Chagnon, N. The Yanomamo, Holt, Rinehart & Winston,1983.
  • Keeley, Lawrence. War Before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Pauketat, Timothy R. North American Archaeology 2005. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Wade, Nicholas. Before the Dawn, Penguin: New York 2006.
  • S. A. LeBlanc, Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest, University of Utah Press (1999).
  • Guy Halsall, 'Anthropology and the Study of Pre-Conquest Warfare and Society: The Ritual War in Anglo-Saxon England' in *Hawkes (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (1989), 155-177.

External links

  • Haida Warfare
  • Tribal Warfare and Blood Revenge
  • The Crow Creek Massacre
  • Tribal warfare kills nine in Indonesia's Papua