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[anthro] The Aka super-fathers

Aka pygmies, highly egalitarian, father in reach of their infant 47% of the time. Paternal 'suckling'. Mothers as primary caregivers, men as primary hunters, but lots of flexibility and switching. Named positions are all male, but only somewhat important, vs. common decision making. Lots of time, not "quality time".

Aka and other pygmies are part of the L1 haplotype, thought to be the stock everyone else split off of, so in some vague sense are the "oldest humans", along with the !Kung. Plus, African hunter-gatherers, can't get more probably-authentic than that. Though the original ones probably didn't have to live in deep jungle or the Kalahari.

except it's not working right now, so http://mindstalk.net/Introaka.html
Apparently a chapter from a book, with environmental and demographic information, then more details about the social structure. Contradicts the Guardian article in a few details, saying only men hunt with spear and crossbow. Contradicts itself in saying named positions are "usually" men, then always men. But otherwise matches, and not out of line with what I've read of the Mbuti pygmies, studied by different researchers, so the main points are believable.

17% of men have more than one wife; since Orson Scott Card was yammering recently about the eternal definition of marriage (particularly hilarious coming from a Mormon) he comes to my mind. 1 in 4 marriages ends in divorce, typically before a child is born, but not always. Early divorces usually initiated by the wife, later (post female fertility) by the husband. Divorce is just a matter of moving out of the house. Everyone's in the net hunt; a key component is making noise and beating bush, which women with children can do just fine. Society is very egalitarian and individualistic; there's very little forcing anyone to do anything, including no punishing children for not obeying their parents. However, you're expected to give up anything anyone asks for, not big on accumulation of wealth. Hardly any violence against women reported, somewhat more against men. Infants are in skin contact nearly 24/7, carried in side slings for more face to face time, and physical precosious, perhaps because they're vertical so much ("vestibular stimulation"). No "No!", young children hitting each other just get pulled apart. Lots of early skill transference and independence. The children aren't socialized to respect their elders.

It was not unusual, for instance, to see an eight month old with an six inch knife chopping the branch frame of its family's house. By three or four years of age children can cook themselves a meal on the fire, and by ten years of age Aka children know enough subsistence skills to live in forest alone if need be.

Only men in named status positions (but they're often related, and their mother gets lots of influence); only men hunt large animals; polygyny. Otherwise, pretty egalitarian.

The nearby villagers make for a stark contrast. Women do most of the farming and contribute most of the calories, suffer lots of violence, and seldom participate in political decisionmaking. 45% polygyny, fertility is lower than among the Aka due to STDs. Men politic, talk, and drink palm wine. The Aka admire how respectful villager children are, but appalled that the villagers hit their children.


Damien Sullivan

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May 2018


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