Scientific Report Aggression and Peacemaking in an Evolutionary Context

Organizers: Douglas P. Fry and Johan van der Dennen


The goal of the workshop was to include interdisciplinary perspectives from archaeology, primatology, nomadic forager studies, and human behavioral ecology. Findings from each of these disciplines pertain to the study of conflict management within an evolutionary framework. The goal was to bring together primatologists who have researched aggression, reconciliation, or some aspect of conflict management in non-human primates; archaeologists who could speak to how conflict (or the lack thereof) are evidenced in the prehistoric record; nomadic hunter-gatherer specialists who have knowledge about how topics like reciprocal sharing, cooperation and competition, and resource utilization relate to conflict resolution and violence in nomadic band societies; and human behavior ecologists who consider such topics as evolutionary models of conflict, restraint, ritualization, cost-benefit models of aggression, territorial defense, resource competition, and so forth. Hence the workshop explored how an exchange of knowledge among scholars from different disciplines could begin to provide a more complete understanding not only of conflict and aggression but also of conflict management and conflict resolution within an evolutionary perspective. A premise of the workshop was that a more complete picture of these phenomena can emerge from an intellectually interactive process that brings together scientists and scholars from several relevant disciplines.


The workshop took place over the course of a week and included many formats for formal and informal interaction among participants. The workshop consisted of panel discussions, small-group focused discussions, plenary presentations, open whole-group discussions and Q/A sessions. Participants also interacted during lunches, coffee breaks, an opening reception, and a group dinner. The majority of the participants were established specialists, representing the anthropological subfields of hunter-gatherer studies, primatology, archaeology, social-cultural studies of peace and war, and behavioral ecology. Additionally, other participants came from fields such as evolutionary biology, game theory, peace studies, philosophy, and psychology. Some students also participated


The participants were very engaged in discussing the focal topics of the workshop. Each day had a theme for panel discussions and plenary presentations, although open discussions spanned topics throughout the workshop. The daily themes were as follows: Monday’s was “The Antiquity of War and Peace,” Tuesday’s was “Evolutionary and Ecological Models and Theories,” Wednesday’s was “Forager Aggression and Conflict Management,” Thursday’s was “Conflict Resolution in Human and Nonhuman Primates,” and Friday’s, intended as a day to build interdisciplinary bridges, was “Integration and Synthesis of Knowledge about Aggression and Peacemaking.”


Participants found the topics, length, and interdisciplinary nature of the workshop very beneficial. One reason that the type of interdisciplinary exchange engaged in during this workshop is important is to address controversies about the human nature that continue, in part, due to a lack of interdisciplinary integration of knowledge. As a tangible outcome of the workshop, a proposal for an edited book has been presented to a publisher and is currently under review. The idea is to build upon the interaction and knowledge exchange begun during the workshop and to create a tangible product that can be further shared with a broader scientific audience.