Three Stages in the First Human Revolution

The First Human Revolution : Three Stages in the Resolution of the Crisis of Endogamy-Linked Provisioning in the Transition to the Gentile Order

General References

Frederick Engels. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Volume 26, Marx-Engels Collected Works, pp.129-276

Chris Knight. Blood Relations. Menstruation and the Origins of Culture. Yale University Press, 1991. 580 pages.


(i) Engels’ Conception of the Development from Endogamy to the Exogamous Gentile Order in The Origin of the Family

(ii) Knight’s Conception of ‘The Revolution’ Giving Rise to Culture in Blood Relations

(iii) The Three Major Stages in the First Human Revolution

  (a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

  (b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

  (c) Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

(i) Engels’ Conception of the Development from Endogamy to the Exogamous Gentile Order in The Origin of the Family.

Engels (after Morgan in Ancient Society) notes that in the study of the evolution of the pre-monogamian family, we often find that the ‘system of consanguinity’ stands in contradiction to the actually existent family relations. This echoes back to the prior existence of an earlier, superseded form of the family. Thus with the Iroquois of the nineteenth century to the earlier Punaluan form and with the Hawaiians of the same period to the Consanguine form. Thus…

While the family continues to live, the system of consanguinity becomes ossified, and while this latter continues to exist in the customary form, the family outgrows it. (Engels, Origin of the Family, p.141. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 26)

The actual relations of the structure of the Hawaiian family of the first half of the nineteenth century corresponded with the system of consanguinity of the Iroquois in Morgan’s study….

According to the American system of consanguinity, to which the Hawaiian family corresponds, brother and sister cannot be the father and the mother of one and the same child; but the Hawaiian system of consanguinity presupposes a family in which this, on the contrary, was the rule. We are confronted with a series of forms of the family which directly contradict the forms hitherto generally accepted as being the only ones prevailing. (Engels, ibid, p.142)

Engels then writes that Morgan infers, in the prehistory of the family…

a primitive stage at which promiscuous intercourse prevailed within a tribe, so that every woman belonged equally to every man and every man to every woman (Engels, ibid, p.142)

Bachofen, in his researches, discovers ‘traces’ of a later stage of ‘group marriage’ and not this aboriginally endogamous form in which ‘every woman belonged equally to every man and every man to every woman’. Engels remarks that ‘group marriage’ is ‘the oldest, most primitive form of the family’ in which ‘whole groups of men and whole groups of women belong to one another’ (ibid, p.145) However..

the forms of group marriage known to us are accompanied by such peculiarly complicated conditions that they necessarily point to earlier, simpler forms of sexual behaviour and thus, in the last analysis, to a period of promiscuous intercourse coinciding with the period of transition from animality to humanity (Engels, p.146)

On the next two pages (pp.146-7), Engels goes on to explain what he means by ‘promiscuous sexual intercourse’ which for us today would be equivalent to incestuous sex but for people many thousands of years ago was not seen as abnormal until prohibitions were imposed and the very notion of incest then emerges and becomes established in relations between people. It would not be inaccurate to describe these relations as ‘endogamous’ when we consider the life of the troupe or distinct communal group prior to the formation of the exogamous clan system. Parents could sleep with their sons and daughters and it would have been customary for siblings to sleep with each other.

With the emergence of sex prohibitions, the circle of those who could participate in ‘group marriages’ narrowed. With prohibition on parent-offspring sex, it was generally an intragenerational practice and later, with sibling prohibitions (maternal and collateral), it became an exogamous practice between males and females of different clans (gentes).

Engels (after Morgan) cites the ‘consanguine family’ as the first stage of the family to emerge out of the previously existent, endogamous ‘original condition of promiscuous intercourse’. This initial stage of the family presupposes the emergence of the prohibition on parent-offspring sex, that is, intergenerational sex so that the major feature of the consanguine family is the establishment of intragenerational sex to the exclusion of intergenerational forms. The men and women of each generation are all mutual husbands and wives so that sibling sex, at this stage, is not outlawed. Maternal brothers and sisters and collateral siblings (for example, offspring related through different mothers – who are themselves sisters – but with a common grandmother or great-grandmother) are all marriage partners. Fathers cannot sleep with their daughters or mothers and mothers cannot sleep with their sons or fathers. The conclusion that this consanguine form of the family…

must have existed, however, is forced upon us by the Hawaiian system of consanguinity, still prevalent throughout Polynesia, which expresses degrees of consanguinity such as can arise only under such a form of the family; and we are forced to the same conclusion by the entire further development of the family, which postulates this form as a necessary preliminary stage. (bold emphasis Engels, ibid, p.148)

We have here, accordingly, the move from a more to a less endogamous state of affairs in which sibling sex remains permitted but sex between parents and offspring is prohibited. We can describe this state as ‘semi-endogamous’ in that a restriction has been placed on the previously more ‘universal’ state of sexual affairs. Hence, ‘semi-endogamous’ here merely denotes a form of the family as a stage in the transition to exogamous relations in that a previously established set of endogamous relations has become prohibited.

The next advance in the evolution of the family, according to Engels, is the prohibition on sex between siblings. Initially this is imposed between maternal siblings (brothers and sisters with the same mother) and only later between ‘collateral siblings’, that is, between what we would call ‘cousins’ and, increasingly, not only of the first degree. Engels remarks that where ‘inbreeding was restricted’ this facilitated the ‘fuller and more rapid development’ of the tribe. The exogamous gentile system with its constitution arises directly out of these succeeding stages of development containing their specifically associated sex prohibitions.

En passant, we must note the deleterious effects of ‘inbreeding’ on the genetic and physiological constitution of people. This tends to facilitate genetically-linked disease such as so-called ‘inborn errors of metabolism’. The physically healthiest children tend to be those whose parents are ‘furthest away’ from each other in the ‘human gene pool’. Children of ‘mixed race’, etc. Those who are the result of the ‘closest unions’ tend to be the least healthy physically. As an historical example, the records and accounts that have come down to us of the ancient Egyptian and Ptolemaic dynasties gives us the best historical illustrations of this latter point. And this applies to other royal dynasties, ancient and relatively modern, such as the Hapsburgs, where it was thought that ‘keeping the blood pure’ served to ‘maintain the line’. In fact, it only served to encourage disease and genetically-linked disorder, that is, to push ‘the line’ towards ‘extinction’. The advocated methods of the now discredited eugenicist ‘improvers’ of ‘racial stock’, which inspired the Nazis, would, if carried to their logical conclusions, have merely produced the opposite effects intended. It would have concentrated and disseminated genetic disease and disorders, spreading it through populations and increasing the possible incidence of these diseases and disorders down the generations. On the contrary, the human beings of the future generations will be the children of miscegenation and biologically healthier for it.

We cannot assume that this correlation between ‘closeness of blood in breeding’ and ‘child illness’ became recognised from thousands of years of experience in our prehistoric ancestors. They may have attributed divine reasons for such forms of sickness. However, we cannot discount the possibility that our prehistoric ancestors became aware, as a result of generations of experience, that the intermarriage of ‘close blood’ often gave rise to sickly offspring and this was repeated down the generations. Even today, in some cultures, ‘close marriages’, such as between first or second cousins, repeatedly and disproportionately breed children with inherited disorders of metabolism or other genetically-linked diseases and disorders.

If we accept that many previous generations, before the establishment of a developed system of exogamy, produced offspring which were the progeny of ‘incestuous’ couplings, then can we not also consider the possibility that this was also recognised, in later generations, as a practice producing, on a regular basis, ‘sickly children’ who ‘failed to thrive’? Moreover, that those children who were the offspring of more distant relatives (or of those of no recognisable ‘blood affiliation’) tended to be healthier and fitter and so tended to survive? And would our prehistoric ancestors later have recognised this and have acted on this experience and knowledge in their sexual and marital relations with each other?

The prohibition on maternal sibling sex gives rise to the formation of a higher form of the family. The consanguine family gives way to the punaluan family. Sex between collateral siblings remains ‘lawful’ initially but the development of this form takes place on the basis of the establishment of the two previous major prohibitions. In this way, the punaluan family emerges from the consanguine family. The development and dissolution of the punaluan family forms the point of departure for the later development of the gentile system. The essential characteristic of the punaluan family was the…

mutual community of husbands and wives within a definite family circle, from which, however, the brothers of the wives—first the natural brothers, and later the collateral brothers also—were excluded, the same applying conversely to the sisters of the husbands. (Engels, The Origin of the Family, p.149)

Within the consanguine family all the children of a given generation are regarded as brothers and sisters without the need for a differentiation into male and female cousins. Likewise, those of the older generation are the ‘mothers and fathers’ of the full complement of children of the next generation without the need for the categories of ‘uncles and aunts’. The emergence of the punaluan family introduces new relations with the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. As before, the biological children of a given mother are related as maternal siblings. However collateral siblings (children of different mothers who formerly related as ‘brothers and sisters’ in the consanguine family) now become divided into two categories of ‘cousin’. The category of ‘collateral siblings’ (maternal cousins) remains where such children share the same grandmother through a set of maternal sisters. However, a second category of ‘cousin’ is created in which the children of maternal brothers (brothers with the same mother) on the one hand, and those of their maternal sisters, on the other, cannot be ‘brothers and sisters’ but rather become related as male and female cousins. This, of course, simultaneously creates the new classes of nephews and nieces with uncles and aunties. Hence we now have maternal siblings (offspring who share the same mother), ‘collateral siblings’ (the children who share a common grandmother through a group of sisters who are the daughters of this grandmother) and, thirdly, the children of the brothers and their wives of a different lineage on the one hand, and those of the brothers’ sisters (and their husbands of a different lineage) who share a mother with these brothers, on the other, who can no longer have sex, now relate as male and female ‘first cousins’.

Within the punaluan form, only the maternity of the children is definite because of group marriage and hence descent and kinship is matrilineal. The punaluan family in its final period of development becomes the precursor for the emergence of the gens ‘in its original form’. Engels writes that…

In by far the majority of cases the institution of the gens seems to have originated directly from the punaluan family. To be sure, the Australian class system also offers a starting-point for it: the Australians have gentes; but they have not yet the punaluan family; they have a cruder form of group marriage. (Engels, ibid, p.151)


if we take from the punaluan family one of the two typical groups — namely, that consisting of a number of natural and collateral sisters (i.e., those descendant from natural sisters of the first, second or more remote degree), together with their children and their natural or collateral brothers on the mother’s side (who according to our premiss are not their husbands), we obtain exactly that circle of persons who later appear as members of a gens in the original form of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, whose female descendants, generation by generation, are sisters by virtue of descent from her. These sisters’ husbands, however, can no longer be their brothers, i.e., cannot be descended from this ancestress, and, therefore, do not belong to the consanguineous group, later the gens; but their children do belong to this group, since descent on the mother’s side alone is decisive, because it alone is certain. Once the proscription of sexual intercourse between all brothers and sisters, including even the most remote collateral relations on the mother’s side, becomes established, the above group is transformed into a gens — i.e., constitutes itself as a defined circle of blood relatives in the female line, who are not allowed to marry one another; from now on it increasingly consolidates itself through other common institutions of a social and religious character, and differentiates itself from the other gentes of the same tribe. We shall deal with this in detail later. If, however, we find that the gens not only necessarily, but even obviously, evolved out of the punaluan family, then there is ground for assuming almost for certain that this form of the family used to exist among all peoples for whom gentile institutions can be established — i.e., virtually all barbarian and civilised peoples. (Engels, ibid, p.152)

The gens, accordingly, in its original form, evolves out of the punaluan family.

It consists of…

all persons who, by virtue of punaluan marriage and in accordance with the conceptions necessarily predominating therein, constitute the recognised descendants of a definite individual ancestress, the founder of the gens. Since paternity is uncertain in this form of the family, female lineage alone is valid. Since the brothers may not marry their sisters, but only women of different descent, the children born of such alien women fall, according to mother right, outside the gens. Thus, only the offspring of the daughters of each generation remain in the body of consanguinei, while the offspring of the sons go over into the gentes of their mothers. (Engels, ibid, p191)

Mothers call all the children of the gens their children and yet they know their own biological children from the others in the gens. The children of sisters are collateral brothers and sisters and members of the same matrilineal gens. However the children of maternal brothers and those of their sisters become related as ‘cousins’ in different clans. For the woman, her brothers’ children are in a different matrilineal clan from hers (and therefore are her nephews and nieces) whilst her sisters’ children are ‘her children’ in the same clan as her ‘biological’ children which is also the clan of her maternal brothers. This means that all ‘her children’ are the cousins of her brothers’ children. Likewise, for the man, his sisters’ children are in a different clan (they are in his clan ) from those of his ‘biological’ children (who are in the clan of his wives) whilst his brothers’ children are likewise in his wives’ clan where communities still consist of only two clans (gentes). A man’s brothers are ‘group married’ to women of the same clan and generation as his wives with whom he may share with his brothers. This is why in the punaluan form and the later gentile order, based on matrilineal descent, the man ‘feels closer’ to his sisters’ children than to his own because of clan attachment. They are in the same clan as himself but his own biological children are in a different clan, that is, in their mother’s clan as a result of kinship through matrilineal descent.

