Monday, 17 February 2014

The Sons And Daughter Of...

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

The Tulat/We lived in small groups but, once a year, met and "...freely made love." (p. 172)

And Corwin the anthropologist mentions that the Siberian invaders:

"'...haven't the free and easy sexual mores of the Tulat.'" (p. 196)

This has to mean that, after the annual meeting, Tula women return to their small groups not yet knowing whether they have been impregnated or, if so, by whom. So how does Aryuk, the leader of his small group, not only know who his sons and daughter are but live in the same group as them? Is Poul Anderson reading familiar family relationships back into an earlier period?

For what it is worth, my understanding of the earliest human societies and their development is as follows:

unrestricted sexuality within the tribe;
initially, no knowledge of the male role in reproduction;
then, no way of knowing which man was the father of which child;
matrilineal descent;
sexual division of labor because pregnant or breast-feeding women could not easily creep or run after animals but could gather the regular diet of nuts and fruit as against the occasional luxury of meat;
increasing sexual taboos for sound biological reasons;
the pairing marriage, a free and equal partnership, revocable at any time, between a man and a woman with no common ancestress;
tribes able to survive the loss of most men but not of most women;
productivity of labor too low for any individual or group to enslave another;
thus, captured enemies adopted or killed, not enslaved;
herding replacing hunting;
some men accumulating wealth in the form of herds and slaves (this now makes sense) to tend them;
patriarchal monogamy in which men, having overthrown matrilineal descent, can identify legitimate male heirs of their wealth.

The Tulat seem to be at the first stage.

12 comments:

ndrosen said...

Hi, Paul,

I'm not sure about your understanding of the earliest human societies. Are the earliest parts about homo sapiens sapiens, or earlier hominids? And although we can make conjectures, and different people among us can make different conjectures, how are we to know just what marriage customs or reproductive knowledge people in long-vanished societies had?

As to Anderson's Tulat, it is possible that Aryuk is the pater, even if not necessarily the genitor, of the young people in question. It is also possible that the Tulat understand a fair bit about the birds and bees, and if Aryuk's woman friend did not bear a child anywhere close to nine months after an annual get-together, he and she can be pretty sure that the baby is biologically his. (It's been a while since I read the book, which I don't have in front of me.)

Regards,
Nicholas

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Nicholas!

Your comments touches on points Paul raised on which I have doubts. That is, if the very earliest human societies understood the mother's role in reproduction, wouldn't that also include as well some understanding of the male role? To me, it makes sense to think that a man will be more willing to work and struggle to support his mate and her children if he also knew they were his children as well. That, in fact, is what Anderson himself suggested in others of his works.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Nicholas,
Comments are meant to apply to homo sapiens. A 19th century anthropologist called Morgan researched tribal and hunting and gathering societies. I think his ideas make sense but am told they are out of date.
Sean, knowing the mother's role certainly doesn't involve knowing the father's role.
There could be a stage of society when all adults cared for all children.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'll try to make plainer what I had in mind. My thought is that it was not long after mankind as a race became self aware that members of both sexes came to understand the role they played in reproduction. And that this was true even as early as the Pithecanthropines we see in "The Little Monster." That is, how many TIMES would an early man and woman need to engage in sexual intercourse before it was grasped the woman only became pregnant AFTER mating with a man?

Poul Anderson has warned us over and over in his works that persons from more advanced times or societies sometimes UNDER estimated the intelligence of earlier or more technologically backward men. Or aliens, for that matter!

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Nicholas,
I would not underestimate our ancestors' intelligence.
IF there was a period of unrestricted sexuality, then there COULD have been a period when both intercourse and conception were happening all the time without anyone as yet hypothesizing a causal relationship. After that, it would be known that men caused pregnancies but not yet which man had caused which pregnancy. (Even now it can be disputed.) At both stages, descent would have been reckoned through the female line. In that case, the changeover to patrilineal descent would have a major revolution. The suggestion is that it was caused by men accumulating property and wanting to bequeath it to male heirs.
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

I should add that I don't think our species is naturally monogamous. If we were, then we would just pair off early in life and never look at anyone else, like the aliens in one Anderson story. Monogamy has had to be imposed for social reasons, I think to do with inheritance.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I grant it is possible that pre human hominids were mating and conceiving every year with no understanding of the male/female rolves involved. My belief, however, is that we have no hard evidence of that being the case after they became human. It's also my thought that both men and women would want to know who the father was. And my view is that both men and women would have an interest in accumulating property.

Monogamy might not be "natural," but unless a man had the means of supporting a harem, that has also been the norm. And, as a Catholic, I also believe monoagamy is what God desires as best for mankind.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I agree men and women could have an equal interest in accumulating property but, IF there was a sexual division of labour and IF property accumulated in the male sector first, then the property-owning men might want to change the laws of inheritance so that their own "legitimate" sons would inherit. These are "if"'s. I think it is a logical reconstruction of earlier society but I don't know how it fits with more recent evidence.
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Women increasingly work so a man with more than one wife would no longer need to support a "harem"! Economic and social relationships are changing. Great diversity is possible. I hope society moves towards greater individual freedom and relationships based on mutual affection, respect etc without any economic dependency.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "sexual division of labor." What this led me to think was that for many thousands of years it was natural for the heaviest labor, including hunting and war, was done by males. While women cared for children, household work, etc. Broadly speaking of course. I'm sure there was some overlapping both ways. And I'm quite sure parents were keen to make sure any property or rights to property they had would be transmitted to THEIR children.

I do agree we are both merely speculating. We would need to consult the appropriate historians or anthopologists for anything "harder."

I am not entirely sure that it's always good for our women to work outside the family. I have seen anecdotal reports of women doing so and becoming unhappy. Later, when some of them married and had children they were much happier.

And, given the costs and strains of having multiple wives, I remain skeptical about polygamy ever becoming more than something only very wealthy men in mostly Muslim nations will affect.

And of course I agree man and woman should love one another! That is the single best means of making sure a marriage will succeed. I'm reminded of St. Paul exhorting women to obey their husbands and THEN commanding husbands to love their wives.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I am not seriously proposing polygamy, or polyandry, as a marital system! Just greater individual freedom and acceptance of diversity.
By "sexual division of labor," I meant men hunting and women gathering for the reason stated. There must have been a long period when the productivity of labor was so low that each person's work could only support one person, when there was no way of producing an economic surplus and no way of storing food. In that period, there would be no private property or accumulated wealth to bequeath to anyone. The suggestion is that inheritance and the need to identify "legitimate" heirs began when some men acquired wealth in the form of herds and slaves, like Abraham.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Understood, re polygamous/polyandrous marriages. And we do agree, I see, that for many thousands of years the heaviest labor was done by men while women cared for children and did "lighter" forms of work. And I agree that until animals were domesticated and pottery making, etc., were invented, it was very hard to accumulate the "capital" needed for wealth accumulating. And that, of course, stimulated the need for working out property law and rules of inheritance, etc.

Sean