linkfest – 01/22/12

Penn Researchers Help Solve Questions About Ethiopians’ High-Altitude Adaptations“[A]ll three groups’ [andeans, tibetans, amharans] adaptations appear to involve different genetic mutations, an example of convergent evolution.”

Yeast suggests speedy start for multicellular life“Single-celled organism can evolve multicellularity within months.” – whoa.

‘Rules’ may govern genome evolution in young plant species“Scientists have often wondered if there are ‘rules’ that govern patterns of evolution, and data for Tragopogon polyploids suggest that such rules may actually operate at the genetic level.”

IQ Ceilings? – from jayman.

When it Comes to Accepting Evolution, Gut Feelings Trump Facts – and religious belief – “[I]ntuitive cognition has a significant impact on what people end up accepting, no matter how much they know…. [E]ven students with greater knowledge of evolutionary facts weren’t likelier to accept the theory, unless they also had a strong ‘gut’ feeling about those facts…. For the subjects of this study, belonging to a religion had almost no additional impact on beliefs about evolution….”

Race and self-enhancement – from the inductivist.

Do smart people lie more? – the inductivist, on a roll this week!

Gossip isn’t all bad — new study finds its social and psychological benefits – most importantly, it makes you feel better. (~_^)

Do some cultures have their own ways of going mad? – via amren.

Into the mind of a Neanderthal

bonus: Data suggests people using pseudonyms leave better comments – pseudonyms rock!

(note: comments do not require an email. some ethiopian highlanders.)


early medieval europe and nineteenth century ethiopia

ninth century european (and by european i mean mitterauer’s europe: germanic areas, northern france and england, more-or-less) and nineteenth century amharic society are rather reminiscent of one another. they’re not exactly alike, of course — different peoples, different environments, different histories — but there are some interesting similarities, particularly in family/societal relations. (there are also some interesting differences that i’ll talk about in a follow-up post.)

both societies practiced outbreeding:

– the europeans were not allowed to marry anyone closer than second-cousins — this included in-laws. no polygamy and absolutely no divorce. all of this was pretty strictly enforced by the church since you had to marry in the church, although dispensations were sometimes granted. these marriage laws were introduced to the northern europeans during the fifth and sixth centuries, although it may have taken a couple of generations for everyone to comply. so, by the ninth century, early medieval europeans had been outbreeding for three- to four-hundred years — something like twelve to sixteen generations of outbreeding, counting a generation as twenty-five years.

– the amharans were not allowed to marry anyone closer than sixth cousins, although divorce was common and “serial monogamy” was the norm. (at different points during its history, the shewa kingdom, where the amharans live, was under the control of muslims. i’m guessing that the amharans picked up the quick-and-easy divorce thing from them, unless it was an indigenous practice.) it’s not clear to me how the cousin-marriage prohibition was enforced apart from it simply being tradition — despite being christians, most amharans did not traditionally marry in the church — but the tradition seems to have be pretty well-enforced amongst ethiopian jews, and so may it have amongst the amharans as well. (it’s also not clear to me if every marriage had to be beyond the sixth cousin, or just the first one.) this sixth cousin proscription seems to have been introduced to ethiopia in the 1400s or 1500s, so by the mid-nineteenth century, the amharans would’ve been outbreeding for three-hundred-fifty to four-hundred years — or fourteen to eighteen generations — comparable to the europeans.

so, what was ninth century european society — in particular its family-relations — like? from “Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path” [pgs. 60, 62-5, 67-8, 77]:

It was primarily the parent-child group that lived on the mansi and hides of the Carolingian villicatio, occasionally with servants or people who may or may not have been their relatives. This kind of group indicates a conjugal family structure. From today’s point of view, this type of structure does not seem worth emphasizing at first glance because it has become generally accepted in European societies….

“In his survey ‘Characteristics of the Western Family Considered over Time,’ Peter Laslett grouped specific characteristics of the European family into four areas. His first point is that family membership ‘in the West’ was confined for the most part to parents and children, the so-called nuclear family or the simple family household. Carolingian sources show that with regard to generational depth this form of household was clearly dominant at the time….

