degree of genetic differentiation between them.
In contrast to the diversity of mitochondrial DNA types, there are far fewer Y chromosome variations, with half of all male aborigines carrying one with the same distinctive genetic signature. This may result from what geneticists call a founder effect—the reduced genetic diversity of populations founded by a small number of individuals." Other factors may also have been at work. Polygamy, when some men have many wives and others none, is a powerful reducer of diversity among Y chromosomes. So too is frequent warfare, the burden of which is borne by men.
Australian aboriginal tribes seem to have lived in a state of constant warfare, with defended territories and neutral zones marked for trading. Their tool kit, designed for easy transport over long distances, included weapons like heavy war clubs, a special hooked boomerang, and spear-throwers.100 The tribes were skillful at surviving in a harsh environment but never developed agriculture. Their special genetics reflects both their antiquity and the effects of genetic drift, promoted by the fragmentation of their population into small warring societies.
Genetic analysis has yielded similar insights into the lifestyle of another of Sahul's early occupants, the people of New Guinea. Australia and New Guinea were joined until about 8,000 years ago, so the peoples of both places may be descendants of the same migration. Mark Stoneking and colleagues analyzed both the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA from people in many New Guinean tribes and found a striking lack of diversity of Y chromosome lineages, especially in the highland tribes of the Dani, Yali, Una and Ketengban._As with the Australian aborigines, reduced diversity could mean either a high degree of polygamy, with just a few men fathering most of a community's children, or a high rate of death in battle. Both factors seem to have been at work in New Guinean society. All Papuan speaking populations in New Guinea practice patrilocality, with the men staying in their native clan and the women moving to their husband's clan. Most, if not all, New Guinea tribes practiced polygamy, at least until the missionaries arrived. Among the Dani, for example, 29% of the men had more than one wife, the range being from two to nine, while 38% of the men were not married.
Warfare was common in most Papuan societies until the second half of the twentieth century, Stoneking and his colleagues note, and casualty rates were high—about 29% of Dani men were killed in warfare, according to the anthropologist Karl Heider. This death rate is very similar to the male battle casualties among both chimpanzees and the Yanomamo of South America and presumably is driven by the same motive, the reproductive advantage gained by the successful warrior for himself and his male kin. Warfare among hunter-gatherers is deceptively mild compared with the explosive carnage of modern battlefields. Battle may be opened but called off, like a ball game, if rain stops play, or someone is seriously injured. Heider, like many anthropologists, believed at first that warfare among the Dani was not a terribly serious affair. After his first field trip to New Guinea in 1961 he wrote a book entitled Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors. But after revisiting the Dani for many years, and reconstructing careful genealogies and causes of death, he realized how many men in fact died in battle. If you fight every week, even low casualty rates start to mount. Like the !Kung San, the Dani fight to kill. They have not discovered how to daub their arrows with a poison like that of the chrysomelid beetles, but they use excrement instead, hoping to cause infection. Like many other human groups and the chimpanzees of Gombe and Kasakela, the Dani know that killing a few of the enemy leaves the remainder thirsting for revenge, so a more effective solution is extermination.
"About 30 percent of all independent highland social groups become extinct in each century because they are defeated," the archaeologist Steven LeBlanc writes of New Guinea tribal warfare. "These groups are either mas sacred or killed, or the survivors of a particularly deadly encounter flee and take refuge with trading partners or distant relatives. This last place on Earth to have remained unaffected by modern society was not the most peaceful
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