father’s brother’s daughter marriage

or fbd marriage (or patrilateral parallel cousin marriage). i mentioned this before (and i’m sure i’ll mention it again).

cousin marriage is pretty common in the world. but most peoples prefer to marry their cross cousins, i.e. (from the point-of-view of a son) father’s sister’s daughter or mother’s brother’s daughter.

however, a few groups of peoples preferentially follow the fbd system. korotayev (2000) convincingly showed that those peoples are mostly to be found in those areas of the world that were a part of the eighth century islamic caliphate. or, here:

he said (in that same article):

“Islamic law does not prohibit FBD marriage, nor does it impose (or even recommend) it (Schacht 1964; al-Jazi:ri: 1990:60-61). But most traditional cultures have a clear perception that marriage between a man and his FBD is incestuous. This is evident in the fact that in most languages a kinship term for FBD (or MSD) would be identical with a kinship term for one’s sister. This normally implies that marriage with a FBD (or MSD) would be perceived as equivalent to marriage with a sister (Korotayev 1999). There appears to be something here that Kronenfeld (pers. comm.) called a ‘cognitive problem’….”

i think fbd marriage is considered incestuous by most peoples because it creates strongly endogamous lineages. look here — here’s fbd marriage versus fzd (father’s sister’s daughter) marriage. look what happens: in fbd marriage, the men and the women all stay within the same clan. that’s hyper-endogamy if you ask me. in fzd marriage, in contrast, the women move between clans. (the straight lines are men, the dotted lines are women, and the big dots are, well, the union of a man and woman.)

continuing with korotayev, where on earth did fbd marriage come from?:

“At the time of its origin, FBD marriage had nothing to do with Islam. The cognitive problem solution seems to have occurred somewhere in the Syro-Palestine region well before the birth of Christ. Rodionov (1999) has recently drawn attention to the fact that this marriage pattern is widespread in the non-Islamic cultures of this area (e.g., Maronites or Druze) and that it has considerable functional value in this non-Islamic context in facilitating the division of property among brothers after their father’s death (Rodionov 1999). Like Rodionov (1999), I believe that this marriage pattern could hardly be attributed to Islamic or Arab influence here. It seems, rather, that this marriage pattern in the Islamic world and the non-Islamic Syro-Palestinian cultures stems from the same source.

“But prior to the time of Islam, the diffusion of the FBD marriage pattern was rather limited. The only adjacent area where it diffused widely was the Arabian Peninsula (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994), where its diffusion can be linked with a considerable Jewish influence in the area well before Islam (Crone 1987; Korotayev 1996; Korotayev, Klimenko, and Proussakov 1999). In any case, by the seventh century, preferential parallel-cousin marriage became quite common among several important Arab tribes (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994). In the seventh and eighth centuries, an explosive diffusion of this pattern took place when Arab tribes, backed by Islam, spread throughout the whole of the Omayyid Khalifate. Although preferential parallel-cousin marriage diffused (together with Islam and Arabs) later beyond the borders of the Omayyid Khalifate, the extent of this diffusion was very limited. Hence, the present distribution of FBD marriage was essentially created by the Muslim Arab conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries….”

interesting, huh?

i mentioned over here that i thought the practice should really be called father’s brother’s son marriage — not ’cause i’m a raving feminst who wants everything to be considered from the point-of-view of women (you should know me better than that by now!) — but, rather, because it seems to me to be the father-of-the-bride [“C” in chart below] who really wins out here genetically speaking (which is all that matters, right?). the father-of-the-bride gets to “reunite” his y-chromosome (that he shares with his nephew, his brother’s son) with a quarter of his autosomal dna (his daughter carries half of his autosomal dna) in any male grandkids that he has. what other grandfather gets to do that?:

so what?, you say. here’s what, says i (i.e. relatedness matters).

i also think it’s not a coincidence that, in these societies where fbd marriage exists, you also get these extremely paternalistic societies where women are shrouded in burkas or aren’t allowed to drive or whatever. also, the whole honor killing thing. like rs said here, the males in such societies become “super homies” with each other. exactly! why? ’cause they are really closely related genetically.

i suspect that both the degree and type of genetic relatedness in a society affect all sorts of behaviors of its members (especially those related to reproduction) as well as societal norms and even ideologies (again, especially those related to reproduction).

emmanuel todd seems to have gotten close to this idea as well, although i don’t think he got the genetic side of it (i haven’t actually gotten my hands on a copy of this book yet — gosh-d*rnit!). here’s a blurb about his book, “The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structure and Social Systems (Family, Sexuality and Social Relations in Past Times)”:

“Some parts of the world are dominated by communism, others by Catholicism or by Islam and yet others by liberal doctrines. Why should this be? And why has communism triumphed in Russia, China and Cuba, yet failed in Poland, Cambodia and Indonesia? No one knows. Certainly no clear answer lies in variation of climate, environment, race or, even, economic development. The argument of this book is that world variations in social ideology and belief are conditioned by family structure. The author analyzes the distribution of family forms throughout the world, and examines the relations between particular structures, and (for example) communism, totalitarianism and individualism, as well as the links between these forms and a variety of social phenomena – illegitimacy, suicide, infanticide, marital stability and inheritance laws. He offers evidence to support the belief that family structures and kinship patterns lie behind the ideologies that have shaped the history of the 20th century.”

yes, kinship patterns. and what do kinship patterns reflect? mating patterns.

here’s a little hint at what todd had to say about kinship patterns in the once-part-of-the-caliphate muslim world from a helpful reviewer:

“Endogamous Community Family:
a. Spouse selection: Custom, frequent marriage between the children of brothers.
b. Inheritance: Egalitarian – equality between brothers.
c. Family Home: cohabitation of married sons with their parents.
d. Representative Nations, Peoples, Regions: Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan.
e. Representative Ideology: Islam.”

it’s not the family structure that matters, it’s the mating patterns i say.

relatedness matters. a LOT, i think.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and all cousins are not created equal

edit – a nifty diagram of father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriage:

(note: comments do not require an email. but you will have to answer me these questions three…. *diabolical laughter*)

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29 Comments

  1. To me the diagram makes FBD and FZD look basically the same. Each has two patrilines exchanging women. The only difference is that in FBD, the two patrilines had a fairly recent common ancestor. But after 10 or 20 generations, does that really matter so much? After all, the relatedness that it adds, at that point, is very little.

    I wonder how old the average clan is.

    Since the FBD-FZD difference looks non-salient to me after 6 or 8 generations, I would have predicted that FZD peoples also form hostile, mostly-endogenous clans just like FBD peoples.

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  2. @rs – “Each has two patrilines exchanging women.”

    yes, but there are (what i think must be important) differences (see the nifty diagram i added to the post):

    1) the marriage (for the guy) is no longer within his patrilineage — he’s not a “super homie” anymore with his dad and his father-in-law/uncle, ’cause this father-in-law he’s not related to (or, at least, he’s not his uncle);

    2) more of the same, the fzd system, being a system where cross-cousins (not parallel cousins) marry, is more exogamous than the fbd system ’cause marriages don’t always take place within the patrilineage — see here. there’s more opportunities for clans to make (biological) alliances with outside clans — or, at least, sub-clan families — not just to keep marrying themselves all the time;

    3) fzd marriage uncle doesn’t get to “reunite” his y-chromosome and 1/4 of his autosomal genes in his grandsons — he’s not “super homies” with them anymore either.

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  3. @r.s. – “I wonder how old the average clan is.”

    good question. you would think that would depend on birth-rates + resource availability.

    Reply

  4. On the Bedouin diagram, if ego, male, belongs to one of the two marriages in the last generation – where is father’s brother? I know he’s “supposed” to be one generation up on the opposite side, but why is that father’s brother? He don’t look like father’s brother to me, but rather a cousin of father who has married father’s sister.

    I’m being an idiot most likely but I can’t see it.

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  5. > He don’t look like father’s brother to me, but rather a cousin of father who has married father’s sister.

    Actually, they’re cousins who have both married each other’s sisters. But I don’t see how they are /brothers/.

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  6. @r.s. – “I’m being an idiot most likely but I can’t see it.”

    heh. no, you’re not being an idiot. these are some really funky, obscure kinda (altho maybe not obscure in the kinship field) charts. i kinda regret using them now ’cause they are so weird, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    remember — the dots aren’t people. the dots are marriages. (i know — weird.) the solid lines are males, and the dotted lines are females. so, on the bedouin chart, the top dot is the marriage of the clan founder and his wife. they have two sons (two solid lines going downwards). they marry — who knows. but from each of those marriages (dots), there are two children. a male (solid line going down) and a female (dotted line crossing over to meet and mate with her male cousin). make sense?

    here’s the description from the article i took it from. maybe that’ll be better than mine:

    Figure 2 makes use of the p-graph approach (White and Jorion 1992, 1996) in representing a set of marital linkages. The solid lines represent men and the dotted lines represent women. The downward intersection of solid and dotted lines indicate marriages and the lines that flow downward from those ‘marriages’ represent their children. In order to simplify matters, it is assumed in Figure 2 that everyone marries and has two children, a boy and a girl.

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  7. Interesting stuff.

    What i’m curious about is the sequence (simplified of course) from the beginning. If you take your basic human it’s beneficial they have some love / empathy for their kin and it seems to me that combined with the benefits of (not too near) endogamy that would lead to attraction based on nearness of kin. However the disbenefits of too near kin would lead to some kind of biological incest blocking mechanism working in the opposite direction.

    So whichever came first you’d end up with what would be in effect two opposing forces which makes me think there’d be some kind of border zone where the blocking mechanism had petered out but where close-kin attraction still applied to some extent. I’d guess this border meanders down the cousin line (but not neccessarily evenly as some combinations are closer than others).

    If so i’d imagine the most endogamous commonly known cousin marriage system would be the most likely default case; the case everyone followed in the past and which some groups gradually moved away from over time using social mechanisms.

    If FBD is more endogamous then i’d have thought it would be the default rather than FSD, with FSD being a later development when a priest of some kind decided FBD was a bit too close. However that doesn’t seem to fit the chronology unless perhaps tribes in north africa and Arabia were FBD, others in the middle-east had changed to FSD but were then changed back by the Arab conquest.

    The Jewish take on this is probably relevant but there seems not to be any cousin restriction if i read it right. If it’s unchanged you’d think the Jewish code would be likely to be similar or stricter to the standard code around in the middle east at the time long before the Arab conquest

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_views_on_incest

    “What is clear, is that no opinion in the Talmud forbids marriage to a cousin or a sister’s daughter (a class of niece), and it even commends marriage to the latter[19]”

    So maybe the Arabs were stricter than the prevailing standard in the middle east before their conquest?

    .

    Reply

  8. @g.w. – “If you take your basic human it’s beneficial they have some love / empathy for their kin and it seems to me that combined with the benefits of (not too near) endogamy that would lead to attraction based on nearness of kin. However the disbenefits of too near kin would lead to some kind of biological incest blocking mechanism working in the opposite direction.

    So whichever came first you’d end up with what would be in effect two opposing forces….”

    quite so. on the one hand, you’ve got the westermarck effect where people are grossed out at the thought of mating with someone they grew up with — which is usually your siblings but can, of course, include members of your extended family or even non-relatives. (i’ve read about some individuals in the arab|muslim world who have had to marry cousins with whom they grew up and they haven’t been too happy with the situation ’cause they felt like they were marrying their sister or brother.) that’s the incest blocking mechanism.

    on the other hand, you’ve got genetic sexual attraction where people are attracted to people like themselves (part of rushton’s genetic similarity theory). here you get those really interesting cases where sometimes brothers and sisters (or half-siblings) who never knew each other wind up meeting and marrying ’cause they find their sibling sooooooo attractive. “we have soooo much in common!” oops.

    what i wonder is, if a group can solve the cognitive problem of mating with those who naturally feel to be too close relatives, if then in subsequent generations the task becomes easier because everyone in the group is more related and, therefore, more similar to one another. maybe it gets easier to be attracted to cousins the more inbred a group is? does the genetic sexual attraction become stronger once the group has initially jumped the hurdle of mating too close?

