What social environment did pre-humans evolve in

What was the social environment like for humans and pre humans like homo habilis or other primates? Were they isolated groups of blood relatives (parents, kids, wives), were they organized in small tribes of 10-20 people, did they have large tribes of 200+ people or what?

Nobody really has a good idea, except that a group size of 200 would be very unlikely due to foraging requirements.

Australopithecus shows strong sexual dimorphism, with males very much larger than females. As in the case of the gorilla, this probably indicates that the social system was polygamous, with a single adult male possessing a harem of several females. (The larger size of males was probably due to male-male competion for harems).

Homo habilis was much less dimorphic, and *H. erectus * even less so. This probably indicates a shift from polygamy towards monogamy. (Though not entirely; males were still larger than females, indicating that some may have had multiple females - which is still true in many traditional human societies.) However, it is unknown whether these semi-monogamous pairs lived alone or were organized in bands.

Not to hijack, but does anyone know of fictional treatments of “pre-humans,” novels even?

One of the few Homo Erectus skeltons discovered showed signs of advanced Hypervitaminosis A. The degree of advancement in the condition means she must have been cared for weeks possibly months while extremely sick. This indicates a reasonably advanced social structure.

/hijack on/

Stephen Baxter has a novel ‘Evolution’ that goes way back (65 million years) to the far future (30 million years). It is a pretty good book and deals with early primates/pre-humans.

/hijack off/


Jean Auel wrote a series of books called “The Earths Children Series”. They combine an interaction between Neanderthals and Crow-Magnon. She did extensive research and it is apparent in her writing, although the books are a bit fanciful and romantic. I found them quite interesting. Here’s a web site:

Cro-magnon, sorry.

“Romantic” = “pornographic”? :smiley:

(I read the first two when I was about 13 years old. They were quite eye-opening for me, to say the least.)

In any event, I eventually got tired of reading repetitious descriptions of the size of her boyfriend’s “manhood.” The author seemed obsessed with this.

Perhaps the movie Quest for Fire?

I recall no such thing, pehaps you do because you were 13?

As far as group size go, it appears that 30 or so is a practical upper limit in most ape societies. There seems to be something that restricts a group of social apes from being well managed by an alpha male (or female) once you get above that number. I.e., it’s a lot like a managing a class of grade schoolers but with more poo throwing.

There are apes that don’t fit into this model as well. E.g., orangs are mainly solitary. Baboons form large troops, but those are “groups of groups”. Each sub-group being managed by a beta male who keeps an eye out for the alpha male and follow his lead. Sort of like your typical medium sized office.

:smiley: Nice analogy. I thought chimps lived in groups of 200 or so. I can’t find info on hlow large chimp societies are online for some reason.

:smiley: Nice analogy. I thought chimps lived in groups of 200 or so. I can’t find info on hlow large chimp societies are online for some reason.

I’m not aware of any studies showing chimp or bonobo troops that large. Also, note that baboons are not apes.

Wasn’t this more common in Homo Erectus?

No, **Colibri **is right. Although the sexual dimorphism did vary among the several Australopithicus species, from what we know today Homo erectus shows less dimorphism than any of them. Keep in mind, too, that for some species of *Australopithicus *there aren’t a whole lot of specimens to work with.

According to this, there was a reduction in sexual size dimorphism from australopithecines to Homo habilis, and from H. habilis to H. erectus.

However, on checking around I found this more recent reference that calls the high sexual dimorphism attributed to Australopithecus afarensis into question.

Heh. Whoosh.

The first book had no graphic descriptions of consensual sex, and the depiction of the one episode was handled quite well, all things considered. The second - and all subsequent books - have numerous and interminable soft(?)-porn passages. It’s too bad.

I gave up on the second book when the Cro Magnons didn’t invent nukes and take out Brun or whatever the Neanderthal rapist was named.
I was also disapointed when what’s her name the protagonist invented surgery. :slight_smile:
(Valley of the Horses?)