‘Nothing in !Kung culture really matches the common Hadza pattern of men leaving older wives for younger ones…’


From American Scientist:

Both the Hadza and the !Kung live in small groups with a mean size of about 30 people. These groups move camp several times a year for various reasons, including the availability of food and water. Groups are larger in the dry season and smaller in the rainy season. They are basically egalitarian—any attempts at domination fail, because people gain others’ support or simply leave the group if someone tries to boss them around. There is no role specialization except the division of labor by sex, and male domination is minimal. There are no clans or rules of inheritance passing through one sex, but groups are made up mainly of various kinds of kin. Violence can erupt between two men over a woman, and this is a main cause (among the Hadza, the main cause) of homicide. Meat supplies about 25 to 30 percent of the calories in both diets, and most aspects of child care are very similar between the two cultures. To a former !Kung researcher, it is reassuring to see these and many other commonalities, since the Hadza live in an environment that is more like the one in which we evolved than is that of the !Kung, and the Hadza have been studied with methods and theories that were unavailable when the !Kung were hunting and gathering.

There are also differences between the two societies. The !Kung have dogs, so they hunt in groups when in pursuit of game animals that stand and fight the dogs—gemsbok (large antelope), for example. Otherwise the !Kung hunt alone, as the Hadza almost always do. Both use poisoned arrows, but the Hadza have much larger bows with heavy pull weights. Hadza children are weaned at least six months earlier than are !Kung children, and interbirth intervals are thus shorter. Hadza children forage for themselves much more. Hadza girls are subjected to partial clitoridectomy at puberty.

Marlowe says that the Hadza divorce rate is “close to the same as that of the !Kung,” but this is misleading. As Howell shows, almost all !Kung divorces occur in the first few years of marriage, mainly the first; these are, in effect, trial marriages and are typically childless. Nothing in !Kung culture really matches the common Hadza pattern of men leaving older wives for younger ones, with stepfatherhood resulting if and when the first wife remarries. Cowives exist in both cultures (in about 5 percent of marriages), but among the Hadza the instability of such unions is usually resolved by the abandonment of the older wife, whereas among the !Kung the younger wife departs.

“At the Cutting Edge of Human Adaptation”, Melvin Konner, American Scientist