Ancestral Hierarchy and Conflict

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 844-847
DOI: 10.1126/science.1219961

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Ancestral Pan, the shared predecessor of humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees, lived in social dominance hierarchies that created conflict through individual and coalitional competition. This ancestor had male and female mediators, but individuals often reconciled independently. An evolutionary trajectory is traced from this ancestor to extant hunter-gatherers, whose coalitional behavior results in suppressed dominance and competition, except in mate competition. A territorial ancestral Pan would not have engaged in intensive warfare if we consider bonobo behavior, but modern human foragers have the potential for full-scale war. Although hunter-gatherers are able to resolve conflicts preemptively, they also use mechanisms, such as truces and peace pacts, to mitigate conflict when the costs become too high. Today, humans retain the genetic underpinnings of both conflict and conflict management; thus, we retain the potential for both war and peace.

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