“Laslett’s fourth characteristic of the ‘Western family’ is particularly important: the presence of servants who were not kin but were still fully recognized household members. These servants who were not related by bonds of kinship did not serve in one household throughout their lives but only from youth to marriage. This is why Laslett speaks of ‘life-cycle servants.’ Life-cycle servants were people in the household who were different from the domestic slaves found in many cultures, and they were sometimes included among members of the family…. [T]hese domestics were often found in property registers as early as the Carolingian period.

“All four characteristics of the ‘Western family’ that Laslett lists go far back in history. All four indicate the influence of the manorial system. All four can be connected with the hide system. All four point toward different facets of the conjugal family: In the simple family household, the conjugal couple were the nucleus….

The most important feature of the Western family is doubtless the fact that it was not constituted by bloodlines but was a house or household community largely free of kinship ties. English-language family research uses the very apposite concept of the ‘coresident domestic group’ that is based on family contexts in more modern time but also fits medieval ones perfectly. Living in a family that includes non-kin goes back a long way in European history…. The life-cycle servant was the prototype of the non-kin coresident who would be taken into the family to augment the work force temporarily. We already find him listed in the polyptychs of Carolingian monastic estates in the early days of the manorial system. Other kinds of unrelated coresidents were added wherever the manorial system continued to develop in Europe: inmates, lodgers, guests, foster children, and elderly reirees and children left behind by previous owners who shared no bond of kinship.”

so, the basic unit in early medieval (north-western) european society was the nuclear family which was not attached to extensive kinship groups like clans or tribes. households would also typically include non-relatives. this is quite a contrast from many areas of the world where a large, extended family would make up the household and the labor force of that household. also, young people in medieval europe were particularly mobile, often leaving home to work as servants in other households.

mitterauer continues:

“As a rule, manorial and lineage structures are in conflict with each other, but this opposition alone cannot satisfactorily explain the profound changes in European kinship systems. These processes of change go back to well before the rise of the Frankish agrarian system; in spatial terms, they extend beyond that system’s area of dissemination. So we must look for other determining factors that might allow us to understand why Frankish systems of agrarianism, lordship, and family could evolve in which lineage principles play so minor a part….

“The introduction of Christianity always preceded the introduction of the hide system throughout the entire area of colonization in the East — often by only a slight difference in time, but occasionally centuries earlier. The time sequence was never reversed, anywhere. The western agrarian system at all times found a state of affairs where Christian conversion had either relaxed or weakened older patrilineal patterns. This process had already paved the way for the transition to a bilateral system of kinship and the conjugal family.”

in other words, you can’t have a manorial system in your society when you have large kinship groups like clans. you have to get rid of, or at least reduce, the inbreeding (in order to get rid of the kinship groups) if you want to have a manorial system. on the other hand, the manorial system further breaks down kinship connections since people shift and are shifted around throughout the system.

so, what about the mid-nineteenth century amharans? from “Class, State and Power in Africa: a case study of the Kingdom of Shewa” [pgs. 49-50, 52, 54-56]:

The Amhara lived in hamlets and scattered homesteads rather than in nucleated villages [so did the europeans, btw – hbd chick]; the parish grouped together a number of hamlets into a unit of worship and cooperation for religious purposes; the estate of the local lord (gultagna or malkagna) served as the smallest political entity and would often differ from both the former. All three units were cut across by significant ties of kinship, friendship, and allegiance, which high mobility contributed to weakening the loyalty to any particular institution. Communal ties were thus numerous, diffuse, and subject to manipulation….

“The Shewan economy was predominantly agricultural, but there was also a considerable trade….

“A well-developed agriculture laid the basis for a class society by providing a large agricultural surplus. Shewa was set in a rich ecological milieu, the plough was in general use, crop rotation was widely practised; manure, irrigation, and terracing were well-known techniques and practised where feasible. This set the peasantry of Shewa, and northern Ethiopia in general, off from the common African agriculturalists using the hoe….

