this was too important to hold off posting until my vacation is over:
(note: comments do not require an email. or [insert own juvenile p*nis joke here].)
this was too important to hold off posting until my vacation is over:
(note: comments do not require an email. or [insert own juvenile p*nis joke here].)
Liberal morality – @the inductivist.
Invasion of the Viking women unearthed – “Viking women may have equaled men moving to England in medieval invasions, suggests a look at ancient burials.”
Genome Maps May Spot Disease In African-Americans – “There’s a family of about 2,500 hot spots of recombination that are active in people of West African ancestry, like African-Americans, which are almost completely inactive in people of non-African ancestry.”
Human ancestor had ‘modern’ feet 3.7 million years ago, study says – “New research suggests that our ancestors’ feet took on modern features nearly 2 million years earlier than previously thought.”
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ok. so, we’re all out of africa, right?
and one of the reasons for thinking this is ’cause there’s greater genetic diversity in african populations than non-africans suggesting, from what i understand, a population bottleneck in those groups who left africa and greater genetic drift back in the african population. (amiright?)
but, mutation rates are higher in hot climates than cold (edit: see better link re. mammals here), so couldn’t the greater genetic diversity in africans simply be a product of that effect?
see what i’m sayin’/askin’?
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ok. so, moving counter-clockwise around the periphery of europe: spain.
medieval spain is complicated. ¡muy, muy complicado! there are so many different populations: visigoths, other germanics, moors, basques, cantabri, jews…. so, this is not going to be the last word on inbreeding in medieval spain at all. it’s barely even the first word.
but, broadly speaking — really broadly speaking — there was a north/more outbred versus a south/more inbred divide in medieval spain. that’s pretty much because you had christians in the north who, like we’ve seen, were under pressure from the church authorities to out-marry; and you had muslims in the south who brought with them their tradition of strong inbreeding.
the visigoths controlled a large part of the iberian peninsula in the early medieval period (418-721). they converted (or, at least, their king at the time did) to nicene christianity in the late 500s (they’d been arian christians before that). ausenda suggests that the pre-christian visigoths married close-relatives, including cousins, and that they had a patrilineal, tribal society. like the other gemanic tribes, they began to outbreed more and more after converting to christianity since the church demanded out-marrying.
this scenario is probably more or less correct, but i wonder if the visigoths were actually less influenced by the church’s laws than other germanic peoples living further north, like the franks. mitterauer insists, rightly so imho, that tribalism and feudalism do not go together (see, for example, the irish). you cannot get to a feudal society until you get rid of tribalism — and you cannot do that without outbreeding. the visigoths in spain, according to mitterauer, were less feudalistic than their counterparts the franks, so perhaps they hadn’t moved so far along the outbreeding path as the franks during the early medieval period.
then the moors arrived and wreaked bloody havoc on the whole system.
from “Islamic and Christian Spain in the early Middle Ages” by thomas glick [pg. 146]:
“Until recently, the nature of kinship and its shaping effect upon social and political institutions in medieval Spain was not a topic accorded much importance by historians…. This imbalance has been rectified by the work of Pierre Guichard, who has demonstrated the tribal organization of Andalusi society of the Emirate and, in the Christian orbit, Ruiz-Domenec, Garcia de Cortazar, and others have identified the dissolution of the extended family as a significant and central social process of the high middle ages.“
the latter pattern we’ve seen already amongst the northern germanics: the church and tptb put an end (more or less) to inbreeding in those populations which brought about the demise of the tribes. the introduction of the feudal/manorial system plus continued outbreeding further broke down the extended family (a tribe being just a very extended family) leaving central europeans with nuclear or stem families (a stem family is where one married child remains living with his parents, so you get grandparents + a nuclear family in one household).
more from glick [pgs. 146-48]:
“The Arabs and Berbers who conquered the peninsula did so not as isolated warriors, but as members of organized tribal groups. The Arabs and most of their early Berber allies were members of agnatic, patrilineal groups forming a segmentary social system, whereby individuals belonged to a hierarchy of increasingly inclusive segments, from the clan up to the tribal confederation. The basic tribal unit, the qawm (variously translated fraction or clan), is a unit of several hundred tents or families, linked agnatically. That is, the kinship system ascribes importance only to relationship through males. In such a system, endogamous marriages are viewed as the ideal because through endogamy power, prestige, and wealth are retained within the agnatic group rather than shared with a competing group into which a daughter might marry, with parallel-cousin marriages (the wedding of one’s son with the daughter of the paternal uncle [i.e. fbd marriage]) preferred. A cross-cousin marriage (with the daughter of the maternal uncle or paternal aunt) is considered exogamous because the offspring gain a different lineage. The more powerful a tribal group is, the more women it will attract from outside, the fewer it will lose, and the more endogamous it will become.
