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War Arose Recently, Anthropologists Contend
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A battle has broken out among scientists trying to untangle the origins of war.

The fighting is over whether hunter-gatherer communities in recent centuries have tended more toward war — defined as banding together in groups to kill people in other populations — than toward one-on-one attacks within their own communities. A second front has broken out over how to extrapolate from modern behavior to the Stone Age. Some anthropologists regard the nomadic groups as helpful if imperfect models of Stone Age human behavior. Others suspect that too much evolutionary change and irregular contact with outsiders make hunter-gatherers unreliable signposts of the past.

Lethal attacks on one community by another rarely occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries, according to a new analysis of data previously gathered from nomadic hunter-gatherer populations. Murders of one person by another in the same group accounted for a majority of intentionally caused deaths, anthropologists Douglas Fry and Patrik Söderberg of Åbo Akademi University in Vasa, Finland, report in the July 19 Science.

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