April 11, 2011

Proto-Indo-European monogamy

I had previously linked to a paper by the same author on the subject of marital residence in Indo-European societies, showing Indo-European to be virilocal. In the current paper, the conclusion is reached that Proto-Indo-European and perhaps Proto-Indo-Hittite corresponded to a monogamous society.

Interestingly, the author cites evidence for the presence of a nuclear family in a LBK community, as well as in a successor community of the Corded Ware complex. This is quite interesting, since the LBK probably represents the northern spread of Indo-European peoples from southeast Europe, and, ultimately, West Asia. It will certainly be interesting to infer the presence of the nuclear family in archaeological contexts, as far as this can be determined by archaeology, craniometry, and ancient DNA work.

Hum Biol. 2011 Feb;83(1):87-105.

Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in indo-European-speaking societies: monogamy and polygyny.

Fortunato L.

Explanations for the emergence of monogamous marriage have focused on the cross-cultural distribution of marriage strategies, thus failing to account for their history. In this paper I reconstruct the pattern of change in marriage strategies in the history of societies speaking Indo-European languages, using cross-cultural data in the systematic and explicitly historical framework afforded by the phylogenetic comparative approach. The analysis provides evidence in support of Proto-Indo-European monogamy, and that this pattern may have extended back to Proto-Indo-Hittite. These reconstructions push the origin of monogamous marriage into prehistory, well beyond the earliest instances documented in the historical record; this, in turn, challenges notions that the cross-cultural distribution of monogamous marriage reflects features of social organization typically associated with Eurasian societies, and with "societal complexity" and "modernization" more generally. I discuss implications of these findings in the context of the archaeological and genetic evidence on prehistoric social organization.



ashraf said...

There was mainly 2 forms of marriages amongst ancient indo_europeans
1/marriage by kidnapping the bride and this pratic is still common amongst kurds and arabs of western asia
2/marriage by bride exchange wich is also still common amongst kurds and arabs of western asia and is called berdel

here below quotations from indo_europeans and indo_european languages book

"7.6.2 Abduction as the earliest form of marriage

the existence of a word pertaining to marriage but not belonging to the terminology of exchange points to one form of marriage that did not fall within the system of mutual exchange: marriage by abduction or forceful kidnap of the bride
traces of this kind of marriage among the ancient Indo-Europeans can be observed in the meanings of this word in the individual historical dialects and in the custom of kidnapping brides preserved in historical Indo-European traditions.
in the Hittite tradition abduction of a bride that resulted in loss of life was labeled with a special expression the kidnapper becomes a wolf
in the Hittite laws we read: tak-ku SAL-an ku-is-ki pit-te-nu-uz-zi. tak-ku LUMES na-as-ma MES ak-kan-zi sar-ni-ik-zi-il LUGAL zi-ik-wa URBARRA ki-sa-at (Hittite laws 37) 'if someone kidnaps a woman (and) two or three people are killed (in the ensuing struggle) there is no compensation (to be made) you have become a wolf"

An exact correspondent to this Hittite practice is found in the custom of abduction described in the Sanskrit laws: hatvii chittvii ca bhittvii ca krosantfm rudatfm grhiit prasahya kanyiihara1Jarh riikaso vidhir ucyate 'the forceful abduction of a weeping girl from her house, with the murder or wounding (of her relatives) and breaking into the house, is called rakshas rite' (Laws of Manu 3rd book 24)
Irish tradition preserves a special term for forceful abduction of a bride Ianamus foxail.
In Roman mythic tradition, the rape of the Sabines is described with the expression rapere uirgines 'forcefully carry off girls' (Watkins 1 970, Peruzzi 1 970).
The abduction of brides, reflected in Roman tradition as a legend and hence belonging to prehistoric antiquity shares features with an analogous custom of marriage by abduction in ancient Greek tradition (he harpagi ton gunaikon).
This ancient custom which by classical times was preserved only in legends, is illustrated by the myth of the capture of medea by the argonauts and the Homeric myths of the kidnap of Persephone and the abduction of Helen (Peruzzi 1 970)
As a rule it was women of another tribe that were captured: the Sabines by the Romans,the Colchidian Medea by the Greek Jason the greek helen by the trojan paris.
All this evidence points to a widespread custom of bride capture in prehistoric GrecoItalic tradition remembered in classical times in the form of legends.
In the Avesta a custom of bride capture is reflected in the formula us-viioaya 'kidnap a woman; carry off by force' this must preserve the original meaning of the verb *Hwedh carry off a woman by force; capture a bride"

ashraf said...

