One word — anthropology!
BTW, genius, I didn’t write that. It’s a quote (as well as being widely known).
“Small bands of hunter/gatherers with strong kinship bonds would have cared for all children born into that group, regardless of paternity, which would have been unknowable without the sequestering and control of women (which only later took place with the advent of patriarchy — about 10K years ago). Because all food acquisition would have been done in groups and shared communally, there is no biological incentive to mating with the best provider. It was only with patriarchy that the role of a provider becomes important. Women no longer had any autonomy and had only one mate upon whom they were entirely dependent. It is only within this context that a good provider begins to truly matter.”
The great anthropologist and comparativist Sarah Hrdy tells us that, across species, including among humans, the best mother for many eons was the one who was, under particular and far-from-rare ecological circumstances, promiscuous. By being so, she could hedge against male infertility, up her odds of a healthy pregnancy and robust offspring, and create a wider network of support by lining up two or three males who figured the offspring might be theirs. (5)