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Things that Yoram knows: when did our ancestors discover the facts of life?

The matriarchal society of the ancient man thrived precisely because of the ignorance of the connection between sex and pregnancy and childbirth, this has changed in the last 8,000 years

I, like every father, remember the day when I explained to my son how babies are born. Especially embarrassing is that moment when the boy frowned in disbelief and asked "What? So you and mom too...", luckily I wasn't asked the really difficult question: where did you get all this from?

And really, how do we know "this" or since when did humans even discover the secret? All the animals around us have sex, thus ensuring the continuation of the race, but apart from us, no one seems to be aware of the connection between the act and its result. In an unwritten society, such knowledge leaves no trace for archaeologists, so the subject is open to speculation. Some claim that the secret was known to our ancestors only about 8000 years ago. A quick and close calculation will show that only a little more than 300 generations of parents before us had to provide the explanation about the bees and the birds.

Humans could exist and thrive without knowing how our ape brothers manage: when the sexual urge arose we satisfied it and every now and then a new baby was added to the tribe, cared for by its mother. Since the mother was the one who brought new life into the world, she alone was considered the creator of life: the Stone Age was the heyday of the goddesses of fertility and possibly even of the matriarchal way of life in general - the group was led by women and the men who were absent for a long time from the hunting camp anyway knew their place. In fact, hunter-gatherer societies where the "facts of life" were not taken for granted have existed until our time right in remote corners of the earth.

Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski studied a tribe in the Trovinda Islands at the beginning of the 20th century Trobriand Islands East of New Guinea (today they are called the Kiriwina Islands Kiriwina Islands). Malinowski published some of his findings in his book "The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia". When he discovered that the members of the tribe did not know about the connection between sex and babies, Malinowski deviated from what is accepted in the science of anthropology and tried to argue. He asked them if They know virgins who have given birth and they answered honestly that they had never met adult virgins. Malinowski tried in vain to convince them of the correctness of the "facts of life" according to Western biology and the Trobinds tried in vain to convince him that the spirits of the ancestors dwell on the island of TUMA and from time to time such a spirit enters (in the local language: Baloma ) to the body of a woman that settles in the stomach and is embodied in a baby. The discussion ended when one of the tribe members said that he himself spent two years on a neighboring island and when he returned home his wife was pregnant - this conclusive example of the lack of need for sexual relations for fertility and reproduction concluded the discussion in Malinowski's overwhelming defeat.

The domestication of animals brought recognition

The reason why Trobinds and other tribesmen do not know the connection between sex and reproduction is simple: those who make a living from hunting, fishing and gathering do not need to know this. Only about 8000 years ago, when humans started domesticating farm animals in the Fertile Crescent, they realized that although the males do not provide milk or eggs, consume more food and are more irritable and difficult to control than the females, you still cannot give them up completely. Only at this stage in human development was an understanding of the facts of life important to existence and as is the way of knowledge it spreads: what is essential for the reproduction of sheep and chickens is probably also necessary for the reproduction of humans. It is possible that the Hebrew language preserved a remnant of the world of beliefs that preceded the facts of life, in the Book of Genesis the angels promise Abraham and Sarah that their prayers for a child were answered and that "now she is alive" Sarah will give birth "I will return to you again while she is alive, and behold a son for Sarah your wife" (Genesis 9:XNUMX) ). The expression "now living" means not after XNUMX months but after a year: it is possible that this strange expression is a remnant of a time when the fertility of a woman was seen as similar to the fertility of trees that bear fruit in a cycle of a year. Thus, by the way, Elisha also blesses a virgin woman who gives birth after a year"  And he said, "At this time, while she was alive, you are carrying a son... And the woman conceived, and gave birth to a son, at this time while she was still alive, to whom Elisha spoke" (XNUMX Kings, chapter XNUMX ')

Understanding the facts of life had a much greater significance than the mere biological knowledge. With the transition from hunting and gathering to raising farm animals, the goddesses of fertility descended and the decline of the matriarch (the social structure led by women) began. There is a feminist interpretation that blames this on the same new biological concept that robbed the woman of the sole responsibility for creating life. Placing all the responsibility on the patriarchy for knowing the facts of life is probably excessive. The domestication of animals and the subsequent ability to accumulate property and transfer it had far-reaching cultural, economic and political consequences that the rise in the status of men was integrated into. Among the Trovians, in any case, it is the groom who is attached to the bride's family and not the other way around, and if the family controls the assets.

