Archives for category: random notes

busy reading all about crime and punishment (i.e. the death penalty) in medieval england, so you don’t have to! (^_^) in the meantime, until i post about that, here are some random notes:

the law codes of ine king of wessex (688-726) are some of the earliest anglo-saxon law codes still surviving. they were issued ca. 694. ine took his christianity seriously and demanded that [pg. 27]:

“[A]ll children were to be baptised within 30 days of their birth, failing which their guardians had to pay a fine of 30 shillings. If a child died before baptism its guardian lost all he possessed….”

so there are some strong incentives for the populace to convert to christianity or remain christian once they’d done so.

æthelstan, king of the anglo-saxons and then the first king of the north english (924-939), also passed a bunch of laws including [pg. 32]:

“[T]he first social legislation in England, providing for the relief of the poor. If a king’s reeve failed to provide, from the rents of the royal demesne, for the poor in the manner prescribed he had to find 30 shillings to be distributed among the poor under the bishop’s supervision.”

nice of him! (^_^)

some examples of concerns about consanguinity issues in the late anglo-saxon period [pg. 226]:

“General concern about marriage and sexual relations within the kin is expressed throughout our period, for example, in the late ninth century in letters from Pope John VIII to Burgred, king of the Mercians, and to Æthelred, archbishop of Canterbury, and another from Fulk, archbishop of Reims, to King Alfred. In the 950s, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, ‘Archbishop Oda separated King Eadwig and Ælfgifu because they were too closely related’. They may have shared a great-great-grandfather, King Æthelwulf of Wessex….”

so there you go.

and in anglo-norman england [pgs. 435-437]:

“As in the Anglo-Saxon period, a central issue was consanguinity. In the second half of the eleventh century and particularly under the influence of the reformer Peter Damian, the method of counting the prohibited degrees was established in its most extensive form. Instead of counting to see if there was a common ancestor within four generations, the counting was taken a further three generations back, to the seventh. This had the effect of extending the range of prohibited marriage partners to sixth cousins.[12] In England, the prohibition ‘to the seventh degree’ was decreed at ecclesiastical councils at London in 1074 x 1075, and at Westminster in 1102 and 1125: ‘between those related by blood or relatives by affinity [i.e. by marriage], up to the seventh generation, we prohibit marriages to be contracted. If indeed anyone shall have been thus joined together, let them be separated’. Reformers also emphasised other non-blood relationships, especially spiritual kinship. The potential for conflict with lay practice must have increased significantly, as it has been suggested that whilst the layity did not commonly contract marriages within four degrees, they did within five or six.[15]

“[12] It has been suggested that blood relationships alone might mean that the bride or groom had over 2,500 cousins of their own generation whom they were prohibited to marry; J.-L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times, trans. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979), 24.

“[15] E.g. Green, Aristocracy, 348-9.”

2,500 cousins that you couldn’t marry. awkward that.

interestingly (at least to me!), from late anglo-saxon england [pg. 242 - link added by me]:

“A further important tie was that of spiritual kinship, created particularly at baptism, but also at the catechumenate and confirmation. It seems that in England, unlike the Continent, there was only one sponsor, of the same sex as the person undergoing the ceremony. This is one reason for the relatively limited emphasis in England on the need for the group of godparents and their godchild to avoid sexual relations or marriage within the group.[114]

“[114] J.H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England. 1998.”

huh! who knew?

and, finally, just to remind everyone how barbaric the barbarians were [pg. 186]:

“The laws of Æthelstan mention drowning or throwing from a cliff for free women, stoning for male slaves, burning for female slaves:

“‘In the case of a male slave, sixty and twenty slaves shall go and stone him. And if any of them fails three times to hit him, he shall himself be scourged three times. When a slave guilty of theft has been put to death, each of those slaves shall give three pennies to his lord. In the case of a female slave who commits an act of theft anywhere except against her master or mistress, sixty and twenty female slaves shall go and bring three logs each and burn that one slave; and they shall pay as many pennies as males slaves would have to pay, or suffer scourging as has been stated above with references to male slaves.’

“However, the literary and archaeology evidence just cited suggests that hanging and beheading were the most common methods.”


(note: comments do not require an email. æthelstan – earliest surviving portrait of an english king.)

some random notes on the history of mating patterns in china…

on the recommendation of john derbyshire, we have been listening to some of the great courses lectures here at home. that’s not the royal “we” by the way — i mean the d.h. and me. anyway…in From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History, the lecturer, kenneth hammond — an excellent lecturer and, incidentally, one of the kent 25 — mentions that during the southern song period (1127–1279) elites in china changed their marriage patterns. in the preceding northern song period (960-1127), the elites — the intelligensia and bureaucrats running the country — had a tendency to marry other elites from all over the kingdom. the bureaucrats — provincial administrators, for instance — would all meet up with some regularity in the capital at kaifeng and, when they were there, one of the things they’d do was to arrange their children’s marriages between their respective families. however, in the southern song period, the elites — according to the current paradigm of teh historians — began to marry much more locally. really locally, apparently — not on a national basis, and not even on a provincial basis, but within very local areas.

the first thing that came to my mind when i heard this was that it probably just reflects the general pattern in china of closer marriage in the south than in the north. my impression so far from the little i’ve read on the history of mating patterns in china — and it is so far just an impression, so don’t quote me on this! — is that there has been a greater amount of cousin marriage in southern china than in northern china (who knows for how long?) — and as a result, there is a greater importance of clans in southern china than in the north (which there definitely is). if this general pattern is true, then it’s perhaps not surprising that marriage amongst the elites became more local in the southern song period since we’re presumably talking about elites from the south. the general pattern (if it exists) would also fit with the “flatlanders vs. mountaineers” theory of inbreeding and outbreeding, since southern china is mountainous while the north has a nice big plain.

in Portrait of a Community: Society, Culture, and the Structures of Kinship in the Mulan River Valley (Fujian) from the Late Tang Through the Song (2007), hugh clark, after looking through the genealogies of the elites in this mulan river valley place in the southern province of fujian during the southern song period, has this to say about their marriage patterns [pgs. 134-135]:

[T]hese links point to a phenomenon called ‘patrilateral cross-cousin marriage’, a pattern of reoccurring affinal exchange in which sone of a union most often took the daughters of a maternal uncle as wives [mother's brother's daughter or mbd marriage - h.chick].

