medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians

i’m going to figure out the english(/dutch) if it’s the last thing i do…. (~_^)

it’s been asked a few times around here: was there something special about the pre-christian germanics? something special that perhaps made them more open to the roman catholic church’s/kings’ & princes’ demands to outbreed (i.e. quit marrying their cousins — and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were marrying their cousins before the arrival of christianity — see here and here and here)?

one possible thing i have come across (and there could of course be others) is that kinship was reckoned bilaterally in pre-christian germanic populations — in other words, down through both the father’s and mother’s side of the family. related to this (i think — ah! and wikipedia backs me up on this) is that the form that “clannishness” took in germanic society was that of kindreds rather than actual clans (like you found in places like scotland or even today in parts of the balkans). as we saw in this previous post, a kindred is a set of relatives based around a core individual — so your kindred might include your parents, your siblings and their kids, your uncles and aunts on both sides and their kids (i.e. your cousins), your second cousins, all of your cousins’ kids, and so on (however far out your particular society happens to reckon kindreds). this is different from a clan which is based upon a specific ancestor in the past. a clan can continue to live on when any individual member dies, while a kindred is more ephemeral — when an individual dies, his kindred sorta … dissipates. as we’ve seen, anglo-saxon society was based around kindreds; so, too, were all of the germanic groups in pre-christian (and post-christian for differing lengths of time as we’ll see below) europe. these kindreds were called sippe.

now, i have been searching and searching … and searching! (even in german) … for more info on germanic kindreds. all i ever find are general statements by historians that the medieval germanic groups were based upon the sippe/kindred, blah, blah, blah, but no specifics on when or how this changed — germanic populations are not centered around the sippe today — or if there were any differences between the different germanic groups when it came to kindreds. pretty much of all the historians i have read generally refer back to just a handful of sources which usually include lorraine lancaster’s work on anglo-saxon kinship from 1958 (which i covered in these two posts here and here) and dame bertha phillpotts’ work on kindreds and clans which was published in 1913. in 2010, cambridge university press republished phillpotts’ classic, Kindred and Clan in the Middle Ages and After: A Study in the Sociology of the Teutonic Races, so — taken along with the fact that this is one of the sources everyone refers back to — i’m going to assume that phillpotts is the definitive work on germanic kindreds (unless someone out there can direct me to another source!).

so, i’ve been reading phillpotts.

dame phillpotts looked at the laws and wills and literature from seven medieval germanic societies — iceland, norway, sweden, denmark, north germany & holland, belgium & northern france, and england — to find out what role the kindreds played in these societies (especially wrt wergild payments/feuds) and when the kindreds faded out. i’ll probably talk about the former in some later post(s), but let’s see now what she had to say about the latter: what was the timing of when the importance of kindreds disappeared in each of these populations [pgs. 245-46]?:

“In Denmark, signs of the partial survival of the kindred are not wanting even at the dawn of the 17th century, in spite of the hostility of powerful kings (from 1200 onwards), and of the Protestant Church. In Schleswig the old customs defy legislation levelled at them by king, duke or *Landtag* for another century still. In Holstein, though it is probably that the participation of the kindreds in wergild disappeared sooner than in Schleswig, they yet left their mark on other institutions, and certain of their functions continue to be exercised until near the end of the 18th, and indeed even into the 19th century. This is especially, but not solely, true of Ditmarschen, within whose territory alone we find the fixed agnatic kindred which can be loosely termed clan. In Friesland the kindreds survive throughout the 15th century. In Hadeln and Bremen, and in the neighbourhood of Hamburg, they seem to have held out against adverse legislation until about the same date.

“In the more northerly parts of Central Germany we find occasional traces of their existence throughout the earlier Middle Ages. In southern Teutonic lands the last trace of a real solidarity so far discovered dates from the 13th century. In Holland and Belgium the kindreds remain active throughout the 15th century, and indeed into the 16th, and hardly less long in Picardy. In Neustria, too, there are traces of organized feuds and treaties between kindreds until far into the 14th century, and so also in Champagne. Normandy, on the other hand, yields no evidence. In England the activity of the kindreds seems reduced to a minimum already in the 7th and 8th centuries, when we first catch a glimpse of Anglo-Saxon institutions…. In Iceland we have seen good reason to believe that the solidarity of the kindred was a thing of the past by the time the emigrants landed on the shores of the new country. In Norway we have caught a glimpse of a gradual disintegration of the kindred, beginning perhaps as early as the 9th, and consummated by the end of the 13th century. In Sweden, on the other hand, everything points to the survival of kinship-solidarity throughout the 14th century [footnote: except in Gotland], and possibly for very much longer.”

i’ve mapped phillpotts’ outline indicating which century saw the end of kindreds in any given area. the purple square in northern germany is dithmarschen, which looks to be the medieval epicenter of the germanic kindred — it’s the place where, according to phillpotts, the kindred was the strongest — was really a patrilineal clan, in fact (kinda like in scotland — click on map for LARGER version):

kindreds map 02

phillpotts’ theory for why the kindred was so weak so early on in england, and not really present at all in iceland or normandy, was that this was due to the fact that these populations had migrated by sea to new lands. this could make sense. in migrating by sea in the early medieval period, you might not load up scores of boats and move with all of your extended kindred. you might just load up a couple of boats with you and your immediate family and maybe your brother and his immediate family. then, when you arrive in your new world, you don’t have a very extended kindred, so the kindred is not very important in your society (england, iceland, normandy).
_____

so what about those ditmarsians, eh? they’re kinda cool! they are right around the corner from the frisians who were also pretty clan-like, especially with lots of feuding. what they had in common, of course, was that the two groups resided in marshy areas which could not be manorialized (er, well, there was no point to manorialize those regions since you couldn’t really conduct agriculture there — not with medieval technology anyway). about the ditmarsians [pgs. 199-200]:

“The marshes of Friesland (in the Netherlands), as well as the northeastern corner of Germany and southern Denmark, formed another region of peasant liberty against seigneurial power. As already noted, in 1240 Bartholomaeus Anglicus remarked on the exceptional freedom of the inhabitants of Frisia, who appeared to live without lords. Just east of Frisia and slightly north along the North Sea coast, at Stedingen, peasants revolted against the archibishop of Bremen and the count of Oldenburg beginning in 1200. They refused to pay oppressive dues (tributa) and, according to the ‘Rasted Chronicle,’ sought to defend their ‘liberty’ against all claims of lordship. They were eventually subjugated but only with great difficulty. It required the proclamation of a crusade against these ‘heretics’ by Gregory IX to bring an end to their decades of successful resistance. The Stedingen peasants were decisively defeated at the Battle of Altenesch in 1234.

“Among the indirect beneficiaries of this war was a federation of independent peasant communities in another small marshy territory, Dithmarschen in Holstein. Lying slightly north of Stedingen, Dithmarschen was protected by the Danes against the ambitions of the counts of Holstein and others who had expanded in the wake of the Wendish Crusade of 1147. The Dithmarschen peasants abandoned the alliance with the Danes and so profited from the military setback suffered by Denmark’s King Waldemar in 1227 at the hands of the city of Lubeck, the counts of Holstein and Schwerin, and the archbishop of Bremen. Their autonomy under the lordship of the archbishop of Bremen was acknowledged in the aftermath of the Danish War. Dithmarschen supported the crusade against the Stedinger and found its nominal subordination to the archbisops convenient during the thirteenth century. The power of family clans grew at the expense of the lesser nobility, and the Dithmarschen peasants formed capable military forces that could defeat mounted knights on the swampy terrain of their homeland.

The extended families of Dithmarschen established a confederation that would be defended against the claims of the counts of Schleswig and Holstein beginning in the early fourteenth century and the kings of Denmark in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In 1559 the Danes at last successfully invaded Dithmarschen, defeating the peasants and massacring the inhabitants of the capital, Meldorp, whereupon Dithmarschen was annexed to Denmark.

“Dithmarschen was, therefore, a free peasant community from the late thirteenth century until 1559, aware of itself as an anomaly and with a strong political cohesion born of military necessity. Dithmarschen litigated, signed treaties, and concluded agreements with Denmark, Holstein, and other neighboring powers. It also successfully defended itself in battle.”

three cheers for the ditmarsians! (^_^)
_____

so it seems as though the germanics had a comparatively “weak” kinship system before they ever encountered christianity. one historian, giorgio ausenda, has suggested that the pre-christian germanics practiced father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage like the arabs today. i think this must be completely wrong. with fbd marriage you get strong, patrilineal (unilineal) clans/tribes, not kindreds based on bilateral descent. the germanics probably married maternal cousins of some sort, and maybe even relatively infrequently compared to a population like, say, the chinese. dunno. impossible to say at this point in time (who knows in the future, though … with thousands of samples of skeletal remains from the medieval and earlier periods in europe and elsewhere genetically analyzed for relatedness … an hbd chick can dream, can’t she?).

it may not have taken that much, then, either to persuade the germanics to adopt the cousin marriage bans and/or for the practice to really loosen the genetic ties in those societies. they might have been comparatively loose already. except in places like dithmarschen and that whole area of northern germany/southern denmark. what i, of course, want to know then is did those populations continue to marry cousins for longer than those where kindreds disappeared sooner? i shall endeavor to find out!

(p.s. – i totally have to get this book!)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

(note: comments do not require an email. endeavour.)

48 Comments

  1. So the idea is that there is an inverse relationship between outbreeding and feuding? Where there is no state with enough police power to enforce justice families have to take it into their own hands to revenge wrongs, etc.. Thus in the absence of state power there is an incentive to inbreed? Did Germanic chiefdoms have enough authority to enforce justice? Just sort of wondering.

    Reply

  2. three cheers for the ditmarsians!

    Deffo.

    .
    “so it seems as though the germanics had a comparatively “weak” kinship system before they ever encountered christianity”

    As i’m generally inclined to think these differences mostly flow from differences in food-getting i’m wondering if the Germanics had some specific early difference in this. Tacitus says the German tribes burned down the forest around the edges of their terriotory for some non-agricultural reason i forget but it always seemed to me to be more likely the observer was seeing slash and burn agriculture but didn’t know what it was. My little theory was the neolithic farmers couldn’t fully expand into Northern Europe because of the climate but did transplant their domesticated animals into the original hunter-gatherers with the focus on different animals in different regions: cattle along the Atlantic coast and then south and east but assuming cattle weren’t suitable in the northern forests i was thinking semi-nomadic pig herding within a tribal range where the forest was burned down in sections for the pigs to feed on the new growth.

    Anyway blah, blah, if there’s a tribe somewhere now, or at least well-recorded by Victorians which had the same food-getting form i.e. herding pigs in a forested environment and feeding them on new growth caused by slash and burn, i wonder if they had/have the same kindred form for some practical reason related to the details of that form of agriculture?

    .
    “Where there is no state with enough police power to enforce justice families have to take it into their own hands to revenge wrongs”

    I think that is part of it.

    Reply

  3. @g.w. – “I’ll try some google-fu on slash and burn.”

    check out the finns! they were doing slash-and-burn in those northern forests up until, like, last year. or whenever nokia became really successful maybe. (~_^)

    seriously. they were slash-and-burners — planted rye (works good with /burn) — and i’d bet prolly had pigs.

    edit: oh, h*ck. i think mitterauer (Why Europe?) also talked about the slavs doing slash-and-burn as well. i’ll have to go check later.

    Reply

  4. wow, cool. i never actually checked my tacitus guess but yes now you mention it the bits north of the Germanics are the obvious splace to check assuming the Germanics may have done the same before crop-farming became more viable at their latitude.

    Reply

  5. yes this is the kind of thing i was wondering

    https://sites.google.com/site/annikamichelson/midsummer-rye

    “The rye was grazed or cut the first autumn. It can be grazed by sheep, horses or pigs but not by cattle.”

    Whether there was a time when a crop-dominant agriculture wasn’t viable in the northern and central latitudes of Europe and although a cattle-dominant agriculture – more or less mirroring the Celtic spread – was viable in the central latitudes

    but it wasn’t viable further north and/or east and if so if in those regions a pig-dominated forest agriculture developed instead.

    If so there might be something in the dynamics of that (semi-nomadic?) agricultural lifestyle that somehow tended to this kindred model rather than to either the pastoralist or settled farmer models?

    Reply

  6. “there might be something in the dynamics of that (semi-nomadic?) agricultural lifestyle that somehow tended to this kindred model”

    For example i’m thinking inheritance might be different in this model as the particular piece of land being used for agriculture at any one time is not important – as the fertility declines rapidly after a few years and the homestead has to be moved to a newly burned out section of the forest – so it’s more a case of the collective rights of a tribe to the whole forest area.

    dunno. it’a thought anyway.

    .
    Also pannage as a term for forest grazing involving pigs

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

    and as a side-note, from

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

    “In Scandinavia, transhumance is still practised…In summer (usually late June), livestock is moved to a mountain farm, often quite distant from a home farm, preserving meadows in valleys for use as hay. Livestock were typically tended for summer by girls and younger women

    You could imagine details like this having a cultural impact if in most transhumant cultures it’s the men who do that.

    Reply

  7. @g.w. – “If so there might be something in the dynamics of that (semi-nomadic?) agricultural lifestyle that somehow tended to this kindred model rather than to either the pastoralist or settled farmer models?”

    wikipedia says (so it must be true (~_^) ) about bilateral descent:

    “Anthropologists believe that a tribal structure based on bilateral descent helps members live in extreme environments because it allows individuals to rely on two sets of families dispersed over a wide area.”

    there’s a reference, too.

    i think this could maybe fit with the differences between the cattle dominant/celtic vs. slash&burn/piggy/germanic/slav(?) kinship systems. the societies heavily dominated by cattle raising — like the early medieval (and earlier) irish — had very strong patrilineal clans versus the looser kindreds of the germanics (and i betcha that that was slash/burn described by tacitus) — a very strong patrilineal clan system that didn’t give way easily to the cousin marriage bans set out by the church — maybe because they (the irish) could afford to, the cattle-based agricultural system being comparatively fruitful.

    need to check to see if anybody knows anything about finnish or slavic kindreds (if they existed) before the arrival of more sedentary agricultural practices in those regions. once that happened, eastern european kindreds (if they had been kindreds, that is) might’ve actually solidified. dunno. just thinking out loud now.

    Reply

  8. @g.w. – “For example i’m thinking inheritance might be different in this model as the particular piece of land being used for agriculture at any one time is not important … so it’s more a case of the collective rights of a tribe to the whole forest area.”

    yeah, there could absolutely be something in what you say there.

    Reply

  9. @hbd chic ” was there something special about the pre-christian germanics? something special that perhaps made them more open to the roman catholic church’s/kings’ & princes’ demands to outbreed (i.e. quit marrying their cousins — and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they were marrying their cousins before the arrival of christianity” I agree. Great post. And I am highlyl impressed with the comentary.

    Let me nibble on the bit in quotes. It would seem hard in ancient times for a central authority to control the peasants completely. The written record of course favors the central power. I once looked up “Maroon” in the Encyclopedia Britannica who said they had been escaped slavew who died out in the nineteenth centry. So I pulled out my old roadmap of Jamaica and verified, “ME NO SEN YOU NO COME” was written across the area of the Cockpit country, the now as then the domain of the Maroons. The central power of Jamaica (at least as recent as my stay) had no control there. Those rituals I am sure have stopped by now; with modern resources the Paris centered culture does have such control. And of course they are rather indifferent to the ancient French things; it’s all about Paris the the “gloire” and post Napoleonic megalomania.

    Similarly I once saw a photograph taken in Brittany of peasant workshiping at the ancient stones that had been placed before the pyramids. There was a Catholic priest conducting the ceremony. I have no idea when it was taken, except that it was a photogaph. Obviously the Church was apposed to pagan (in the modern sense of rustic) religion being practiced, but control was not complete. So it is hard to but a realistic end to the old to the old kinship system in Germany, but I think you can but an absolute end to it. That would be the Nazi’s. They were sold on the idea of “eugenics.” That, last I read and there is a bood called In Search of Human Perfection or something like that written by a historian at Johns Hopkins, currently thought to be the best medical school. As I recollect the principles were:
    1) Brights strong people should have most of the children.
    2) Never EVER marry anybody who is kin at all. (Not actually possible of course.)
    3) Never marry outside your “race.” (Here comes the flack. I used quotes. Kalahari desert bushmen within walking distance of each other had more genetic difference between them than there is between Asians and Europeans. That’s what I read. Sorry no refence. Human biodiversity is a lot more intersting, complex and important than the old r-word could encompass. But there is no doubt in my mind that it was believed in at the time.)
    Regrettable things were done like sterilizing the feebleminded. At the time, almost all such were impared because of Rh incompatibility. Because of the genetics of the disease that meant every one of them was heterozygous at that locus. You were knocking off one postive and one negative for no (or infinitessimal) net change. Nobody talks about that much. Those who tend toward eugenics don’t want that pushed in their faces and those who hate it don’t want to hear that the whole tragedy was caused by mxing genes. At least those days are largely over. The condition, in rich countries, can now be prevented.
    The Nazi’s pursued their outbreeding agenda indirectly by propaganda and building autobohns and rail lines to bind the country together. They pursued it directly by sending young people to camps where free sex was the rule. I don’t see how any old kindred system could have survived. Modern resouces would have wiped out what centuries of pressure might not have.
    The spirit of eugenics has, alas, not died. Eugenics, the very word, implies that there is one and only one best genetic construct for humans. Diversity, in other words, is a Bad Thing. Modern liberal thought, so far as I can fathom it, is like, “Oh, goody. Let’s turn over the genetic fruit basket. Eveybody will be descended from everybody. Then we will have the ideal and be rid of all that nasty diversity.”
    So getting back to your original, and I think very astute question, “Was there something about pre Chistian German society that was unusally tolerant of the Church’s demand to outbreed?” I think you may be hot on the scent. Then, of course, you might consider whether the same thing (whatever it turns out to be, if indeed if can be figured out) have made them tolerant of the Nazi demand to outbreed, and maybe of the Nazis altogether.

