Re: Question about Prehistoric Male Dominance

Gerold Firl (
2 Dec 1994 17:38:34 -0800

In article <dexter.786403510@aries> (Frosch) writes:

> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>>Check wilsons _sociobiology_ for an overview of primate social
>>structure and references for more detailed studies. If you think humans are
>>chauvinistic, take a look at hamadryas baboons!

> some of the material i have read offers differing opinions on
>this, even with regard to hamadryas baboons, and it should be kept
>in mind that the paradigm of dominance-submission which has been
>current in ethology for some time, has an effect on how observers
>will interpret the behaviour they see (like any paradigm, of course).

Are you sure you're talking about the hamadryas here? If I recall
correctly, the dominant males (meaning any male which has succeeded in
gaining control over at least one female) keeps a very jealous eye on his
females, and does not allow them to stray far from him. If they do stray,
he attacks them violently; males are much bigger than females, and have
specialised fighting teeth. The female response to being attacked by a male
depends on her relationship to him; she will flee from a stranger, but when
attacked by her male she moves *toward* him. The hamadryas lives in smaller
groups, based on the nuclear unit described above, than the closely related
species (I forget the name) which also lives in north-east africa and which
lives in larger bands; you may be thinking of this baboon rather than the
hamadryas. I'll try to check on that this weekend.

>in particular, the role of 'friendship' in mating success for males
>is of interest. dominant hamadryas males are not most successful
>in breeding, what appears to be important is gaining the friendship
>of a female over a period of time, so that she will permit the male
>to mate.

It doesn't seem like "friendship" is the right term, at least for the
hamadryas, though it may apply to other species. There is a wide range of
social strategies among the primates, and man appears to have tried most of
them at one time or another.

>further, males tend to respect the existence of previous
>pair bonds in courting a female, even in captivity. see de waal's
>'peacemaking among primates' for examples of this.

De Waal writes about chimps, right?

> i also recommend 'the egalitarians: human and chimpanzee' (i
>don't have the author's name at the moment, sorry) for a fascinating
>reanalysis of goodall's studies on provisioned chimpanzees at gombe,
>and comparison with non-provisioned chimps and minimally disturbed
>human forager societies.

Sounds interesting. I'm reading turnbulls _the forest people_ right now,
and I find his description of the decision-making and conflict-resolution
systems used by the pygmies to be very interesting. They are described as
being very egalitarian and non-heirarchical. It's tempting to view them as
"minimally disturbed", but I'm not sure that is a valid viewpoint. Perhaps
they are simply more evolved. %^)

A few weeks ago someone suggested that _the forest people_ was an
unreliable guide to pygmy culture. There was an implication that turnbull
had used ethnology in the service of ideology; I would like to get some
opinions on the work. Turnbull certainly shows great affection for these
people, but from what I've read so far it isn't apparent how he might be
slanting the report. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf