Why There Are So Few Women Warriors
6. The Prehistory of Warfare Page 8

Title/Summary page

1. Introduction Page 1

2. Cross-Cultural Methodology
Page 2

3. Societies with Women Warriors
Page 3

4. The Exclusion of Women from War
Page 4

5.Type of Warfare Determines Marital Residency
Pages 5-6

6. The Prehistory of Warfare
Pages 7-8

7. Interaction of Biology and Culture
Page 9

8. Conclusion
Page 10

Pages 11-12-13-14-15-16

Footnote and References
Page 17

Copyright Agreement
Page 18


With the advent of internal war, patrilocality, and exogamy, there came a profound shift in male-female relations. The male monopolization of warfare was instituted and extended to hunting (in order to preclude the use of weapons by women) and to the initiation rites of the young (male) warriors. The inequality of power between men and women was institutionalized in a way from which we have never recovered. This situation characterizes 35 of the cultures in the present sample, including over half those with large populations.

There is another way to resolve the contradiction between warfare and marriage under conditions of internal war, which appears to have been used in some cultures. Rather than pushing the marriage system toward exogamy, a society may push it toward endogamy instead. This does not resolve potential disputes over sexual liaisons within the culture prior to marriage, but it does resolve the question of split loyalties for the women during war, since their husbands, fathers, and brothers all fight on the same side. This solution appears to have been taken by the 17 cultures in the sample with internal war and endogamy.

Cultures with smaller populations may have maintained low frequencies of warfare or found themselves at war with an external enemy. In the former case, they may have maintained loose rules for marital residency as we find in 12 cultures of the present sample. In the latter case, faced with the need to maintain unity against an external enemy, it would have been advantageous to break up the fraternal interest groups that might otherwise promote internal warfare and disunity. This could explain the adoption of matrilocal residency rules under such conditions (Divale, 1974) as we find in 14 cultures of the present sample.

To complete the picture, we may consider those contemporary stateless cultures that have patrilocal marital residency despite low frequency of warfare (15 in the present sample). It may be supposed that many of them had prior histories of internal warfare and that their recorded traditions and institutional structures reflect those earlier periods by a process of cultural lag.

The question of warfare and social structure in cultures with state structures is beyond the scope of the present analysis.

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