Archives for posts with tag: ethiopians

Ancient Ethiopian genome reveals extensive Eurasian admixture throughout the African continent“Here, we present a 12.5x coverage ancient genome of an Ethiopian male (‘Mota’) who lived approximately 4,500 years ago. We use this genome to demonstrate that the Eurasian backflow into Africa came from a population closely related to Early Neolithic farmers, who had colonized Europe 4,000 years earlier. The extent of this backflow was much greater than previously reported, reaching all the way to Central, West and Southern Africa, affecting even populations such as Yoruba and Mbuti, previously thought to be relatively unadmixed, who harbor 6-7% Eurasian ancestry.” – h/t john hawks! who tweeted: “First ancient DNA from Ethiopia shows that today’s sub-Saharan Africans are at least 0.2-0.7% Neanderthal ancestry!” – see also: First Ancient African Genome Reveals Vast Eurasian Migration“The man’s genome is, unsurprisingly, more closely related to present-day Ethiopian highlanders known as the Ari than to any other population the team examined, suggesting a clear line of descent for the Ari from ancient human populations living in the area. But further genetic studies show that the Ari also descend from people that lived outside Africa, which chimes with a previous study that discovered a ‘backflow’ of humans into Africa from Eurasia around 3,000 years ago.”

Eight thousand years of natural selection in Europe“The arrival of farming in Europe around 8,500 years ago necessitated adaptation to new environments, pathogens, diets, and social organizations…. We identify genome-wide significant signatures of selection at loci associated with diet, pigmentation and immunity, and two independent episodes of selection on height…. These results suggest that the modern South-North gradient in height across Europe is due to both increased steppe ancestry in northern populations, and selection for decreased height in Early Neolithic migrants to southern Europe. “

The Hybrid Origin of “Modern” Humans“Recent genomic research has shown that hybridization between substantially diverged lineages is the rule, not the exception, in human evolution. However, the importance of hybridization in shaping the genotype and phenotype of Homo sapiens remains debated. Here we argue that current evidence for hybridization in human evolution suggests not only that it was important, but that it was an essential creative force in the emergence of our variable, adaptable species.”

Neanderthal ‘flower children’ burials theory debunked“New research casts doubt on the idea that Neanderthals buried their dead covered in flowers.”

Intelligence in youth and health at age 50“Higher intelligence in youth is linked with better physical health at age 50.” – h/t andrew sabisky!

Chorionicity and Heritability Estimates from Twin Studies: The Prenatal Environment of Twins and Their Resemblance Across a Large Number of Traits“There are three types of monozygotic (MZ) twins. MZ twins can either share one chorion and one amnion, each twin can have its own amnion, or MZ twins can—like dizygotic twins—each have their own chorion and amnion. Sharing the same chorion may create a more similar/dissimilar prenatal environment and bias heritability estimates…. We conclude that the influence on the MZ twin correlation of the intra-uterine prenatal environment, as measured by sharing a chorion type, is small and limited to a few phenotypes.”

Genetic transmission of reading ability – h/t steve stewart williams! who tweeted: “If you want your kids to read, your best bet is to have kids with a reader.”

It All Began at Ararat, and Esau’s Revenge“Ancient DNA in Europe strongly indicates massive replacement [of hunter-gatherers by agriculturalists]. But, there is also suggestion of admixture with the local substrate. And, unlike the stylized model of Bellwood, it seems that there were multiple migrations after the initial pulse which reshaped the genetic and cultural landscape of human societies in the wake of agriculture.” – from razib.

Closing the Black-White IQ Gap Debate, Part I – from chanda chisala. and a response from peter frost: No, blacks aren’t all alike. Who said they were? – and previously on this blog: there’s more to human biodiversity than just racial differences.

The Association of Cognitive Ability with Right-wing Ideological Attitudes and Prejudice: A Meta-analytic Review“The present meta-analyses revealed an average effect size of r = −.20 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) [−0.23, −0.17]; based on 67 studies, N = 84 017] for the relationship between cognitive ability and right-wing ideological attitudes and an average effect size of r = −.19 (95% CI [−0.23, −0.16]; based on 23 studies, N = 27 011) for the relationship between cognitive ability and prejudice.”

[male] Chimps like boys toys too“If you want to know why young boys play with toy guns, you could do worse than consider why young male chimpanzees play with leaves and stones.” – h/t darren burke! who tweeted: “Western social constructivism is so insidious and widespread it is even affecting wild chimpanzees now!” – (~_^)

Ravens cooperate, but not with just anyone“Ravens detect cheaters in cooperation.”