Such links, which were common in traditional Chinese culture, helped to cement ties between patrilines that could render all manner of mutual assistance, be it fiscal, political, or social, to their affines.”

so…there you go. i’ll be keepin’ my eye open for more info on all this!

in The Elementary Structures of Kinship, claude lévi-strauss concluded that a preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage had a long history in china. speaking of history, it’s been ages since i’ve read Elementary Structures, so i don’t recall exactly how lévi-strauss’ argument went, but apparently he based his conclusion on the kinship terms in the chinese language. lewis h. morgan thought similarly — that peoples categorize their relatives based upon which ones they were permitted to marry and which ones were forbidden to them. i happen to think this is correct. it’s not the only reason for why peoples name their relatives in the ways that they do, but it’s probably one of the main ones. thus the arabs have a pretty complicated naming system for all of their cousins, since marriage to some cousins (the father’s brother’s daughter or the bint ‘amm) is preferred. the chinese also have a complicated kinship terminology (but some of that is related to an age hierarchy/ancestor worship). most europeans, on the other hand, don’t differentiate between their cousins, since cousin marriage was banned for so long in europe. before the church’s cousin marriage bans, most (all?) europeans — especially northern europeans (the greeks are a bit of an exception in this story) — did name their cousins differently — the european naming system changed after the mating patterns changed — about three or four hundred years later in the case of the germans, for example.

anyway, i can’t quote lévi-strauss on mbd marriage in china for you, because i don’t have a copy of his book. but i can quote jack goody on lévi-strauss. from The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia (1990) [pg. 23]:

“Attempting a historical reconstruction which has some affinities with the parallel undertakings of L.H. Morgan (1870) and W.H.R. Rivers (1914), Levi-Strauss compares China with the Miwok of North America largely on the basis of terms for kin relationship and concludes his own study of China with words that reflect the earlier tendency to derive structure from terminology:

“‘We are thus brought to the hypothesis of the coexistence, in ancient China, of two kinship systems: the first, practised by the peasants, and based on a real or functional division into exogamous moieties, the exchange of sisters, and marriage between bilateral cross-cousins; the other, of feudal inspiration, and based on cycles of alliance between patrilineages (distributed or not into exogamous moieties), and marriage with the matrilateral cross-cousin and niece. That is, a system of restricted exchange and a system of generalized exchange.’ (1969:368-70)”

no idea if this theory bears any resemblance to reality, but it’s certainly interesting.

finally, from Why Europe? (2010), here’s michael mitterauer on china [pgs. 83-85]:

“The quite substantial differences between Europe and China are more apparent if we take the terminology of relationship as a prime indicator of kinship systems. There is no Chinese counterpart to the parallelling process [i.e. naming paternal and maternal relatives the same - h.chick] discernible in Europe from antiquity on. Quite the opposite: an exceedingly complex system of kinship terminology was further differentiated and elaborated upon in China. Claude Levi-Strauss speaks in this connection of an ‘overdetermined system’ against which he counterposes the ‘marked tendency toward *indeterminism*’ in European cultures. Historical dictionaries from after the second century BC list no fewer than 340 Chinese terms for the different relationships between kinfolk. Typical examples of this differentiation are the terms for ‘uncle.’ The European languages have managed with one word since the great transformation in its terminology, whereas Chinese has five different words, depending on whether the father’s older brother (*bo*) is meant, or his younger brother (*shu*), the mother’s brother (*jiu*), the aunt’s spouse on the father’s side (*gufu*) or on the mother’s side (*yifu*). This example illustrates the four distinguishing criteria on which this terminology is by and large based: gender, relative age, the generation, and filiation. The strict separation of the paternal and maternal lines is particularly vital. A distinction is drawn in China and Tibet between ‘relatives of the bone’ and ‘relatives of the flesh’; it also is found in a larger area stretching from India to Siberia and embracing the Mongolian and Turkic peoples of Russia. What is meant by these forms are paternal and maternal relatives, respectively, with the former being given preference. As this example demonstrates, the terminological distinction between an older and a younger brother is made only in the patriline, a differentiation that the Chinese system of kinship shares with many cultures in its extensive surroundings. It occurs as far away as southern Europe, where Indo-European roots cannot even begin to explain this significant feature. In this case we might have to think about possible influences from the steppe nomads who came from the East….

“The traditional rules of marriage in China display the same basic outlines of a strict patrilineal ordering of kinship that is found in the terminology of kinship. From the Tang dynasty [618–907 ad - h.chick] on, legal codes prohibited marriage to a woman from four classes of relatives: first and foremost, marriage to women with the same surname, then to widows of members of the same household, to women of another generation of fairly close kinship on the mother’s side or by marriage, and finally to sisters from the same mothers by a different father (half-sisters). In China identical surnames meant in principle descent from the same patriline. The ban on marriage was valid even if the common ancestor was a long way back in the male line. The Chinese family held to these basic principles of exogamy, which can be found in many other cultures in Eurasia with an analogous kinship structure. In early medieval Europe, far-reaching rules concerning exogamy were also established, but they were confined to certain degrees of relatedness. They mainly concerned the paternal and maternal lines completely symmetrically. In China, on the other hand, the emphasis on the father’s line led to crass inequalities when it came to enlarging the list of banned female marriage partners…. Marrying relatives from the mother’s side was not forbidden in principle. In earlier times, marriage in China even between cross-cousins not only used to be permitted but was common practice. Among China’s neighbors it can be found up to this day as a preferred form of marriage.”