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  9. @g.w. – “If so i’d imagine the most endogamous commonly known cousin marriage system would be the most likely default case; the case everyone followed in the past and which some groups gradually moved away from over time using social mechanisms.”

    if you look at the whole world and not just the once-part-of-the-caliphate muslim world, then currently (and ever since anthropologists have been butting their noses into other societies’ businesses) cross cousin marriage is the most common form of cousin marriage. that’s marrying your father’s sister’s daughter or your mother’s brother’s daughter.

    my impression (altho i could be wrong ’cause i haven’t read that much about it yet) is that mother’s brother’s daughter (matrilateral cross cousin marriage) is the most common in asia. it also occurs in some african societies, altho regarding africa i really haven’t got a clue at all.

    @g.w.- “The Jewish take on this is probably relevant but there seems not to be any cousin restriction if i read it right. If it’s unchanged you’d think the Jewish code would be likely to be similar or stricter to the standard code around in the middle east at the time long before the Arab conquest.”

    there’s no cousin marriage restriction amongst jews and, in fact, amongst the ancient hebrews, fbd marriage was a rule, particularly if a father had only daughters. you’d want them marrying in the patrilineage so that the wealth didn’t go out of the family. in fact, korotayev (quoted above) and others have suggested that it was the jews who migrated to the arabian peninsula that brought fbd marriage practices with them, giving the idea to the arabs. oh, the jews. always causing trouble! (~_^)

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  10. “you’ve got the westermarck effect”
    “you’ve got genetic sexual attraction”

    Interesting links, ty.

    “in fact, korotayev (quoted above) and others have suggested that it was the jews who migrated to the arabian peninsula that brought fbd marriage practices with them, giving the idea to the arabs”

    Yeah that’s the bit i was surprised at. I was thinking the default human form would always be more endogamous and later adaptions always less so and further assumed the arab forms would the default ones simply through being nomadic rather than settled.

    Seems not.

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  11. @g.w. – “…further assumed the arab forms would the default ones simply through being nomadic rather than settled.”

    well there is a connection between fbd marriage and pastoralism. there’s a lot of talk about it in the literature anyway. has to do with not splitting up the herds when it comes time for the kids (or the sons, anyway) to inherit. keeping the wealth of the family together.

    Reply

  12. “well there is a connection between fbd marriage and pastoralism”

    That makes more sense to me, especially if Jews were nomadic before settling down.

    Reply

  13. I ran into your site today while looking for something else, but I’ll definitely be back. Since I’m new, I haven’t read enough here to know if you’ve answered this previously, or not, but I remember reading once that a major driver for consanguineous marriage in ancient times, was security. In a society where there was no police department, it always was comforting to know that the person beside you in a fight was related. For that reason, marrying strangers was not encouraged. I’m pretty sure I read that in Raphael Patai’s book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Family-Bible-Middle-East/dp/B000MZW2P4
    that I borrowed once, and unfortunately don’t have access to any more. It certainly seems to fit well with various stories in Genesis about Abraham.

