According to a study published in the journal Science males and females had equal influence in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes. This suggests that sexual equality was the rule for humans over most of our evolution.
Scientists have wondered for a long time why hunter-gatherer populations comprised large numbers of individuals who were not related since hunter-gatherers were proved to have a strong preference to cohabitate with their kin. The lead author of the study, anthropologist Mark Dyble of University College London together with his colleagues has stayed with hunter-gatherer populations in Philippines (Agta people) and Congo (Mbendjele BaYaka people) in 2013 and 2014. Dyble remarked:
“There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”
The researchers collected genealogical data about kinship relations, residence patterns and between-camp mobility. They interviewed hundreds of people for the study. This helped the investigators understand how the individuals in each community they had been to were related to each other.
The researchers also developed a hunter-gatherers’ behavior in two versions: one in which only one sex had influence and the other in which both the wife and the husband in a in a hunter-gatherer couple
had equal influence when deciding upon where their household should be. The data gathered from the Mbendjele BaYaka and Agta people matched the investigator’s model and explained why in spite of the fact that they live in small communities hunter-gatherers lived with a large number of people with whom they were not related.
The findings proved that in the case when only one sex had influence this led to horticultural or pastoral communities which were dominated by men. This led to an increased number of related individuals. On the other hand when men and women had equal influence the number of related individuals was much lower.
Although sexual equality seems to have reduced the relatedness of people it contributed to increasing the number of camps in which an individual had at least one kin living. This enabled the groups to cooperate and exchange information without needing complex drivers such as war and wealth.
The research contributes with important information to the nowadays understanding of the evolution of humans’ behavior in society.
Image Source: Mr. Meiners Sixth Grade Social Studies