Follow the Food. Follow the Beast.
At this point, I want to firm up the out-of-Africa argument with my own conjectures based on new DNA studies done on various populations throughout the world. If you do accept the theory that our primate humans became scavengers and then hunters in the merged existence that occurred on the savanna, it is not hard to believe that they then followed migrating herds of mammals out of Africa, perhaps to the Middle East. Some groups could have then moved eastward into India and then Asia; at the same time, it is been suggested, some groups emigrated westward into southern, and then northern Europe.
How can we even begin to make such a guess? Well, like all evolutionary theorist, we start with what we find, and then work our way backwards in time as best we can. The very latest information that we have comes from DNA studies administrated to people of East Africa and India, and a second study done on 50 ethnic groups around the world. In the updated version of his book, The Human Career, Dr. Richard G. Klein says that: "A combination of fossil and genetic evidence locates the ancestral population in Africa, and archaeological discoveries imply an initial dispersal out of Africa about 50,000 years ago." A second study lead by Dr. A. Silvana Santachiara-Benerecetti of the University of Pavia in Italy confirms the suggestion that modern humans left Africa only 50,000 years ago, and that the direction was eastward toward Asia. Even more interesting, is that the new findings argue that as few as 2,000 humanoid ancestors may have made the first steps out of Africa. The test were done on the mitochondrial DNA, which is passed by the females in their eggs and does not undergo the genetic mixing that occurs with other DNA in reproduction. The New York Times, December, 7, 1999.
Can we be certain that our ancestors followed the beasts that roam the plains? In chapter three, you will remember, that I made the statement that if our primate forebears switched from a stationery food source, such as fruit trees located in rainforests, to a food source that roamed about on four feet, then if one wanted to survive, one had to follow the food as it moved. This, of course, is not conclusive proof, as their must have been other food sources such as crayfish, fresh water fish, small insects, and of course, yummy plant roots, but four-footed mammals do occupy most of my theory of a moving food source.
Hooked on a Feeling
Before we enter a discussion about migrating mammals, let's briefly ask the question: What is migration? It is the regular movement of part or all of an animal population from one area to another and then a return to the first area. Migration is often annual, and thus is closely linked to the planet's seasonal changes. Emigration, such as what our primal ancestors did, is the movement from one location to another, without the return journey. What animals migrate? Just to briefly name a few: Insects, such as locust and butterflies; Fish, such as herring, cod, white and red tuna; Birds, such as goldfinches, blackbirds, starlings, warblers, flycatchers, wagtails, storks, geese, and swans. In North America, the birds we commonly see, such as the robin, wood warblers, and Canadian geese migrate.What causes migration? Most scientists agree that migration is made possible in mammals due to the pituitary gland sending out hormone secretions, which in turn create complex internal messaging. The pituitary influences the reproductive organs, which affect all metabolic mechanisms, which prepare the animal for migration. Part of the preparation could include the build-up of fat tissue as an accumulated internal food source. The explanation, however, must be related to geographical and climatological factors that have prevailed since the Teriary Period which ended some 2,500,000 years ago. Britannica.com, December, 1999.
Pronk You, Mister
I mentioned North America and Canada above, but since our ancestors migrated out of Africa, what animals migrate there, and which did our ancestors first scavenge, and then hunt? Once again, we have to work backwards from today's animal populations and suggest the possibilities. Let's start with the national emblem of South Africa, the Springbok, (Antidorcas marsupialis) This is a pretty neat little animal that resembles bambie and only stands about 32 inches at the shoulder. It has a reddish brown coat with a broad horizontal dark brown strip on each side and, when excited, a crest of white hair exits from a fold in the skin that runs down the midback. When excited, or fleeing from real or perceived danger, the animal then pronks (excuse me?). That's right, when the herd is excited and runs, it makes a series of stiff-legged, vertical leaps known as pronking. These leaps, which can reach as high as 11-and-a-half feet and appear almost comedic while at the same time beautiful, leaving one breathless at the sight of nature's complex design and mechanisms.
Anecdotal folktales of local tribesmen passed down from generation to generation tell of tales that the springbok once roamed in vast migrating herds so dense that when excited, huge numbers of animals were trampled to death, injured, or swept away with the pack. Could it have been possible that one of these small game mammals, trampled in a stampeding herd, was found lying around and became one the first beasts that our ancestors scavenged upon? And once acquiring a taste for the meat, and observing the movement of the springbok in herd movements over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, did our ancestors begin to recognize patterns of movements and then conceived methods of coordinated herding, and then hunting?
