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Scientists battle over whether violence has declined over time

Study of wartime deaths suggests that larger populations remain violent but find safety in numbers

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9:00am, October 20, 2017
Masai warriors

NOT TOO VIOLENT  Small-scale human societies, represented here by African Masai warriors, are neither more nor less violent than state societies, a new study concludes. As often happens in investigations of warfare, the report has sparked controversy.

Contrary to a popular idea among researchers, modern states haven’t dulled people’s long-standing taste for killing each other in battle, a controversial new study concludes. But living in a heavily populated society may up one’s odds of surviving a war, two anthropologists propose.

As a population grows, larger numbers of combatants die in wars, but those slain represent a smaller average percentage of the total population, say Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee and Charles Hildebolt of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. That pattern holds for both small-scale and state societies, the researchers report online October 13 in Current Anthropology.

Increasing absolute numbers of war dead in human societies have resulted from the invention of ever-more-lethal weapons, from stone axes to airborne bombers, the researchers suspect. But Falk and

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