Understanding the Cognitive and Genetic Underpinnings of Procrastination: Evidence for Shared Genetic Influences With Goal Management and Executive Function Abilities – procrastination (at least) 28% heritable. will have to read original paper. tomorrow, maybe. (~_^)

Personality Traits Increasingly Important for Male Fertility: Evidence from Norway“[P]ersonality relates to men’s and women’s fertility differently; conscientiousness decreases female fertility, openness decreases male fertility and extraversion raises the fertility of both sexes. Neuroticism depresses fertility for men, but only for those born after 1956.”

Host genetic variation impacts microbiome composition across human body sites“Our results highlight the role of host genetic variation in shaping the composition of the human microbiome, and provide a starting point toward understanding the complex interaction between human genetics and the microbiome in the context of human evolution and disease.”

DNA At the Fringes: Twins, Chimerism, and Synthetic DNA – h/t genetics and society! who tweeted: “Chimeras could undermine DNA forensics & use of DNAtesting as conclusive proof of crime & family.”

Ethnic differences in the association between depression and chronic pain: cross sectional results from UK Biobank [pdf] – h/t don lyall!

Emotion, rationality, and decision-making: how to link affective and social neuroscience with social theory

Women and men react differently to infidelity“While men are most jealous of sexual infidelity, women are most jealous of emotional infidelity.” – w.e.i.r.d. study. (n=1000).

‘Safe spaces’ exist because universities treat secular ideas as sacred“The most influential effect of this cultural and political imbalance is that academia has ignored the increasing evidence that human traits are heavily influenced by hereditary factors, most prominently in intelligence and sexual differences. This has a huge bearing on public policy, especially when so much of policy is involved in tackling inequality of various kinds. It would be like trying to reduce economic inequality while pretending that wealth cannot be inherited, because that’s offensive to people’s parents, and that all fortunes were the results of education, hard work or sheer luck.” – from ed west.

Relics of the Blank Slate, as Excavated at “Ethics” Magazine“There’s a reason that the Blank Slaters clung so bitterly to their absurd orthodoxy for so many years. If there is such a thing as human nature, then all the grandiose utopias they concocted for us over the years, from Communism on down, would vanish like so many mirages.” – from helian.

Anthropologist: “I’ve Never Been So Disgusted with My Own Data” – from steve sailer.

“Ethics” is advertising – david chapman on virtue signaling (trans: signalling. (~_^) ).

Two Fed economists tried to replicate some top economic studies — and the results are dreadful – from mike bird.

The shifting tide of American immigration – from colin woodard.

Missing piece of Gilgamesh Epic discovered

Pompeii Victims’ Bodies Revealed in [ct] Scans: Photos

Excavations at Mexican ruin site yields new details of Aztecs’ sacrifice of captured Spaniards“It was one of the worst defeats in one of history’s most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.”

bonus: Most worker ants are slackers“[N]ew research shows that many ants in a colony seem to specialize in doing nothing at all. To get a closer look at how these ants filled their time, researchers marked every member of five lab-based colonies with dots of colored paint. Over the course of 2 weeks, a high-definition camera recorded 5-minute segments of the ants in action six times a day, capturing their behavior (or lack thereof). Out of the ‘workers,’ 71.9% were inactive at least half the time, and 25.1% were never seen working. A small fraction of the ants, just 2.6%, were always active during observation, the researchers wrote last month in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.”

bonus bonus: How to Dupe a Dung Beetle“A case of biological mimicry has been spotted in Ceratocaryum argenteum, a South African plant that tricks dung beetles into spreading its stinky seeds.”

bonus bonus bonus: Elephants: Large, Long-Living and Less Prone to Cancer“Dr. Schiffman and his colleagues found that elephants have evolved new copies of the p53 gene [“a gene that is crucial for preventing cancer”]. While humans have only one pair of p53 genes, the scientists identified 20 pairs in elephants.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: DNA Sequenced for New Zealand’s First Dog – the kurī. woof!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Watch Drones Drop Thousands of Moths on Crops

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Honour, community and hierarchy in the feasts of the archery and crossbow guilds of Bruges, 1445–81

and the tweet of the week… (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. “Humans come then go, that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.”)

Welsh people could be most ancient in UK, DNA suggests

Genomics and African queens“[The researchers] found that the genomes of some Ethiopian populations bear striking similarities to those of populations in Israel and Syria, a potential genetic legacy of the Queen of Sheba and her companions.”

Opiate of the Male Masses“How big of a problem, really, does pornography cause for men?” – from dennis mangan.