The household was the unit or production, but was an institution which also had a wider social significance…. The household consisted of two elements, ‘tasks’ and personnel. The tasks formed a fairly stable structure, divided into male and female spheres, each strictly ranked. The personnel changed frequently and was assigned its tasks according to the size of the household and the relative standing of its members.

The central cohesive link was the tie of marriage, but the household was often not identical with the nuclear family; it included non-kin or distantly related members according to its stage within the domestic cycle. Furthermore, marriage did not provide a basis for a stable family. Common marriage (as opposed to religious marriage) was entered into by swearing on the life of the king in the presence of witnesses and taking account of the property brough by each party. The laxity and dissolubility of this form of marriage has often been emphasied; in Menilek’s time one enterprising lady of twenty-seven was known to have had fifteen or sixteen husbands. Religious marriage, which in theory bound husband and wife together for ever, was mostly left to priests and old persons….

“Among the peasants the husband-wife relationship was one of equals, performing complementary tasks, both a man and a woman being necessary to form even a minimal household. Women had a fairly strong position in Shewan society, keeping their own name and property when marrying; the husband managed all the household’s land, but on divorce the wife resumed possession of whatever she had brought into the marriage….

“If there were no servants, the children played their part, also serving as a form of education. From the age of five or six they were given small duties in the fields or made to fetch wood or water. However, children were an unstable labour force; at about twelve many left their parents to take service in other households, only the favourite son remaining on the farm….

“The Amhara household faced two basic problems, reproduction and recruitment. Its holding of land was not a family estate cultivated for generations; the rule of equal inheritance, although not strictly adhered to, greatly reduced continuity from generation to generation. Even a favoured child inherited a share that was significantly smaller than that of his father; each generation had to build its own fortune anew, implying competition and a need for personal achievement, not an equal or inherited starting point.

Recruitment of household members took several forms. The couple’s children, or children of a former marriage, stayed with their parents for a number of years; servants were numerous, even the peasants had at least one; finally the institution of slavery eased recruitment of personnel for the lowly household tasks….

like medieval europe, then, the basic unit of nineteenth century amharan society was the nuclear family plus servants who came and went in the household. young people in amharan society, like their european counterparts, would also leave home to become servants in other households. the amharan nuclear family stood independent from a larger kinship group like the european nuclear family (but there is one difference here related to the inheritance of property which i’ll get to in a follow-up post — or you can just check out ege’s book starting on pg. 59). the main difference here is the fragility of the husband and wife team in amharan society — that could break-up at any moment and, apparently, did. the ethiopians also had slaves in their households.

the commonality here? i think it’s that the outbreeding creates this sort-of centrifugal force that flings kin farther away from one another in terms of social relations. with lots of regular inbreeding you get extended families, clans, tribes, etc. with lots of outbreeding, you get nuclear families and strangers in your household. of course, every society has its own particular historical (evolutionary) course, and so there are unique elements to them all.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

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the amhara…

…(of ethiopia) have/had a weird relationship with food. [*insert famine joke here*]

the following passages are from “Socialization and social control in Ethiopia” written by a guy who spent a total of fourteen years in ethiopia starting in 1965 up to, i think, the 1990s. he’s talking here about traditional, countryside amhara. there have been changes (as a result of things like modernization, urbanization, war, famine, etc.) to a lot of this in modern times.

pgs. 40-1:

“Restraint is (or was in the not so distant past) as strictly enforced or enjoined with respect to food and drink as to premarital sex. As a warning example, people are reminded that Adam and Eve were ‘defeated’ by food when they ate of the forbidden fruit. As the devil tempted Christ to convert stones into bread, so he comes also today, tempting people to eat to excess (‘much’). Heavy eating and drinking is ‘sinful’. Children are taught that they should eat and drink in moderation, and not enjoy their food ‘too much’. Food ought not to be ‘too’ attractive or appetizing, because food builds up the body (‘the flesh’ – with its biblical connotation as the seat of sin and lust, etc.) but damages or destroys the soul. Love of food and drink is ‘bad’. Frugality is valued. However hungry they are, children are taught to leave some food on the plate — it is ill-mannered to eat all one’s food, either because the leftovers are fed to servants and other poor people, or — in some households — it is left (symbolically) for a protecting house-spirit called away.