A second possible migrating food source could have been the gnu, also called the wildebeest. There are two species of wildebeest; the black, Connochaetes gnou, found in southern Africa, and the blue wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus, which roams freely in central and southeastern Africa. This animal is silvery gray with dark vertical bands on either side and a black mane. It stands in height about three to four feet at the shoulder and its horns, which are found on both sexes, spread outward and turn upward at the ends. Gnu live in herds of several hundred to thousands, and travel 20-30 miles every two to three days to stay near water sources. Once again, a panicked herd could have produced a poor trampled wildebeest for our ancestors to scavenge upon. Could they also have discovered that a dying gnu could be produced when they yelled and threw stones to cause the frightened herd to stampede?
The third possible migrating food source was the zebra. There are three species of zebras, all of which, appear horse-like in appearance, with diagonal black stripes on a white body covering some species. In our study of possible food sources for our ancestral migration, we are most interested in Burchell's zebra, Equus quagga, found over much of eastern and southern Africa. They stand about 47 to 55 inches at the shoulder. All zebras live in small family groups consisting of the male, several females and their children. They sometimes mix with other animal groups, such as wildebeests and antelopes, which help in the protection of the family unit. This is a swift animal, and may not qualify as a possible food source expect later in our ancestors' development, when they developed hunting skills, but due to the zebra's migratory patterns near eastern Africa, it is possible.
The last possible migrating food source that our ancestors may have followed and preyed upon are the African and Indian elephant. The African elephant, Loxodonta africana, is the largest land animal on the planet, weighing upwards to eight tons and standing 10 to 13 feet at the shoulders. It varies in color from brown to gray and its body hair is sparse, but coarse. The Indian elephant, Elephas maximus, stands about six feet at the shoulder and weighs in at just under six tons. The African elephant is found in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian elephant is found in the Indian subcontinent and southeastern Asia. Now, the elephant is a very large animal and it cannot be said with assurance that they were a food source for our ancestors on their migratory march. But the location of sub-Saharan Africa and the eastern flow to India and Southeast Asia does fits perfectly with the DNA mitochondrial studies discussed above. We do know that cave drawings by Homo sapiens show hunting scenes of the wholly mammoth in eastern Europe and Siberia, so the skills developed for hunting this large animal had to have developed somewhere. It is possible that our early ancestors first scavenged on springboks, wildebeests, zebras, elephants, and then hunted them.
Girls on the Left, Boys on the Right
It has been my attempt from the beginning of this book to further open the possibilities as to how and why our ancestors separated from the primates in the first place, and then as to how and why they emigrated out of Africa. It is now time to present my perspective on the development of sex roles through the hunting of migrating herds, early agricultural societies, and the social structure of modern societies. Most of my version will help to reconfirm what has been suggested before, but this version will have new perspectives that may hold completely new meanings to both of our sexes. These perspectives may be just as difficult to accept as the conventional wisdom, but the goal remains the same: Total truth, which will (to coin a phrase) set us free.
If I have convinced you that our ancestors emigrated out of Africa by following, scavenging, and then hunting the springbok, the wildebeest, the zebra, and the elephant on their slow emigration out of east Africa into India, Asia, southern and Northern Europe, then I will consider my efforts worthwhile. I know that most of you by now have the perception that it has been the task throughout our long history it has been the male's task to take up the burden of hunting large prey, and for the female's to remain behind to tend to children, gather small provisions, maintain the establishment of the campsite, and to assist other females in child rearing. Did I write, "take up the burden?" Or could it be that genes and culture provided us other means of establishing our historical path through sexual roles and the passing of our genes?
These sexual roles took on much more cultural significance after the domestication of plants and animals some 10,000 years ago, which, most cultural anthropologists suggest, created for the first time the ability to accumulate resources beyond the perishable food sources found up till that time. The development of the written word some 4,000 years ago helped to define, and declare ownership to those resources. Discover magazine, March 2000, p.13. As languages developed and communities sprang up, methods were found to increase one's ability to amass resources, which helped attract those who found those resources of immense assistance in hierarchical ranking of their specific environment. I and others in the evolutionary community are somewhat in agreement that throughout our evolutionary voyage, the development of language, patrilineal dominance, socialization rules, secret male societies, and organized religions all evolved from the establishment of sexual gender roles that were formed in our deep history. It is because of the male's position in our evolutionary timeline and his ability through force to enforce these resource accumulation and retention behaviors that momentarily favor the male and the females who support them in evolutionary history.