previously: abridged history of cousin marriage in china

(note: comments do not require an email. say ahhhhh!)

something that sobl1 asked me yesterday on twitter about the kurds led me to this on wikipedia:

“Barth finds in his study of southern Kurdistan that in tribal villages 57% of all marriages were cousin marriages (48% bint ‘amm marriages) while in a nontribal village made up of recent immigrant families only 17% were cousin marriages (13% bint ‘amm).”

the barth reference is: Barth F. (1954) Father’s brother’s daughter marriage in Kurdistan. South Western Journal of Anthropology 10, 164-171.

i haven’t seen it (yet), because it’s not online — only some tantilizing previews here and here — and, no, i still haven’t gone to the library.

what piques my interest here is the difference in cousin marriage rates between the traditional kurdish tribal villages (57%) and nontribal villages “made up of recent immigrant families (17%).

while it seems like it should be obvious that immigration would reduce cousin marriage rates, this is the first actual example i’ve (almost) seen of that. in other cases of immigration that i’ve seen — europe in general in the late-1800s (see second half of this post), germans in gdańsk in the 1500-1700s (see here), and, for example, not to be forgotten, pakistanis and their chain-migration patterns in places like the u.k. today — the cousin marriage rates have actually gone UP in connection with immigration. here — finally, then — is an example of cousin marriage decreasing with immigration — by a LOT, apparently.

so it seems like the effect of emigration on cousin marriage rates is something that can vary depending on circumstances, although what those circumstances are, is not clear to me.

Further Research is Required.TM (^_^)

a little bit on iceland (and the faroe islands) from The Faroe Islands: Interpretations of History [pg. 14]:

“The Church’s power [in the faroe islands] was also moral, and the workings of ecclesiastical law may have contributed to the relative impoverishment of freeholders. We do not know what ecclesiastical law was in the Faroes before the Reformation; only that in 1584 the Løgting complied with Frederick II’s request that a compilation of late thirteenth-century Icelandic law called the Stóridómur continue to be valid in the Faroes. Among other things, the Stóridómur set the bounds within which kinsmen were forbidden to marry; since marriage between cousins was held to be incestuous, lands divided by inheritance could not easily be recombined. After the Reformation, the Stóridómur was supplemented by secular laws prescribing harsh punishments for bearing or fathering children out of wedlock (death, if the parents were cousins) and allowing couples to marry only if they had a certain amount of land. Similar restrictions on marriage were in effect earlier as well. It could hardly be otherwise in so ecologically precarious a land, where overpopulation was always a threat. Thus the Seyðabræv had ‘established certain requirements for a man if he was to be able to marry and set up his own house’: none could do so without being able to support at least three cows. In effect, the poor were forbidden to marry.”

so it sounds as though by at least the 1580s — and very likely the late 1200s — cousin marriage was banned in iceland in this stóridómur (and, then, from at least the 1580s onwards on the faroe islands). that cousin marriage was banned in iceland starting in the late 1200s — if that’s what happened (i’m still not sure yet) — would fit my prediction that cousin marriage was probably banned there when the norwegian crown took over iceland in 1262. my bet is that the ban was introduced to the island at that point in time from the continent.

i haven’t found out much about this stóridómur — here is the icelandic wikipedia page google translated. sounds like it wasn’t compiled until the 1560s, but, perhaps, based upon earlier law tracts? dunno. it does mean something like “big judgement” or something like that.

and how about the faroe islands there?! those were some eugenical practices (if they enforced them, which it actually sounds like they did, if you read through the book above)! the faroese ought to be geniuses! (~_^)


conclusion: we need more physicists studying/being interested in human biodiversity/sociobiology/anthropolgy!:

(probable) reason: they’re more logical/have higher iqs.

examples: greg cochran, steve hsu, william shockley, and — i didn’t know — napoleon chagnon (h/t g-nice!):

“Darkness in Anthropology: A Conversation with Napoleon Chagnon”

“Iannone: How did your interest in anthropology begin? What made you want to be an anthropologist?

“Chagnon: My original major as an undergraduate in a local two-year college — Michigan College of Mining and Technology — was physics. At that time I had never heard of anthropology. I transferred to the University of Michigan after my first year and discovered that ‘physics’ was in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and I would have to take courses in each of these fields. The only thing I could fit into my schedule for the social science requirement was a course in a field called anthropology.”


(note: comments do not require an email. the faroe islands!)

a few more random notes from poolside … trying to do a little reading between mimosas at brunch and happy hour. (~_^)

from Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England (2009) [pgs. 97-98]:

“The level of cousin marriage in country districts seemed surprisingly low. George Darwin‘s cousin, Clement Wedgwood, made an inquiry on his behalf among skilled artisans in the Potteries [presumably those @ etruria in staffordshire in the west midlands]. In a sample of 149, he did not find a single case of first-cousin marriage. ‘He was further assured that such marriages never take place amongst them,’ George Darwin noted…. Except in very isolated districts, like those [in ne scotland] investiaged by Arthur Mitchell, rural people were not inclined to marry cousins. This conclusion is supported by the findings of Alan Macfarlane, who studied the marriage records of 800 people in East Colne, Essex [in se england], for the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and found only one first-cousin marriage and two marriages with more distant cousins.”

previously: more on consanguinity in england (and scotland)

from The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (2008, orig. pub. 1898) [pg. 387] — i have to admit that i haven’t read of this before:

“The rule to which the church ultimately came was that defined by Innocent III. at the Lateran council of 1215, namely that marriages within the fourth degree of consanguinity are null. Before that decree, the received doctrine was — and it was received in England as well as elsewhere — that marriage within the seventh degree of the canonical computation was forbidden, but that kinship in the sixth or seventh degree was only *impedimentum impediens*, a cause which would render a marriage sinful, not *impedimentum dirimens*, a cause which would render a marriage null. Laxer rules had for a while been accepted; but to this result the canonists had slowly come.”