The prohibition of marriage between ‘cousins’ in the later stages of the punaluan family leads on to its dissolution into the exogamous gentile system which developed on the basis of this widening circle of prohibitions. The range of individuals who could ‘group marry’ became progressively narrower, as a result of prohibitions, and this facilitated the tendency towards the more stable ‘pairing marriage’ arrangement and the breakdown of group marriage as an age-old practice. ‘Pairing’ had taken place sporadically throughout times prior to the formation of the gentile system. However, with the emergence and development of this exogamous system, it became, increasingly, the dominant form of marriage which supplanted group marriage in intergentile relations. This represented a major break with any remaining punaluan practices which is finalised with the prohibition on marriage between all blood relatives so gentes become strictly exogamous whilst remaining matrilineal. Engels remarks that..

the evolution of the family in prehistoric times consisted in the continual narrowingof the circle—originally embracing the whole tribe—within which marital communitybetween the two sexes prevailed. By the successive exclusion, first of closer, then of ever more remote relatives, and finally even of those merely related by marriage, every kind of group marriage was ultimately rendered practically impossible; and in the end there remained only the couple, for the moment still loosely united, the molecule, with the dissolution of which marriage itself ceases completely. (Engels, ibid, p.157)

Accordingly, in the course of development, group marriage is progressively eliminated and replaced by the pairing arrangement of the couple which is not, initially, strictly monogamous but increasingly the male demands fidelity from the woman. However, in regard to the household as a whole, the pairing family continues to exist within the conditions of the households of the gentile order. Only later is it able to outgrow these ancient communistic households, establish itself and subsist as an independent household in the form of the patriarchal and monogamian families. Thus Engels remarks that the ‘pairing family’…

too weak and unstable to make an independent household necessary, or even desirable, did not by any means dissolve the communistic household inherited from earlier times. But the communistic household implies the supremacy of women in the house, just as the exclusive recognition of a natural mother, because of the impossibility of determining the natural father with certainty, signifies high esteem for the women, i.e. for the mothers. (Engels, Origin of the Family, pp.157-8)

The ‘communistic household’ of the gentile system was a matrilineal householdnot simply in terms of its kinship but also in terms of social control. Women were the rulers in the household which was that of their gens, not that of their husbands’ who belonged elsewhere in their own gentes. Men married into these households from other gentes and could be ejected from them if they did not ‘do their share’ of provisioning for the household or their behaviour was unacceptable to the women of the household. Men then had to return to their own clans or try to ingratiate themselves matrimonially with others. In Wright’s study of the Iroquois…

The women were the great power among the clans (gentes), as everywhere else. They did not hesitate, when occasion required, … to knock off the horns, as it was technically called, from the head of the chief and send him back to the ranks of the warriors. (Engels, p.158, The Origin of the Family, quoting Asher Wright from Morgan’s Ancient Society)

The matrilineal communistic household was the foundation of the gentile system. Beyond the pairing marital system within the communistic household lies the independent household of the patriarchal and monogamian families. Engels, after Bachofen, writes that the transition to the monogamian form was actually initiated by women (pp.161-2)…

Only after the transition to pairing marriage had been effected by the women could themen introduce strict monogamy—for the women only, of course. (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 26, p.162)

We have seen how right Bachofen was when he regarded the advance from group marriage to individual marriage chiefly as the work of women; only the advance from pairing marriage to monogamy can be placed to the men’s account, and, historically, this consisted essentially in a worsening of the position of women and in the facilitation of infidelity on the part of the men. (Engels, p.188)

The emergence of pastoralism – the domestication and breeding of animals – and later field agriculture, undermined the old hunting way of life and was the main socio-historical driving force for the establishment of the transitional patriarchal form of the family headed by the man. From being the hunters of animals, the men now became their keepers, at first on behalf of the whole gens, and later, their owners. It was this ownership of the herds and the growing wealth associated with it which enabled men to wrest power in the household from the hands of the women…

Thus, as wealth increased, it, on the one hand, gave the man a more important status in the family than the woman, and, on the other hand, created a stimulus to utilise this strengthened position in order to overthrow the traditional order of inheritance in favour of the children. But this was impossible as long as descent according to mother right prevailed. This had, therefore, to be overthrown, and it was overthrown. It was not so difficult to do this as appears to us now. For this revolution—one of the most far-reaching ever experienced by mankind—did not have to affect one single living member of a gens. All the members could remain what they had been previously. The simple decision sufficed that in future the descendants of the male members should remain in the gens, but that those of the females were to be excluded from the gens by being transferred to that of their father. The reckoning of descent through the female line and the right of inheritance through the mother were thus overthrown and male lineage and right of inheritance from the father instituted. (Engels, pp.164-5)

Engels called this revolution, the ‘overthrow of mother right’, the ‘world-historic defeat of the female sex’. He describes the transitional form of the family from ‘pairing marriage’ to ‘monogamy’ (after Kovalevsky) as the ‘patriarchal family’ (p.165ff). In this form, in order to try to guarantee the paternity of the children, the patriarch exercises strict control over women; they are ‘placed in the man’s absolute power’. Women must now marry into the men’s family and gens, a reversal of the previous, age-old matrilineal exogamous system which now becomes patrilineal exogamy. The ‘patriarchal family’…

constituted the transition stage between the mother-right family which evolved out of group marriage and the individual family of the modern world. This appears to be proved at least as far as the civilised peoples of the Old World, the Aryans and Semites, are concerned (Engels, p.167)

(ii) Knight’s Conception of ‘The Revolution’ Giving Rise to Culture in Blood Relations

We focus here, in this second section, on a general conspectus of the relevant parts of chapter nine of Knight’s book Blood Relations (pp.281-326) This, of course, is not to discount the very important preceding and succeeding sections of the book but merely to draw the attention of the reader, by way of a summary, however inadequate it may be, to that part of the text which is necessary and applicable for the purposes of this brief article.

Prior to the events of the ‘revolution’ which gave rise to human culture no more than 70,000 years ago, our ancestors had ‘established movable but semi-permanent, well-provisioned base camps……that could be situated almost anywhere and no longer depended for their existence on localised foraging relations or the produce of females and their offspring’ (Knight, p.281, Blood Relations). As ‘big game’ hunting emerged in the Ice Age (‘take-off’ point for this type of hunting was no more than 50,000 years ago), human females increasingly used sex as a means of ‘exchange’ for meat to feed their children and sustain themselves as pregnant, nursing and camp-based women. The ‘sex-for-meat’ relation became established between males and females and, specifically, between hunting males and women offering sex in exchange. Male hunting to provide food in exchange for sex became a central relation within the group. Women used ‘ovulatory synchrony’ and the tactic of the ‘sex strike’ to ensure that this relation was strictly followed whilst the hunters were out of camp and other males such as elders and brothers, etc, may still, for whatever reasons, have been around and not on the hunt. Knight remarks that women ‘collectively refused sex whenever meat supplies were exhausted or men attempted to approach without meat’ (p.283). Menstruation served as a visual ‘no’ signal to any approaching males who remained in camp during the period of the hunt.

The ‘troupe’, prior to the ‘first human revolution’, remains dominated by a single male or group of males (‘alpha males’) who control sexual access to females (a harem system). Here, the subversive role of the hunters with their ‘kills’ in the hunt comes into play as ‘they are beginning to use their meat gifts to subvert the dominance of any males…..’ (Knight, p.284). The dominant males tend not to be systematic hunters because they need to remain camp-based in order to control and monopolise the sexual access to women.

This scenario denotes an established structure where women requiring meat for themselves and their offspring are under the control of males who cannot provision them directly and yet those who can directly provide meat as a result of hunting tend to be limited in their sexual access to them by the dominant males running the camp who do not hunt. The dominant males are ‘poor hunters’ (not systematically hunting as an intrinsic aspect of their mode of life) and, therefore, must also be poor providers for their controlled females who cannot ‘access other males’ meat’ without the permission of these ‘alpha males’ controlling the harem set-up.

A crisis emerges and unfolds : ‘females are…. attached to males of the wrong kind…..males with access to meat have no sex, while sexually privileged males are cut off – along with the females they control – from supplies of meat’ (p.284). Obviously a social ‘structural crisis’ of a sort at the dawn of human culture; a crisis of and in the very structure of the relationship between sexual access/availability and the provisioning of the means of survival. The resolution of the crisis lies in the creation of an alliance between the subordinate hunters and controlled women, to come together and overthrow the rule of the ‘alphas’ (the haremistas). The women use and develop the synchronisation of their menstrual cycles and ‘sex striking’ in solidarity with the armed hunter males to disempower the old dominating patriarchs. ‘The revolution begins here’ (p.284). The haremistas are overthrown and the formerly dominated parties (both males and females) come into their own and establish new, more egalitarian, relations based on the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm.

Knight writes that males then ‘harmonised’ their hunting expeditions with the period of fertility of the camped females (roughly between ovulation and menstruation) so that they were not away on the hunt when females were most fertile between ovulation and menstruation. It was ‘in their genetic interests to be coming home with meat when the females were most ready for them’ (p.285). This meant that the hunt took place within and around the period of menstruation. Physiologically, menstruation takes place when the thickened, richly blood-supplied wall of the endometrium (womb) breaks down on a monthly basis and is discharged from the uterus by non-pregnant women. It lasts from three to five days every month, commencing at puberty and ending at the menopause. Women in camp synchronise their cycles not only as part of the sex strike tactic; they do so in order to be sexually ready, collectively, for the men as they come home from the hunt with their kills. After arriving home, a period of feasting and ‘festivities’ begins. This serves further to undermine the previous form of patriarchal rule.

The formerly dominant alpha males are effectively marginalised (or forced into a new hunting way of wife in consonance with the ‘revolutionary’ hunters) in the course of the ‘revolution’. They could have been driven out or even killed. If we accept that they were forced into compliance with the ‘new order’, they now have to ‘provide’ as well rather than living a leisured existence where other men provide the food and subservient, dependent women attend to their sexual needs. The new relationship of ‘meat-for sex’ is more productive than the older primate legacies of male dominance and serves to facilitate the development of the group as a whole. The group can establish more semi-permanent or permanent camps rather than having to be on the move all the time. The general mobility of females was reduced with the formation of semi-permanent home bases as hunting males went out and brought back the kills. Knight remarks that an advantage of the sex strike would have been to ‘reassure sexually anxious hunters that prolonged absences would not be taken advantage of…… rival stay-at-home males’ (p.287). The possibilities for attempted or actual transgressions are evident here. But Knight does not appear to address this in detail. Something, and the significance of which, we will discuss later in the article.

As a consequence of these changes, culture emerges as a ‘genuinely collective agreement to secure adherence’ (Knight, p.296) to the newly-emergent rules. Specifically, the ‘rule’ (the social paradigm, the basic operative principle and framework) of ‘meat-for-sex’ is central because it serves – with a guarantee or a kind of ‘insurance’ and a lesser degree of caprice and instability compared to the previous patriarchal harem relations – both to feed and nourish the young, the next generation, and to ensure that generations can be propagated one after another thereby creating and developing the traditions of culture itself. The ‘revolution’ created new relations in which ‘hunters won for themselves collective sexual security – without struggles for dominance, without ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, without fear of complete sexual appropriation’ (p.301) and women and children became emancipated from the oppressive relations and material dependence of harem-existence. Sexual relations became more egalitarian whilst, at the same time, with the regular hunt, all, especially the children, were better nourished and could enjoy, collectively, the life of the human group as a whole. Both labour and sex started out on a path of emancipation from their ancestral primate modes of existence. Sex was ‘democratised’; society now started to determine and control the allotment and distribution of sex according to a new paradigm rather than sex determining and controlling the hierarchical structure of a male-dominated, haremated troupe passed down for generations from the ancestral primate past.

Knight states that his ‘model…. accounts for the culturally enshrined incest taboo …..explaining the ‘totemic’ equation of incest avoidance rules with rules governing the distribution of meat’ (p.301). Females repel any sexual advances from non-hunting males, including their own, non-hunting male relatives such as ‘sons’, ‘brothers’ and ‘fathers’. The ‘sex strike’ – as experienced directly by women’s male blood relatives – becomes the basis for the origination of incest taboos. Women will not ‘break the strike’ for anybody because the appropriation of meat for the feeding of themselves and their young depends on it. This undermines traditionally established endogamous relations in the patriarchal troupe where the very concept of incest did not exist because sexual relations ‘between blood’ were practiced. Knight’s model simply presupposes that women ‘remained consistently faithful to the logic of a meat-gaining strategy which was already established in their own material and economic interests’ (p.301). The essential purpose of the ‘sex strike’ was to sexually marginalise all non-hunting males and sexually embrace those who hunted and provided meat.

Furthermore, the monthly female sex strikes were ‘conducted by women in alliance with male and female offspring and directed ‘against’ ‘in-marrying husbands/fathers’. This produced an ‘exclusively matrilineal kinship solidarity’ implying, from its beginnings, ‘matriliny as central to culture’s initial situation’ (p.306). He notes the ‘general finding that matrilineal moiety systems must be given both logical and historical primacy…’ (pp.306-7) and further states that ‘matrilineal exogamy could theoretically allow a man to have sex with his daughter because she is in the same clan as her mother and should logically be just as available’ (p.307).

