In DepthAnthropology

Friends, not foes, boost warriors' success

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Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 535
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6209.535

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Imagine you're a Yanomamö man, growing crops and hunting in the Amazon rainforest of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. Someone from your village has been murdered, and you're organizing a raiding party to do a revenge killing. Whom do you choose to fight alongside you? Your brothers, thought cultural anthropologist Shane Macfarlan of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. But he got a surprise when he and famously controversial anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who did pioneering studies of Yanomamö genealogy and warfare in the 1960s and 1970s, took a new look at Chagnon's decades-old data. Men who participated in the same killing were largely related by marriage rather than blood. The new research suggests that warriors' alliances give them access to potential in-laws and offers a twist on Chagnon's original ideas about how being a warrior boosts men's fitness.