so even when the church had banned cousin marriage to a ridiculous degree (out to sixth cousins), fourth- through sixth-cousin marriages were never actually null and void. that would presumably affect things like inheritance — illegitimate children often not being allowed to inherit — and might influence people’s decisions to marry a distant cousin or not (if they could work out who they were!). the children of fourth- through sixth-cousin spouses would not have been illegitimate.

from The Oxford History of the Laws of England: The Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction from 597 to the 1640s (2004) [pgs. 46-48]:

“The Prohibited Degrees

“If one had to judge by the quantity of remaining evidence alone, one might say that the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon church cared more about the prohibited degrees of affinity and consanguinity than they did about the principle of marriage as a lifelong union…. The Laws of Wihtred (693 X 731) prohibited ‘living in unlawful intercourse’, and the legatine synods later in the eighth century prohibited all ‘unlawful and incestuous unions’, although the exact definition of the unlawful degrees of kinship was assumed rather than stated explicitly. However, the ‘Northumbrian Priests’ Law’ stated the prohibition in the terms that would later be the norm: spiritual affinity and a relationship closer than the fourth degree. It denied ‘Christian burial and God’s mercy’ to those who violated the prohibition; apparently the concept of nullity of marriage had not been fully assimilated.

the northumbrian priests’ law was written by wulfstan (d.1023), archbishop of york. interesting punishment for those who married close cousins — you wouldn’t get a christian burial. that might’ve been important to a lot of people (especially if they wanted to be buried with their family). who knows how well, or for how long, this was enforced.

continuing on…

“Most historians who have looked at the question have concluded that compliance with this aspect of the law of the church was slow to come. Strong evidence supports that view. In part, the slowness was the fruit of ignorance. St Boniface [d.754] expressed surprise when he learned that ‘spiritual kinship’ was created by lifting a child from the baptismal font and was being treated as an impediment to marriage among the Franks. But it was the law. Slowness also came from attachment to old ways. Letters from the archbiship of Reims to King Alfred (c.890) reproached him for permitting the continuation of pagan habits in contracting marriages between kin. Change in such habits was difficult to effect. The laws of King Aethelred issued in 1014 and drawn up by Archbishop Wulfstan, bemoaned the existence of so many breaches of the marriage law in England. Of course, the church itself had not always been entirely of one mind on the prohibited degree. Some of the rules against marriage between those related by blood or marriage were stated in quite vague terms. Archbishop Oda’s [of canterbury, d.958] ‘Constitutions’, as already mentioned, forbade marrying ‘cognates or other unlawful persons’. Papal letters exhorted their English recipients not to marry ‘within their own kindred’. They said nothing about how near the kinship had to be or how unlawfulness was to be defined.

“Precision would have been hard to reach. A different method of reckoning degrees of affinity and consanguinity prevailed among Germanic peoples than that which obtained in Rome, and it is not always clear in the Anglo-Saxon sources which of the two was intended. Even Theodore’s [archbishop of canterbury, d.690] Penitential set them out uncertainly. Among the Greeks, it stated, it was lawful to be joined in the third degree, among the Romans in the fifth. The laws of Aethelred [d.1016], by contrast, stated that ‘six degrees of relationship [meant] within the fourth knee’. But the easily used and detailed *Arbores consanguinitatis* and *Arbores affinitiatis* that permitted accurate and easy computation of the prohibited degrees would only appear once the law of the church was stabilized in the thirteenth century.

previously: anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

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from A Brief History of Great Britain (2010) [pages xiv-xvi]:

“Britain is marked by pronounced regional differences. The most basic division is that between highland areas and lowland areas. The ‘highland zone’ is defined by being over 200 meters (656 feet) above sea level. Highland zones are found in Wales, much of Scotland, northern England, and parts of southwestern England, although lowland pockets exist in highland territories. The British highland zone is not really mountainous, as the highest mountains reach the mode height of roughly 4000 feet (1,129 meters). There is a much higher proportion of highland land in Scotland than in England, and the difference between the highlands and the lowlands and their inhabitants plays a central role in Scottish history and culture.

The highlands are marked by a greater emphasis on pastoralism, as they have mostly chalky soil and are too wet and cold for successful agriculture. The highlands are also much less densely populated than the lowlands, as it requires much more land to support a human being through pastoralism than through agriculture. Lowland areas are usually more fertile. The most fertile lowlands are in the south and southeast of Britain, where there is rich, heavy soil more suited to agriculture. Lowlanders can engage in raising either grains or livestock, depending on circumstances. In the Middle Ages much of the lowlands was truned over to the highly profitable production of wool. Lowlanders tended to live in villages, highlanders in small hamlets or isolated farmsteads, or to be nomadic.

“Invasions of Britain had much less effect on the highlands than on the lowlands, which constituted the really valuable prize due to their greater agricultural productivity. Those regimes exercising power throughout Britain or the British Isles were usually based in lowland England, the only place capable of supporting tehm. The extension of power from the lowlands to the highlands was a difficult challenge due to the difficulty of the terrain. Mountainous Wales preserved its independence for centuries despite its poverty and its inability to unite politically. The only invaders to subdue Wales before the 13th century were the well-organized and disciplined Roman legions, and it took them years after the conquest of England. The less-organized Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans had a much harder time, and Wales was only permanently annexed to England in 1284.