Knight explains the father-daughter sex prohibition on the basis of his model. Mothers would want their daughters to marry hunting men of their daughters’ generation because they would bring in extra meat to the ‘extended household’. Meat already brought in by the women’s hunting husbands would therefore be supplemented by this additional supply. In order to comply with the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, fathers taking their daughters sexually would mean that their kills would have to be shared amongst both wives and daughters and that the men of the younger generation would be sexually marginalised. Hence, the father-daughter prohibition emerged out of the need to consolidate this rule and also socially develop the household. On the basis of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, the continuation of sex between father and daughter would have actually undermined this social development by curtailing the supply of meat to the household. Knight writes that this would have been ‘counter-revolutionary’ because ‘older males’ additional sexual privileges would have been at the expense of younger males being denied sexual access to women of their own age’. This would have also undermined ‘women’s strategy to maximise the harnessing of male labour power’ and so ‘such monopolisation of many females by small numbers of older males could not conceivably be permitted’ (p.308)

Obviously, this, according to Knight’s model, would have been an attempt to revert to the old ‘harem system’ with dominant and submissive males and dependent females which had already been overthrown previously. In this way, Knight’s model explains why the ‘theoretical permissibility’ of a father’s sexual access to his daughter ‘in the same clan as her mother’ is ‘trumped’ by the need to consolidate and extend the newly-established relations born of the first human revolution. To extend and augment the supply of food and the material means of life to the community. And, furthermore, to guard against any ‘counter-revolutionary’ tendencies to re-establish the old, endogamous system of patriarchal relations based on male dominance of other males and keeping the women of the group in a state of oppression and subservient dependence.

However, on reflection, once the taboo on parent-offspring sex had become socio-culturally assimilated – especially under conditions of group marriage where sex with the women of the next generation would have been recognised as very possibly sex with ‘one’s own blood’ – this would have been a deterrent to having sex with the women of the younger generation in the family or, later, the gens of the men’s wives. It would have been understood that such younger women could be these men’s daughters and this would have served to act as a deterrent and to reinforce an established prohibition. And this regardless of a man’s daughters being in another family or clan. Moreover, it would have reinforced the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm as a ‘within generation’ condition and practice. The presentation of ‘hunting kills’ to the females of the younger generation would have transgressed this aspect of the paradigm. Sex, accordingly, with the younger generation would have been culturally assimilated as ‘out of rule’ because it contravened this intrinsically associated aspect of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and would have been viewed as a shameful act where a man was possibly ‘eating his own flesh’.

The paternity of the children in prehistory was always uncertain because of group marriage. Ostensibly, it only becomes ‘less uncertain’ with the establishment of the patriarchal and monogamian forms of the family. However, in truth, paternity has always retained a certain degree of doubtfulness down the ages and can now, only today at the start of the 21st century, be scientifically verified or refuted as a result of genetic testing. If women have ‘multiple partners’, regardless of marital status, then paternity may remain doubtful until resolved otherwise by DNA testing. Today, a simple genetic test can give an anxious, ‘hard-working family man’ the ‘peace of mind’ as to whether he has been cuckolded or not.

The nature of group marriage renders the paternity of the children uncertain. The individual biological father of the children in prehistory could not be definitely identified. Moreover, people did not feel the need to do so within a ‘group marriage’ and matrilineal situation. Within the exogamy of the matrilineal gentile (clan) system, preceding the pairing marriage arrangement, who could and could not sleep with whom in the other gentes was a circumscribed matter according to prohibition and custom. Under conditions of group marriage and under the imposed prohibition on parent-offspring sex, sleeping with women of a younger generation could actually have meant sleeping with one’s own daughter. To use a current euphemism, attempting to sleep with the women of the younger generation may have been a ‘frowned upon’. Once the prohibition on parent-offspring sex was established, it must have quickly become an intergenerational barrier to sexual relations between one generation and the next, regardless of established or newly emerged relations. Once such a taboo was imposed and accepted ‘as rule’, it must have become custom, in the least, but perhaps not strictly prohibited, not to sleep with the daughters of the women to whom a man had common sexual access with other men in group marriage. The ambiguity of the situation then reflected in the social mentality and psychology of prehistoric communities must have been a deterrent to such a practice.

A man could sleep with all the women of his generation in the consanguine family, as Engels asserts, but later this excluded maternal sisters in the punaluan family and an even widening circle of blood relatives in the gentile system. Eventually, the gentile system tended towards marriage in which no blood relation could be proven. The maternity of sons, from the earliest times of human culture, meant that sex between sons and their mothers was, indeed must have been, the very first to be outlawed. Under the conditions of group marriage, where younger women were the daughters of the women to whom men had common sexual access in a group marriage, sex between men and these women of the next, younger generation would have tended to be prohibited because these women were very possibly their own daughters. Group marriage, therefore, would have served to reinforce (this ambiguity of paternity would have helped) this first prohibition on sex between parents and offspring and, accordingly, would have acted as a deterrent on sexual activity with these younger females because of the possibility of these women being the daughters of these men of the older generation. This is why the taboo on intergenerational sex would have held under conditions of group marriage.

(iii) The Three Major Stages in the First Human Revolution

  (a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

  (b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

  (c) The Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

We have endeavoured, very briefly, in the previous two sections, to cover both Engels’ and Knight’s conceptions of the origins of culture. The following subdivided section is an attempt to bring their conceptions into closer relationship with each other. Any real or implied conflicts between the two conceptions can be identified in the course of elaborating the content of this third section and, perhaps, be resolved and reconciled. We are not actively seeking to counterpose the two conceptions but to see how they ‘work together’, in a certain sense to ‘play with’ these ideas and to see how, or if, they can be brought together into a ‘synthesis’ in terms of the sequencing of stages of development and overall conception.

(a) From Patriarchal Endogamy to the Consanguine Family

Patriarchal endogamy – in which every sexually active male potentially belongs to every sexually active female and vice versa regardless of status, age or generation – gives us a picture of a generalised promiscuity within which the notion of incest is absent. Dominant males of the older generation not only control sexual access to the females of the group but also dominate the younger generation of males. This younger generation of males, as they grew to manhood, would be fitter and tend to be or become the leading hunters of the group. The older generation of males dominates the mode of life of the troupe and controls, besides sexual access, the distribution of food on the basis of allegiance and alliance. These allegiances could take the form of sexual favouritism and ‘favoured’ male offspring who may be in line for succession to the ‘alpha’ positions. In other words, as far as food availability is concerned, the dominant, older males would have prioritised favoured females and those males who would defend the established patriarchal endogamy because they know that they would some day be dominant in such a system, that is, would be in line for ‘succession’. Females in such a system of relations are dependent and subservient and a significant number of males would be ‘sidelined’ with a lesser status to those males dominating the troupe. Those ‘sons’ favoured by the harem patriarchs were their allies because they were expected to succeed them. These younger ‘aspiring’ males allied themselves (in opposition to the body of hunters as a whole) with the harem patriarchs as a ploy to accession to dominance and the control of the harem and provisioning when the older generation died and they, as a caste, succeeded them. So how did the ‘patriarchs’ maintain this level of control over the troupe? Can we envisage a situation where hunters were given limited sexual access to women on condition that they surrendered the proceeds of the hunt to the dominant males?

We have a scenario where the hunting males under this regime of patriarchal endogamy have no priority as far as sexual access is concerned. This priority is in the hands of the dominant camp-based older generation males. Hence there is a polarisation not simply in terms of sexual access for males but also in the relation where dominant males need to appropriate food from its source, that is, from those males who have successfully gone out beyond the camp to hunt. On the one hand, the dominant males have sexual access to females (and control this access) but are not the provisioners of food for the women and their children. On the other hand, the subservient hunting males have the learned capacity and food to feed the troupe, the women and their children but are without direct access to sex which is controlled by the ‘alpha males’ [1]. At this stage, there are no established sex prohibitions. We are in the midst of the patriarchal endogamous troupe.

The ‘alphas’ control the distribution of the proceeds of the kills according to criteria just mentioned. Control, it seems, could only have been exercised by dominant males through their role as ‘middlemen’ or ‘gatekeepers’ between the world of the hunt and the world of sex. Brute armed force alone would not have been sufficient. Alpha males who appropriated the proceeds of the hunt then apportioned the meat according to their own sexual and ‘political’ interests. Those who hunt surrender their catch to the dominant males of the older generation but for what in exchange? Simply for the ‘right’ to eat? But surely they would eat when away from the camp before surrendering any kills? Or perhaps for a limited and restricted access to females for sex when returning to the camp? In terms of sex, these hunters must have taken a subservient place. And this ‘sexual sidelining’ would have taken place despite the fact that they (the hunters of a younger generation) were central in provisioning the whole troupe as a result of their hunting activities. A state of iniquity between the hunters of the younger generation and the non-hunting alphas of the older one must have persisted for a period of time. The hunters were armed for the hunt, of course. However, can we visualise the dominant males being unarmed when we consider their role in the troupe? Surely not. This scenario – an established set of age-old social structures and relations – must have been associated with ongoing tensions and conflicts between the different generations of males, between the hunters and alphas, which would have become exacerbated and sharpened under certain conditions. For example, in periods where food resources were scarce or the female-male gender balance in the troupe was out of kilter. If the alpha males were appropriating all the available food and controlling sexual access to females in periods of ‘dearth’, this would have polarised the members of the troupe, sharpened conflict and could easily have lead to internecine warfare. Hunter males could have allied themselves with dependent, some possibly starving and neglected females and their children in order to overthrow the age-old set of patriarchal relations based on endogamy-linked provisioning. Here, as in future scenarios, we can see that it is the ‘class’ of ‘producers’ or ‘providers’ (hunting males and working/breeding females) who are the ‘revolutionary element’ in social change and the ‘idlers’, who own and/or control the social landscape, who are its ‘reactionary’ side. A coalition of dependent females and sidelined males, probably largely of the same generation, overthrows a caste of older ruling parasitic males, again largely of the same generation.

The provisioning priorities of the older patriarchs would have generated opposition from the broad party of women, with or without children, pregnant, nursing or not. The hunters whose activity was the source of this provisioning of food were ‘sidelined’ or ‘at the back of the queue’ as far as sexual access was concerned. And the women and their children were not prioritised in the distribution of the proceeds of kills. In times of dearth, they would have hungered and even starved with their children whilst the patriarchs attended to their priorities such as sexual favourites or ‘political’ allies. This was an explosive situation which could only be resolved through revolutionary measures. The first stage of the first human revolution opened up. This could be viewed as one credible scenario but the operative principles of the ‘revolution’ could have unfolded in similar situations where the provisioners (the hunters) were without regular, direct access to sex and a significant portion of the women and children of the troupe were without direct access to the proceeds of the hunt, to meat, whilst the alpha males used the differential distribution of food and sex to control the life of the troupe according to their own material and sexual interests.

As soon as subjugated males and dependent females co-operate in order to secure their mutual interests (meat and sex) against this endogamous system of dominance, they come into conflict with the alpha males of the older dominating generation and confront it as the collective representation of a new order which threatens the old. This is the point of revolution and the beginnings of the resolution of the ‘structural crisis’ of endogamy-linked provisioning within the troupe. The revolution by-passes the ruling middlemen patriarchs and establishes new, direct relations unmediated by the control of these patriarchs. The harem system is undermined and disintegrates into a more egalitarian set of sexual relations. Sex is ‘democratised’. This is the point of departure for the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule as a direct relation between males and females without the mediation of harem-controlling dominant males.

Prior to this first stage of the revolution, the ‘meat-for-sex’ principle was not operative in such a direct form because sexual access was not a function of meat provisioning but based on the dominance of certain males within the troupe. Those who provided the meat as a result of their hunting activities were not first in the queue for sex but rather those who were physically bigger, more muscular, more aggressive, etc, and they could use these ‘natural qualities’ in order to dominate and control sexual access to women. Such a control of sexual access was used to guarantee the appropriation of the proceeds of the hunt. Not only did they have a certain patriarchal control over sexual access to the females but they could, by this pre-eminent ‘alpha’ position, have also controlled access to the proceeds of the hunt in terms of the distribution of food to selective or to all the members of the troupe but with quantitatively and qualitatively differential apportioning according to status and the character of their relationship to the recipients. ‘Political supporters’ and ‘sexual favourites’ were probably at the front of the queue when it came to sharing out the proceeds of the hunt. ‘Political discontents’ and ‘sexual undesirables’, especially without offspring, at the back. These latter were part of the latent ‘militants’ and ‘revolutionaries’ in the troupe.

The deployment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ tactic (which becomes ‘rule’ after its successful deployment as a ‘lever of change’) enabled, on the one hand, the provisioning of food for women and the children to be established as a direct and general feature of the life of the group without the controlling intermediation of a dominant male caste. And, on the other hand, it served to secure sexual access for the provisioning hunters in opposition to the sexual monopoly of the old patriarchal system. It broke up the monopoly and ‘authoritarianism’ of the ‘haremistas’ – rooted in millenia of previous evolution – and ‘democratised’ and ‘socialised’ both food distribution and sex amongst the collective. This was a revolutionary step forward in group organisation.