Indo-European *Hwedh 'carry off by force; capture a bride', which coexisted with another term for marriage related to the terminology of exchange (*toH give take, including 'give or take a wife')eventually lost its original meaning 'abduct' in the individual historical dialects and became the general word for marriage so that other derivatives pertaining to the terminology of marriage as exchange were derived from it.
This is the source of derivatives in * -mno- referring to wedding as exchange eg Horner'c greek hedna edna w'ch means wedding gifts; compensation(paid by the groom to the bride or her father)dowry wednitis 'father of the bride; one who gives out distributes' ewedn I give out distribute furnish with dowry old english weotoma wituma wetma 'bride price' old high germanic widomo widemo 'dowry' cf hittite kusata 'wedding compensation'(for the etymology cf. Gk. kusthos 'female genitalia')
The same change of meaning from 'marriage by force or abduction' to 'marriage by exchange' is visible in Avestan, where both meanings are found in the same verb viioaya-, depending on the preverb: upa-viioaya- 'give a woman in marriage' and us-viioaya- 'kidnap, abduct a woman'.

The fact that there is evidence of two forms of marriage among the ancient Indo-Europeans - marriage as part of the exchange system and marriage by abduction - may reflect certain aspects of the social structure of the IndoEuropean tribes at the time of their breakup and migration to new territories and consequent contact with foreign tribes.
The basic form of intermarriage with foreign tribes in such circumstances could have been abduction, while the rites of marriage by exchange were observed within one's own tribe or related tribes, since relations with members of one's own tribe were regulated by a complex system of social conventions.

2/bride exchange
for the ancient Indo-Europeans we find traces of relations between people based on the principle of exchange. This is exchange in the broadest sense including exchange of things of material value (gifts as an early fonn of exchange preceding the development of trade relations; mutual hospitality; etc.), exchange of reciprocal services (including ritual ones), and exchange of things of spiritual value (including linguistic utterances and symbols).
The exchange of women who are given in marriage occupies a special place in this exchange process. It detennines the character of the society's marriage and kinship relations (see Uvi-Strauss 1967, Baal 1970).

The meaning 'take' is best preserved in the anatolian languages hittite da-a-at-ti I take hyeroglyphic luwian ta-a 'he takes' luwian la 'take' lydian div 'I give'. the hittite middle form dattari 'is taken' (i.e. 'given') serves to illustrate the mutual relation of the meanings 'take' and 'give' (cf latin datur in the same meaning 'is given' from dare 'give').
hittite dab 'take' also means 'take as wife' (it corresponds to both akkadian aazu 'take as wife' and Akkad lea 'take').
The meaning ' give' is expressed in anatolian by another root with the preverb pe- thus leading to the semantic transfonnation of PIE * t 'oH- in anatolian and the expression of the two aspects of exchange giving and taking by separate verbs hittite pai 'give' (1 sg pe-ib-bi I give past pe-ib-bu-un I gave)luwian piya 'give' hieroglyphic luwian piai palaic pisa give (iterative cf hittite pek) the root is found with the meaning 'give' in tocharian: Toch B ai tocharian A e 'give' .
The Anatolian-Tocharian *(p)ai 'give' has further etymological connections (pokornyy 1959 10-11) greek afnumai I take grab a'isa lot fate abestan aeta 'allotted portion' oscian aeteis (gen) 'part'.

UncleTomRuckusInGoodWhiteWorld said...


You mention craniometry...I was reading in book "The Horse, the Wheel, and Language", by D.W Anthony, that the early IndoEuropeans had a significantly different phenotype from non-IndoEuropeans who lived in Southeastern Europe at the time. He described the former as wide, squat, with broad heads (sounds like some type of short Baltoid to me) and the people to the southeast as being more Mediterranean in appearance.

Based on your writings, I'm sure you disagree with the authors contention that IndoEuropeans originated on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. However, I was wondering if you are aware of any face molds/cast reconstructions that have been done for either group?

pconroy said...

Ashraf said:

Irish tradition preserves a special term for forceful abduction of a bride Ianamus foxail.

