Macho guys don’t always get the girl

May 12th, 2009 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 12 (IANS) Aggressive behaviour might have helped tribal men collect more wives and produce more children, but anthropologists show that macho guys don’t always prevail.
Researchers have found that more aggressive men do not acquire more wives than milder men. Neither do they have more children, nor their wives and children survive longer.

“In 1988, Napoleon Chagnon published evidence that among the famously warlike Yanomamo of Venezuela, men who participated in a homicide had significantly more wives and children than their less warlike brethren,” said Stephen Beckerman, associate professor of anthropology, Penn State University.

“Our research among the Waorani indicates that more aggressive warriors have lower indices of reproductive success than less warlike men.”

The Waorani are rainforest horticulturalists and foragers. When the first peaceful contact occurred in 1958, they numbered about 500 people living in an area of New Jersey between the Napo and Curaray rivers in the Amazon basin east of the Andes.

Their abundant resources often attracted outsiders, who were promptly killed if found. Warfare and murder were common among the Waorani, who are known to be more warlike than Yanomamo.

They practiced their violence on each other as well as on outsiders. Eventually, over a period of 14 years, the missionaries pacified all the sections of the Waorani population. Aggressive warfare and raiding are now almost gone.

“In light of the documented abundance of wild resources, resource limitation cannot be

considered the cause of warfare among the Waorani,” said Beckerman.

The Waorani Life History Project looked at how a man’s participation in raiding correlates with his survivorship and that of his wives, the number of his wives and the number of children he produced and their survival.

The researchers interviewed men in 23 settlements. They interviewed any man old enough to have experienced warfare before the pacification that could be found and who agreed to the interview.

The researchers collected Waorani men’s genealogies, reproductive history, narrative personal life history and warfare history. The raiding database contained 95 men, said a Penn State release.

Why are Waorani men so bellicose when there seems to be no benefit? Researchers suggest that while both the Yanomamo and Waorani’s aggressiveness is for revenge, the latter’s warfare cycles have peaceful periods where warriors can and accrue wives and children.

“The Waorani, as far as we could tell, were well along in the process of killing themselves off at the time of peaceful contact,” the researchers said.

These findings appear in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science online.

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