    Yours is a good question. I have nothing to offer by way of answer, but I shall think more about it.

    Reply

  10. Interesting investigation of the matter. It does seem interesting that where the Germans went, outbreeding followed, and it was resisted most in the areas they penetrated the least (Scotland, Ireland, southern Spain, southern Italy). It could be a combination of factors, such as adaptation to climate and the agricultural systems that went with it. This could encouraged Germanic spread more favorably in some directions and not others. I’m sure we’ll get to the truth of the matter, eventually!

    Reply

  11. @jayman – “It could be a combination of factors….”

    absolutely! you left a comment somewhere about how, perhaps, there was something psychological about the germans that predisposed them to be okay with the suggestion to outbreed — or to all go with it at once. i wanted to link to that comment in the post, but couldn’t find it, durnit! (^_^)

    Reply

  12. @linton – “Then, of course, you might consider whether the same thing (whatever it turns out to be, if indeed if can be figured out) have made them tolerant of the Nazi demand to outbreed, and maybe of the Nazis altogether.”

    well, having grown up amongst the germanics (in the midwest), but not being one of them (except maybe a bit going way back … way, waaaaaay back), my impression of the germanics — and no one is going to dissuade me from this ’cause this is based on 20+ years of close obervation — my impression of the germanics today is that they are very conforming. most people everywhere like to conform to whatever it is the group does, but this drive is amplified in germanic populations.

    which can be great! on the one hand: tidy lawns (albeit all pretty much the same in appearance — *yawn*), clean sidewalks, trains run on time. but — and it drove me crazy growing up — you had to conform in every other way, too. so, if/when nazism became popular — well, i think a strong majority of germans then probably quickly jumped on board that bandwagon.

    don’t get me wrong — i love germans! (^_^) i just have a little bit of a hard time with the conformity side of their group personality. which, btw, could very well be a pretty modern thing. it’s not certain at all that this tendency stretches back to, say, pre-christian times. who knows?

    Reply

  13. @luke – “So the idea is that there is an inverse relationship between outbreeding and feuding?”

    i think so!

    @luke – “Where there is no state with enough police power to enforce justice families have to take it into their own hands to revenge wrongs, etc.”

    well, that’s pinker’s thinking.

    my thinking is more along the lines of: first you need some amount of outbreeding in order to have a population willing to submit itself to a state with enough police power to enforce justice, etc., etc.. i mean, there’ve been a lot of states down through history, but gee — oddly, coincidentally (not!) — it was the northwest european states — again, the english ones — that managed to reduce their violence levels (or their internal homicide levels, to appease joe (~_^) ). why? why them and no one else? or did some other states, like some of the chinese states, reduce violence, too? i dunno.

    @luke – Thus in the absence of state power there is an incentive to inbreed?”

    that could be.

    @luke – “Did Germanic chiefdoms have enough authority to enforce justice?”

    no, i don’t think that they did. or, rather, i don’t think that they bothered because the blood feud — the vendetta — was an intrinsic part of the justice system. if you (or your family, rather) didn’t pay the weregild, then the aggrieved family had the right to take their vengeance. that was the justice system.

    several anglo-saxon kings/princes gave a shot at trying to stop the blood feuds. the one who really seems to have tried hardest (but i don’t know how successful he was) was edmund i in the 900s. edmund’s law of the land was that, should a weregild not be paid, the crown would pay it (but he’d, then, go after the non-payers to be reimbursed, of course). it was a way of trying to step in and put a stop to the feuds. again, dunno how successful he was.

    Reply

  14. @g.w. – “Tacitus says the German tribes burned down the forest around the edges of their terriotory for some non-agricultural reason i forget but it always seemed to me to be more likely the observer was seeing slash and burn agriculture but didn’t know what it was.”

    mitterauer (Why Europe?) suggests that the germans were not practicing slash-and-burn and that that may have disappeared in central europe as early as the iron age. dunno what sort of agricultural practices he thinks the pre-christian germanics were engaging in, though. he refers to a source written in german, so i guess i’ll never know. (~_^)

    he also suggests that slash-and-burn — which was an eastern european thing — leads to more patrilineal groups, as opposed to the bilateral kinship of the germanics. here’s some lengthy quotes from the book for ya — see what you think:

    pg. 9:

    “The specific determinants for the cultivation of rye in Europe, or for agriculture in the area generally, can be summed up by Europe’s forest wealth. This wealth explains the very important role of the burn-beating economy in the expansion of the Slavic peoples from the sixth and seventh centuries on (quite similar, by the way, to the case of the neighboring Balts). An indicator here is the Old Slavic calendar, which orients the names of the months according to the different phases of burn-beating cultivation: in the first month the trees were cut, the second was for drying the logs, the third was for burning, and so forth. In France, too, the names of the months reflected the most important agricultural tasks. Charlemagne took into consideration the shifts in these tasks resulting from the rise of the three-field system when he renamed June the ‘Plowing Month’ (*Pflugmond*). There is no reference to aspects of burn-beating in Frankish names for the months. As early as the Iron Age other forms of cultivation in central Europe might well have supplanted the burn-beating economy.[45] In the heavily forested area of eastern Europe, however, burn-beating played an important part throughout the entire Middle Ages and was to last in many regions up to modern times. In Carpathian backwaters an ancient species of winter rye called *kryza* was under cultivation until the modern age; it was sown in the ashes of a wood lot immediately after it had been burned, thereby obviating the need for soil treatment. A special agricultural implement involved in burn-beating was the wooden plow (German *Zoche*, Russian *socha*) widespread in eastern Europe. It evolved from the scratch plow and was ideal for newly cleared ground still scattered with stones and roots…. The heavy plow was not found in this region until centuries later. In the wave of colonization of the East, it stood in stark contrast to the older Slavic forms of the plow. Two different agrarian and social systems were now standing face-to-face. The pattern of the western agrarian revolution thrust eastward with the aid of the heavy plow, but it left the greater part of eastern Europe untouched.”