“Those who keep all the fasts prescribed or recommended by the Ethiopian Orthodox church will fast most days of the year**; but even those who honour only the ‘compulsory’ fasts*** will observe quite a great number of fasting days each year. Fasting food can be healthy — most of the vegetables the Amhara eat they consume during fasting seasons — although it is (purposely) prepared rather unattractively during these times….**** The church recommends (but does not insist) that fasting should start at the age of seven.

“** Fasting consists of abstaining from animal products and sex, and to eat nothing till the afternoon. One is expected to combine this with more intensive praying and church attendance.
“*** Many non-religious people also observe these fasts as an expression of Ethiopian or Amhara ‘nationalism’. It is as much a cultural as a religious act or phenomenon to many people.
“**** There is for example no butter or animal fat/oil in the food, and no milk is used in bread, etc.”

is all this fasting and hyper-respect for food some reaction to centuries of famines? don’t eat too much ’cause you don’t want to waste too much food?

you’d think not eating enough/properly wouldn’t be too good for you — and the author thinks it hasn’t been good for the amhara:

pg. 57:

“The ‘delay’ of marriage and child-bearing is, ironically, coinciding with earlier maturing. Food has by the traditional Amhara not been highly regarded as a ‘good’ (however tasty their food is) — it has rather been seen as a necessity, and it has been widely considered as an inducement to worldliness and sin. Nutrition has (perhaps partly therefore) been poor (which does not mean that Amhara women are poor cooks — quite the contrary). In spite of much fertile land, food production is at a low level, and many eat too little or survive on an unhealthy diet (however tasty it may be). This may explain why Amhara rarely develop good body proportions and why ‘ageing’ sets in early. Poor diets have also had noticeably detrimental effects on the mental and intellectual development of many.”

here’s some more curious food-related behaviors:

pg. 93:

“When a boy or a man and a girl or a woman marry, they eat together and continue to do so throughout life. But the children do not eat with the parents till they are (nearly) ready for marriage, although in towns it is now becoming usual that the whole family eat together, and slowly this is becoming customary also in the countryside. The typical situation used, however, to be (and partly still is) that the children took turns to hold a burning torch or light for the parents to see by when they ate at night, while they (the children) kept their eyes on the wall: they were not allowed to watch their parents eating.** Otherwise, during daytime or when not holding a light for their parents, they were not present when adults were eating, although they could occasionally be called and fed mouthfuls from the hands of their parents or other adults. After the parents had eaten — and also taken the best and most nourishing parts of the food — the children would eat the leftovers after them (and servants or poor people would be given the leftovers after them). Some children normally ate (and some still eat) their food with the servants. Meals were usually taken in silence: it was counted as irreverent to talk (let alone chatter or ‘keep the conversation going’) during a meal.

“** In earlier times, rulers and high nobles would never be observed eating. Even at banquets they would be screened off from the common view while eating.”

pg. 95:

“At around 12 or 13 years of age, boys in the countryside wander about more widely than before, and they start to eat what they can find in nature: fruits, roots, tubers, plants of various kinds growing wild, and they may be so sated with this that they start skipping meals at home. They are ‘in the field’ in this way both for play and as shepherds.”