This probably encouraged those who had been overthrown to either hunt for their generation and augment the food supply of the group or, if they resisted the changes, to be subject to expulsion or even execution. From then onwards, hunters are given sexual access on condition of presenting their ‘kills’ to the women of their generation. This meant that this new coalition of hunters and women became the ruling power in the group and those who had previously ruled now had to fall in line or were marginalised.

We see, therefore, that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm (which is simultaneously a ‘sex-for meat’ paradigm) was used as a collaborative tool to wrest control of the provisioning and distribution of food and sexual access from the ‘patriarchs’ of the old order. The other side to guaranteeing the success of this paradigm was what Knight refers to as the ‘sex strike’. Women refused sex to any male during the time other men were out on the hunt. Only those, that is the hunters, who presented them with the kills or catches were allowed sexual access. Here we have the time of ‘sex striking’ corresponding with the period of the hunt and the synchronisation of the time of women’s menstruation with this period when the hunters are absent from the camp. This implies that the women of the group could synchronise their ovulatory cycles. All women visually ‘broadcasted’ their sexual unavailability during the hunt by the blood flows of their menstruation. They became available and fertile subsequent to the hunt as the period of collective menstruation ended, when the men returned to camp and the period of ovulation commences.

If the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was to be established, maintained and reinforced, sex between women and any males remaining in the camp had to be prohibited. Herein lies the origin of the first sex taboo, that is between parents and offspring. Any of the older, less capable generation of males (which had just been disempowered in the course of the revolution) and any younger males not yet ready for hunting activities remaining in the camp during the period of the hunt were thus excluded from having sex with the women remaining in the camp. And since, at this stage in prehistory, we are referring here generally to the fathers and sons of the women, the taboo impacted any possibility of sexual advances from these quarters. The first sex prohibition (between parents and offspring) was, accordingly, an early ideological reflection of the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule backed up by the ‘sex strike’.

Knight writes that ‘women of different generations’ organising the sex strike would have involved ‘male kin of all ages…as allies in the strike’ (p.302). We are not, as yet, at the stage of the punaluan family or the gentile system where demarcations of kinship are clearer. We are still with the revolutionary events taking place at the start of the period of development of the consanguine family. Blood related, non-hunting males of the generation above (parents) and below (offspring) the women had just been dispossessed of sexual access in the course of enforcing the ‘meat-for-sex’ strategy and imposing the first sex prohibition. They could not access the women sexually and yet they were, according to Knight’s conception here, helping to perpetuate their own sexual dispossession. In other words, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and the sex strike must have been directed, initially, against their ‘own blood’ (‘kin’) who had exercised age-old sexual access prior to the first stage of the revolution which imposed the first sex prohibition. If we admit Knight’s assertion here, at this early stage of development, that the women were supported by ‘male kin of all ages….as allies in the strike’ in enforcing the sex strike then against whom was the strike directed? All these ‘male kin’ under the conditions of the formation of the consanguine family were either out on the hunt (maternal and collateral brothers) or were at home in the camp (fathers and offspring). Accordingly, under these conditions, the sex strike could only have been directed against ‘male kin’ who had been prohibited sexual access to the camp based women. It seems that Knight must be referring to a later period when ‘male kin’ and the women’s husbands were in different families or gentes which must refer to the punaluan family or the later gentile system. We can envisage a situation where some of the armed brothers (the rest of the brothers being out on the hunt) of the women remained in the camp in order to support the sex strike and enforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule against any predations from older and younger male kin. But this is different from ‘male kin of all ages’ enforcing the strike.

Those older ‘male kin’ who are not out on the hunt – the older generation which has been barred sexual access to its daughters in the time of the formation of the consanguine family – are not going to help the sex striking women to enforce and defend their sexual refusal primarily directed at them as their prohibited older ‘male kin’. Why would they wish to help to enforce a regime which had just established an earth-shaking historical line in the sand in relation to their own sexual access? Perhaps some armed males (we can postulate here some brothers of the hunters) remained behind in camp (did not hunt) in order to enforce the new regime? But then this raises the question as to whether they had sexual access to the women whilst their ‘brothers’ were out on the hunt? After all, sex between siblings was not outlawed at this stage but sexual access for the ‘brother camp guards’ would have conflicted with the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. This, of course, could have ‘planted the seeds’ for the later prohibition on sibling sex. Or did they (the guarding brothers) partake in sex only after their hunting brothers returned with the kills? The existence of brothers remaining in camp must have posited a conflict here – or the seeds of one at least – between ‘camp guard brothers’ conforming, or agreeing to conform, with the new ‘meat-for-sex’ rule on the one hand and the state of affairs where prohibition on sex between siblings had not yet been imposed and established.

Moreover, in his model, Knight includes the conception that hunting ‘males would be reluctant to go out on the hunt unless they were secure in the knowledge that a ban on sex applies to all of them without favour or discrimination – and the females remain in control’ of the home base, etc. (Blood Relations, p.302). Regardless of any ‘insecurities’, they would have needed to go out hunting anyway if they and their kin were to eat and survive. Other conjectures could be proposed. For example, we could conceive a transition point here, in this semi-endogamous state of affairs, in which parent-offspring sex had already been prohibited but brothers, allied to the hunters – who remained at home to protect the women from members of other roving troupes and sexually-encroaching fathers and sons – still had sexual access to the women either whilst their brothers were out hunting or only after they returned. Later, with the more rigid enforcement of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, this could have led to the taboo on sibling sex because it became resented amongst the hunters, under altering conditions, that they were doing all the hard work to get the kills back to camp whilst their ‘security guard’ brothers at home were enjoying themselves for doing more or less nothing. Just ‘keeping watch’ over the females waiting for the return of the hunters. This must have reminded the hunters of the previous state of affairs in which the old patriarchs ruled the roost whereas now it was their camp-based brothers who were the beneficiaries of their hunting efforts. In other words, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was only being applied selectively at first (to deter intruders entering the camp and to keep fathers and sons away from daughters and mothers) and it was only later that it became universally applied by including any camp-remaining brothers in the rule. This would explain the separation in time between the two major prohibitions on sex between blood relatives, that is, sibling prohibitions coming later. This is just another of the debatable points to be found in the details of Knight’s overall conception.

Furthermore, he remarks (p.302, Blood Relations) that it ‘is simply not possible to organise a sex strike in alliance with individuals who are in fact one’s sexual partners’. Unless, of course, such sex strikes were, in their initial forms, more selective in their targetting and not as universal as Knight implies. The first forms of the sex strike could, conceivably, have been exclusively directed at breaking the sexual access of parents to children and vice versa (of the blood relatives of one generation to the next) with a more universal, generalised form of the sex strike emerging later as the basis of the later additions of sibling and cousin sex prohibitions. This scenario would have admitted the possibility of a ‘more relaxed’ approach of ‘camp guard brothers’ to such a sex strike tactic, in the course of the evolution of the consanguine family, whilst their brothers were away on the hunt. But, of course, not necessarily reciprocated or supported by both camped women and their provisioning male hunters. This more ‘staged’ development of the sex strike tactic, becoming increasingly more generalised, in line and consonant with the imposition and consolidation of a widening circle of sex prohibitions, would appear to fit more closely with Engels’ conception of the origination and evolution of the family passing through different stages towards the forms of the family found in the gentile order.

Knight proposes an explanation (Blood Relations, p.307) for the father-daughter sex prohibition in which a ‘coalition of related mothers would need their daughters to ‘marry well’…’ so that their choice would bring in ‘additional meat to the extended household’. Giving fathers sexual access to their daughters would have undermined this augmentation of food supply, harked back to previous times and would have ‘amounted to the beginnings of a real counter-revolution’ (p.308). ‘A real counter-revolution’ within this ‘consanguine family’ scenario and context would have been signified by the attempts of older males to re-assert their old dominance and re-establish the ‘harem system’ in the face of relations which were already starting to bury this older system. In other words, when the father’s sexual access to his daughters was ‘overthrown’, this first stage in the ‘human revolution’ was also the very first step in the move towards fully exogamous relations. If some males later tried to re-assert and re-establish those forms of dominance and endogamous access associated with the earlier harem system subsequent to its overthrow then that would, indeed, have been ‘counter-revolutionary’ or ‘retrogressive’.

At this stage in prehistory, we are still within the realm of ‘group marriage’. Accordingly, the concept of ‘marrying well’ would seem to be somewhat misplaced historically. The presentation of kills would have been more a generational affair from male hunters to their collective wives rather than from one hunter to one wife as we would have found later with the ‘pairing family’. Would they have presented kills to women of the older (mothers) or younger (daughters) generation? We only reach the point where kills are selectively presented to individual wives by their husband hunters with the emergence of the ‘pairing family’ within the gentile order. Prior to this, group marriage is the prevailing form of marriage and this would have determined the forms of presentation of the proceeds of the hunt to the women of the collective. To avoid jealousies and conflicts, hunter husbands would have ensured that the proceeds of the hunt were shared equally amongst their ‘group wives’ without leaving out any wife who was part of the group marriage arrangement. Contravening this principle would have raised the question of sexual accessibility.

Without the surrender of the proceeds of the hunt becoming ‘selectively generational’, the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule could not have emerged. Accordingly, the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring could not have been socially imposed. If we assume that some, at least, of the formerly older generation of dominant parental males, the traditional ‘patriarchs’ in the older endogamous system, remained in camp with the non-hunting male offspring of the women, then we can include these categories within the orbit of the first incest taboo. Parent-offspring sex is prohibited (women collectively cannot have sex with males who are their fathers or sons and men with those who are their mothers or daughters) as a consequence of the hunting being done by males of the same generation as the children-tending women, some of whom may be their hunting maternal brothers sharing the same mother. This is, indeed, ‘revolutionary’ because it implies the commencement of the disintegration of the old system of endogamous harem relations in the troupe. The collective is not being provisioned according to the previously and age-old established customs of patriarchal endogamy but rather according to a new revolutionary paradigm, namely the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule which becomes intragenerational in order to break the powers and relations of this old order.

This implies that the ‘revolutionary generation’ of males started hunting specifically for the women of the same generation in order for the prohibition on parent-offspring sex to emerge and become established. The ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, under the conditions then prevailing, became operative when maternal and collateral siblings collaborated and resolved the aforementioned ‘structural crisis’ of endogamy-linked provisioning based on the dominance of a caste of ‘alpha males’ within the troupe. In the midst of this first stage of the first human revolution, the first form of sex prohibition (between parents and offspring) emerged. If we assume that the older male generations were ‘of the old order’ based on endogamous, alpha-male dominance, then this would have ‘marginalised’ the older generation. It would have subjected them to the control, or even ‘mercy’, of the ‘revolutionaries’, forcing them out to hunt or gather, as the new order became established. Otherwise, the ‘male representatives of the old patriarchal order’ could have been simply driven out of the camps and left to perish or have been ‘dispatched’. We need to consider the possibility that the terms of the new order were imposed on them and that resistance was answered with execution.

The origination and establishment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule within the collective forms the material basis for the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring. This leads directly to the formation of the consanguine family which signifies the opening of the first stage of the human revolution in prehistory. The new social relationship of ‘meat-for-sex’ giving rise to, and simultaneously being reinforced by, this first sexual prohibition meant that hunter males could not present kills to their daughters or mothers. However, for the time being, they could still present kills to their collateral and maternal sisters. This meant that sex between maternal and collateral siblings remained ‘lawful’. This corresponds to Engels’ conception of the scenario which prevailed within the consanguine family. This situation, assuming the hunters brought back kills to the women of their own generation, simultaneously undermined a generalised endogamy dominated by alpha males because each generation of males capable of hunting now had to go out and hunt for the women (wives) of their own generation to whom they had sexual access. If they did not do this, they would have lost out in the distribution of food or even starved and, moreover, been marginalised in terms of sexual access once the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule became ‘cultural rule’. In this way, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm serves to displace the old patriarchal relations by disempowering the previously controlling ‘old guard’ of ‘alpha males’.

At this stage, we cannot presuppose that all hunting males were not maternal brothers of the women to whom carcases were surrendered on returning to the camp. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings (women and their hunting blood brothers sharing a common mother) cannot, at this stage, be asserted. Brothers could also surrender their kills to their maternal sisters within the ‘group marriage’ conditions of the consanguine family and, therefore, according to ‘rule’, sex between maternal siblings was not outlawed. On the basis of this appropriation, women could still have sex with their maternal brothers within the newly formed consanguine family. However, on the basis of the operation of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, we have to assume that fathers did not surrender kills to their daughters or likewise sons to their mothers in order to constitute an ongoing basis for understanding the origination and continuation of the first form of sex prohibition which, according to Engels, was between parent and offspring. Engels, therefore, states that maternal and collateral sibling prohibitions must have come later.

The notion that both parental-offspring and maternal sibling sex prohibitions were established together without a significant period of social development directly contradicts Engels’ position in The Origin of the Family. He states that sibling prohibitions came later because they were more difficult to impose. One reason he gives is that siblings were of the same generation. Parents and offspring were ‘naturally divided’ as ‘counterposed generations’. Such a natural division has come down to us down the ages in the form of the innovations in the modes of behaviour of the younger generation confronting those of the older generation, etc.

