Our Ancestors Were Babysitters – Facts So Romantic

When anthropologist Alyssa Crittenden began studying the Hadza people of Tanzania 10 years ago, she was surprised to see an 8-year-old girl head out to forage for golden kongolobe berries with her 1-year-old niece swaddled snugly on her back. The behavior starkly contrasted Crittenden’s own experience growing up in the United States, where mothers often raise infants alone or with little help. But the Hadza live much as their ancestors did 10,000 years ago. In addition to hunting and gathering, Crittenden learned, Hadza members take turns caring for one another’s children—a practice anthropologists call “infant sharing.”

In fact, infant sharing is so widespread among traditional societies that scientists believe it played a key role in human evolution. Remember the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child?” “It turns out that [saying] has very deep evolutionary roots,” says Crittenden, now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

More evidence for the evolutionary origins of infant sharing can be found in other primate species. About half of the roughly 200 species of primates alive today exhibit the practice, says Sarah Hrdy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Davis. Newborn langur monkeys, for example, cling to the backs…

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