“The greater poverty of the highlands meant that highlanders often raided lowlanders, creating hostility between the two. The highlands were also more culturally and linguistically conservative. Cultural innovations usually originated in the lowlands and spread to the highlands. The highlands were where the Celtic languages lasted the longest, as English and its offshoots, originally the language of Anglo-Saxon invaders, became the dominant tongue of the lowlands in the early Middle Ages. This cultural division further added to the hostility between highland and lowland peoples.”

from The Environment of Early Man in the British Isles (1975) [pgs. 147-149]:

“The Highland Zone/Lowland Zone division

“It is from this time [late bronze/early iron age] onwards that the division of the British Isles into Highland and Lowland Zones becomes relevant. The division has been used by geographers to explain differences in settlement patterns, farming practices and the quality of material culture between the two zones, and Cyril Fox exploited it to a considerable extent in ‘The Personality of Britain’.

“In brief, the Highland Zone (Fig. 62) is that part of the British Isles which is made up of the most ancient group of rocks, those formed in the Paleozoic Era. They lie in the north and west and the division with the later Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks of the Lowland Zone falls roughly on a line from the mouth of the Tees to the mouth of the Exe. The Palaeozoic rocks are generally hard, forming mountainous regions, with continuous streches over 300 metres above sea level. Plains and vales are not extensive. There are steep slopes and crags making cultivation difficult or impossible, and soils are often thin, stony and impoverished. Rainfall is high and there is a strong correspondence between the chief moorland areas and mean annual rainfall.

“Lowland Britain, on the other hand, is made up of geologically younger rocks which are softer, and which have given rise to a series of low-lying, rolling hills and intervening extensive vales and plains. Slopes are gentle, crags few and almost all the land is available for tillage, pasture or settlement. Soils are generally fertile and there is little evidence of erosion. Rainfall is light and there is little waste ground.

“But there are many topographical exceptions, in particular various lowland areas within the Highland Zone. Some of these are relatively small — the Vale of Glamorgan, the Hebridean machair and certain fertile river valleys such as Strath Tay. Others are of much greater extent, including the Central Scottish Lowlands, East Banff and Aberdeen, and the Orkney Islands. Ireland can be divided topographically into its own Highland and Lowland Zoens, and presents an anomaly in that approximately half the country is essentially lowland but situated in a high rainfall area….

“Indeed, the key distinction between the Highland and Lowland Zones is not so much elevation and topography as rainfall which is greatest in the west (Fig. 62) since this is the direction from which the main rain-bearing winds blow….

britain - lowland-highland zones

“[F]or a variety of economic and environmental reasons, the first millennium bc represents a period of significant change in the Highland Zone. Fields were abandoned and either reverted to pasture or waste ground, or became covered by peat. In low-lying areas communications became difficult because of mire formation or flooding. The importance of stone and Highland Zone metal deposits dwindled. And there was no great exploitation of timber for iron smelting as occurred in the Lowland Zone. Indeed, it is from the beginning of the Iron Age that the Highland Zone as a whole assumes the pastoral character which it has retained ever since.

“‘It is generally understood that…the remains of the monuments and material costructed or used throughout Britain reveal no noticeable differences in quality between the lowland and highland areas until well into the first millennium bc, but that thereafter a contrast developed between the two areas, comprising a falling-off of the material culture of the highland in comparison with that of the lowland — a contrast which has lasted to the present day.’”

look! another line – the tees-exe line (the red one):

tees-exe line

from The British Isles: A History of Four Nations (1989, 2006) [pgs. 18-19]:

“To draw attention to this fact [i.e. that much of the pre-roman british isles was a part of a broader european celtic culture] is not to say that there was political and social uniformity throughout the area. The existence of tribal groupings in both Britain and Ireland is an indication of political differences at the local level. The Romans, to whom we are indebted for Latin versions of tribal names in the absence of their original Celtic forms, distinguished over twenty tribes in Britain south of the Forth. In Ireland, where politcal aggregation had not gone as far as it had elsewhere, the number of tribes seems to have been much larger.

“One powerful cause of variety was geography, in particular the contrast between Highland and Lowland Zones. It was Sir Cyril Fox who argued in his book ‘The Personality of Britain’ (1932) that the Lowlands would usually be exposed to forces of change before the Highlands. The Highland/Lowland contrast certainly makes good sense when applied to Britain, where north and west form a distinctive geographical area, including a good deal of land over 400 metres above sea-level. Poorer soil and climatic conditions made agriculture more of a challenge in the Highland Zone than it was in the south and east. In a British Isles context, however, the Highland/Lowland contrast is not quite so clear. Ireland, which has been compared to a saucer in which the rim represents the hills and the flat base the central plain, is not, geologically speaking, a Highland Zone. There is no doubt, however, that the narrow seas between north-west Ireland and south-west Scotland linked rather than divided them. At this particular period, however, it may be seen as forming part of a ‘cultural Highland Zone’, cut off, for better or worse, from the influence of the rising military power of Rome.

“Geographical determinism should not be pressed too far, however. It can also be argued that, under certain conditions, the Irish Sea provided a channel of communication…. It also seems to have been the case during the fifth and sixth centuries AD when Christian communities on both sides of the Irish Sea retained their links with Christian Europe at a time when the eastern half of Britain was being overrun by Germanic settlers. The Irish presence in Scotland in the sixth century AD and in parts of Wales illustrates the same point….

Another contrast between the Highland and Lowland Zones was almost certainly demographic. No firm statistical evidence exists but several strong indicators suggest that there was a considerable increase of population in the Lowlands from the fifth century onwards, well before the Belgic invasions. A good deal of internal colonisation seems to have taken place during this period….”

from The Culture of the English People: Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution (1994) [pgs. 5-7]:

“Some fifty years ago Sir Cyril Fox published one of the most seminal books in the history of British archaeology and culture, ‘The Personality of Britain’. In it he distinguished two parts of these islands, a ‘highland’ zone and a ‘lowland’ zone, with a boundary between them which ran from County Durham to Lyme Bay on the south coast (Fig. 1.1). This line separated a predominantly hilly region of Paleozoic rocks from a gentler region of Secondary and later rocks. These two regions, he argued, corresponded with two differing modes of cultural evolution. Simply expressed, his argument was that the bearers of outside cultural influences reached the Highland Zone often by sea and almost always in small numbers. Their impact was never sufficient to blanket or submerge the indigenous cultures. Instead they became assimilated. Elements of older cultures are today not only present, but conspicuously so in Highland Britain. Lowland Britain, by contrast, lay at the receiving end of a long series of invasions, from those who walked across the landbridge which once existed with Europe to the more recent invasions of Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Each wave was powerful enough to impress its own culture, and thus to mask or to destroy pre-existing cultures. Fox commented on the relative ease with which new civilizations are established in the Lowland Zone, repressing without necessarily obliterating those which had prevailed before. ‘There is [thus] greater unity of culture in the Lowland Zone, but greater continuity in the Highland Zone.’