    Reply

  14. @bj – hey there! and welcome. (^_^)

    that’s actually a reason for inbreeding that i hadn’t heard before, but it sure makes sense. the reason i see given the most is the “keeping the wealth in the family” one, but of course the one doesn’t rule out the other.

    i haven’t read patai (yet) either, but i recognize his name. another book to add to the list! (^_^)

    Reply

  15. […] A look at the Celtic fringe brings me to my next important factor: the type of agriculture practiced.  In this case, it is the difference between a primarily farming based subsistence and a pastoral one. Presumably, the rough terrain of Scotland (among other things) helped to limit the spread of the manor there.  As well, a herding lifestyle favors inbreeding as to not breakup the herds too much, as we see with the Muslim world. […]

    Reply

  16. You do realize that the Quran specifically mentions cousin marriage as halal (legitimate) don’t you? Because I have not seen you explicitly referring to that verse. With regards to the ageof the clans, you may be interested in knowing that Ancient Greek geographers like Srabo, etc. described the region and named all the tribes. None of the tribe names that they mentioned around 100 BC can be correlated with the tribe names at the dawn of Islam. The names are totally diffrent.

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  17. Sorry, my last comment was wrong and with typos. The Quran does not actually specify cousin marriage as legitimate. But it does list some types of marriage that are forbidden in 4:23 and cousin marriage is not listed as forbidden:

    “Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, Mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives’ mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past”

    Also the Islamic tradition stating that Muhammad himself married one of his cousins (Zaynab) and he allowed his daughter (Fatimah) to be married to his cousin Ali. Many of his closest companions (the Sahaba) also practiced cousin marriage (such as Umar). This is important because Sunni Muslims consider the life of Muhammad and his companions to be perfect examples for mankind, so if they did practiced something it could never be considered wrong.

    The ancient geographer that listed the tribes of Arabia in most detail was Ptolemy, here are some of the Arab tribes he mentions:

    “The Scenitae dwell in the interior near that part towards the north which is entirely mountainous; above are the Oaditae; toward the wouth from these are the Saraceni and the Tamydeni; then around the Zames mountains and towards the west from this are the Apataei and the Atritae and near these the Mesamanes and the Udeni; toward the east are the Laeeni, the Asapeni and the Iolysitae; to the south are the Catanitae, then the Tanuitae; from these towards the west the Manitae, above whom are the Alapeni, and near Cinaedopolita the Malichae. And below the Manitae is the Smyrnofera interior region; then the Minaei, a numerous race, below whom are the Doreni and the Mocritae; then the Sabaie and the Anchitae above the Climax mountains; around the Marithos mountains are the Malangitae to the north, and the Dachareni, the Zeiritae, then to the south the Bliulaei and the Omamitae,from whom the river source are the Cottabani as far as the Asabon mountain, below whom is the Libanotora region; then near the Sachalita region are the Iobaritae; below the Gerraei are the Alemaeotae and extending as Climax mountains the Arabanitae; below all these the Chatramonitae from the Climax mountains even to Sachalitas; toward the south from the Climax are the Masonitae; then the Asaritae and near Homerita the Sappharitae and the Ratheni, above whom are the Maphoritae, thence to the beginning near the Chatramonitae is the Smyrnofera exterior region; near Syagrum as far as the sea are the Ascitae.”

    None of those tribe names existing by the time of Muhammad (of course the names have been Hellenized, nevertheless the names do not even sound similar to the Arabic ones at the time of Muhammad). You can see the full excerpts from the relevant parts of Ptolemy’s geography in an appendix to this article here:

    http://www.academia.edu/4735458/Suggested_Solutions_for_Issues_Concerning_The_Location_of_Mecca_in_Ptolemys_Geography

    I can only assume that the Arab tribes in prehistory warred with each other and married between each other so much that old tribes were constantly being wiped out and new tribes breaking off from old ones, and that is why the tribe names in antiquity are unrecognizable…

    Reply

  18. My brother is a medical professional who worked in Qatar for seven years. He said that FBD was common there. Qatar has an incredibly high rate of birth defects. 73.4 per 1,000 according to the March of Dimes. Even research from within Qatar puts the disorders due to Consanguinity at an alarmingly high rate . I visited my brother in Qatar and the evidence, while not conclusive, is visually apparent.

    Reply

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