In other words, in the new order, fathers could not hunt in order to surrender kills to their daughters and likewise sons to their mothers since this would have harked back to the old, overthrown endogamous order and its crisis. A social stratification of generations became established based on who hunted for whom and the consequent maintenance of the sexual prohibition between parents and offspring. But, for the time being, surrender of kills to maternal and collateral sisters was still permissible. This meant that maternal and collateral sibling sex was not prohibited. In the previous, generalised state of endogamy, kills were surrendered to the alpha males dominating and controlling the life of the troupe. This served as the basis for sexual relations in which the very notion of incestuous sex was non-existent. Only with the breach in these relations – as a result the forced switch to the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm unmediated by patriarchal control – does the notion of incest originate. Incest prohibitions emerge to further the material interests of the human collective as a whole as their impositions reflect historically progressive material and social changes and revolutions.

It is out of this struggle that the first form of the family, the consanguine family, emerges which continues to develop as the arena within which the revolution continues to unfold. In this way, we can explain the origin and formation of Engels’ consanguine family on the basis of Knight’s conceptions. The first sex prohibition becomes explicable on the basis of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and ‘sex strike’ tactic which were the two major elements driving the first human revolution. The earliest social indication of this revolution taking place in prehistory is the emergence of the consanguine family in which the previous state of generalised endogamy is fractured and pushed over into the next stage of ‘semi-endogamous’ relations. Sex between parents and offspring becomes prohibited. This is the major marker of the first stage of the human revolution in prehistory.

The purpose of the sex strike tactic was to act as a lever to break the power of patriarchal endogamy. In combination with the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, this tactic served to establish the first sex prohibition and ‘democratise’ provisioning and sex in the group. The old patriarchs were overthrown by a coalition of sexually sidelined hunters and dependent women. The institution and enforcement of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule backed up by ‘sex striking’ served to break the power of the old patriarchy. Out of this initial stage of this ‘human revolution’, a semi-endogamous state of affairs was created in the form of what Engels refers to as the ‘consanguine family’ in The Origin of the Family.

A break had been made with the age-old endogamous system with the initiation of women’s sexual refusal within the life of the old endogamous troupe. This takes place on the basis of women controlling and guaranteeing an adequate and nourishing food supply for themselves and the next, growing generation on the one hand, and the refusal of males to surrender kills to the ‘alpha haremistas’, on the other. Kills are surrendered directly to the women in exchange for sexual access. This alteration in social relations within the troupe becomes the driving force for this ‘revolution’ in relations in the endogamous grouping. The first step is the establishment of the ‘meat-for sex’ paradigm which has the consequence of instituting the first form of sexual prohibition, that is, on parent-offspring sex.

Males could still have sex with their maternal and collateral sisters but sex between parents and offspring was outlawed. This meant that hunters could present their kills to their sisters but could not do so to their mothers or daughters. The operative paradigm now barred the sexual access of fathers to their daughters (the sisters of the hunters) within the consanguine family which now functioned in a semi-endogamous state of affairs where maternal and collateral brothers and sisters (the children of the same mother and groups of sisters respectively) could be sexual partners but parents and offspring could not. Can we perhaps envisage a scenario where food was made available, through the auspices of the women receiving the kills, to their parents on condition that sexual prohibitions were always followed? And that any attempts at transgressions were punished with the withdrawal of these ‘gifts’ of food? This would have been a manifestation of the inversion of power relations within the collective with the overthrow of patriarchal endogamy and the formation of the consanguine family.

Engels, in agreement with Morgan, considers the ‘consanguine family’ to be the first form of the family which emerges with the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring. Throughout this period, a semi-endogamous state of affairs prevails arising out of this prohibition. Sex between blood relatives within generations remains ‘lawful’ but a prohibition on sex between generations is established. From a system of complete endogamy without any sexual prohibitions, relations now move on to one of ‘semi-endogamy’. This first stage of the human revolution in prehistory therefore takes place with the transition from the patriarchal endogamy of the troupe to the semi-endogamous state of affairs of the consanguine family. The resolution of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning commences, but does not terminate, with the completion of this first stage. This first sex prohibition puts limits on who can have sex with whom but within the bounds of the newly-formed consanguine family. The introduced prohibition therefore fragments sexual access within the fully endogamous troupe which results in the formation of the semi-endogamous state of affairs in the ‘consanguine family’

From the previous account, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm – unmediated by a dominant caste of males – arises out of the crisis of alpha male-dominated, endogamy-linked provisioning when the younger generation of hunting males were sexually sidelined and subservient and the sexually available females were dependent on the older, dominating males. Before the emergence of this new paradigm, the provisioning of food took place on the basis of the age-old dominance of ‘alpha males’ within the troupe. This state of affairs must have stretched back many thousands of years and was rooted in our ancestral animal primate past. This ruling group controlled sexual access to all females within a harem arrangement. However, they must also have controlled the provisioning and distribution of food within the collective. Knight’s model raises, fundamentally, the question of the relationship between sexual access and the provisioning of the means of survival in prehistory. It seems that this relationship, in its endogamous forms, entered its period of ‘structural crisis’. Thereafter, it was the resolution of the conflicts within this crisis, with the emergence and establishment of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm, which opened up the first stage of the human revolution which ultimately leads to the establishment of the system of exogamous clans based on matrilineal kinship. Knight states that this revolution, outlined in chapter nine of Blood Relations, seems to have commenced ‘in a region embracing parts of Africa and the Near East between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago’ (p.313).

The origins, evolution and transformations in the family and the later gentile system are, of course, echoed in the mythologies and legends of peoples across different cultures in which one generation of people or gods overthrows the older generation and this pattern repeats itself with an almost predictable regularity. For example, in the mythology of the Greeks, the sons (the Chthonians) of the older gods of Earth overthrow their fathers and, eventually, the Chthonians are themselves defeated and disempowered by their offspring, the new generation of Olympian gods. Uranus, the husband and son of Gaea, is overthrown by his son, Cronus, one of the Titans. Cronus, in turn, is dethroned by his son, Zeus, who defeats the Titans, becoming the king of the new Olympian gods. Zeus takes his sister, Hera, as his wife. These relations between the gods appear to mirror relations which preceded the existence of the later exogamy of the gentile system itself. Conceivably, Hera could have been a ‘collateral sister’ of Zeus (as opposed to a maternal sister) in which case their marriage could be a mythological echo of the beginnings of the gentile system itself via the punaluan form of the family rather than one of the formation of the consanguine family out of the patriarchal endogamous troupe. As with the destruction of the old world of the Chthonian gods by the new of the Olympian gods, the younger generation overthrows the system of the older one to create a new world. The myths and legends of the peoples of the Earth are the ancient storybooks of peoples which record, in however distorted or embellished their forms, and give insight into, their prehistories and the prehistory of humanity as a whole.

(b) From the Consanguine Family to the Punaluan Family

Let us recapitulate the scenario with the semi-endogamous consanguine family. It has arisen out of the revolutionary measures of the sex strike and the meat-for-sex rule. This has broken the rule of endogamy-linked provisioning mediated by the dominance of ‘alpha males’, very likely of the older generation, who previously controlled the distribution of food and the sexual access to females in the harem system of the troupe. Now a majority coalition of hunting males and camp-based women has disempowered the old patriarchs who have been expelled, killed or, if any remain, must now themselves hunt or even gather to augment the food supply of the collective. They must ‘fall in line’ with the new order. To maintain the structure and stability of the newly-dominant relations, sex is only provided on condition of the surrender of the proceeds of the hunt to the women of the hunters. These women, of the same generation as ‘their hunters’, use the ‘sex-for-meat’ rule to enforce this relation which guarantees them a steady supply of food for themselves and their children, the next growing generation. We can envisage a certain period of continuing development for this relatively stable state of affairs. The life of the communal group settles after the first stage of the revolution in which intergenerational sex between parents and offspring has been prohibited.

With the imposition of the ‘sex-for meat’ rule, the first sex prohibition originates, namely between parents and offspring. But sex between siblings (maternal and collateral brothers and sisters) remains. All the men and women of a given generation are permitted to have sex with each other regardless of whether they share the same mother or not. So ‘sibling’ in this context is divisible into ‘maternal siblings’ where brothers and sisters share the same mother and ‘collateral siblings’ where they do not share the same mother but may or may not share the same father. The relation of ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ at this stage has, exclusively, a maternal significance because only maternity is certain. Maternal brothers and sisters share the same mother but they may be ‘full siblings’ or only be ‘half brothers’ or ‘half sisters’ in regard to paternity. But this is not recognised or even socially significant at this stage of development. Clearly, at this stage, the paternity of children is uncertain in a ‘group marriage’ situation. Only the maternity is certain and valid in terms of lineage and kinship. We know that the later emergence of the punaluan family has precluded sex between maternal siblings. Hence between this punaluan stage and the previous semi-endogamous one of the consanguine family as described there must have been major changes which led to the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings.

The growth in the size and number of consanguine families – resulting from the application of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule – meant that the number of males increased. Some males (maternal and collateral brothers of the camp women) could have remained in camp probably performing various duties such as toolmaking, etc. But, more importantly, to guard and protect the security of the camp against alien intruders and ensuring that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was maintained. However here, under these conditions, the possibility of flouting the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule now arises. And who will guard the guards? (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Juvenal). We must note that we are still considering a situation where sex between siblings (maternal and collateral) has not been banned and the legacies of patriarchal endogamy probably still ‘weigh heavy’ on the life of the community. ‘Marrying out’ is yet to emerge and establish itself. Whilst the hunters are away from the camp, this gives camp-based brothers (including, and probably as a result of the aforementioned legacies, any maternal brothers of the women with whom they share specially ‘close’ relations) the opportunities to seek sexual access to the women. This would clearly be a direct transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm (a ‘counter-revolutionary’ act) because such males would be seeking to obtain sex ‘for free’ without presenting meat to the women. Contravention of this paradigm threatened the possibility of a reversion to the old order which had been overthrown. Rather than supporting women asexually whilst the hunters are away, their fellow male siblings would be taking advantage of their absence by seeking sex from their sisters. It is at this point of development that the need (social necessity) for the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings (the brothers and sisters of the same mother, with a definite maternity) arises and becomes imposed across the whole group. This serves to defeat any ‘counter-revolutionary’ tendencies from this direction – from the sons of their forefathers – and reassert and reinforce the ‘revolutionary’ ‘meat-for-sex’ or ‘sex-for-meat’ rule within the group. This would have given impetus for the further growth of the community with an increased supply of meat as a result of more hunting. The imposition of the second great sex prohibition, however, signifies the death knell of the consanguine family. It has now outgrown its traditional bounds and barriers as a system of semi-endogamy-linked provisioning.

After the overthrow of patriarchal endogamy and the prohibition of sex between parents and offspring, it would seem that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm became firmly established within the group and was not subject to attempted transgression by camp-based males. Once the prohibition on parent-offspring sex had been established, hunting males then presented the proceeds of the hunt to females of the same generation with whom they were sexual partners. At this stage in the consanguine family, in each generation of sexually active individuals, every male was the sex partner of every woman and vice versa. There was no prohibition on sex between maternal or collateral siblings.

Those brothers remaining in camp during the hunt not only guarded the camp against intrusion from the males of other groups but were also mandated to act as observers and maintainers of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule whilst their brothers were out of camp on the hunt. Any males unable or unwilling to hunt, especially some of those of the older generation like fathers and grandfathers, were possibly seen as a threat to transgressing the rule. The presence of an armed contingent of brothers remaining in the camp during the hunt served as a deterrent to any attempts by older male kin to sexually access their sisters, that is, to break established prohibition.

Such protective measures would have been in accord with the age-old ‘closeness’ and kinship between maternal brothers and sisters. However, a conflict arises at this stage. The ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, a relatively new innovation, comes into conflict with the far more ancient practice of sex between maternal siblings. The ‘camp guard brothers’ are mandated to secure both camp and the new revolutionary rules and order yet tradition continues to whisper down the ages and through the camp that your maternal sisters are also your sexual partners. The taboo on sex in this respect has not yet emerged. The opportunity therefore arises for the sexually active ‘security guard’ brothers (of the hunters) remaining in the camp to take advantage of their absence and take their maternal sisters sexually whilst this period of absence on the hunt continues. The temptation would have been too great, at least, to attempt to have sex with their sisters whilst the other contingent of brothers was out on the hunt. And if a ‘rota’ system prevailed, and the hunters now became the camp guards and vice versa, a similar temptation would have asserted itself when the new ‘rota’ went out to hunt. Whilst some brothers were out on the hunt, the others were having sex (or trying to) with their sisters, totally flouting (or trying to do so probably against the resistance of their sisters) the new ‘meat-for-sex’ rule rather than safeguarding it.

