||The culture of war in prehistory||5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state|
The History of the Culture of War
1. warriors and weapons
Weapons and defensive walls are known through archaeological data. However, the other aspects of the culture of war leave no traces for the archaeologist. Instead, the culture of war has been investigated through cross-cultural analysis of non-state societies by anthropologists such as Carol and Melvin Ember. It is a reasonable assumption that the correlations that they find in the ethnological data of the past few centuries are similar to those that would have existed in prehistoric times.
Authoritarian governance is correlated with warfare frequency. This is measured in terms of checks on leaders' power, ease of removing leaders from power and extensiveness of participation, as described in the following by Ember and Ember (2001):
"Because the ethnographic record hardly ever has contested elections or other features of democracy as defined by political scientists, we reformulated our test hypothesis in terms of variables of political life that can be observed and measured universally and reflect a continuum ranging from more to less democracy. Do such variables predict less internal war in the ethnographic record? The answer is yes, and strongly. In multiple regression analyses, three political variables independently and significantly predicted less war within the society: 1) high political participation -- adults participate more in community decisions; 2) peaceful political succession -- there are nonviolent ways to remove leaders; and 3) civil rights -- the community stays together (no fission occurs) after a political dispute, which indicates that people agree to disagree."
Similarly, there is a correlation of warfare frequency with the socialization of young men to be aggressive. This is true for both initiation rites of young warriors, according to Carol and Mel Ember in War and the Socialization of Children (2007) and the practice of violent team sports, according to Sipes (1973) (War, sports, and aggression: An empirical test of two rival theories). The Embers provide a number of convincing arguments based on data from pacified societies that socialization for aggression is the consequence, not the cause of frequent warfare, in other words, societies with frequent warfare undertake more training of their young men to be warriors. To use their words, "male initiation ceremonies function as the equivalent of basic army training in non-state societies by taking boys or young men away from their families, isolating them from females, and subjecting them to traumatic and grueling conditions".
"The initiation began on the first day of the Pig Feast. About 175 boys, ranging in age from 3 to nearly 20, took part . . The first step was to purify the boys, to remove the effects of all the taboo foods which they had eaten . . The boys' part in the initiation was now suspended for ten days [while] men gathered in a fallow garden to build a compound which they called Wusa-ma, the Sacred Place . . On the tenth day, early in the morning, the boys were brought to the Sacred Place. Each boy wore an orchid fiber belt and a small red net, and carried weapons [bow and arrows] . . As they neared the Sacred Place other men ran ahead to hide in ditches; when the boys approached, they charged forward in noisy ambush . . On the second day of their seclusion there was a huge mock battle . . [on the final day] they were led single file to a hidden place in a stream bed where a long fire, covered with leaves, smoked away . . As each boy arrived he was thrown or pushed into the fire. The screams were horrendous, but they were screams of surprise, not pain. The leaves dampened the flames, and the boys were well smoked but not burned . . "
We will see later on that religion is used by the first empires and states to legitimize the authority of the ruling class and its culture of war, but according to the analysis by Leslie White (1959) in The Evolution of Culture, this was probably not the case in prehistoric cultures. As he points out, in prehistoric societies, the gods were invoked to help in the conduct of a war, but not to maintain social control in the society:
"Primitive peoples negotiate with their gods in order to obtain their good will and help in their struggle for existence with reference both to their natural habitat and to their hostile neighbors. But with regard to their own domestic social affairs, primitive peoples felt for the most part that they could manage them themselves without the interference or the help of the gods . . Thus an Indian might seek the aid of spirits in hunting, horticulture, medicine, or warfare, but not in his social relations with his fellow tribesmen. Virtually nowhere do we find that marriage or divorce is an affair of the gods in preliterate systems. Nor is the killing of a fellow tribesman, even a member of one's own family, an affair in which the gods have any concern . . "The late Sir James Frazer has supplied some interesting evidence bearing upon the difference between the ethical systems of tribal societies and those of the higher cultures. Early versions of the Ten Commandments, he points out, have to do almost wholly with the relationship of man to God, not with man's relationship to man. In one of the early codes which he cities there is not a single ethical commandment, ethical in the sense of governing the relationship of one member of a society to another. Instead, we find rules having to do with religious rituals and sacrifices . . In later versions of the Mosaic code, however, we find such commandments as "Thou shalt not steal, commit adultery," etc. Tribal society had by this time been outgrown, and civil society with its state-church had taken its place. Theology had become an instrument of social control."
Although the question of secrecy has not been systematically investigated by cross-cultural anthropology, it is clear from all accounts of non-state warfare that secrecy is essential because the deadly raids of the most serious warfare face the great risk of ambush if their plans are known by the enemy.
In fact, it is the need for secrecy about war plans that can explain the male monopolization and exclusion of women from prehistoric warfare, and the consequent domination by men of all subsequent history.
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