Nick Wade has a good piece in today’s New York Times about
John Mitani’s chronicling of warfare between troops of Chimpanzees
Dr. Mitani’s team has now put a
full picture together by following chimps on their patrols,
witnessing 18 fatal attacks over 10 years and establishing that the
warfare led to annexation of a neighbor’s
The fact that male chimpanzees systematically and stealthily
patrol their boundaries in groups to kill neighbouring males has
been known for a long time in Gombe in Tanzania, but critics have
charged that it was unnaturally caused by human feeding of the
chimps. That now seems unlikely.
This catches my attention because it explains how hard it must
have been to invent trade between groups. If your only contact with
other groups was homicidal how do you ever suggest swapping food or
tools instead? I am often asked why, if trade is so valuable, did
other species not adopt it, Neanderthals especially.
My answer is that getting past this warfare habit was a big
Neanderthals did not manage it, as witnessed by their reliance on local rather than imported stone
for their tools.
`We Africans’ did get over this hurdle. How? I don’t know. It
might have been serendipity, or it might have been because we
pre-conditioned ourselves to working for each other through the
invention of the sexual division of labour.
Why did not females, who don’t take part in warfare, invent
trade behind males’ backs?