This would have been a credible scenario because maternal brothers and sisters were still permitted to have sex. However, it would now have been done in opposition to the new paradigm, established after the overthrow of the old patriarchal endogamy, and probably in the face of resistance from the camp women. And this behaviour by ‘security guard’ in-camp brothers would have been more likely if the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule had still not been fully assimilated culturally, that is, had not attained the status of a socially inalienable ‘sine qua non’. Under such conditions, the hunters could have been ‘cuckolded’ whilst they were away from the camp engaged in the hunt. We can even consider a ‘forced sex’ or ‘rape’ scenario. So each ‘rota’ of hunters was being ‘cuckolded’ by the other in camp whilst each hunting party was out on the hunt. And yet whilst they were on the hunt they thought that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule was being enforced and prevailing in camp. Such a state of affairs could not have lasted for long, especially if women were being coerced or even raped. Sooner or later matters would have come to a head. Either the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule had to be revoked with a return to a previous state of affairs or a new phase of the revolution had to open up which both reinforced and further developed the established paradigm.

Conflict and turmoil would have broken out in the camp once it was realised that the rule was being openly contravened. This, of course, would have been initiated by the resisting sisters who would have recognised the ‘counter-revolutionary’ significance of this for them and their children because it threatened a regular supply of food for them and their children. Women, once again, in alliance with a contingent of males, were the major revolutionary element which drove through this second phase of the ‘first human revolution’. The women continued to require a guaranteed supply of meat for themselves, sometimes pregnant or nursing mothers, and their growing children who were the next generation which would perpetuate the life of their people. The reassertion and extension of the established criterion of ‘meat-for-sex’ secured this provisioning. The contravention of this rule and any ‘counter-revolutionary’ attempt to overturn it directly threatened these relations. It threatened to return women and their children to the previous state of dependence and oppression. Hence it was in the ‘class interests’ for women to be central within the ‘revolutionary party’, to push the revolution onwards into its next phase and institute the next stage of sex prohibition.

One side of the males may well have wanted a return to an order without the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule, whilst the other side, the ‘permanent revolutionaries’, would have wanted a more rigid reinforcement of this rule and pushed the group into new social territory. The latter was victorious. The positing of this conflict created the conditions necessary for the imposition of the next great sex prohibition. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings was driven through and transformed the life of the group. This second phase of the ‘first human revolution’ further served to augment the interests of women and their children whereas the abolition of the rule and a ‘return’ would have been a retrograde step for them.

The subversion of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule by males remaining in the camp whilst their brothers went out on the hunt was a ‘counter-revolutionary’ act in that it resembled an attempt to return to the old, ‘pre-rule’ system of patriarchal endogamy. The very system which the creation and application of this rule had overthrown. Those males remaining in the camp were seeking opportunities for sexual access without having to hunt and present carcases whilst those away on the hunt – as the source of provisioning for the consanguine group – were expecting compliance with the established ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. Such attempts to overturn the rule itself had to be defeated. Once it was recognised that camp-based males were trying to subvert the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule – rather than enforcing it – it then became obligatory, with prohibition, for all capable males from puberty onwards to engage in the hunt, either directly participating in it or learning in the course of the hunt. This increase in numbers on the hunt would itself have served to supplement the food supply to the camp and, accordingly, been in the interests of the women and children. All those males who were physically capable of hunting and sexually capable of engaging camp-based females had to engage in the hunt. This would have served to minimise the possibility of the breaking of the taboos on incest. It served to maintain incest avoidance by actually removing sexually capable males from the women’s presence in the camp by compelling them to engage in the hunt.

The possibility or reality of sex ‘outside of rule’ provided the impetus for the imposition of the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. Hence, the coalition of hunters and women now carried through the second phase of a ground-breaking revolution in which the old patriarchal endogamy had been broken up. The imposition and further cultural assimilation of the two major sex prohibitions were the historic ‘markers’ revealing that this mighty revolution was taking place and pushing the mode of life of the endogamous troupe towards that of new exogamous relations.

Transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule threatened an indispensable relationship of the new and developing order. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings now served to reassert and consolidate this fundamental relationship. But this prohibition and reassertion not only consolidated the established paradigm. It also pushed the consanguine family over into a different, higher form of the family by creating new relationships between people. Out of the turmoil, the higher punaluan form of the family was born.

Attempts (successful or not) to contravene the ‘sex-for-meat’ rule by camp-based, non-hunting, maternal brothers (supposedly in camp to safeguard this rule) led directly to the second phase of the ‘first human revolution’ in the course of which maternal sibling sex was outlawed. This drove the semi-endogamous consanguine family out of existence and created the punaluan family. Once imposed, this prohibition meant that maternal brothers could no longer present the proceeds of the hunt to their maternal sisters. Accordingly, kills could now only be presented to collateral sisters, shifting social and sexual relations beyond the realm of the consanguine family into the new punaluan form of the family.

We have to pause here and consider the situation at which the evolution of the family has arrived. We have an extended, large prehistoric household in which at least 50 people, even up to 100, are living together as a community. They work together, talk, gossip, prepare food, eat, communicate, have sex, give birth, live, love, play and die all under the same roof of an extended household, the large communal longhouses or roundhouses of prehistory. The whole household is based on matrilineal kinship within a group marriage context. Only descent down the female line is identifiable and therefore socially and culturally significant. And all this is now unfolding in the presence of sex prohibitions, first between the older and younger generations and now with an addition within generations between maternal siblings. Natural brothers and sisters, sharing the same mother, are not allowed to have sex. Where would members of the household now look for the satisfaction of their sexual needs within the immediate social context of the household? Whilst marital possibilities within the household are not exhausted, they would keep sex within it. After the second sex prohibition on maternal siblings, the males and females of the household would look immediately to their maternal cousins, that is, to the children of their aunties within the household. This would be the immediate outcome of the ban on sex between maternal siblings. The male children of the sister groups would intermarry with the female children of the same groups but, of course, not within the maternal group where siblings have the same mother. But this was a practice (of ‘marrying between’ sister groups) that pre-existed. It existed alongside maternal sibling sex for hundreds if not thousands of years. But now the latter has been outlawed, it would be ‘natural’ and become customary for this form of marriage to become the dominant form of group marriage within the household. The new form of group intermarriage between maternal cousins (who are the offspring of a group of sisters with the same mother who is the common grandmother of these offspring) now forms the basis for the early phase of evolution of the newly-established punaluan family.

The punaluan family was the outcome of the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings and the consequent intermarriage of collateral brothers and sisters or what we would term ‘first, second, third cousins’, etc, on the only line recognisable which was the maternal line within a household. It therefore arises directly out of and was founded on this second great prohibition of sex between maternal siblings, that is between brothers and sisters with the same mother, at the end of the period of development of the consanguine family. Before the imposition of this prohibition, there were no ‘cousins’ as such in the consanguine family so that the crystallisation of this new relationship follows on from the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. In the consanguine family, all those of a specific generation were simply ‘brothers and sisters’. The children of my sister are ‘my children’, whether I am a man (and their biological father or not which was never certain anyway) or woman. All the offspring of all the women of a given generation were ‘brothers and sisters’ and were sexually accessible to each other in group marriage. People were blood related either as ‘sons and daughters’, ‘brothers and sisters’, ‘fathers and mothers’ or ‘grandfathers and grandmothers’. ‘Brothers and sisters’ were simultaneously ‘husbands and wives’ in the group marriage of the consanguine family. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings introduced the new categories of ‘cousins’, ‘nieces and nephews’ and ‘aunties and uncles’ with the creation of the punaluan family. With the shift to maternal cousin group marriage with the ban on maternal sibling marriage, in an arrangement of matrilineal descent and kinship, as a woman, my sisters’ children are now my nieces and nephews and my natural brothers are the uncles of these same children. All these children – excluding marriage between natural siblings – with a common grandmother are now group marriageable. This form of group marriage is the earliest form of group marriage in the development of the punaluan family emerging at the point of departure of evolution of this form of the family.

The prohibition on sex between ‘uncles/aunties’ and ‘nieces/nephews’ is merely formal in that it reinforces the previous general prohibition on sex between parents and offspring found in the consanguine family. The categories of uncles and aunties with nieces and nephews arises directly out of the maternal sibling sex prohibition and the ban on sex between these categories would have been seen as a continuation of the previous state of affairs in the consanguine family in which intergenerational sex is prohibited in a group marriage situation. It is only the specific form of the relation which alters. Historical precedence would have dictated the prohibition on sex between a sister’s children and her own brothers (the uncles of her children in the punaluan family) and her own sisters (the aunts of her children). This new, but extension of an older, previously established, ban would have merely differentiated intergenerational prohibition in the form of mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties not allowed sexual access to sons, daughters, nieces and nephews within the new punaluan form whereas in the consanguine family set up it was merely a case of ‘parents’ not having access to their ‘offspring’. In this way, prohibitions on sex between ‘uncles/aunties’ with their ‘nieces/nephews’ had an already pre-established precedence so that when the new categories emerged with the punaluan family, it was a case of continuing, in a different relational form, what had already been imposed before as a prohibition when the new family categories of uncles/aunties and nieces/nephews did not actually exist.

‘Aunties’ and ‘uncles’ were of the older generation in the consanguine family – and simply identified as ‘mother’ and ‘father’ within it by the group offspring – and so prohibition on sex between uncles/aunties and nieces/nephews, with the formation of the punaluan family, would simply have been seen as an extension of the previous ban on intergenerational sex reflecting the generalised parent-offspring prohibition which served to create, and became established with the formation and development of, the consanguine family.

It was the emergence of the punaluan form which created the new set of categories of uncles and aunties with nephews and nieces. The generational difference between uncles/aunties and nephews/nieces would have reinforced the earlier prohibition and, moreover, created a parental relationship between the two sets of categories. This is why, within the punaluan form and with the later emergence of the gentile order, this relationship was considered ‘closer’ and more important for the interests of the gens than that of the relationship between a father and his children where each of the latter were in different gentes. From the perspective of the norms and morals of both the punaluan form and the later gentile order, sex between maternal uncle (mother’s immediate blood brother) and niece (her daughter) would have been looked upon with horror and with equal if not more disfavour than that between any men (in a group marriage to the mother) and her daughters. In the later evolution of the punaluan family and the gentile system, the mother’s brother was seen as ‘more of a father’ to her children than the biological father from another family household or gens, and this regardless of the prohibition on the brother’s sexual access to his natural sister. And this was not merely a function of ‘clan or gens affiliation or attachment’. It could also have been a historical-ideological echo of the times when maternal siblings could be the mothers and fathers of the same group of children during the period of development of the consanguine family.

To recapitulate, where does this leave the punaluan family at the start of its final phase of evolution? The period of development of the punaluan family opens up with the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings which simultaneously terminates the period of development of the consanguine family. The need to reassert the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule in the face of transgression drives forward this prohibition backed up by the sex strike tactic. Co-temporal with the ban on sex between maternal siblings is the reinforcement of intergenerational prohibitions by banning sex between the offspring of sisters and the maternal siblings of these sisters, that is, between uncles and nieces and aunts and nephews. The prohibition on sex between maternal siblings means that group marriage between maternal cousins (collateral siblings of the first, second, etc, degree) becomes the rule in the earliest period of development of the punaluan family household. Prohibitions on intergenerational group marriage are now culturally assimilated and this is reinforced with prohibitions on sex between a woman’s biological sons and daughters and her own natural brothers and sisters.

Now, of course, hunters present their kills to their collateral sisters and no longer to their natural sisters which would be a transgression of the new prohibition. Group marriage is between maternal cousins so that the hunters ‘throw down’ the proceeds of the hunt to women of their own generation who are not their mothers, aunts or natural female siblings. The second stage of the first human revolution is essentially complete but this is not the final stage. More conflict and turmoil lies ahead for the punaluan form…

(c) Emergence of the Exogamous Gentile Order out of the Punaluan Family

Recapitulation. The driving force of a coalition of male hunters and women deploying the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and sex striking serves to drive patriarchal endogamy out of existence by pushing through two major stages in the first human revolution. Patriarchal endogamy was first subjected to the prohibition on sex between parents and offspring which gave rise to the consanguine family. The subsequent period of development of this initial form of the family ends with the ban on sex between maternal siblings. This pushes the consanguine family over into the new punaluan form in which both parent-offspring (extending to a ban on sex between uncles/aunts with nieces/nephews) and maternal sibling sex prohibitions are instituted. The sons and daughters of the same mother are not permitted to ‘marry’ as they were in the former semi-endogamous consanguine family. Group marriage between collateral siblings (maternal cousins, the offspring of groups of sisters) becomes the characteristic mode of marriage of the punaluan family in its early phase of evolution.

Populations have grown and households multiplied according to lineage. Each household can trace its origins to a single female ‘founder’ who is the ancestress of the lineage of the household. But a set of households (at least two and usually more) constitute a consanguineous group – an extended community – connected by ‘blood’ in that all the households in the group will share a common ancestress from whom different lineages have diverged to form the different family households. Provisioning male cousins within each household now present the proceeds of the hunt to their female cousins down the maternal line in exchange for sex. The ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm backed up by the sex strike tactic continues to operate but within an altering social context and landscape. Provisioning is still essentially by means of hunting and gathering with possibly small-scale garden horticulture around the communistic punaluan household in its earliest stage of development.

