Table of Contents
Journal of Anthropology
Volume 2014, Article ID 658597, 14 pages
Review Article

Violence and Warfare in Precontact Melanesia

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004, USA

Received 13 September 2013; Accepted 4 January 2014; Published 13 March 2014

Academic Editor: Kaushik Bose

Copyright © 2014 Stephen M. Younger. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Levels of interpersonal violence and warfare for 30 Melanesian societies at the time of contact with Europeans are estimated based on ethnographic and historical records. While violence was common in indigenous Melanesia, it was not ubiquitous and some societies experienced extended periods of internal and external peace. Interpersonal violence and warfare were correlated-when one occurred there was a high probability of finding the other. Violence was not dependent on total population. It was, however, higher for population density greater than 50 persons per square kilometer. Violence in Melanesia may have been stimulated by the large number of relatively small polities, many of which competed with one another for prestige and, in some cases, land.