A research has revealed that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes women and men were used to hold equal standing, rights and influence, claiming that sexual equality was not at all unusual for humans from most of our evolutionary history.
“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”, explained Mark Dyble, the anthropologist who lead a team of researchers for the study at University College London.
After collecting genealogical information from two hunter-gatherer tribes from the Congo and the Philippines, the researchers discovered that sexual equality could have been a survival advantage and had a crucial role in the developing of human society and evolution.
“Sexual equality is one of an important suite of changes to social organisation, including things like pair-bonding, our big, social brains, and language, that distinguishes humans. It’s an important one that hasn’t really been highlighted before,” Mark Dyble mentioned.
Through computer modelling the new study revealed that when only one sex had an advantage over living conditions and decisions, as is happens in the case of male-dominated pastoral or horticultural societies, hubs of related individuals emerged, which is a clear disadvantage compared to the scenario where equality was the norm.
However, the average number of individuals who were related was predicted to be much smaller when men and women have an equal influence, which very much resembled the populations studied.
“When only men have influence over who they are living with, the core of any community is a dense network of closely related men with the spouses on the periphery. If men and women decide, you don’t get groups of four or five brothers living together,” said the lead researcher.
The study was aimed at addressing the conundrum that while most people in hunter-gatherer societies indicated a preference for living their lives together family members, in practice they are living with very few closely related individuals.
Having observed movement and residence details through hundreds of interviews the scientists discovered that in both case studies, people have a tendency to live in groups of around 20, moving approximately every 10 days and living off hunting, fishing and fruits, vegetables and honey.
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