As the size of households increase this means a subdivision of households into new households which, taken collectively, may still constitute the multiple households of a single consanguineous punaluan community as we have already indicated. With further population increases, new punaluan communities of blood related households emerge out of these separated households. Theoretically, we could start with one household and trace a development with the formation of a community of blood-related households followed later, after further differentiation, by the birth of two distinct punaluan communities. This then passes into a ‘society’ of communities where the composite households identify themselves through both their household and ‘community’ affiliation and, of course, in relation to external societies, through their membership of the social whole. Thus, we can see that there is a progressive multiplication in the number of family households and associations which constitute a given community or people in a given geographical area. Clearly, the tendency here is towards division and re-divisions and refoundations of family households and blood related associations on the basis of common matrilineage from sub-ancestors. The whole community would, of course, identify its own origins from a common ancestress who would, in time, often take on a legendary or mythical, even divine or semi-divine, status. Such are the origins of ‘ancestor worship’ amongst both prehistoric people and even those of antiquity. The Romans of the Republican era (510 – 27 BCE) still had altars and shrines within their homes set up to ancestors to which they would make libations and offerings.

When a single family household divided up into two new households, this must have occurred along a natural fracture line of descent which distinctly demarcated one half of the ‘family tree’ from the other. For example, a natural fragmentation taking place if the collective of women who founded one of the new households was descended from one great-grandmother and that which founded the other (left behind after division) was descended from her sister, their own specific great-grandmother. All those on one side of the family tree joining one new family and those on the other side of the family tree joining the other. Whilst great-grandmothers were daughters of the same mother, their female progeny down four generations or so had created a natural fracture line in the family tree. This process was replicated as more family households were formed as a result of later divisions. But the resulting households were all connected as a consanguineous group, a community of blood related households so to speak, with a common ancestress of all the different matrilineages represented in the different households. The comparison of this branching yet connected and related form of household and group evolution with that of the evolution and speciation of plants and animals in taxonomy is obvious.

As with the original family, descent and kinship remains matrilineal in these subdivided households. Both the consanguine and punaluan forms of the family are ‘communities’ in themselves. The ‘household’ or ‘family’ in prehistory has no resemblance to that of the ‘family’ today in the epoch of capital with its standard nuclear form of man, woman and usually no more than a few children living together as a unit. The family households of prehistory were large groupings, giant affairs, sometimes up to one hundred people and even more in number and all living under the same roof in large, extended households. Each family, and later gens (clan), had an ancestress from whom they traced their descent as a group. Such ancestors were often worshipped as semi-divine or even divine. In terms of the quality and enjoyment of human interaction, today’s nuclear family is paltry in comparison to that of the large communal families of human prehistory. Such is the ‘progress’ of the family despite the fact that its evolution creates the social basis for a higher form of human social life in communism.

So, to summarise, at what stage have we now arrived? We have multiple family households forming consanguineous associations in which ‘marrying in’ still remains the dominant form of group marriage. We have not, as yet at this early stage of development of the punaluan family, moved from ‘in marrying’ within households towards the start of the evolution of a fully exogamous system. This is soon to alter as we shall see. We are still with cousin group marriages down the maternal line within large, separate family households. But the next, third stage of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning is germinating and will soon erupt within the household of the punaluan family leading to its transformation and later dissolution. It’s a familiar story which we have encountered before and based, again, around a repetition of a crisis (a return to a crisis of previous times but in a higher form) of the relationship between sexual access and the provisioning of the means of life. A crisis involving the conflict between the implementation and transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule.

Again we have a situation similar to that which existed towards the end of the period of development of the consanguine family; a ‘return’ but at a higher stage of development. And a similar problem to be resolved in regard to sexual access in exchange for the proceeds of the hunt, for meat. Some male cousins remain in the community to guard against unwanted intruders and potential ‘cuckolders’ and to ensure that the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule is maintained. Whilst others go out on the hunt. Once again, this ‘rule’ is confronted with the same possibilities of transgression as existed before the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings. Now, there is the possibility of maternal cousins ‘cuckolding’ their fellow ‘cousins’ on the hunt. Once again, we have a replication of the conflict we had between maternal brothers but in a new form between maternal cousins. Sex between these collateral siblings (with a common grandmother) is not prohibited and yet ‘stay-at-home’ males are expected to respect and enforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule. Eventually, and inevitably, as in previous crises, matters must come to a head and a struggle breaks out in the camp. The third stage of the first human revolution opens up and ends with the prohibition on sex between all collateral siblings in descent down the maternal line, that is, between cousins of the first, second, etc, degree within the same immediate matrilineage. This is the third great sex prohibition in prehistory and it drives the punaluan form into its final stage of development in which ‘marrying out’ of the household becomes necessary. Sex along the maternal line is driven out of the household. The possibilities of ‘group marriage within’ have become exhausted. This necessitates ‘out marrying’ and the start of the journey of exogamous marriage systems beyond any remnants of endogamy-linked provisioning.

So what is the positive outcome of this prohibition in terms of marriage? The males of households must now marry out into other households. This new prohibition between collateral maternal siblings within the same household now takes males away sexually from the females of their immediate lineage in their own households. The lineage of their immediate household is their closest in terms of blood relation. They must now ‘marry out’ into other households which may, perhaps, be related by ‘more distant blood’ along an aboriginally common matrilineage. The intermarrying households, which share a common ancestress, have emerged out of the subdivisions of the original lineage, splitting off down the generations, resulting in distinctive lineages occupying each separate household. It is these households which now intermarry as a consequence of the latest prohibition on marriage between cousins (collateral siblings) on the maternal line. Males remain members of their own matrilineal households but now they must marry into other households where the blood relation with their wives is ‘more distant’. This is the classical phase of development of the punaluan family which Engels describes in The Origin of the Family and which he describes existing amongst the Polynesians of the early nineteenth century. It remains a form of group marriage but not within the household but rather between households. Each consanguine association of punaluan families numbering two or more separate households based on their own distinctive lineage.

Within the initial stages of development of the punaluan form, maternal siblings could marry the sons and daughters of their mother’s sisters, of their aunts (thereby sharing the same grandmother) and the children of these unions married on the same basis. In this way, as a result of these group marriages, the number of households increases as does the number of members. However, with the later prohibition of this practice of group marriage between maternal cousins, the only form of marriage remaining available within the punaluan form was between the offspring of women of different households. Brothers, natural and collateral, married the sisters of another household in the final form of group marriage.

As soon as households intermarry, new relations are created. Firstly, mothers and fathers belong to different households. This simultaneously creates a new set of cousins in addition to the maternal cousins of a given household. But these cousins belong to a different household because the brothers of the women of one household produce children to the women of another household. These cousins are not maternal cousins living within the same household but are related ‘cross-households’ as the children of the brothers of their aunts who live in their father’s own household which is not their household. They are related as the children of their uncles (their mothers’ brothers) to the women of other households. But these children live as part of their mother’s and uncle’s household and not within the households of their maternal uncle’s wives.

Cousins now live in different households, maternal cousins in my mother’s household and ‘paternal’ cousins in the household into which my mother’s brothers have married. A woman’s sisters and brothers remain the aunts and uncles of her children within her matrilineal household. Her children are fathered by men outside of her household, that is, from a different household. However, all the sisters and brothers within the same household are the aunts and uncles of those brothers’ children in another household as a result of group intermarriage. A man remains the uncle (and a woman the aunt) of his/her sisters’ children within their own matrilineal household but now new ‘cross-household’ relations emerge as a result of ‘marrying out’. Maternal and collateral siblings (maternal cousins) related within the immediate matrilineage remain within the same household. But now their uncles’ children are part of a different household into which their uncles have married. These two different groups of offspring can now form the next generation of intermarriage groups between the different households. Intermarriage between households therefore creates a new set of family relations outside the immediate matrilineage and relations of the specific household of a punaluan family.

With the prohibition on maternal cousin marriages within households, the punaluan family alters its character in its final phase of development. Sisters or groups of sisters intermarry with brothers or groups of brothers from other households. The early phase of evolution of the punaluan family is characterised by cousin marriage along the matrilineal line within households. When this is prohibited, the new arrangement arises where men and women must ‘marry out’. Marriage takes place outside of the household.

If we consider the complete intermarriage of two separate households, with the prohibition on maternal cousin marriage within both households, the male cousins of one household (A) marry the females of the same generation in the other household (B) and male cousins of this other household (B) marry the females of the first household (A). This means that in the following generation of marriages, the mothers’ brothers’ (from household B) children in one household (A) now intermarry with the mothers’ brothers’ (from household A) children in the other household (B). These ‘outside’ marriages are also, therefore, the marriage of the mothers’ sisters’ children in household A with the mothers’ sisters’ children in household B. People no longer marry their natural (maternal) siblings or collateral siblings (cousins) within households but rather start to marry out into different households. ‘Marrying out’ creates new categories of cousins in different households. The males of this group can then ‘marry into’ the other household because these cousins, as a product of the brothers’ marriages, are not related on the direct and immediate maternal line and therefore their marriage is not prohibited.

Marriage on the maternal line within the punaluan household has become prohibited. All the while, the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm continues to be operative with the deployment of the sex strike tactic. The matrilineal consanguineous association of households are provisioned separately by the hunting husbands of their wives living in different households from their own maternal households which, likewise, are provisioned by husbands from different households. Households are no longer provisioned by the men who actually belong, consanguinely, to that household. They now provision the households of their wives. The proceeds of the hunt are now presented to their wives in their matrilineal households whereas previously hunters had been handing their kills to their own matrilineal households where they cohabited with their maternal cousin wives. Group marriage continues but is now exogamous in that marriage must now take place outside the household. The hunters therefore present their kills collectively to their wives (in exchange for sex which takes place in the women’s household) who prepare and cook the food for their household. These hunters eat in their own household with their maternal relatives which has been provisioned by hunters from other households.

So marriage now takes place between different households within a consanguineous association of punaluan households. There are, of course, other distinct associations based on the same principle of consanguinity. These associations may consist of two or more households. Division and subdivisions into multiple households and increasing numbers of consanguineous associations takes place as a result of population growth, geographical relocation of people and resettlement. The number of members within a given household would have its limit (according to the local conditions then prevailing) beyond which it must divide and become two separate family households.

Once ‘marriage within’ households became impossible with succeeding prohibitions down the maternal line, ‘marrying out’ asserts its necessity and must take place outside the immediately traceable matrilineage. Successive prohibitions drive sex out of the circle of blood relatives within the sphere of the immediate matrilineage. The final embers of endogamy-linked provisioning die away and a new social system of exogamous relations comes into existence. We now have multiple households which marry into each other within consanguineous associations in a growing community of exogamous group marriages as a result of the prohibition on marriage between maternal cousins within households.

Intermarriage still takes place between punaluan households which are related through common matrilineal descent and constitute a consanguineous association of households. But, as Engels remarks, with further ‘more remote collateral’ prohibitions across households, for example, those later between groups of cousins from different households, the circle of blood relatives within the wider consanguineous association of households narrows so that, increasingly, the need to marry outside of the association into other consanguine associations asserts itself. Marriage no longer take place between households within a punaluan association and must now take place outside the collective of households (the association) into another collective of households (a separate association). The collective now constitutes itself as a gens and relates to other such groups as an order of gentes (clans). Thus we have arrived at the point of the formation of the gens out of the association of consanguinely-related households.

Engels remarks that ‘once the proscription of sexual intercourse between all brothers and sisters, including even the most remote collateral relations on the mother’s side, becomes established, the above group is transformed into a gens – i.e. constitutes itself as a defined circle of blood relatives in the female line, who are not allowed to marry one another’ (p.152, Engels, The Origin of the Family). By ‘the above group’, Engels is referring to the punaluan group ‘consisting of a number of natural and collateral sisters (i.e., those descendant from natural sisters of the first, second or more remote degree), together with their children and their natural or collateral brothers on the mother’s side (who according to our premiss are not their husbands)’. With this group ‘we obtain exactly that circle of persons who later appear as members of a gens in the original form of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, whose female descendants, generation by generation, are sisters by virtue of descent from her. These sisters’ husbands, however, can no longer be their brothers, i.e., cannot be descended from this ancestress, and, therefore, do not belong to the consanguineous group, later the gens; but their children do belong to this group, since descent on the mother’s side alone is decisive, because it alone is certain.’ (ibid, p152). If we conceive the collection of punaluan households in an association as consanguine through a common matrilineage to a common ancestress, then these have now become transformed into a gens. And this has occurred as a cumulative outcome of the progress of sex prohibitions down the maternal line which leads directly towards the gentile order. As soon as family households within a blood-related association collectively cease to intermarry as a result of successive prohibitions, increasingly more remote, this necessarily drives this association into exogamy with other such associations. And the emergence of such a state of affairs is the beginning of the evolution of the gentile order itself which is exogamous from its inception and remains matrilineal for most of its period of development.

Here we can see that the association of punaluan family households is the gentile order existing in embryo. It is simply a matter of what is implicit in the relations of this association being made explicit in the course of development for this association to become transformed into the start of the evolution of the gentile order and its associated constitution. This is why Engels states that the gentile order evolves directly out of the punaluan family. The ban on sex between maternal cousins within the punaluan household gave impetus to future, ‘more remote’ prohibitions across households to finally drive out any more possibilities of transgressing the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm. The system of punaluan families now passes into the early phase of evolution of the gentile order.

