The Proximate Causes of Waorani Warfare
In response to recent work on the nature of human aggression, and to shed light on the proximate, as opposed to ultimate, causes of tribal warfare, we present a record of events leading to a fatal Waorani raid on a family from another tribe, followed by a detailed first-person observation of the behavior of the raiders as they prepared themselves for war, and upon their return. We contrast this attack with other Waorani aggressions and speculate on evidence regarding their hormonal underpinnings. On-the-ground ethnographic observations are examined in light of the neuroendocrinological literature. The evidence suggests a chain of causality in launching lethal violence, beginning with a perceived injury, culminating in a massacre, and terminating in rejoicing. Although no blood or saliva samples were taken at the time of this raid, the behaviors were consistent with a deliberate initiation of the hormonal cascade characterizing the “fight-or-flight” response, along with other hormonal changes. We conclude with observations on the stratified interrelationships of the cognitive, social, emotional, and neuroendocrinological causes of aggression leading to coalitional male homicide.