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ethiopia notes

since ihtg pointed out that at least some ethiopians — including ethiopian jews — have a tradition of avoiding any close-cousin marriages (out to sixth cousins!), i’ve been trying to read up on the ethiopians.

it seems to have been the amhara who started this tradition in ethiopia — or, at least, the other groups who also practice “generation counting” picked it up from the amhara via a general ongoing amharization process that happened throughout ethiopia over the centuries. the amhara are the ethnic group that have been the most literate and have produced the most royals throughout ethiopian history. they have been the bearers of ethiopia’s high culture.

my questions are:

– for how long have the amhara/other ethiopian groups been practising such strong cousin-marriage avoidance?
– how is the practice enforced?
– are they endogamous in some other way, like the greeks avoiding the nearest cousins but marrying locally, or do they marry completely exogamously? do they keep marrying within their kin-group, or do they marry completely out of their kin-group?
– and, what is amharan society like? is it open, individualistic, trusting? or is it closed, clannish, hostile? is there any evidence here to support the idea that outbreeding leads to more a more open society, or is that idea totally bunk?

the following are just some notes based on what i’ve read in the last day or so, so it’s obviously not the final word on the matter!

the rule for counting out seven generations to determine whom one can marry is part of the ethiopian (amharan) law code, the fetha negest [pg. 134, pg. 10 of the pdf], which was compiled in 1240 by an egyptian copt and later adopted in ethiopia in 1450. so, if the first introduction of this seven generation rule only goes back to 1450 — well, that’s pretty far back, but it doesn’t compare to the 400s for european tribes. in this scenario, the european tribes would’ve had a one thousand year headstart, give or take a few hundred years here and there. (if you haven’t been following along, it’s more complicated than that. see the Inbreeding in Europe series down below in the left-hand column for more details.)

christianity, though, has been around in ethiopia for much longer than that. it became the official state religion in 330 a.d., but there were probably christians in the region even earlier. and the church in ethiopia had long been tied to the coptic church in egypt, so if the seven generations thing was present in egypt earlier (and it seems to have at least been talked about as early as 1240), then perhaps it was present in ethiopia before 1450 as well. difficult to know.

in any case, the seven generations thing does seem to have been introduced to the ethiopians from the copts in egypt (unless it was a general egyptian/ethiopian practice that was just codified in the 1200s in egypt), so i’m guessing that it was not an indigenous ethiopian practice.

how is this seven generations thing enforced? by tradition, it seems. marriage in ethiopia is generally not a religious affair, i.e. most people traditionally did not get married in the church. royals and some aristocracy did, but not peasants [pg. 795]:

“Although it is generally agreed that the Amhara and the Tegranna-speakers recognize several different forms of legitimate marriage, observers are unanimous in reporting that marriage as a sacrament performed within the church … was rare compared to the various other options. Among the comparatively few who choose this option are priests and their spouses. It is also found among elderly couples, who have been married in another form of ceremony and celebrate a church wedding when they realize that they will not divorce or re-marry.

“Samanya is marriage by a civil contract, and is the generally preferred form. Although it is in accord with the law of the Church, and the agreement between the families may be followed by a religious ceremony, and official Church ceremony whether Orthodox or other is rare.”

so, at least in modern times, the out-marrying regulation has not been enforced by the church, unlike the ban on cousin-marriage by the catholic and, later, protestant churches in europe. in europe, it would’ve been difficult, if not impossible, to marry various cousins (depending on the time period) without permission from the church. in ethiopia, nowadays anyways, the church is not the enforcer.

divorce and re-marriage — and affairs — are also rampant in ethiopia. how long this has been the case, i don’t know. is the seven generation thing followed in all these instances? or just in the case of first-marriages? on divorce in ethiopia [pg. 797]:

“Many authors have commented on the instability of marriage in Ethiopia. This appears to be due to a combination of cultural and historical circumstances. Marriage may often end in divorce because the couple themselves often have little say in the choice of spouses. On the other hand, later marriage may be fragile bonds, because there is little family involvement and hence little pressure to maintain the union.”

so, what’s amharan society like [pg. 231]?:

“Traditional Amhara social structure took the form of a peasant society. Agriculturalists subsist on the ox-drawn plough-cultivation of cereal grains and herding of livestock…. They live in households that function as a unit of political economy, an oikos, rather than a kinship unit. Its members each carry out specific tasks assigned according to gender and other status markers, all under the authority of a single senior male. Each household lives in a compound containing a small number of round buildings built of wattle or stone, capped with conical thatched roofs. Homesteads usually are located on land worked by the peasant, though often a number of them group into hamlets.

