A study has revealed that in con temporary hunter-gatherer tribes both males and females tend to have equal standing and influence, thus implying that sexual equality was the rule for humans throughout most of our evolution.
Mark Dyble, the leading anthropologist on the study at University College London, said: “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.”
After gathering genealogical data from two hunter-gatherer groups from Congo and Philippines, the scientists saw that sexual equality may have been a survival advantage and played an important role in shaping 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,” he said. “It’s an important one that hasn’t really been highlighted before.”
Through computer modelling the study found that when only one sex had influence over living conditions and decisions, as is typically the case in male-dominated pastoral or horticultural societies, tight hubs of related individuals emerged.
However, the average number of related individuals was predicted to be much lower when men and women have an equal influence, which closely 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,” said Dyble.”If men and women decide, you don’t get groups of four or five brothers living together.”
The study went to address the conundrum that while people in societies of hunter-gatherer gatherer have a preference for living with family members, they live with a few closely related individuals in practice.
After tracking the residence traits and movements through hundreds of interviews they discovered that people tend to live in groups of 20 in either case studies, moving in every 10 days and subsisting of hunted game, fish and gathered fruit, vegetables and honey.