We now know that the first hominins, which emerged more than seven million years ago, might have been monogamous. Humans stayed (mostly) monogamous for good reason: it helped them evolve into the big-brained world conquerors they are today.
Although polygamy is practiced in various cultures, humans still tend toward monogamy. But this was not always the norm among our ancestors. Other primates – the mammalian group, to which humans belong – are still polygamous, too.
According to the New York Times, a 2011 paper showed that early humans, or hominids, began shifting towards monogamy about 3.5 million years ago—though the species never evolved to be 100% monogamous (remember that earlier statistic).
Science has yet to definitively pronounce on whether humans are naturally monogamous (lifelong male-female breeding pair) or polygamous (single male breeding with more than one female).
Polygamy in the ancient world
Marriage was already an established practice—mainly, with the goal of procreation—by the time civilization was founded in ancient Mesopotamia. But even Hammurabi's code, a strict set of laws in the society, allowed for polygamy.
There are also indications that Vikings practiced polygamy, which in their highly stratified society would have meant that poorer unmarried men might have had limited access to women, and would have targeted female slaves as concubines (or even wives).
Marriage in ancient Rome (conubium) was strictly a monogamous institution: a Roman citizen by law could have only one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and Romans from other ancient civilizations, in which elite males typically had multiple wives.
New DNA research has unexpectedly revealed that they were even more promiscuous than we thought. New DNA research has unexpectedly revealed that they were even more promiscuous than we thought.
For humans, monogamy is not biologically ordained. According to evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss of the University of Texas at Austin, humans are in general innately inclined toward nonmonogamy. But, Buss argues, promiscuity is not a universal phenomenon; lifelong relationships can and do work for many people.
Monogamy in humans is beneficial because it increases the chances of raising offspring, but it is actually very rare in mammals – less than 10 per cent of mammal species are monogamous, compared with 90 per cent of bird species. Even in primates, where it is more common, only about a quarter of species are monogamous.
Instead, biological indicators suggest a mating system where both sexes form a long-term pairbond with a single partner (Møller, 2003). And while polygyny was likely present in the human past, as it is across contemporary human societies, the weight of evidence seems to support social monogamy.
Humans are broadly monogamous, so the researchers suggested that there might be a link between a species' digit ratio and sexual strategy. If they are right, Neanderthals – who had ratios in between the two groups (0.928) – were slightly less monogamous than both early modern and present-day humans.
Summary: In cultures that permit men to take multiple wives, the intra-sexual competition that occurs causes greater levels of crime, violence, poverty and gender inequality than in societies that institutionalize and practice monogamous marriage.
Although the Old Testament describes numerous examples of polygamy among devotees to God, most Christian groups have historically rejected the practice of polygamy and have upheld monogamy alone as normative. Nevertheless, some Christians groups in different periods have practiced, or currently do practice, polygamy.
Well, it is only logical that men are polygamous. You see, as a species, we have 3 fundamental tasks for survival viz shelter, food and reproduction. And it is in our instinctive nature to search for multiple partners, when talking about men.
In Eurasia, interbreeding between Neanderthals and Denisovans with modern humans took place several times. The introgression events into modern humans are estimated to have happened about 47,000–65,000 years ago with Neanderthals and about 44,000–54,000 years ago with Denisovans.
Reproduction is our biological reason for being. Our physiology has been shaped via countless millennia of evolution with this one purpose in mind, so that at birth we are 'programmed for sex', although this will not kick-start functionally until puberty.
If we mean realistic for the species of humans, then the answer clearly is yes. In various cultures around the world people are able to engage in lifelong monogamous relationships.
No. Women ovulate roughly once every 28 days but are theoretically sexually receptive, regardless of fertility, for virtually the entire duration of their menstrual cycle. This concealed ovulation is almost unique to humans and may have evolved as a way of reducing conflict over mating partners in groups.
Durex found that Austrian men had the highest number of sex partners of males around the world of 29.3 partners on average. New Zealand's women had the highest number of sexual partners with an average of 20.4.
Our prehistoric male ancestors kept female harems and fought over them to procreate: because the potential number of offspring was greater for males, competition for mates was severe. As a result, evolutionary forces focused on making males big and strong, rather than long lived.
As Christianity emerged in the Roman Empire in the first centuries AD, it embraced monogamy and took it further, insisting that two people must reserve their bodies and desires for each other, marriage becoming 'an everlasting threesome with God'.
Twelve will seem to us undesirably young, and indeed ancient doctors such as Soranus warned against the dangers of women becoming sexually active at so early an age. Most Roman women appear to have married later, from about 15 to 20.
Twelve was considered the marriageable age for Roman girls, hence as menarche usually occurred between thirteen and fourteen years of age some marriages, particularly in the upper classes who tended to marry earlier than Plebians, were prepubescent.
Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, an Arab lawyer and diplomat from Baghdad who encountered the men of Scandinavia in his travels, wrote that Vikings treated their female chattel as sex slaves. If a slave died, he added, “they leave him there as food for the dogs and the birds.”