As in all statistics used to buttress theories, there are specific examples that lie outside the graphical norm and mean of the bell curve. Not all societies developed along strict patriarchal modeling: Excavations on the Kazakh steppes along the Kazakhstan and Russian border have yielded evidence of a female warrior society. [The center for the study of the Eurasian Nomads, www.csen.org, as of 12/1999]; there have been discoveries of worship of the female as goddess in the Crimean peninsula; and, of course, there have been societies in Tibet where the female has more than one husband due to the shortage of males and restrictions on the transmission of property rights. Sporadic examples of female warriors and matriarchal societies do give credence to suggestions that just because patriarchal societies are the dominate form found today, and have transpired thorough biology and culture, does not mean they will continue to be the norm into our species' future.
But the history books do tell us that the way our global societies have evolved has been the loose network of small to medium communities in which males have dominated, and still dominate, behaviors in various degrees. My own theories seem to lead to the conclusion that the harsher the economic conditions in the modern environment, the more likely that males dominate the cultural landscape. By the same token, in the harsher environment of the savanna I sense that sexual dimorphism accelerated through competitive battle for access to the females, and that the females responded by selecting the alpha male more frequently than other beta and charlie males. I also hazard to guess that in this harsh local environment, alpha males increased their "protective" inclinations and sought to end the practice of multiple sexual liaisons with other males. This "protection" could have evolved not so much from a perspective of a strong patriarchal leader, but more though a selfish behavioral norm to guarantee genetic parental lineage and exclusive sexual access.
OK, that's the masculine point of view. But what if we reverse the view and look through the female's eyes? The female may have found large advantages in choosing fewer mates and concentrating on providing sexual access to only one male in return for more resources and commitment to her children. One possible reason for allowing limited access to fewer males, or just to one exclusively, is that our ancestral females knew that they were losing their bright red sac (or that the chimpanzees and bonobos were evolving the red sac separately), thereby losing the means to let all the males in the community know that she was ready to accept suitors by advertising that she was in estrous and had to adapt new behaviors. Without the advertising advantage to attract males into a competitive frenzy, the female may have found herself at a disadvantage, with fewer "gift givers," thus endangering her genetic legacy. By increased exclusive access to one male, she could have insisted on increased returns for her investment in the male. But it is at this juncture that I believe female choice may have worked too well and overshot its objective. In attracting the biggest, fieriest, and meanest male available, the female got stuck with a too-dominate male, who found the arrangement much to his liking, and genetic advantage. But what happened to our "loser" geeks, and freaks that were pushed out of paradise? Well, the innate competitive nature of the primate male was still there and merely adapted to new local environments. So now in our early humanoids, not only do you have a cognitive "genius" with the larger brain, but you also have a return of the competitive "beast" of the old primate; quite a formidable creature.
By keeping other males away by force or intimidation, the male found that not only was his genetic heritage protected, but his control over the female as property increased alliance mechanisms with other males who may now be more willing to perform tasks for the alpha male in exchange for occasional sexual access. In studying chimpanzees today, it has been observed that "...female chimpanzees copulate with numerous males during their fully swollen period; as many as fifty copulation bouts with eight males a day have been recorded, and swollen females may copulate with several adult males in a five-minute period." (The Hunting Apes, 1999, p.78 My goodness, ladies, what would Wendy Shalit say! Return to Modesty, 1999 in which Shalit pontificates that the modern female of today has lost her "mystique" by being too easy to bed down with men on the first or second date and should return to the "good ol' days" of no sexual access unless accompanied by marriage. Does this citation by Stanford and the Shalit protest mean to say that you females are innately "lustier" than we are willing to admit? And that, perhaps, sexual "morality" that prevents sexual excesses by females, may merely reflect desires by those males and females at the higher levels of society that dominate our culture to enforce sexual "purity" of the female to both their advantage? The advantage to the male who has sons would be to know that his lineage, and thus his retained resources would be free from "loose" women who might be from a lower hierarchy who would use their sexual attractions to drain those resources. And the advantage to the female would be that these promiscuous women would be unable to tempt and threaten her hold on her high-ranking male, knowing full well the sexual talents of some females.
Man in the Mist: The Evolutionary Musings of a Blue-Collar Workerę
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