If people in ancient times had no scientific knowledge about natural selection and Darwinism, how were they knowledgeable about animal domestication and artificial selection? What tools and techniques did they use to intercept animal reproduction and obstetrics? Did they use any artificial insemination tools?

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    $\begingroup$ Humans do not need to understand it to do it, nor is any technology needed. Just keeping the wolves we liked and driving off/eating the ones we did not for hundreds of generations got us dogs. there is no forthough necessary just favoritism. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 30, 2018 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ It's common sense for 3-4 generation families living in tribes and cities to see heredity around them and learn from spoken tradition. tempers and physical traits are inherited. Conceptually they would also understand from mixing food ingredients, from mixing inks, that when you add two things together, you get a combination of the two. It's easy for them to consider using the largest animal of every generation to make the largest stock. Prehistoric people would not use freezers and condoms:) they would not complicate the act of putting two animals in the same room. $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2018 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Prehistoric people had a similar intelligence as today, they just didn't have books. They knew absolutely millions of things about nature and conception. If you go to a yanomami village you realize that there is a lot of method and the magic explains only things that are not logical, linear, additive, related, visible, heredity is fairly straightforwards, it's very additive and visible. $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2018 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


That might be more a history or archeology question than a science question.

Early domestication

While there was no concept of long term evolution, many people could witness that offspring of individuals (whether plants or animals, incl. humans) looked like their parents. From there, it is not much of a stretch to understand that by breeding individuals with desired traits, you would get offspring with desired traits. This is artificial selection at play.

Artificial insemination

Early animal domestication did not use much artificial insemination. According to Britannica.com, the first successful artificial insemination in animal was in 1780s only.

Intended vs unintended selection pressures

Note however that I do not want to claim that most of the domestication traits evolve by the human intention to make them more frequent in the population. It might be just that individuals poorly adapted to domestication would flee or get harmed or something and would therefore have lower survival. For example, aggressive individuals could get hurt by their farmer.

Note btw, that wether the selection pressure by the farmers were intended or not, we still typically use the term artificial selection.

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    $\begingroup$ It would be good to leave a comment when down voting so that I can improve upon the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jan 31, 2018 at 17:45

I think this is a very interesting question but not necessarily directly related to genetics. This is more a question related to fields such as cognitive archaeology/anthropology and technological lithic analysis of how tools were made.

I'm not too familiar with Homo sapiens myself as it's unrelated to my field, but a close friend of mine is an evolutionary anthropologist who specializes in Homo neanderthalensis but knows a whole lot more about this than I do. I asked him for some suggested reading about this and here are his suggested introductions to the subject.

General interest but very comprehensive and in depth: Stringer, C. & Andrews, P. (2011). The complete world of human evolution. London New York: Thames & Hudson, Inc.

College textbook: Boyd, R. & Silk, J. (2009). How humans evolved. New York: W.W. Norton

The 2nd source actually delves into the topic of evolution of human intelligence, behaviour, culture, genetics and mating. If you want to learn more about the technological evolution, development, production and sophistication of stone tool making I suggest reading about things such as the Levallois technique. I hope this provided an answer to at least some of your questions! :)

  • $\begingroup$ That sort of makes sense, but I was interested in the techniques and practices of agriculture, animal domestication, and possibly plant domestication. How humans were able to control the mating of species to get them to do what they wanted to do, and even though the knowledge of how animal reproduction wasn't there, they still had instinctually messed with nature--whether it was for good or for bad you decide. $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2018 at 15:46

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