“Guichard demonstrates that the early Muslim residents of the peninsula settled in tribal or sub-tribal groups and that, indeed, it was the policy of important figures to travel with tribal entourages and to reconstitute their clans once the decision to settle in al-Andalus had been reached….
“Segmentary organization gives rise to typical political forms. The basic unit is the clan — the Arab qawm, the Berber canton — which lives and fights together. The segmentary tribal structure makes it possible for such groups to subsist in relative isolation and, at the same time, because they are embedded in larger solidarities, to join in political or military federations with related groups. This gives rise to the kaleidoscopic pattern of atomization and amalgamation which is so characteristic of western Islamic, particularly Berber, society.”
so, in moorish spain, we have arabs and berbers practicing fbd marriage and living in a tribalistic society. tens of thousands of people who had been living in spain before the arrival of the moors converted to islam during the medieval period. it’s unclear to me what percentage of them adopted the marriage practices of the conquerers. it sounds, however, as though it was not an insignificant amount as glick points out [pg. 151]:
“[C]onsanguinity remained a powerful social force [throughout the middle ages] (and so remained even among the Moriscos of the sixteenth century, who resisted taking Spanish names because such an act made it impossible to keep track of agnatic lineages), as did ethnicity.”
finally, from glick again [pgs. 149-51]:
“Arab and Berber tribal structure found political expression in the organization of confederations or alliances, which were formed according to the underlying logic of segmentary societies. The essence of this kind of political organization is that politics is viewed as a zero-sum game. The wealth, power, and prestige of one’s own group are increased only by decreasing those of a rival group, leading to a more or less permanent state of conflict between neighboring groups as well as to characteristic patterns of alliances….
“Much of the political history of al-Andalus, therefore, is occupied with accounts of tribal in-fighting, generally along lines of moiety division….”
this is totally unlike what was happening in northern europe throughout the middle ages. northern europeans became less tribal — in spain, especially southern parts of spain, tribal life was alive and well.
until the reconquista.
glick describes how, in the wake of the reconquista, feudal structures took hold throughout spain, starting in the north and progressively moving southwards. the population converted back to (or to) catholicism — ’cause they had to — and, presumably, they had to start following the catholic codes on marriage, altho as we saw above the mariscos resisted this for quite a long time.
quite extraordinarily, researchers looking at catholic church dispensations for cousin marriage in sigüenza in north-central spain between the 1950s and 1980s found that the folks there were marrying their first- and second-cousins at a rate of 12.6% [pg. 4; abstract here]. in the early 1940s, the overall rate for endogamous marriage in spain — and this is including uncle-niece marriage — was 4.1% [pg. 4]. the overall rate for france in the late 1940s was 0.8%; london in 1950, 0.4%; the netherlands in the late 1940s, 0.2% [pgs. 2 & 5]. close relative marriage has obviously remained more common and more important for longer in spain than in northern european populations.
so, now we’ve looked at one of the i’s and the s. the p is prolly pretty similar to spain. next stop, italy. aaaaaah — la dolce vita! (^_^)
previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery
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so, we’ve seen that, starting in the early medieval period, the church and tptb put the brakes on inbreeding in europe. by the eleventh century, you weren’t allowed to marry even your sixth cousin (although this was knocked back to fourth cousin in the following century). most of this happened in the heart of europe, starting in frankish territory and spreading outwards through what is today france, germany, england, northern italy and northern spain, plus at least parts of scandinavia.
but what about the more peripheral regions of europe? what happened in places like the iberian peninsula and sicily and the balkans? russia and slavic countries east of the hajnal line? ireland and scotland? things didn’t play out in those regions like in the core of europe. let’s start with what happened in … (*hbd chick throws dart at map*) … ireland.
in pre-christian ireland [pg. 289]:
“Although … as in the rest of early Europe, there were no hard and fast rules governing the choice of marriage partner (other than a taboo on primary incest), there was a preference for marriage between close kin (in-marriage), and for matches between children of fathers of equal rank (isogamy).”
not a big surprise there. the christian church, as per usual, tried to put a stop to in-marriage in ireland like they did elsewhere, but without much success [pg. 291]:
“Connected to the practice of dowering women was the preference for marriage with close kin; this tended to conserve property within the fine [paternal kin], or between pairs of fine branches that repeatedly intermarried. Clerical complaints offer indirect testimony to the Irish preference for canonically ‘incestuous’ marriage. The seventh-century source, the ‘Second Synod of St. Patrick’, records that the Romani — a faction of the Irish clergy advocating greater conformity to Roman Catholic practices — attempted to insist upon ‘what is observed among us, that they be separated by four degrees’, i.e. that men should not marry their first cousins (the fourth degree kinswoman). The nativists protested that they had ‘never seen nor read’ such a rule.
