Re: Social evolution of hominids
13 Jan 1997 15:02:20 +0200 wrote:

>Could you please provide a reference to support this notion you
>have that the !kung somehow are prehistoric remnants? *And* that
>they retain some kind of "ancient promiscuous social structure"?
>I have looked for evidence of this in my own references, but I haven't
>found any evidence of the latter, and I *know* they are not the former,
>because *no* extant people are, no matter what their lifestyle might
>*look* like.

No, I can not.

What we have for the origin of our species, is a handful of
petrified bones, the modern apes and the modern mankind, both equally
far from the common ancestor. These provide us some facts, but all
that we can do is to extrapolate from the modern species and conclude
from the bones. Parallells, like the dolphins, are no evidence, but
may be support, when it happens. Making science from this is one
thing, and trying to put these scanty pieces of a puzzle in an order
which would be logical, if not correct, is another thing. The latter
is what I try to do. I'm just thinking aloud, please dont let it
irritate you!

The concept of promiscuity is a sliding one. There is sexual
behaviour from a human prostitute who has several unknown sex
partners a day, to the stereotypic lifelong pairbond of the gibbons.
At which state we should call the behaviour 'promiscuous' depends
just on decision. A host of cultures, and expecially the most
succesful ones, have demanded true gibbon-type binding and cursed all
exceptions as 'promiscuity', though people have had obvious
difficulties to stay in it.

There are other types of societies, or cultures, or what we want
to call them, where no kind of monogamy is expected. The !kung
san is one, and I took them because they are in Africa, because the
Cavalli-Sforza study gave a hint that they are the most departed
of the modern human populations, as is their language, and since
they are said to have a slighty deviating female anatomy. All this
tells us that they are a bit separate branch, not that they are
an ancient population. It is a fact, anyway, that they have a
society, where monogamy is not demanded, and where it does not exist
even to the extent it does in our society.

If the dominant human societies had the gibbon-type, fixed
monogamy, the logics would be, that the separate non-monogamists
branched in different times and different places for different
reasons. One explanation would be, that where women could
provide main part of the food, by gathering or agriculture
or by other means like in our own society, their dependence
on the man decreased and the pair bond loosened.

This may well be, but monogamy is not fixed at the genetic level, as
it must be in the gibbon society. In spite of often violent demands
in different cultures, deviations are common enough to be the rule.
And whenever the cultural demands diminish, full promiscuity will
appear, as has been the case in distant gold fields etc. Instead of
monogamy, we rather have *promiscuity* fixed at the genetic level,
independent of the culture where we live.

As it is, simple logics - no science, no reference, no evidence
- suggests, that the pre-cultural societies of hominids, as well
as the first human cultures, were promiscuous. The monogamous
cultures are nowhere completely established, nor have they changed
our promiscuous tendencies, so they must be a younger layer.

After this logics the !kung san are no more promiscuous than we are,
they only have retained a non-monogamous *culture*. My money is on
them representing a fairly original state of sexual relations. This
does not deny specialization and advancement. They just had no
reason to change their strategy which has carried them up to this.

Aila Korhonen in Finland