The new knowledge nevertheless had an important effect: if intercourse is the cause of pregnancy, then only a man whose woman is faithful to him can be sure of his paternity, sexual permissiveness suffered a blow from which it only recovered after thousands of years of conservatism. Those few tribes where biological knowledge has not reached are "nature reserves" of free sexuality. Malinowski alludes with the restraint characteristic of the beginning of the last century to the celebrations accompanied by "dancing, gluttony and sexual freedom" but reports from more modern tourists clearly speak of Trovian girls who raped tourists who were not interested in experiencing the כל The joyous ingredients of the Asif celebrations held in August.

As can be expected this view of the development of knowledge is not in consensus. Malinowski's observations were criticized by those who knew the islanders, spoke their language and lived with them for years, other anthropologists described a conception of fertility in which the male sperm has a role as the element that stops the menstrual cycle and thus allows the fetus to grow. Despite the biological ignorance, Trovian fathers are emotionally attached to their children no less than fathers in other cultures.

And so that we do not sin condescendingly towards the natives of the Pacific Ocean, we will point out that ignorance of the facts of life is not limited to remote islands, even in Europe these facts are younger than you think. Although the Europeans knew the connection between sex and fertilization, the duration of the pregnancy was ambiguous. As strange as it may sound, the knowledge of the 9 months is not self-evident. In the Middle Ages, the medical books stated that a pregnancy may last 11 and 12 whole months. What contributed to the forgetting of the facts of life were the cases of noble women (the kind whose chastity should not be doubted) who gave birth to healthy offspring 10, 11 and sometimes even 12 whole months after the death of their husbands. When the continuity of dynasties and inheritance rights of estates were in jeopardy, the one who gave a medical pass was found and the later descendants were recognized without doubt as legal heirs to their family. 

This brilliant solution was probably used for the first time by Censorinus in the third century and was enthusiastically adopted until the Renaissance. As with the Trovians, also in Europe, biological ignorance was a source of permissiveness that could continue at best up to a year after the death of the legal husband. François Rabelais writes in the 16th century that "due to these laws, widows can play with the key - and lock and delight their husbands to their heart's content, betting the entire pot and without any fear two months after the husband's death... If they fast in the third month of their husband's death, the fruit of their womb will be considered an heir to the deceased, and now that they are pregnant There is no stopping them and "let him come to Barina carrying the length of the seed" since she has already crushed it between her teeth" (Gargantua and Pentagruel).

Similarly, in order to avoid the problem of bastards, the Gemara states that when a man is absent from his home for a period exceeding nine months and his wife becomes pregnant, it is assumed that the pregnancy began before the husband left his home and lasted even up to 12 months " a woman whose husband went to the sea country and her wife up to a dozen moons of Shata and Akshariya.. ” (Tractate Yavmot, page XNUMX, XNUMX). In other words, it's not only that you can get along quite well without knowing the "facts of life" sometimes it's better to forget about them.

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More of the topic in Hayadan:

16 תגובות

  1. Miracles,
    Once again you pretend to lack reading comprehension, you present an answer to the question of who understands the field, as if it were arrogance and hypocrisy.
    All your sentences deal with infantile demagogic confrontations instead of answering the body of the subject and instead of engaging in researching the truth.

  2. Uncle
    You wrote
    "I know the entire Talmud..."

    And you wrote too
    "... and you should have a lot of modesty."

    So I understand you meant "hypocrisy"...

