19 Aug 2015

Something Peculiar Happened 4000 to 8000 Years Ago

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These two graphs show the number of men (left) and women (right) who reproduced throughout human history.

Pacific Standard:

Once upon a time, 4,000 to 8,000 years after humanity invented agriculture, something very strange happened to human reproduction. Across the globe, for every 17 women who were reproducing, passing on genes that are still around today—only one man did the same.

“It wasn’t like there was a mass death of males. They were there, so what were they doing?” asks Melissa Wilson Sayres, a computational biologist at Arizona State University, and a member of a group of scientists who uncovered this moment in prehistory by analyzing modern genes.

Another member of the research team, a biological anthropologist, hypothesizes that somehow, only a few men accumulated lots of wealth and power, leaving nothing for others. These men could then pass their wealth on to their sons, perpetuating this pattern of elitist reproductive success. Then, as more thousands of years passed, the numbers of men reproducing, compared to women, rose again. “Maybe more and more people started being successful,” Wilson Sayres says. In more recent history, as a global average, about four or five women reproduced for every one man.

6 Feedbacks on "Something Peculiar Happened 4000 to 8000 Years Ago"


The more modernity and capitalism bring prosperity to the masses, the more the masses demand that we “fix” the mechanisms that generate that prosperity.


What they are suggesting seems impossible. That without communication across the world and across cultures that suddenly 16 out of every 17 males were prevented from having sex with women. More likely there is a mistake, an anomoly or a misinterpretation of the data. Almost any other explanation would be more logical than the one implied.

Dave J

Lets blame climate change.

Jerry the Geek

I’m torn between “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” and “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism”!

Show of hands?


A “virus” the only/predominately affected males? Hmm? Let’s see. How about war and conquest? Slaughter the men, rape the women…


The part I don’t get is how men have improved the stats so that it’s only 5 women to 1 man as reproducers. I am reminded of a fertility doctor episode on Law & Order Criminal Intent. It turns out the doctor wasn’t using husband sperm or sperm bank donations — ego required that his DNA be passed on in every case. If we have enough Wilt Chamberlains over-representing in the gene pool, the stats kind of make sense. Try googling Illegitimate Father Athlete Hall of Shame [tinyurl/bdad100 dot com]


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