    [45] Albert Jockenhovel, “Agrargeschichte der Bronzezeit und vorromischen Eisenzeit,” in Luning et al., “Deutsche Agrargeschichte”, 208.

    pg. 78:

    “Turning to economic factors, we will begin by singling out two, which can be accurately called the ‘forest’ ecotype and the ‘mountain’ ecotype. As we have seen earlier in an earlier chapter, slash-and-burn economy had played a very important part in the history of northern Europe. It may well have been preeminent in more ancient times in many areas where the three-field system became dominant after its introduction as the East was colonized. The slash-and-burn economy’s significance for family and kinship organization lay, on the one hand, in the need for several adult males to cooperate. These needs were already taken into account by equal male inheritance rights and complex patrilineal family forms. Structural principles of this type were able to persist for a long time, even when their related economic form had long been abandoned. << here he's talking about eastern europe.

    “The same is trued of the second ecotype, which appears to have been typical primarily of the western Balkan regions. A pastoral economy based on sheep and goat raising had defined people’s lives there for thousands of years. And a rigid, gender-specific division of labor was a necessity for the region’s pastoral economy, as was cooperation among several adult males. Accordingly, one could find complex patrilineal forms that, together, formed tribal communities. The survival of these tribal relationships to the present day appears to be unique among European societies, as is the survival of vendettas within those very same structures. Here is the extreme polar opposite of the developmental trends that led to the characteristic syndrome of bilateral kinship, the conjugal family, and less binding descent ties elsewhere in Europe.”

    i think mitterauer’s thinking that bilateral kinship came with manorialism (the hide system he keeps referring to), but phillpotts claimed that the pre-christian, pre-manorialized germans also had bilateral kinship, but that that tendency was strengthened over the course of the medieval period.

    Reply

  15. My thinking is that it may have varied over time like in Scandinavia / Finland where slash and burn was gradually replaced as more standard agriculture slowly pushed north over time as crops improved. So the Germanic form may have been the slash and burn one during tacitus’ time and changed 600 years later.

    Alternatively if the Germanic tribes that moved south during the migration period went from the slash and burn zone (if it existed) into the cattle-crop zone (if it existed) their social form may have been put into flux as it would no longer fit their environment.

    So i think the key question is not so much what social form the Germanics had but *when* and if in fact lower Germanic resistance to the Church ban being partly the result of their social form being in flux because of moving south out of the forest zone?

    If you look at early Frankish inheritance where the sons are given equal portions of land i wonder if that might suit a forest slash and burn culture better than the primogeniture that developed later?

    Reply

  16. “he also suggests that slash-and-burn — which was an eastern european thing”

    Yeah but when? It was Finnish too until very recent times and (maybe) according to tacitus it was German at least in Caesar’s time. It may have changed in situ over the intervening period or it may have only changed after they migrated south and developed a new form – which they took with them during the later heavy-plow driven eastward drive.

    Reply

  17. @g.w. – ok. i’ve got, like, a dozen different thoughts/questions, none of which fit together (which i hate! (~_^) )…

    @g.w. – “Yeah but when? It was Finnish too until very recent times and (maybe) according to tacitus it was German at least in Caesar’s time.”

    well, mitterauer claims, based on that jockenhovel reference, that slash-and-burn was gone from central europe by the iron age … unless the germans brought it back with them when they migrated southwards from up north?

    @g.w. – “Alternatively if the Germanic tribes that moved south during the migration period went from the slash and burn zone (if it existed) into the cattle-crop zone (if it existed) their social form may have been put into flux as it would no longer fit their environment.”

    surely the germans must’ve been keeping cattle or some sort of milk-giving animal for a really long time, ’cause they are the most lactose tolerant. unless they picked those genes up when they moved southwards…?

    @g.w. – “Alternatively if the Germanic tribes that moved south during the migration period….”

    and before that. when i wrote this post, i was struck by the map i made of phillpotts’ outline and this map of the germanic expansion out of their northern homelands. the most clannish areas, according to phillpotts, were up in northern germany/southern denmark there just where the germans came out of. perhaps they left their more clannish traditions back home when they moved southwards (and every other direction!)?

    Reply

  18. @gabriel – “The original hunter-gatherers were likely replaced by Neolithic farmers and pastoralists.”

    yes. so we’re talking about (mostly) neolithic peoples moving north and then south again. crazy neolithic peoples! (~_^)

    Reply

  19. Gabriel
    “The original hunter-gatherers were likely replaced by Neolithic farmers and pastoralists:”

    Yes i disagree on some details of that but it’s not relevant to the main point which is agricultural zones:

    1) a southern crops&sheep zone that spread north very slowly
    2) an intermediate cattle&crops zone more or less mapping onto the Celtic spread

    3) and (maybe?) a northern slash&burn zone

    If so then then social forms may have mapped onto the three food-getting zones originally but the southward expansion of the Germanics brought their old slash&burn formform into an environment where it didn’t fit – leading to the state of flux which made them more amenable to the church ban.

    (Maybe. Tis just a possibity at the mo.)

    Reply

  20. hubchik
    “well, mitterauer claims, based on that jockenhovel reference, that slash-and-burn was gone from central europe by the iron age”

    Depends what he means by Central Europe i guess. I’m working on the assumption that if there are any legs to this idea then it would apply to the area above the Celtic zone.

    Tacitus was talking about the German tribes on the fringe of the Roman world so i don’t think there’s a conflict with Mitterauer if what he means by central europe is roughly the same as the Celtic spread.

    “unless the germans brought it back with them when they migrated southwards from up north?”

    I’m talking about two separate things here

    – a food-getting form which develops in a particular region/climate at a particular time
    – a social form which develops to support the food-getting form

    like the Arab conquests a social form adapted for one environment and food-getting form can be transported to another environment even if that new environment isn’t optimal for it.

    So i’m thinking – if this idea has any legs, which it may not – that the Germanic tribes – or some of them at least – might have come from the slash&burn zone with the bilateral kindred social form into an environment where it didn’t suit and that led to their greater willingness to adopt the church ban.

