Human Nature

, Volume 22, Issue 1–2, pp 16–40

The Foundation of Kinship


DOI: 10.1007/s12110-011-9111-y

Cite this article as:
Leonetti, D.L. & Chabot-Hanowell, B. Hum Nat (2011) 22: 16. doi:10.1007/s12110-011-9111-y


Men’s hunting has dominated the discourse on energy capture and flow in the past decade or so. We turn to women’s roles as critical to household formation, pair-bonding, and intergenerational bonds. Their pivotal contributions in food processing and distribution likely promoted kinship, both genetic and affinal, and appear to be the foundation from which households evolved. With conscious recognition of household social units, variable cultural constructions of human kinship systems that were sensitive to environmental and technological conditions could emerge. Kinship dramatically altered the organization of resource access for our species, creating what we term “kinship ecologies.” We present simple mathematical models to show how hunting leads to dependence on women’s contributions, bonds men to women, and bonds generations together. Kinship, as it organized transfers of food and labor energy centered on women, also became integrated with the biological evolution of human reproduction and life history.


Household formation Kinship ecologies Women’s food processing Pair-bonds Maternal energy deficits Energy transfers Life history 

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE)University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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