Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

Eusociality: From the First Foragers to the First States

Introduction to the Special Issue
  • Laura Betzig


People have always been social. Ethnographic evidence suggests that transfers of food and labor are common among contemporary hunter-gatherers, and they probably were common in Paleolithic groups. Archaeological evidence suggests that cooperative breeding went up as we settled down: as territory defenders became more successful breeders, their helpers’ fertility would have been delayed or depressed. And written evidence from the Neolithic suggests that the first civilizations were often eusocial; emperors fathered hundreds of children, who were provided for and protected by workers in sterile castes. Papers in this issue of Human Nature look at helpers and workers across the eusociality continuum—from hardworking grandmothers and grandfathers, to celibate sisters and brothers, to castrated civil servants—from the first foragers to the first states.


Eusociality Cooperative breeding Human evolution Reproductive variance 



Thanks to Karen Kramer for intelligent comments, and to all contributors for important papers on an important subject. I am forever indebted to Jane Lancaster for making this special issue possible, and to Sarah Blaffer Hrdy for encouragement throughout.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

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