  3. Miracles
    I am well versed in the entire Talmud, in the Dayan, qualified as a rabbi, and more.
    But that's not the problem. The author could publish correct things even if he knew a tenth of that, if only he didn't pretend to make fun of every field he thought otherwise.
    For example, the author "stated" in one of his articles that it was the sages of the Second Temple who decreed fasting (fasting) on ​​Yom Kippur, because in the Torah it is written "only" torture your souls, and torture - we know what that is (in contemporary Hebrew).
    What ignorance in biblical Hebrew, not to know the word fast?! In Deuteronomy XNUMX:XNUMX: And he tormented you and starved you. In the Psalms (La, XNUMX) I answered with a mental fast. Isaiah (Nah, XNUMX) Why did you fast and you did not see? - Our eyes are our souls and you will not know? In Isaiah (Nah, XNUMX) it is said that there will be a fast of his choice on the day of the repentance of his soul. Ezra (XNUMX, XNUMX) and I read there fast on the river Ahua to humble ourselves before our God.

    Scholars can research in religion, but a minimum of knowledge is needed, and there should be a lot of modesty.

  4. Most of the article is not mocking, just the closing sentence. The final sentence after citing the words of the Gemara and in the same paragraph, is: "In other words, not only is it possible to get along quite well without knowing the "facts of life", sometimes it is better to forget about them."

    In fact, the Gemara states in several places that the duration of pregnancy is exactly nine months. Here the Gemara says that in exceptional cases the pregnancy lasts up to a year. It also seemed a bit excessive to me, and then I checked what the scientific documentation is today, and I discovered the fact that I mentioned - even today this is the known documentation. And the author of the article, instead of checking the scientific truth, preferred to believe that he knows everything and end up accusing the Gemara of ignorance and malicious permissive suppression.

  5. Miracles,
    Enough with the demagogic deception, but pretend you lack understanding. You write: "You must understand" as if my words mean the opposite. I don't have any religious belief regarding the duration of pregnancy. I complained about the disruption of the documented scientific truth of the facts of life, precisely on a website that is supposed to bring scientific truth.

    You must understand that scientific truth is more important than your or another writer's anti-religious belief.
    It's not enough to obsessively look for every opportunity to mock religion, but to invent false facts.

  6. On the contrary, I am constantly gaining more and more knowledge, and this does not and cannot undermine religious belief.
    And it is true that there are things written in the Talmud that were correct according to the scientific knowledge of that time, which was updated later. But here is an article that claims to be scientific without having any knowledge of the subject, and that does not prevent the writer from using mocking and derogatory expressions as he likes, as if that is what science needs.
    Why does the author think that ridicule and contempt will clear his conscience?

  7. I still haven't understood what "facts of life" this is about and what the dirty act of sex has to do with bringing children into the world

  8. The sages of the Gemara knew well that pregnancy lasts about nine months.
    The reason the author attributes to the Gemara, as if the assumption that pregnancy lasts even up to 12 months, comes to avoid declaring the newborn a bastard, devoid of logic. If the newborn is born 12 months after the death of the mother's husband, then in any case the newborn cannot be considered a bastard, and what do you think: if the newborn is born after 9 months with a significant addition of about two weeks (which definitely happens in practice, sometimes) and more (as mentioned - up to 3 additional months on The ninth) - after all, the conception was certainly made from another man and after the death of the husband, then the child cannot be a bastard. And if the pregnancy lasts a little over 9 months (nine months and two weeks) - then it is really reasonable to assume that the child is from the husband, who fathered him shortly before his death.
    As mentioned, the sages of the Gemara knew well that pregnancy lasts about nine months. The possession they established came, apparently, to prevent shame (and social stigma) from the mother and the child, after the mother did not adhere to the 3 months of "retirement" from marriage required of her according to the Halacha after the death of the husband (or the divorce from him).

  9. I remember learning in school (in Australia) that until the white man arrived, some of the aboriginal tribes did not know the connection between intercourse and childbirth.

  10. very interesting I never thought at all that people might not know the connection between sex and pregnancy and childbirth. Thanks for the article

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