October 9, 2017

The Evolutionary Origins of Exogamy – A Way of Avoiding Inbreeding, or Building Trust and Cooperation Between Us and Them?

Perhaps there's a better, more plausible explanation for the findings about prehistoric exogamy described in this report.

I think the findings provide evidence for inter-group cooperation as the norm, over the still wildly popular and persistent notion of our 'red in tooth and claw' social relations and human nature. Specifically, the prehistoric use of exogamous mating networks to establish more stable, predictable if not peaceful inter-group relationships and alliances seems a more likely motivation for out-group mating behavior among our ancient ancestors than, as the reports states, their realizing mating outside one's group would avoid the genetic risks of inbreeding. 
[‘red in tooth and claw,’ Tennyson, 1849, https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/red-in-tooth-and-claw.html%5D]

"The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonised western Eurasia. The results suggest that people deliberately sought partners beyond their immediate family, and that they were probably connected to a wider network of groups from within which mates were chosen, in order to avoid becoming inbred.

"This suggests that our distant ancestors are likely to have been aware of the dangers of inbreeding, and purposely avoided it at a surprisingly early stage in prehistory.

"The symbolism, complexity and time invested in the objects and jewellery found buried with the remains also suggests that it is possible that they developed rules, ceremonies and rituals to accompany the exchange of mates between groups, which perhaps foreshadowed modern marriage ceremonies, and may have been similar to those still practised by hunter-gatherer communities in parts of the world today.

"The study's authors also hint that the early development of more complex mating systems may at least partly explain why anatomically modern humans proved successful while other species, such as Neanderthals, did not. However, more ancient genomic information from both early humans and Neanderthals is needed to test this idea."

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