“The Fox model has not been without its critics. Some, including the present writer, would interpose a third zone covering the basically claylands of the English Midlands, between the Highland and the Lowland, with its own distinctive cultural history. But, however modified, the Fox model has been of incalculable imortance to a cultural history of these islands. It gives a rational explanation for a phenomenon which will recur in the pages of this book, namely the persistence of early cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural homogeneity in the lowlands of the south and east.”

england - lowland-midland-highland zones

previously: this one’s for g.w. and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people

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pretty much only medieval europe today…

from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 [pgs. 87-89, 91]:

In some parts of medieval East Central Europe animal herding was the primary means of livelihood. In Albania the inhabitants of the coastal districts evidently lost their connection with agriculture in the 6th and 7th centuries in the wake of the Slavic invasions. Adopting a pastoral life-style, they survived by tending sheep in the mountains, migrating twice annually between winter and summer pastures. These mountaineers regularly raided the plains settlements, supplementing their incomes with plunder. The Magyars had been herders on the Ukrainian steppes prior to invading Central Europe; and even in Hungary, stock raising was their principal means of support. They avoided the thick beeach and pine forests which could not be used as pasture, leaving these to Slavic, German, or Vlach peasants. Travelers of the 12th century described Hungary as one vast grazing area, interrupted only occasionally by patches of cultivated land. The Magyars spent their winters in villages set alongside riverbanks, often in shelters hollowed out of the earth. In spring they sowed their seed, then moved on to the grasslands where they lived in tents. At harvest time they returned to their villages. Their winter habitats were usually near a fortress, while summer residences were located in the vicinity of pastures.

Similarly the early Serbs lived primarily from stock raising, an occupation well suited to their hilly country. (The region known as Serbia in the 12th century faced the Adriatic and included the rough terrain of Hercegovina and Montenegro.) The chronicler William of Tyre, passing through Serbia in 1168 on his way to the Holy Land, described the local people as warlike mountaineers, rich in milk, cheese, butter, meat, honey, and wax. The Serbs that he observed lived entirely from the products of their herds, although we now know that they also practiced a moderate agriculture in the valleys. Hog raising was a primary activity in medieval Serbia just as in modern times, thanks to an abundant supply of acorns for pigs to feed upon in the thick oak forests. Hunting was also important: bears, wolves, stags, boars, rabbits, martens, and foxes were abundant. Fishing was carried on everywhere in the lakes and streams….

Stock raising continued to be widely practiced in East Central Europe long after agriculture had become the dominant economic activity. Many animal herders were Vlachs (ancestors of the modern Romanians), who spoke a language derived from Latin. Subsisting on the products of their flocks, they lived in the mountainous regions of southern Poland, Transylvania, and the Balkan Peninsula….

“Whether a free agricultrual population — consisting neither of serfs bound to the land nor of slaves who were owned outright — existed in the early medieval period is a question not easily answered. Conditions varied widely from country to country, and even within a single regions. Nevertheless, it is clear that when the great Slavic migrations came to an end in the 6th-7th centuries and the tribesmen settled down to agriculture, serfdom was unknown. Settled areas were held in common by the clans or tribes….

Hungary in the 11th and 12th centuries was still largely a pastoral country, where members of the tribes remained free people subject only to their sovereign. The class of true peasants, as opposed to herders engaging in occasional agriculture, was for a long time relatively small. The spread of serfdom was hindered at first by the fact that so much of the land still belonged to communities of herdsmen….. [A]s agriculture gradually replaced herding, the property of the clans was broken up into private estates which were held mainly by nobles and churchmen. Gradually the free Magyar clansmen were transformed into serfs.”

who knew? previously: the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and more on albanians.

how to put a stop to a feud the early medieval way (the following event happened in the 500s a.d.) — from Family, Friends and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe [pg. 33]:

“[K]inship ties were immensely important to the status and rank of this nobility. This may be seen, for instance, from Gregory of Tours’ report of a bitter feud between two Frankish kin-groups. In this case offence had been given when a man from one kin-group was accused of associating with prostitutes and being unfaithful to his wife, who belonged to the other kin-group. This provoked the woman’s brother to attack his brother-in-law, leading to a series of fights in which both men, and most of their supporters, were killed. The fathers of the two dead men then took up the feud. The Merovingian queen, Fredegund, brought an end to the fighting: she invited the leaders of both warring factions to a meal and, when these men and their *pueri* had become drunk, she had them all killed. There can be little doubt that the two kin-groups involved were extremely powerful because the remaining *parentes* were still strong enough to force the queen to flee.”

so, the merovingian franks were still clannish and feuding. previously: early medieval bavarians and feuds & honor killings.

here, btw, is fredegund … attempting to kill her daughter! (no idea if she was successful or not):


finally, khan krum — krum the horrible — of bulgaria after his defeat of the byzantine emperor nikephoros i being served some wine by a (very nervous looking) servant. the wine has been poured into a skull cup made from nikephoros’ cranium!:

krum the horrible

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the tsarnaev brothers’ mother is an avar from dagestan, not a chechen (their father is chechen [or is he? see below]):

“Hunt for Boston Clues Reveals Tanged Caucasus Web”

“… The brothers’ mother, Zubeidat, is an ethnic Avar, the predominant ethnic group in Dagestan, their father told The Wall Street Journal. Dagestan itself is inhabited by dozens of ethnicities and is home to mushrooming Salafist groups preaching the implementation of Sharia law in the republic.