As soon as the association of punaluan family households enters into its final exogamous ‘group marriage’ phase it is already, implicitly, a system of exogamous gentes battering on and trying to break down the walls of the old punaluan form to set free these lineages to develop into the new gentile system. The newly-emerged and living content is in rebellion against the older established form of the family and giving it its marching orders to be gone so a new form suitable for the unfolding and evolution of the new content can become established. The relations developed ‘within the womb’ of the consanguineous association of punaluan families have come into direct conflict with the form of that family association. This form must be dissolved and the gentile form created so the newly-emerged content (living relations) can freely unfold and follow their new path of development.

Sex and marriage within the newly-established matrilineal gentes is outlawed and the males of a given gens must ‘marry out’ into the other gentes. The ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm is not only maintained but extended and developed on a wider exogamous basis based on the new matrilineal gentile system. Accordingly, the males of gens A bring their ‘kills’ and ‘catches’ to their wives in gens B and the males of B to their wives in A. Rather than the proceeds of the hunt being presented within the same household of the punaluan family or even to other households in a wider punaluan association, these proceeds are now presented to their wives in separate clans. Their wives in the gentes separate and distinct from their own are the recipients of the hunters’ kills. The emergence of this gentile order brings the first human revolution to a close and the ground is prepared for the development of the more stable and more enduring gentile system based on descent and kinship along the female line. As we find in Morgan’s studies of the American Iroquois, the gentes then proliferate and form ‘phratries’ and later ‘tribes’ and ‘nations’.

The third great prohibition within the household between maternal cousins serves to put the system of punaluan families on a path towards dissolution and its replacement by the gentile order. The different yet connected lineages of the separate punaluan households in consanguineous association with each other constitute the basis for the formation of the gens. Marriage in the gens is strictly exogamous with descent and kinship being identified and traced along the maternal line. Again, as with the punaluan form, the gens traces its descent from a female ancestor who often takes on a mythological status, especially with subsequent development which pushes the gens increasingly further away from its prehistoric point of origination. With the later overthrow of matrilineal kinship in the history of the gens, the ancestor of the gens is transformed into a male figure in accordance with its newly-acquired patrilineal status.

The exogamous gentile order is based on matrilineal kinship where the men and women belonging to the same gens are not permitted to marry. In its classical form, therefore, the gens is not only matrilineal but also prohibits sex or marriage between any of its members. Within the final stage of evolution of the punaluan association of households, intermarriage between men’s children and those of their sisters was, initially, allowed because they were members of different households. They were not related as maternal cousins in the same household but as cousins in two different households. This arose out of the sisters’ brothers having to ‘marry out’ to women of a different household. Men remained members of the same household as their sisters. But the men’s biological children were now members of a different household (that of their wives) and his nieces and nephews were part of his own matrilineal household. The ‘bond’ between men as uncles with their nephews/nieces was stronger than that between them as fathers with their own sons/daughters because of this strong household or, later, gentile affiliation and attachment. As soon as intermarriage between punaluan households is prohibited, this transforms the association of punaluan households into a gens (clan) in which exogamy is taken to a new level. Now intermarriage must take place outside of the former association of households (which is now a gens) between different associations of households which have themselves become a collection of gentes.

As the gentile system expanded, ‘blood’ gradually became ‘more diluted’. New gentes were formed out of the growth and subdivisions of the old so that a ‘phratry’ and later tribe of gentes followed by a wider nation of tribes with related gentes emerged and developed as with find in Morgan’s researches into the Iroquois and with the ancient Greeks where even the armies of the city states were organised along gentile lines of demarcation. The three major sex prohibitions – parent-offspring, maternal sibling and collateral siblings (cousins) – constitute the social basis for the birth and growth of the matrilineal, exogamous gentile system which remains a relatively stable system of social relations for thousands of years of development. It is within the evolution of the matrilineal phase of the gentile system that the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm reaches its highest point of development prior to its dissolution with the rise of pastoralism and field agriculture and the associated emergence of the patriarchal form of the family.

Increases in the productivity of labour produce a growth in populations. This must mean the size and number of family households increase with consequential subdivisions into more lineages based on kinship traced down the female line. The gentile system develops and marriage becomes increasingly more ‘blood distant’ in its nature. A wider and more variegated gentile order of intermarrying clans evolves. It is within the gentile order that the dominant mode of marriage switches from ‘group’ to’ pairing marriage’ [2]. The evolution of the gentile system reveals a growing complexity of social relations, a wider social and increasingly more exogamous basis for the provisioning of the means of subsistence and developments in religious forms of thinking as this system expands and differentiates. Each gens shares religious conceptions with other gentes whilst developing those conceptions which distinguish it from others as we find in totemic identities

The first human revolution did not take place within a few generations but was a drawn out affair in which the major steps forward (as manifested in the different forms of sexual prohibition) were not co-temporal or simultaneously established but were discrete events separated by definite periods of time which gave historical space for the evolution of the family and its internal relationships. Between the first two sexual prohibitions, semi-endogamous relations existed in that sibling (including between maternal siblings) sex was permitted but intergenerational sex between parents and offspring was banned. With further prohibitions this meant, later, that the first gentes emerged as exogamous organisations with previously established and culturally assimilated prohibitions on certain forms of sexual activity, specifically parent-offspring, natural (maternal) and collateral sibling (‘cousin’) sexual relations. When the gentile order first emerged, the intergentile marriage taking place was already significantly ‘distant’ in terms of blood relation because of the growth in population and the previous impositions and enforcement of these sex prohibitions.

Exogamous marriage only takes place because the social basis for ‘marriage within’ is no longer viable or has disappeared within the household or association of family households. The availability of sexual partners in group marriages has been reduced to such a degree as a result of prohibitions and their entrenchment as custom that exogamy is now rendered absolutely necessary for the continued propagation of the community. This was an operative factor in the emergence of the gentile order out of the punaluan family association.

The first human revolution unfolded in stages with successive sexual prohibitions emerging in correspondence with these different stages of this revolution. This revolution was a lengthy, drawn-out process probably taking place over hundreds if not thousands of years between its commencement when patriarchal endogamy was first challenged by a coalition of dependent, oppressed females and sexually sidelined males and the final phase with the establishment of the exogamous, matrilineal gentile order. The first major sex prohibition (parent-offspring) opens the age of the consanguine family out of the ages of many millenia of patriarchal endogamy. The second sex prohibition (between maternal siblings) both closes this period of development of the consanguine family whilst, at the same time, opening that of the punaluan family with its cousin group marriages. The punaluan period is punctuated in its development with the prohibition on sex between maternal cousins within the punaluan household. Later prohibitions across the association of punaluan households marks the transition to the beginnings of the gentile order based on matrilineal exogamy. This order then goes on to establish a system of exogamous ‘pairing marriages’ (couple marriages, ‘pair bonds’) between gentes on the basis of a widening circle of increasingly more distant blood relatives to the point where ‘blood’ within marriage is considered to have been excluded as a result of successive prohibitions and the growth in populations.

Successive sex prohibitions along the maternal line are a manifestation of the revolutionary changes taking place in human relations. This was sparked and driven forward by a coalition of ‘sexually sidelined’ men and ‘materially dependent’ women in order to realise their physical and sexual needs. To do this they had to overthrow of an older patriarchal, crisis-ridden, male-dominated endogamous mode of existence and provisioning. The progressive establishment of prohibitions on sexual relations between blood relatives means that, increasingly, hunters must surrender their ‘kills’ to women who are progressively ‘more distant in blood’ to themselves. This gives impetus to the break up of pre-gentile organisation and the emergence, consolidation and development of a maturing, exogamous gentile system.

The imposition of these sex prohibitions did not all take place together within a historically short period time but were established in different periods under different conditions and under the influence of altered social relations. For example, outlawing sex between maternal siblings could not have taken place at the same time that sex between parents and offspring was banned. A process of development takes place from the first form to the second – as they are separated in historical time – and there are reasons for this separation rooted in specific differences in the conditions of their origination. The establishment of the major sex prohibitions in prehistory were all influenced by the operation or transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule as elaborated by Knight in Blood Relations. However, we need to explain the specific conditions of their origination on the basis of this rule. For example, why did the prohibition on sex between maternal siblings take place later, according to Engels, than that on sex between parents and offspring?

Prohibitions emerge and are imposed out of, and as a reaction to, transgression. That is, to the sexual transgression of rule which links provisioning of the collective to sexual access. In other words, sexual prohibitions arise out of the transgression of the material interests of this collective where the meeting and satisfaction of those material interests (and in prehistory this is primarily food) are inextricably bound up with, and conditional on, abiding by specified and already established sexual relations. Provisioning is made conditional on abiding by these sexual ‘agreements’ between people. If such ‘agreements’ are broken, then this fragments the collective into a ‘civil war’ situation with opposed camps and brings in a new revolutionary period of change and prohibitions on the forms of behaviour which transgressed the agreed paradigm and ‘sparked rebellion’. One camp is defeated and the whole collective, including the remnants of those defeated, must now abide by the newly-imposed conditions and prohibitions. The collective then ‘moves on’ into its next phase of development with a wider circle of sexual prohibitions.

The different stages in the first human revolution represent different stages of crisis within the family and their resolution. In the crisis of the punaluan family, rather than having a ‘brothers’ war’ in the prehistory of the family, leading to sex prohibition between maternal siblings, as we had in the dissolution of the consanguine family, we had a ‘cousins’ war’ which leads on to the exogamous transformation of the punaluan household and associations, their later breakdown and the rise of the gentile order. This ‘cousins’ war’ leads to the prohibition of marriage between maternal cousins, group intermarriage between households and the emergence of the gentile order. This order further establishes and consolidates ‘more remote’ prohibitions on sex and marriage between increasingly more distant blood relatives. The struggle of women to emancipate themselves from the age-old dominance and oppression of patriarchal endogamy in the first human revolution takes the form of a series of ‘class struggles’ within the family, firstly between generations (between parents and offspring) and then secondly within generations between brothers and later, the final and third stage, between cousins. These were the three major stages in the resolution of the crisis of endogamy-linked provisioning in the transition to the matrilineal, exogamous gentile system.


[1] Different forms of sexual activity. Under the conditions, and as a consequence, of the harem system, many males and females are both separated from regular sexual access to each other under patriarchal endogamy. Accordingly, we can possibly trace the origins of homosexuality prior to the human revolution in the course of which the relations of patriarchal endogamy were overthrown. Homosexuality could have arisen initially as a sexual substitute for heterosexual exclusion and restriction. Men and women seek alternative modes of behaviour in order to satisfy and express their sexual needs. Bisexuality is the almost inevitable outcome of the emergence of homosexuality. Once people are engaging in both forms of sexuality, this will tend to posit bisexuality as a variant combination of the prior forms. We could, therefore, possibly envisage homosexuality and bisexuality as arising out of sexual exclusion or rather the restrictions imposed on both males and females in their sexual access to each other in the period prior to the first human revolution.

However, there is an alternative scenario. The period of the hunt, whilst, according to Knight’s model, being a period of heterosexual abstinence, also afforded a space in time (a lacuna in the continuity of the routine of the ‘regime’) for both men and women to evolve new, substitute forms of sexuality which, perhaps, would not have been identified as transgressing the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm because, it seems, such a rule was a ‘meat-for-heterosex’ arrangement. Hence, alternatively, we can envisage a scenario where homosexuality originates in the course of the period of the hunt (and the ‘sex strike’) where males and females are separated from each other according to the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule which, in such a case, would be a ‘meat-for-heterosex’ rule. This implies that sexual activity within the same gender may not have been viewed as a transgression otherwise it would have been (and perhaps was?) prohibited very early in human prehistory. Of course if we find, or there is, evidence for prohibition of homosexuality in prehistory then this could very possibly be linked to the need to reinforce the ‘meat-for-sex’ rule and the tactic of ‘sex striking’. If homosexuality was openly practiced in prehistory without prohibition then this implies that it was not seen as a transgression of the ‘meat-for-sex’ paradigm.

In later religious and moral systems – such as within the Abrahamic Monotheisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – we find not only the prohibition of homosexuality but also of masturbation. Both prohibitions, of course, are openly flouted by real people in opposition to religious ideals. How old such prohibitions are, and whether they predate these doctrines and stretch back into prehistory, must be investigated further. However, homosexuality may predate this period of the hunt governed by the ‘sex-for-meat’ and ‘own kill’ rules with ‘sex striking’. It may, as we have conjectured, even date from the previous times of patriarchal endogamy when sexually sidelined males tended to be excluded from regular sexual access, especially if they did not bring in food to the endogamous troupe under the control of ‘alpha males’. Accordingly, they may have sought sexual ‘outlet and expression’ in these other forms of sexual behaviour. This, of course, may have also applied to the origins of lesbianism where women were trapped in a harem system with, effectively, a ‘rationing’ of available sex. Or, during the period of the hunt in Knight’s model, the sisters practiced lesbianism as a sexual substitute.

[2] Engels, p.156 ff, The Origin of the Family, Volume 26, Marx-Engels Collected Works, pp.129-276

Shaun May

November 2019