“Beyond that, Amhara households have been linked to one another along three separate axes. Economically, they are linked through weekly markets. Politically, they were linked traditionally by obligations to lord over seigniories who held rights to tribute referred to as gelt, such that traditional Amhara society may be classed usuefully as feudal. Since the bureaucratization of public administration following World War II, household have been subordinated to subdistrict, district and provincial governors. Ecclesiastically, they have been linked through parishes, named after the sacred ark of its church, often coterminous with one or more local seigniories. Traditionally, Amhara churches have been supported through gelt right to usufruct and labour.”

sounds rather medieval-europe-like. there’s more:

“With respect to kinship, Amhara persons are linked through an ambilineal descent system. The Amhara rule of exogamy, prescribed in the Feth Nagast, requires that marriage-partners not be closer then ‘seven houses’; that is, not have a common great-great-great-grandparent. Kinship ties figure to some extent in connection with avenging murders, but primarily through determining the distribution of rights to the use of land. Other forms of Amhara social relations include the daily coffee klatch; monthly religious feasting associations in honour of a particular saint or angel; arrangement for reciprocal help in connection with farming, housebuilding and feasting; and voluntary dyadic personal relations including godparent-child, guarantor-guarantee and, pervasively, patron-client ties.”

clientelism?! ruh-roh.

more anon!

previously: mating patterns and society in ethiopia

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mating patterns and society in ethiopia

ihtg pointed out (thnx, ihtg!) that ethiopian jews have very strong exogamous mating patterns (except for mating outside of their ethnic group, presumably). he mentioned the ‘zamad’, which is the beta israel term for extended family. when looking for a marriage partner for their children, ethiopian jews would exclude anyone within the zamad related to them going back seven generations! that means marriage between sixth-cousins and anyone closer was not really (heh) kosher. from “Surviving salvation: the Ethiopian Jewish family in transition” [pg. 59]:

“For the Beta Israel, in contrast, social life was organized around the flexible and often-overlapping concepts of the extended family (zamad) and household (beta sa’ab). Zamad is a term whose precise meaning varies according to the circumstances and, in particular, according to what it is being contrasted. Thus, zamad is most frequently used to refer to an entire extended family (as opposed to strangers), but it was also used to distinguish blood relations (yesaga zamad) from in-laws (amachenat). When searching for a spouse for a son or daughter, parents would automatically exclude anyone in their zamad counting back seven generations. Thus to marry even a third cousin would be considered a form of incest! Since sons traditionally settled in the same village as their parents when they married, many local communities consisted of one or several extended families. Membership in a large and powerful zamad provided both practical benefits and social standing. Members of a zamad were expected to support each other in time of need. Within the borders of the zamad little attention was paid to the ‘real’ relationship between members. Thus, according to circumstance, grandparents, uncles, or older siblings might be a child’s ‘parents.’ A person’s ‘children’ might easily include nieces, nephews, stepchildresn, and younger siblings. His or her biological sons and daughters might be teens before they realized that some of their ‘brothers and sisters’ were in fact cousins!”

so, the beta israel are very outbred within their extended family (zamad). it’s not clear to me who a preferred marriage partner might be — someone from one’s own zamad, just beyond sixth cousin? or someone from another zamad? and if it’s someone from another zamad, is it someone from another zamad from the same village? inquiring minds want to know!

still, the beta israel are so outbred within their zamad that keeping track of who’s your sibling or who’s your first-cousin or even who’s your fifth-cousin is not really important because all of them are off-limits as far as marriage goes. they don’t need to keep track of their father’s brother’s daughter or mother’s brother’s daughter the way the arabs do, ’cause neither of those individuals are marriable. kind-of like how the germans, before the arrival of christianity, had specific words for the different types of cousins, but once they could no longer marry most of their cousins, the term ‘cousin’ was then universally applied to all of them. (these germans included anglo-saxons, too, of course.)