“Having an Avar for a mother makes the brothers only half Chechen, but the fact that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan are still being labeled as fully Chechen in the international media only highlights how difficult it can be to get through the ethnic complexity of the North Caucasus. …”

not that knowing that someone is an avar makes anything clearer, since there are over a dozen (13? 15?) sub-ethnic groups amongst the avar of dagestan (no, i don’t understand any of it either!).

see also: Boston Marathon Bombings: Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Home

the avars (and other peoples of dagestan) are clannish, too — from Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan [pgs. 1-3]:

“With its mountainous terrain making travel and communication difficult, Daghestan is still largely tribal and, unlike in most other parts of Russia, the population (2,576,531 in 2002) is rapidly growing. Despite over a century of Tsarist control followed by seventy years of repressive Soviet rule, there are still 32 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language, and Avar is the most widely spoken with about 700,000 speakers. With so many indigenous ethnic groups, Daghestan is unquestionably the most complex of the Caucasian republics.

“In the lowlands can be found Turkic nomads: Kumyks, Noghays, and a few displaced Turkomans. In the northern highlands are the Avars, the Andis, Karatas, Chamalals, Bagwalals, Akhwakhs, Botlikhs, Godoberis, and Tindis. Still in the high valleys but going south toward the Georgian border are the Tsez (Dido), Gionukhs, Hunzibs, Khwarshis, and Bezhitas (Kapuchis). South of the Avar are the Laks, Dargwas, Kubachis, and Khaidaqs, all forming a related group of peoples. In one high village, standing apart from them, are the Archies, whose links lie further south with the so-called Lezgian peoples: the Aghuls, Tabasarans, and Rutuls. A few of the Lezgis and most of the Tsakhurs spill over into Azerbaijan in the south. Other Daghesantis who are restricted to northern Azerbaijan are the Kryz in one mountain village and three coastal ones, Buduks (one mountain village), Udis (two mountain villages), and Khinalugs (one mountain village). There is also a group called ‘Mountain Jews’ (Givrij or Dagchifut) who speak an Iranian language in Daghestan. They are sometimes called ‘Tats,’ but are not to be confused with the Muslim Tats further south on the Aspheron peninsula of Azerbaijan. In addition there are a few Daghestani Cossacks who are strongly assimilaed to indigenous patterns.

“Colarusso (1997) who compiled the above list, stresses that all thirty-two

“‘are distinct peoples, however small they may be, with their own languages, customs, costumes, arts, and architectures. Many are further subdivided by tribes, clans, and bloodlines. Conversely, most will traditionally form larger units for self-defence when threatened. This is particularly true of the smaller peoples of Daghestan. In ethnographic, social, and political terms the Caucasus is like a minature continent.’

“To give some idea of the problems caused by the linguistic mix, despite the fact that Dargi and Avar are spoken by people living side by side with each other they are in fact mutually incomprehensible languages (see Chenciner et al, 1997, p.9). Multilingualism is therefore virtually universal. Nearly everyone speaks Russian in addition to their own language, and many have some command of several neighbouring languages too….

Most of the ethnic groups ‘are subdivided into *tukhums*, or extended family clans, which traditionally did not intermarry and often fought long blood feuds. The *tukhum* managed the village affairs and laws. Today, the *tukhum* still functions as a unit, but to greatly varying degrees among different ethnic groups of the mountain land…. In the villages of Daghestan, the clans have their own tea houses in which their members gather.”

sounds familiar.

i tried to find out which teip (clan) [tайп] the tsarnaev family belongs to, but didn’t have any luck. not being able to read either russian or chechen didn’t make the project any easier!

i did, however, find out what village and region in chechnya the father’s family is originally from:

“Boston accusations shock brothers’ Kyrgyz hometown”

“…their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya….”

here is chiri-yurt [Чири-Юрт], which is in the shalinsky district of the chechen republic. according to the russian wikipedia page for chiri-yurt [google translation]:

In 1944, after the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, and the elimination of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic village of Chiri-Yurt was renamed Nadreche and populated by immigrants from neighboring Dagestan.[8] After the restoration of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, locality returned the former name of Chiri-Yurt.”

so … wait. does that mean that the chiri-yurtians (and, therefore, the tsarnaevs) are actually dagestanis and not chechens? i’m so confused….

also, an interesting tidbit from that haaretz article. recall that the tsarnaevs had been refugees in tokmok, kyrgyzstan:

“In Tokmok, the Tsarnaev clan alone inhabited a whole street before most of them moved back to their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya in the 1960s, residents said.”

finally, some neat towers from chechnya! these aren’t tower houses built to protect clans during blood feuds. instead these are a part of some larger fortress (built 800-900 years ago? in the 800-900s?) guarding the argun gorge which is near chiri-yurt. i thought they were cool!:


previously: those clannish chechens

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cousin marriage rates for german jews living in the prussian province of hohenzollern between ca. 1875-1920 (117 marriages):

- first cousin marriages = 16.2% ± 3.4%
- consanguineous marriage up to and including second cousins = 19.6% ± 3.7%

source [pdf]. original source: Reutlinger, W. 1922. Über die Häufigkeit der Verwandtenehen bei den Juden in Hohenzollern, und über Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus jüdischen Verwandtenehen. Arch. Rassenb. 14: 301-305.

a little more on these rates from In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria 1918-1933 [pgs. 234 and 241]:

“On the other hand, there is considerable evidence to back up the impression that village Jews were marrying cousins and other close relatives in increasingly large numbers.[44] …

