Allan Milne Lees, I’m wondering if this is what you are thinking about?

“The Yanomamö are what can be called a “middle range society.” The term refers to the population size (not small like most forager groups such as the Ju/’hoansi, and not large like peasant or industrial societies). It can refer to people who are horticulturalists (raising much of their food in small gardens), pastoralists (keeping animals such as cattle), or seafaring fishing people. A number of cultural traits have been associated with middle range societies, with only a subset of these traits found in any one culture. They include strict social roles defined by age; patrilineality, where both wealth and clan names are transmitted through the male line; the recruitment of most men into a warrior status at some point in their lives; a relatively high degree of tension and conflict with other groups, often over resources such as land or cattle; and some degree of ritualized bellicosity.

Women are treated variously in middle range societies. Among the Lese of Central Africa, where I worked, women are generally respected and influential, though restricted from certain activities. In other societies, women are essentially owned by the men, subject to violent treatment, and generally required to do a large share of the hard work.”

“Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of Our Nature, and others place the Yanomamö and other horticultural groups in the same data set as hunter gatherers. When you do that, the average rate of violence for this supposed proxy for the primordial human condition goes way up. But if we keep foragers and farmers and pastoralists and fisher folk separate from hunters, we see that the foragers probably have a much lower rate of violence than the other groups, and these other groups have highly variable rates.”

And from Dr. Gray:

“Even today some people who should know better confuse primitive agricultural societies with hunter-gatherer societies and argue, from such confused evidence, that hunter-gatherers were violent and warlike. For example, one society often referred to in this mistaken way is that of the Yanomami, of South America’s Amazon, made famous by Napoleon Chagnon in his book subtitled The fierce people. Chagnon tried to portray the Yanomami as representative of our pre-agricultural ancestors. But Chagnon knew well that the Yanomami were not hunter-gatherers and had not been for centuries. They did some hunting and gathering, but got the great majority of their calories from bananas and plantains, which they planted, cultivated, and harvested. Moreover, far from being untouched by modern cultures, these people had been repeatedly subjected to slave raids and genocide at the hands of truly vicious Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese invaders.[1] No wonder they had become a bit “fierce” themselves.”

I look forward to hearing from you on this when you get time.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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