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When did primates, protohumans, or humans make the connection between sexual activity and pregnancy?

I notice that many ancient statues depict pregnancy or penises, this may (tenuously) suggest that the connection was known at the time that statue-making became known. Do we have any other evidence or knowledge of when the connection was made, or at least have bounds for a time interval in which drawing the connection would have been likely?

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    $\begingroup$ Most certainly this happened in pre-scientific era, therefore the question does not belong to history of science and math. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Feb 25 '15 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko: What would you consider a "scientific era"? One might argue that his could be one of the first scientific observations, certainly a milestone in human cognitive development and a milestone in science. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Feb 25 '15 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Much of science and technology has origins in the "pre-scientific era" by whatever definition. This question is easily about the origins of physiology, just like "when was the wheel invented?" is a question about the origins of mechanics. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Feb 26 '15 at 18:48
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The question asked in the title is not at all the same as the fist question in the body of the text. Because any meaningful answer to the latter seemingly presupposes (wrongly in my opinion) the existence of a mechanism to ascertain if a non-human animal has made an abstract connection in the scientific consensus, I will simply note that paternal care is rare among non-human primates and apparently non-existent among our closest kin and so that the connection between sexual activity and fecundation is in all likelihood a learned fact, not part of our core evolved cognitive abilities.

As far as I know, parietal art, though it contains exaggerated depiction of both sexual organs and of gravid women (Venus figures), gives no indication of a link between the two (though it is somewhat hard to decide what would count as uncontroversial evidence).

On the other hand, Egyptian papyri abounds in detailed gynecological knowledge, complete with accurate early prognosis for pregnancy and contraception advice. So the absolute upper historical bound for this connection is 1800 BCE, the time of writing of the Kahun papyrus. I will also note that the Code of Ur-Nammu, written around 2100BCE and one of the oldest known written text, deals largely with deflowering, offsprings produced by a couple of slaves, by a couple formed of a slave and a free person etc. This strongly suggests that the connection between sex and procreation was perfectly well understood by the writers of this code. Likewise, paternal as well as maternal lineage is very clearly understood in the Pyramid texts dating from around 2400 BCE.

To sum up, there are no evidence that the connection was understood in pre-historical time, just as there is no or scarce evidence for any abstract knowledge in pre-historical time almost by definition. However, evidence that the connection was very well understood is almost contemporary with the oldest known written texts.

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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting. Doesn't the law of succession in hereditary monarchies require understanding of sex/pregnancy connection to establish lineage? Wikipedia mentions that "hereditary chieftains" were hypothesized in Mesopotamia around 5300 BC, if true it would push the bound back somewhat. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubaid_period#Society $\endgroup$ – Conifold Feb 26 '15 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this answer is extremely insightful, and it gives points to google for further study. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Feb 26 '15 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Conifold I would agree, but I guess it is hard to provide convincing evidence one way or another. At any rate, in case my answer did not make this clear, I think the abstract nature of the connection discussed implies that it is very hard to ascertain if a group has made it absent written evidence, but I don't doubt for a second that some people knew very well about it in the neolithic. Another practice that strongly suggests the connection was understood is animal husbandry (which goes back at least to 9000BCE). $\endgroup$ – Olivier Feb 26 '15 at 14:12

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