    Reply

  21. It’s all moot though unless there’s evidence that that slash & burn food-getting style tends to produce certain social forms – like equal inheritance vs primogeniture or bilateral kinship vs patrilineal. Otherwise it’s just me speculating.

    I do think the early Frankish inheritance thing before they switched to primogeniture is interesting though. In slash&burn if say the currently farmed bit stays fertile for 3 years and takes 9 years to recover then a population – family or tribe – would need four times as much forest as they could farm at one time, so what do you bequeath? It can’t be a particular farm unit like in settled farming. It has to be a big chunk of forest.

    Reply

  22. @g.w. – “Tacitus was talking about the German tribes on the fringe of the Roman world so i don’t think there’s a conflict with Mitterauer if what he means by central europe is roughly the same as the Celtic spread.”

    yes, i see. gotcha. (great maps — as usual!)

    @g.w. – “So i’m thinking – if this idea has any legs, which it may not – that the Germanic tribes – or some of them at least – might have come from the slash&burn zone with the bilateral kindred social form into an environment where it didn’t suit and that led to their greater willingness to adopt the church ban.”

    yup. only thing is, mitterauer thinks slash-and-burn and bilateral kindreds DON’T go together. he could be wrong, of course.

    if he is right, how about the northern germanics having slash-and-burn and more patrilineal clans (like the ditmarsians, or maybe even more so), but as they move southwards, their clans break down into kindreds?

    no, i don’t like that, either.

    your idea then: slash-and-burn actually goes together with bilateral kinship (which would fit what it says on wikipedia about bilateral descent going together with tough environments) and kindreds … then the germanics move southwards, and run into these crazy christians with these funny ideas about mating patterns. and you wind up with a few very clannish germanics who perhaps have funny mating patterns because they live in the swamps. something like that?

    the celtic groups really are the cow peoples, aren’t they?

    Reply

  23. hubchik
    “when i wrote this post, i was struck by the map i made of phillpotts’ outline and this map of the germanic expansion out of their northern homelands. the most clannish areas, according to phillpotts, were up in northern germany/southern denmark there just where the germans came out of. perhaps they left their more clannish traditions back home when they moved southwards (and every other direction!)?”

    Or the ones that turned right out of Denmark stumbled into the pastoral zone and took on that form and the ones who turned left wandered into thte slash and burn zone?

    The lactose tolerant thing is important – this idea does seem to imply the Germanics picking it up quite late? Then again they wouldn’t have to develop it independently – just marry some Celts who already had it?

    Reply

  24. @g.w. – “It’s all moot though unless there’s evidence that that slash & burn food-getting style tends to produce certain social forms – like equal inheritance vs primogeniture or bilateral kinship vs patrilineal.”

    yes. need to investigate more. mitterauer says the slavic slash-and-burn goes together with equal inheritance, but then it’s almost like a group inheritance — you’ve got todd’s communal families, then, ’cause you need a group of men working together to fell the trees, etc., etc. so the slash-and-burn slavic thing is equal inheritance and patrilineal … unless all of that came after the slavs settled down more. dunno.

    need to find out what the finns were doing because i know they did slash-and-burn up until quite recently.

    Reply

  25. @g.w. – “The lactose tolerant thing is important – this idea does seem to imply the Germanics picking it up quite late? Then again they wouldn’t have to develop it independently – just marry some Celts who already had it?”

    yes. i wonder what the research has to say about this? something else to put on the reading list…. (^_^)

    Reply

  26. “the celtic groups really are the cow peoples, aren’t they?”

    Personally i think so – and to a far greater extent than people think.

    “yup. only thing is, mitterauer thinks slash-and-burn and bilateral kindreds DON’T go together. he could be wrong, of course…your idea then: slash-and-burn actually goes together with bilateral kinship (which would fit what it says on wikipedia about bilateral descent going together with tough environments) and kindreds”

    Well it’s a pure guess based on what you said about bilateral kindreds and my own belief that a lot of this stuff grows out of different food-getting forms so if there was a specific slash&burn food-getting zone there *ought* to be a specific social form that went with it somewhere in between full pastoralism amd settled farming – but that’s more of a personal belief than anything else.

    A related point is what happens if a population with a social form that suits one environment moves into a different environment? They might keep their old one, adopt the one that existed among the conquered population or maybe create a hybrid of the two?

    Reply

  27. Not quite the same thing but

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erteb%C3%B8lle_culture

    “In the 1960s and 1970s another closely related culture was found in the (now dry) Noordoostpolder in the Netherlands, near the village Swifterbant and the former island of Urk. Named the Swifterbant culture (5300 – 3400 BC) they show a transition from hunter-gatherer to both animal husbandry, primarily cows and pigs, and cultivation of barley and emmer wheat.”

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

    “With the exception of some inland settlements such as Alvastra pile-dwelling, the settlements are located near those of the previous Ertebølle culture on the coast. It was characterised by single-family daubed houses ca 12 m x 6 m. It was dominated by animal husbandry of sheep, cattle, pigs and goats, but there was also hunting and fishing. Primitive wheat and barley was grown on small patches that were fast depleted, due to which the population frequently moved small distances. There was also mining (e.g. in the Malmö region) and collection of flintstone, which was traded into regions lacking the stone, such as the Scandinavian hinterland. The culture imported copper from Central Europe, especially daggers and axes.”

    This is from a much earlier time but it makes me wonder if you have a form of agriculture where the crop-growing part is poorly developed leading to the need to move the settlement to fresh fields regularly to let the previous fields recover fertility then that’s effectively the same as slash&burn in terms of inheritance i.e. you can’t bequeath farm-sized units, you have to bequeath a terriotory which includes all the reosurces you need i.e. fishing spots, woodland, multiple field and settlement locations, pastures etc.

    Reply

  28. Comment tangent on sea travel and making the break with a previous culture: British Europeans (and probably all Europeans) dropped a lot of location-specific pagan customs when coming to the New World. If they encountered a spring or hill, it had no history for them of having healed their Aunt Maude and a dozen previous generations of their families. They attributed no supernatural power to it. Yet they still had nature superstitions and a sense of wyrd, so these became more general and abstract. The Puritans read equally from The Bible and the Book of Nature as revealing God’s character. Thus, eventually, Unitarians and Transcendentalists from among them specifically (but that’s another story). The same, yet different.