so, i decided to look around to see if i could find out anything about the mating patterns of other groups of ethiopians — i recalled seeing something about this prohibition against sixth cousin marriage, or something like that, somewhere else (i think it was here on wikipedia).

first of all, there are several different ethnic groups in ethiopia, of course: oromo, amhara, tagray, etc. — some are cushitic, others semitic, others nilotic — many are christians, some are muslims.

but look what i found out about some of them [pg. 406]:

“In the central highland societies of Amhara, Tagray, several Gurage groups, but also among the Omotic-speaking Dizi in the south-west, clans do not exist and people trace descent along bilateral lines. Both the above types rest on ideas of lineal kinship through descent from a father’s line, a mother’s line or through both, but bilateral tracing or ambilineality excludes clanship. Males and females can inherit through both their mother’s and father’s line, but actualization of the rights of the claims is strongly situational.

“In ambilineal societies, the nuclear family tends to be the most important unit, although in the rural areas this unit is often at least two-generational. Among the Amhara, wife and husband kept their rights of possession in property brought into the marriage, making for a relatively equal, or at least independent, and somewhat competitive relation between spouses. As clans are absent to define the kin circle outside of which one has to marry, bilateral or ambilineal societies use a generational rule of distance, e.g., the well-known one among Amhara (and taken over by many other groups) that one may not marry ‘within seven generations’ reckoned from ego upwards, i.e., no descendant from a common great-great-great-grandparent on either mother’s or father’s side. Such a group of descendants from an apical male (wanna abbat) is often called bet (‘house’) among the Amhara or anda among Tegrenna-speakers.”

“bet” like beta israel? prolly.

listen to what amhara and tagray societies are like!:

“The bilateral kinship system in the case of the Amhara, and probably even more so the Tagray, has led to a highly individualistic ethos where kin bonds are subject to high variability and negotiation. As among clan group members, there are no automatically solidary kin group units in this society. Tagray kinship in particular is marked by a strongly contractual, ‘political’ character. Locality and neighbourhood are more important than kin-based households. Ambilineal societies have thus given rise to an extraordinary social dynamism, generating individual competition (thus perhaps contributing to the meritorious complex in Ethiopia) but also to a high conflict potential on the level of households.

neato! except for the conflict part. doesn’t sound all that foreign (if you’re a europoid), eh? and, of course, it’s not the bilateral kinship system that’s led to the “highly individualistic ethos” but, rather, all the oubreeding.

there’s more:

“Among the Dizi of south-west Ethiopia, a people living in the midst of lineage societies like Me’en, Benc, and Suri, there is neither clan organization nor lineage thinking. They trace bilateral lines on both side, and in this they resemble northern Semitic-speaking societies, which whom they indeed claimed historical affinity…. Dizi exogamy rules are based on generational distance reckoning (the ‘seven generation’ rule), as among the Amhara and Tagray.

other groups in ethiopia are not as exogamous as the amhara, tagray or dizi, and they appear to be more clannish. the oromo, for instance [pg. 405]:

“The Oromo, the most numerous and diversified people in Ethiopia, are historically a segmentary, patrilineal clan society, based on named clans. The genealogical principle is strong…. Migrations and socio-economic change have led to local adaptations of the system. These societies are, however, still strongly patriarchal, and polygamy is frequent. There is no clear rule of clan exogamy among Oromo; instead there is (or was) a rule of not marrying within the hidda groups of close relatives, reckoned five generations back.

five generations back means a prohibition against marrying anyone closer than fourth-cousins. that’s closer endogamy, then, than the amhara, etc., who won’t marry sixth cousins or closer (as a general rule). it also sounds like the oromo might favor marrying within the clan, just beyond fourth-cousins. polygamy, too, also narrows the degrees of genetic relatedness within a group of people.

ethiopia sounds like an interesting place with regard to mating patterns — there are many different groups with a variety of different mating traditions, unlike western europe which just sorta has two broad patterns — in the north, don’t marry your cousins — in the south, don’t marry your cousins either, but we’ll let you get away with marrying your cousins more than they do in the north.

will have to learn more about ethiopia!

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