Dude, where do you get this stuff?!

I speak Irish Gaelic and the phrase "Ianamus foxail" doesn't mean anything to me.

The nearest word to Ianamus I can think of is Lanbh=baby??

Plus there is no "x" in Gaelic at all - so that is probably either a spurious reference or refers to another Celtic language??

The only Celtic language that I know of that might have an "x" would be Galician - but I don't think they have much in terms of written sources, unlike Irish Gaelic sources from Ireland, who are the source for most of the Western European folklore and Indo-European traditions.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I tried to post a comment with a few links a few days ago that may have been lost in cyberspace or a spam filter.

The main point is that monogamy is not a feature shared by Indo-European societies. Hittites recognized concubinage. Sorrel marriage (a man married to sisters) was held up as an example of good conduct in Vedic epics for occasions when brothers-in-law died leaving a widow. The Celts practiced polygamy. Classical Greek writers discuss how wives should deal with slaves used as concubines, and true multiple wife marriage was practiced in parts of Greece were it was previously banned after the Pelopenisian War depleted the supply of husbands. There may not have been polygny in which there were equal fellow wives, but there were legally recognized multiple permanent sexual partner relationship in which all of the permanent sexual partners were considered family members of some kind in most Indo-European societies pretty much up until Christianity becomes a leading religion in Rome, and Christianity itself doesn't definitively disavow polygny until after the New Testament canon closes. (The Hebrew Bible and the Koran, of course, also recognizes polygny as legitimate in these Semitic societies, a position not disavowed definitively by the Jews until the post-Temple Rabbinic Judaism era.)

Even if the proto-Indo-Europeans were monogamous (and the monogamy of the Alevi of Turkey who retain strong Central Asian cultural influences and practice monogamy notwithstanding the fact that their Islamic religious influences expressly permits it, whose context was similar to that of the purported PIEs adds credence that they might have been), this is not part of the shared Indo-European cultural legacy, because if it was, multiple substrate cultures managed to extract polygny, at least in the form of concubinage, as a concession to their local culture.

At most monogamy amongst the proto-Indo-Europeans may have been a reason that Indo-Europeans tended to describe secondary mates as concubines, while Semites tended to describe secondary mates as wives.

ashraf said...

"Ianamus foxail.
Dude, where do you get this stuff?!"

Me too dont know Irish of course (btw its good that you conserved the endangered celtic languages)I just copypasted it from "indo-europeans and indo-european languages book"
I will know look for the referance that the authors give for that expression then write it down here

ashraf said...

it's "lanamus foxail" (with an accent over the first a in lanamus, this way á=>lánamus foxail) and the referance is watkins 1970 a:324 and by googling I found this:
"In Irish law, union of abduction, lanamus foxail."

Onur Dincer said...

the monogamy of the Alevi of Turkey who retain strong Central Asian cultural influences and practice monogamy notwithstanding the fact that their Islamic religious influences expressly permits it

Pre-Islamic Turkic and Mongolian people practised polygyny, so there cannot be a connection with Central Asia in this regard. The only plausible connection when it comes to exclusive monogamy is with Christian Anatolia, as it was strictly monogamous due to the strong Christian marital conventions there.

ashraf said...

Here below the full name of the book in question , as for x I dont know but the author (calvert watkins) has many books on Celtic and should be aware of that field (perhaps x stands for kh or it was present in middle or old irish)

Watkins Calvert studies in Indo-European legal language, institutions, and mythology. In: Cardona et al. (eds) 1970, 321-354

bmdriver said...

How do you explain Munda and Dravidian agricultural loan words in the oldest core of North European languages?..New evidence to suggest the Indian origin of Indi-Europeans?...Come on people is this anything, or just b.s




bmdriver said...


Do these studies amount to anything?


BorderWars said...

I just got my 23andME results and my father line is G2a3a (M406+) which I think qualifies as an LBK community, and my mother line is U4a2f which leads back to the Corded Ware culture. Funny you should bring those two together in this post.

Jim said...

"Irish tradition preserves a special term for forceful abduction of a bride Ianamus foxail.
Dude, where do you get this stuff?!"

Pconroy, if "foxail" is really "fogail > fail" then there is just the "lanamus" part to deal with. Since that could very well be some kind of legalese, from a truly ancient text preserved only later in writing, it may be beyond anyone's reach to translate.