    Relating this to clan and kindred bonds. People who migrate drop many things from the old country, but hold especially fiercely to those they keep. This is why colonies will usually preserve older language forms that the home country has dropped. But some things simply cannot be sustained in the new environment, and once dropped, disappear rapidly. Once exceptions start being made, the whole edifice can collapse. In a migrant population, whether families or invading soldiers/traders, there will be some percentage who simply cannot marry a first or second cousin, even if that is preferred, because there are none. Yet they will wish to marry, and unless everyone else wants to have 10-50% population disgruntled and resentful, the society will very quickly drop the preference. Likely, there will be some residual belief upheld by religion, tradition, superstition, or nobility, but this will just change into something else.

    Side note: transhumance. My Romanian sons were (forced to be) shepherds when they were 6-8 and spoke with distaste and fear of those locals who still took sheep deeper into the mountains for the summer. They were glad they never had to, as those guys were nototiously rough and mean. Or so they’d been told.

    Reply

    1. @”assistant Village Idiot “those guys were nototiously rough and mean. Or so they’d been told.” Good cautionary note. Many years ago I was in Kingnston chatting with a local. He pointed out some high ground we could see, densely forested, and sait it was Long Mountain and there were cannibals on the other side. A couple weeks later I was jogging and found myself in a pleasant suburban neighborhood that would not have seemed at all unusual back in Florida. I was going up hill and decided to see what the view was up there before turning back. The view behind was suburbia, the view in front down the slope was dense forest and Kingston beyond it. I was on Long Mountain in that alleged cannibal country. So I don’t see any reason why you should believe me, either.

      Reply

  29. @HBD Chick:

    “@jayman – “It could be a combination of factors….”

    absolutely! you left a comment somewhere about how, perhaps, there was something psychological about the germans that predisposed them to be okay with the suggestion to outbreed — or to all go with it at once. i wanted to link to that comment in the post, but couldn’t find it, durnit!”

    I think I may have said it a couple of times. Here’s what I could find, here and here. There’s probably one in between those two, but there you go, anyways… :)

    Reply

  30. Morning – yes, great blog format, Some links that may or may not be useful

    I had this one hanging around:
    -hunter-gatherers who inhabited southern coast of Scandinavia 4,000ya were lactose intolerant, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100401101525.htm

    and just now I linked from that page to this:
    -capacity to … tolerate milk may have been of tremendous importance for the cultural development of Europe… major EU project, Uppsala University
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080904112701.htm

    so I searched Uppsala but only came up with this (pdf) which I don’t think is the study referred to but the first map is interesting – Geographic coincidence between milk gene diversity in cattle and lactase-persistence in humans
    -followed by findings for ‘Applying this technique to ancient cattle from Hungary’
    http://www.ibg.uu.se/digitalAssets/70/70678_Johnson_frida_report.pdf

    and I guess that is linked to this:
    -ability to digest lactose first evolved in C. Europe, not northern groups as thought
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827202513.htm

    and this may be interesting for comparison
    -unequivocal evidence that humans in Saharan Africa used cattle for milk 7,000ya
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120620133153.htm

    and this is me wandering off-topic
    origins of horse domestication in the Botai Culture of Kazakhstan c. 5,500ya… suggest horses were …. not just for riding, but also …. food, including milk.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305141627.htm

    ****************

    The wiki lactose tolerance table is astonishing, shame so many entries lack (n). I compared dist. with Rb, all the tolerant countries are Rb countries except Tuareg, and Balkans is high I, which so too is Scand. http://dgmweb.net/DNA/Graphics/Haplogroup_I.png
    Then I searched Tuareg and came up with this:
    http://www.luxegen.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/HaplogroupH.png – mt-H1 dist. clusters in Scand with minor peaks in Balkans and Ukraine and…(same link quoting wiki) ” local peak among Basques …highest freq. found so far, in Tuareg, Fezzan, Libya.”

    ***************
    now I’m getting fanciful – this link was posted at Jayman comments (link from latest linkfest) http://nuvley.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/census-2000-data-top-us-ancestries-by-county.jpg
    – am I reading it right, are there so many German-descent people in US? But – who are the pale yellow Americans? are these the Scots-Irish? I read somewhere that people who went to Australia were from similar areas as Scots-Irish – and remember I asked weeks ago where you thought Scots-Irish originally came from – well, in wiki table of lact. tol., Eur-Australia is same as Denmark.

    ******************

    these Germanic types were eating fish and butter for tea for at least a couple of thousand years before expanding – Vitamins A & E and Omega 3, protein and calcium and vitamin D, iron and iodine and zinc, maybe. All in all that has to be healthy?

    Reply

  31. “capacity to … tolerate milk may have been of tremendous importance for the cultural development of Europe”

    I think so. I think the advance of the crops&sheep neolithic farmers – in their original form – was blocked / slowed by latitude / climate and it was the development of cattle-herding (whether by the incoming farmers, the original inhabitants or a hybrid of both) that allowed the creation of a secondary cattle&crops zone above the southern crops&sheep zone.

    These zones wouldn’t have been static imo. As crops were improved the viable crops&sheep zone would have moved north over time (or morphed the cattle&crops zone into a crops&cattle zone instead) and as both crops and cattle breeds were improved the cattle&crops zone could move north also.

    (where crops&cattle vs cattle&crops signifies which was dominant in terms of setting the social form i.e. the cattle&crops zone maybe being very similar to the late-surviving Irish raiding cattle culture and crops&cattle signifying a more settled farming which just happens to include a lot of dairying.)

    Cattle were originally draught animals apparently so i think the big change in Europe would have occurred in a region (or regions) that were optimal for cattle during a time when crops were relatively marginal giving an incentive to breed cattle for meat and milk rather than just pulling wagons. I think those regions are most likely to have been those with the highest rainfall as that leads to richer pasture and cattle getting fatter faster and producing more milk.

