July 06, 2011

The origin of monogamy podcast

A podcast with Laura Fortunato.
Fortunato, who spoke with Michael Haederle last year about the agricultural roots of monogamy, talks about a recent study of hers, published in the journal Human Biology, where she used current patterns of language and marriage to determine when monogamous marriage got rolling for Europe and much of Asia.

It turns out that this kind of marriage is much older than anyone had thought, beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago in what is now Turkey. And monogamy likely established itself for a very modern reason: to avoid headaches with inheritance.

I had mentioned her article on Proto-Indo-European monogamy recently.

5 comments:

Onur said...

So what differentiated Proto-Indo-Euroepans from the majority of their contemporaries was that they were more sensitive about the wealth of their heirs in the future generations. This is a noble behavior for that era.

Laura Fortunato is quite right in positing a strong tendency for pastoralist societies (she could count hunter-gatherer societies as well) to be polygynous.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

What does monogamy mean in this context?

Sure, some proportion of people must have been monogamous for a very long time, but polygyny is alive and well in some populations today, typically in fairly low but stable percentages of all marriages.

Polygyny remains fairly common in elites through the iron age, although there appears to be a long term trend for comparable degrees of eliteness to involve fewer wives over time.

I'm quite skeptical of inheritance as a driver for reduced polygyny. In a society where lots of aggregate wealth is inherited non-monogamy can be used to consolidate empires rather than deplete wealth, for example, in a Saudi type system where there is a pool of potential heirs and the successor to the community fortune is determined based on merit.

Jim said...

"I'm quite skeptical of inheritance as a driver for reduced polygyny. "

Indeed. Inheritance is a matter of law. it's the simplest thing in the world to construct a law code or a body of custom that recognizes only the children of the premier or the legal wife or whatever she is called, whkle alowing secondary wives' children to be kept in the wings as replacements for heirs as necessary. That's how inheritance worked in traditional China, and in fatc the primary wives were expected to select the seocndary wives and concubines. It served their own purposes too, because they would adopt those seciondary children if their own died. Typically blunt-ass Chinese pragmatism.

Under the Breathamh Laws in Ireland both men and women could have secondary marriages but only with people outsled thier social class - they could have one marraige and only oe with a social equal, and the inheritance was prorated according to birth status. That's how you accomodate IE monogamy to polgynous reality.

princenuadha said...

"Sure, some proportion of people must have been monogamous for a very long time, but polygyny is alive and well in some populations today, typically in fairly low but stable percentages of all marriages."

Same with mothers who have kids with multiple fathers. Just take a look at the ghetto or paternity fraud.

Unknown said...

Polygyne has the disadvantage that more people have the same dna compartments. If inbreeding also took place then desease would make a population die out. Furthermore there are also advantages for monoganous. All men and younger men have access to women, where with polygamy they would have none. Polygamy results in distruction of familylife, quality of life.It makes society more vilant and unsafe for women. The main thing is also that a man could have offspring, where in polygamy he would have non.
Some research show that the western society could only evolve sow succesfull because of monogomous laws.