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Eyde, David Bruener 1967 Cultural Correlates of Warfare Among the Asmat of South-West New Guinea, PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Yale University, Yale.
    © David Bruener Eyde, 1967. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


The Kamoro-Asmat people of the southwest New Guinea alluvial area apply an essentially uniform technology to an environment which is, in most respects, uniform. The mayor subsistence activities are sago gathering, fishing, and collecting. In general there are more sago palms upstream and more fish downstream. Because the rivers are wide and long in the central regions where the Asmat proper and the Sempan live, competition for sago and fishing areas between unrelated groups living up and downstream from one another has resulted in the development of a state of intensive warfare which is not duplicated in the western Kamoro and Casuarine Coast peripheries. Increased male solidarity resulting from cooperation in intensive warfare has led to the development of men's houses or bachelors' houses. These are absent in the peripheral areas. Family houses are essentially female places in the central area. Since females have little solidarity, the family houses include only a few closely related nuclear families. In the peripheral areas, where men's houses are lacking, the unity of the community as a whole is expressed in a long house which includes many nuclear families. Warfare results in pressure to create large communities. The villages are larger in the central area than they are in the peripheral areas. In the most peripheral area, that of the western Karoro, the basic unit of Kamoro-Asmat social organization, the core conical kindred, is also an independent localized group. Two core conical kindreds merged into an affined conical kindred by sister exchange form a unit which appears in the same area and to the east as a localized group. Among the eastern Kamoro, the Sempan, the beenok, and the Kawenak, the typical localized residential unit is the preferentially endogamous group, which constitutes an independent village or a potentially independent village segment. Among the Kamoro, and probably the Keenok, incest prohibitions extend only to first cousins. The Kawenak, and possibly the Sempan, extend incest prohibitions, in principle, to second cousins. The preferentially endogamous group, the men's house group, therefore must include at least eight core conical kindreds. These are divided into moieties, each of Which is equivalent in size and general structure to the preferentially endogamous group among the Kamoro. Leadership above the level of the core conical kindred is everywhere related to the ability to distribute food in ceremonial cycles. This in turn is probably everywhere related to the fact that a leader makes plural marriages. In the peripheral areas, the ability to make plural marriages is related primarily to being a hard worker and a good hunter. In the central area, it is most closely related to prowess in warfare.


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