    So i think that means initially the cattle&crops culture would have developed either along the Atlantic coast or around Switzerland / Dinaric Alps (or both at the same time)(or both at different times).

    Reply

  32. @Gabriel:

    “My little theory was the neolithic farmers couldn’t fully expand into Northern Europe because of the climate but did transplant their domesticated animals into the original hunter-gatherers

    The original hunter-gatherers were likely replaced by Neolithic farmers and pastoralists:”

    One note about that: it appears that the replacement was not complete. The European hunter-gatherers were likely replaced in Southern Europe, but Northern Europeans appear to be more of a mix of the Neolithic farmers coming from the south and remaining Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, with input from peoples from Asia. See here and here.

    Reply

  33. HBD Chick,

    Thanks for the great posts, but not capitalizing sentences make it harder for readers.

    Reply

    1. @ Feynmen “not capitalizing sentences make it harder for readers.” I mean this is a light hearted way, but I have read recent research that says if you want to be understood use a difficult font. That makes the reader slow down and retention and comprehension improve. Gothic fonts like this are difficult, and all lower case should follow the same logic. Personally I usually just skip italics even though they are used for emphasis. And I will give up my Times New Roman font when they pry it out of my cold stiff fingers. (Except for here, of course.)

      Reply

  34. @hbd_feynmen – “Thanks for the great posts, but not capitalizing sentences make it harder for readers.”

    noted! (i might do something about it when i redecorate….) and, thanks for the thanks. (^_^)

    Reply

  35. @linton – “And I will give up my Times New Roman font when they pry it out of my cold stiff fingers.”

    times new roman is a classic! (^_^)

    Reply

  36. I took a look at the links I posted. It seems that whilst domestication of cattle did not take place in Europe, the domestic cows that came up from Asia Minor were, in north Germany, cross-bred with wild auroch bulls. That seems to be the significance of the first fig in the pdf, i.e. that lactase persistence spread rapidly, not with the domestication of cattle, but with the breeding of cattle,
    – climate was probably an incentive to producing as much milk as possible, whereas in hotter climes perhaps the need for milk was limited by how much could be kept from going rancid in their backpacks.
    The Holstein breed seems to be one of the oldest, 2,000 years. The culture associated with these changes is Funnel Beaker with milk/milking being a possible reason for the funnel-shape.

    It’s possible that a similar process of breeding was going on in central Europe where lactase seems to have persisted as well – in exactly the same region as Hallstatt but 5-6,000 years earlier.

    So the people breeding cattle were the original migrants to Europe, the I haplogroup people. More about these migrations:

    “Only Haplogroup I is thought to define the autochthonous European population of the Holocene. Haplogroup I is represented throughout most of Europe today in small quantities, rising to significant density in north Germany, Britain, Denmark, and Scandinavia, their Holocene refuge from European incursions by other eastern and southern peoples.”

    -at this nice blog: http://friedfoo.wordpress.com/science/evolutionary-biology-genetics/genetic-anthropology/paternal-clan-history/denmark-and-nw-germany-neolithic-to-iron-age/

    [which also has a page about Angle-Saxon-Frisian-Jute Peoples and Invasions of England, 5th Century CE

    I also came across this archeology-sector site: ‘Why should the Upper Thames valley have been the focus of the most westerly area of Anglo-Saxon (English) settlement?’
    http://www.archtext.co.uk/index.htm%5D

    which site also goes into some depth about the mesolithic/neolithic:

    “At Lepenski Vir on the Danube a permanent mesolithic society was established exploiting the fish in the river. Well-preserved examples of Mesolithic huts and some charming carved stone ‘fish-faces’ are characteristic features of the site.”
    http://www.archtext.co.uk/onlinetexts/britian_and_europe/chapter05.htm

    So, the fish and butter diet seems to have been the basis for the central European development as well as the north European development, only fresh water rather than sea water

    from the wiki link about DithMarshcens:
    “Traditional dishes include Ditmarsian mehlbeutel, schwarzsauer, buttermilk soup with klüten, kale soup, and bread pudding with common shrimps.”

    Fascinating stuff – it’s like the prequel to Manorialism.

    Reply

  37. “that lactase persistence spread rapidly, not with the domestication of cattle, but with the breeding of cattle”

    Yes, if cattle were originally mostly draught animals then it seems logical (to me) to assume lactase persistence would have been most adaptive in regions where – at a particular point in time – crops were very marginal but cattle very productive which i think would be the regions of greatest rainfall (i.e. lushest pasture) which are the Atlantic coast (with an extension to Denmark and Holstein) and the regions around Switzerland (where La Tene eventually developed) during the period when the neolithic farming package wasn’t fully adapted for that latitude/climate. Conditions of marginal crops and optimal cattle would create the incentive to start breeding cattle primarily for meat/milk rather than primarily for draught – hence the Danish cattle diversity map shown in the Johnson-Frida pdf.

    (It may not mean they were to first to start breeding cattle for meat/milk but given their position just outside the maximum rainfall zone perhaps the breeds they created were improvements and replaced earlier Atlantic coast attempts?)

    (Apparently the most common breeds used in the world today are Jersey, Holstein and Swiss Brown.)

    I think the whole euro thing revolves around a cattle culture developing in the latitudes beyond the viability of the standard neolithic farming package and it’s that cattle-culture which caused the various waves of backflow which extended into historical times like a kind of mirror Kurgan where the mobs of scary cattle-dudes were coming from the north and west rather than the east (initially at least, maybe reversing direction later when horses became more critical for warfare).

    O’bantu expansion.

    .
    “The Holstein breed seems to be one of the oldest, 2,000 years. The culture associated with these changes is Funnel Beaker with milk/milking being a possible reason for the funnel-shape.”

    Seems plausible.

    .
    “It’s possible that a similar process of breeding was going on in central Europe where lactase seems to have persisted as well – in exactly the same region as Hallstatt but 5-6,000 years earlier.”

    If they had the same conditions, marginal crops because of moving into colder latitudes and heavy rainfall / lush pasture leading to good conditions for cattle e.g. around the Dinaric Alps, then seems at least plausible the similar conditions had a similar result.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s