“Again, in the eleventh century, churchmen singled out tolerance of ‘incest’ (marriage of kin) as a major fault of the Irish church. Such laxity was a scandal to Canterbury in the later middle ages, not only in cases involving famous families, but apparently amongst the general population. So weak were the sanctions against in-marriage, that incidents are recorded in which men were sexually involved with aunts and nieces — not in covert relationships, but marriages for which the parties tried to gain sanction and blessing. Even in the law tracts there survives a hint that Roman Catholic complaints were not without foundation, for Corus Bescna [one of the brehon law tracts] asks:
“‘What is the corus fheini? (laws of the farmers) Joint-plowing, marriage, giving in charge, lending … (Commentary) marriage — the daughter of each to the other, i.e., to such as one as is not cursed by the patron saint of the land.’
“A curse from the local saint could be incurred on a large number of grounds, such as associating with the various categories of society tainted with paganism, not paying one’s tithes, or simply belonging to a hostile group. The point is that a neighbor, even a close kinsman, was preferred as a husband because his exact social position was well-known — a sentiment shared by the Welsh and expressed in the proverb, ‘marry in the kin and fight the feud afar.‘”
so, even by the eleventh century, close-relative marriage was still the way to go in ireland — and not just cousin marriage, but even closer (genetically speaking) uncle-niece and aunt-nephew marriages. that’s very different from what was happening on the continent at the same time.
the normans tried to put a stop to the inbreeding practices in ireland; but they actually went native after a century or two and adopted a lot of the local irish laws and practices, so i’m not sure how successful they were at eliminating close-relative marriage in ireland. i don’t think they can have had much luck (o’ the irish), because as goody points out [pg. 16]:
“In the period of the classical civilisations, forms of clan organisation apper to have existed right round the Mediterranean, as it still does among the pastoral peoples of North Africa and some hill tribes of the Balkans, and in very residual forms in Ireland and Scotland.”
very residual forms of clans still exist in ireland (and scotland) because in-marriage practices must’ve existed until quite recently.
mitterauer discusses at some length how the medieval irish also did not adopt the new agrarian practices that peoples on mainland europe did, but rather stuck mostly to cattle herding [pg. 10]:
“There were also strong contrasts in the extreme northwest of the continent, in the British Isles. Whereas in England, parallels with agrarian developments in France could be found early on, particularly in its fertile southeast, the situations in Ireland and Scotland were vastly different. In England, wheat and barley had predominated in Roman times, but rye and oats had also been introduced, possibly to supply the army. These two grains subsequently brought about the expansion of agriculture onto poorer soils, thus making an important contribution to the process of cerealization. In Ireland there was no such development, even in the High Middle Ages; an animal-based economy was clearly predominant. This is reflected in the variations in social prestige among different population groups depending on whether they raised animals or farmed. Oats took pride of place in grain growing, followed by barley, wheat, and rye, with rye, the new grain for making bread, coming last.”
in addition, since the irish remained tribal or clannish (as a result of the inbreeding practices), the manorial system of mainland europe did not take hold, either.
inbreeding = tribalism/clannishness ≠ corporate structures in society [pgs. 42-3]:
“The situation in early medieval Ireland can shed light on the inter-connections between the predominance of cattle breeding and lordship over the land and its people. Structures analogous to the Frankish manorial system did not emerge there, but manorial forms certainly did. Irish lords distributed arable land to unfree, homeless people, the so-called fuidri….
“These patron-client relations did not generate a familia as they did on Frankish estates; social structuring was still maintained through kinship. It seems that mills and kilns were typically owned by kinship groups in common, and it was only at monasteries that these buildings were the key facilities on a manorial estate. Given that a livestock economy was dominant, these facilities were much less significant in Ireland than even the rather anemic Irish crop production. In this respect, too, there were no institutions that would enable the bipartite estate to gain a toehold. Because of these agrarian contexts and the aligning of its social structures with kinship, the organization of power developed very differently in early medieval Ireland that in the Frankish Empire. ‘Cattle lords’ and lower-level kings dominated the scene.“
for “lower-level kings” read: the heads of clans or tribes.
when a society’s marriage practices are based on inbreeding, you get a nepotistic society (think daley-dynasty machine-style politics or tammany hall) because, due to inclusive fitness related drives, people favor their own more than strangers. in medieval irish society, they didn’t even manage to adopt feudalism because who on earth would swear fealty to some lord that you weren’t related to?! the whole concept prolly just didn’t make any sense to the medieval irish — because the church hadn’t managed to persuade the population to quit inbreeding.
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