“[44] In Hohenzollern, there was an 11 percent rate of marriage to relatives (5 percent to first cousins) among Jewish couples who died before 1922; of those still alive in 1922, the rate had increased to 22 percent (16 percent to first cousins. These rates were several times as high as the rates for Christian marriages. See Wilhelm Reutlinger, ‘Uber die Haufligkeit der Verwandtenehen bei Juden in Hohenzollern und uber Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus judischen Verwandtenehene,’ Archiv fur Rassen- un Gesellschaftsbiologie 14 (1922): 301-303, quoted by Marion Kaplan The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York, 1991), p. 273 note 206. See also Cahnman, ‘Village and Small-Town Jews,’ pp. 122-23, for an impressionistic discussion of the same phenomenon.”

so, the rates of consanguineous marriages increased for jews in hohenzollern over the period from 1875-1920. that pretty much mirrors the general trend of increasing cousin marriage rates right across europe at the time, only the actual rates for the hohenzollern jews were much higher than for most europeans — well, at least most germans.

this 11% consanguineous rate (5% to first cousins) for jewish couples who died before 1922 is a lot higher than the only other definite rate i have for european jews which is from alsace-lorraine in 1872-76 (so i’m thinking these might be kinda contemporaneous rates) — and that rate was 2.3% (consanguineous marriages).

see also: jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia.

a bizarre story on a case of cousin marriage and inbreeding depression from china that … well, i’ll just let you read it for yourselves. from A Family That Climbed Out of Inbreeding Depression [pg. 1064]:

“In 2008, a family was fortuitously found in Northeast China. Before the 1948 Revolution, this family was wealthy and owned vast amount of land. After nationalization, the family was given a tiny house with a small plot of land. Subsequently, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), all landowning families in the country were severely prosecuted and socially ostracized. The social stigma on the members of former land owning families was so persuasive that any form of association with them was deemed as dangerous. At that time, there were two children of marriageable age. As their parents were unable to find unrelated mates from the society, they arranged an intra-family marriage between available first cousins. The union produced five offspring: three mentally retarded girls, one deaf-mute girl, and one mentally retarded boy who did not survive (Figure 1). The consanguineous (first cousin) parents supported their four disabled daughters throughout their childhood. By the time these daughters were of marriageable age, the Cultural Revolution in China was over and the social stigma of land-owning families was lifted. Thus, the consanguineous parents were able to arrange marriages of their four unfit daughters with four biologically unrelated men. The deaf and mute girl was married to a deaf and mute man from the same village. The three mentally retarded daughters were married to healthy men, of low socioeconomic status, and they resided in their husbands’ homes in the same village. The most severely retarded daughter was married to a poor man who came to their family looking for food; he was offered this daughter and accommodation within the family household. After marriages of their daughters, the consanguineous parents continued to support all four families, and each of the four daughters produced one healthy child (maximally allowed number of children in China at the time). The most severely retarded daughter accidentally lost one child at birth. Today, the consanguineous couple has four grandchildren who are attending regular school and are expected to marry to biologically unrelated mates….”

could the cultural revolution have encouraged cousin marriages during the time period in china? at least in some sectors? weird.

weregilds. did you know that weregild payments were made directly from one clan/kindred member to his corresponding clan/kindred member in the other clan/kindred (whichever was the aggrieved clan)? i didn’t.

i always imagined that all the weregild payments were sorta pooled together and passed from one clan to the other, but no … the father in one clan paid directly the father in the other clan, the father’s brother in one clan paid directly the father’s brother in the other clan, and so on and so forth. at least that’s how it was done in iceland … at least according to phillpotts [pg. 13]:

“Each class pays to the corresponding class of the opposite side, thus the father, son and brother of the slayer pay to the corresponding kinsmen of the slain. It is to be observed that the slayer pays nothing, the assumption being that he was exiled and his goods forfeited.”


i mentioned over here that edmund i (922–946) seems to have been one of the first anglo-saxon/english kings to have really tried to put an end to the traditional blood feuds in england (which were tied to the weregild payments — see above — if the weregild wasn’t paid when someone was slain, the aggrieved clan/kindred had the right to exact revenge on the slayer’s clan/kindred). re. one of his law codes (from phillpotts – pgs. 218-19):

Eadmund’s secular laws mark a notable advance in one respect: private warfare between families, as a result of a slaying, is to be stamped out, and the slayer alone is to bear the feud, if feud there is to be.

“II. 1. ‘If henceforth anyone kills any man, let him himself bear the feud, unless with the help of friends he pays full wergild within 12 months, whatever the birth (of the slain man,’ i.e. however high the wergild be).

“It must be remembered that a slayer is not involved in a feud unless he cannot or will not pay wergild; and if he can pay wergild there is no feud. So here we must assume that the slayer has not been able to produce the sum out of his own pocket, and that his kinsmen have been unable or unwilling to help him. That even this secondary liability of the kinsmen is purely voluntary is seen from the next clause:

“1. ‘If the *mægð* [kindred/extended family] forsakes him, and will not pay for him, then I will, that all the *mægð* be without feud, save the actual delinquent, if they give him thereafter neither food nor protection.

“2. ‘If however thereafter any one of his kinsmen shelter him, then let him be liable to the king for all that he possesses, and bear the feud with the *mægð* (of the slain), for they (the kinsmen) had before forsaken the slayer.

“3. ‘If however one of the other *mægð* takes vengeance on any other man than the actual delinquent, let him be outlaw to the king and to all his (the king’s) friends, and lose all that he possesses.’”

so edmund is the earliest example i know of in england of the state trying to position itself in between all of the homicidal lunatics in order to put an end to the violence. he (or the crown, i suppose) would pay the weregild if a clan/kindred wouldn’t in order to stop a blood feud from erupting.

edmund didn’t live very long though — he died (heh) in a fight when he was just 26 — so i don’t know how well-enforced his edict ever was.

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