Study suggests poor mothers favor daughters“Poor mothers will invest more resources in daughters, who stand a greater chance of increasing their status through marriage than do sons…. On the contrary, mothers who were better off financially favored sons over daughters.” – an example of the trivers-willard hypothesis. research article. h/t linton! (^_^)

Liberalism rankings by country – from the audacious epigone.

Study Finds People Who Believe In Heaven Commit More Crimes“A study published in the scientific journal PLoS One by University of Oregon’s Azim Shariff and University of Kansas’s Mijke Rhemtulla finds that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime while people who believe in heaven more likely are to get in trouble with the law.” – i thought the concepts of heaven and hell usually went together?

Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging, study finds“‘Men who had declines in testosterone were more likely to be those who became obese, had stopped smoking or were depressed at either clinic visit.'”

bonus: Never-before-seen microbes found in Chile’s desert

bonus bonus: All 786 Known Planets To Scale – from xkcd. (^_^)

bonus bonus bonus: EU should ‘undermine national homogeneity’ says UN migration chief“Peter Sutherland told peers the future prosperity of many EU states depended on them becoming multicultural.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Jogging in forest twice as good as trip to gym for mental health

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Sickle-cell mystery solved“Researchers discover how carriers of the sickle-cell anaemia gene are protected from malaria.”

The Western European marriage pattern – @evoandproud.

How Humans Became Social

Study: Flynn effect is not caused by hybrid vigor – @the inductivist.

Behavioral Economics Foils an Obama Tax Cut?

Women see naked men differently too – women objectify men, too! who knew?! (well, i did… (~_^) )

Crowds R Us

Researchers find risk-taking behavior rises until age 50“Women and men follow the same trajectory, with men more willing to compete, through the lifespan.”

According to, the Hispanic community is the fastest growing community when it comes to infidelity – @diversity is chaos.

35% of men from rural Brazil have had sex with an animal, study finds

A Black Gift for Politics? – from the derb.

bonus: These May Be The Droids Farmers Are Looking For – we need more of these!

bonus bonus: Is the tide turning against the killing of ‘cursed’ infants in Ethiopia?

bonus bonus bonus: Harrison Bergeron – h/t anonymous for the link!

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laura betzig makes a convincing argument that, especially for the elites — both secular and clerical (think popes and bishops) — marriage in medieval europe might have been monogamous, but mating wasn’t. not only were the elites not all that monogamous in their mating practices, many of them were also incestuous [pgs. 185-86]:

“In the same vein — and maybe richest of all accounts — is Lambert of Ardres’ ‘Historia comitum Ghisnensium,’ the early thirteenth-century pean to his benefactor, Count Baudouin. Marc Bloch calls Baudouin ‘hunter, toper, and great wencher’ (1961, p. 104), and Georges Duby has made a lot of the last. As he puts it: ‘Life in a noble household was a hotbed of sex’ (1983, p. 70). Or, as Lambert says: ‘”From the beginning of adolescence until his old age, his loins were stirred by the intemperance of an impatient libido…; very young girls, and especially virgins, aroused his desire”‘ (Duby 1978, p. 93). Roissy Baudouin and his kinsmen are said to have preferred pretty women; no matter how casually sexually encountered they are all described as ‘beautiful.’ And, evidently, fruitful: This count was buried with twenty-three bastards in attendance, besides ten living legitimate daughters and sons (p. 94).

“Even these might have been just the fruits of the family tree’s primary limbs. As Lambert notes, Baudouin by no means kept account of all his bastards. These were usually scattered far and wide. And, as Duby notes, noble men would just as soon have the ignoble women — the servants, slaves, and whores — who begot so many of them. The lovers noble men did remember may have included their vassals’ daughters, ‘but there is more evidence that they were the family’s bastard daughters, who formed a kind of pleasure reserve within the house itself’ (Duby 1978, p. 94). This kind of sex was, then, endogamous. Noble or half-noble women begat noble or half-nobel children, ad infinitum. ‘Illegitimacy was a normal part of the structure of ordinary society — so normal that illegitimate children, especially males, were neither concealed nor rejected’ (Duby 1983, p. 262). They always had the right, at least, to bed and board in their father’s house. ‘That house was always open to them’ (p. 263.) Bastards like these, the cream of the illegitimate crop, are most likely to have made up the twenty-three who watched when Baudouin was interred.”

so, not a big surprise, powerful men in the middle ages tried to maximize the number of offspring they had. and they even mated somewhat incestuously sometimes.

this made me wonder how different marriage or mating patterns affect relatedness within a society — apart from mating with relatives or not, that is. i mean: how does monogamy or polygamy affect the relatedness between the members of a society?

so, forget about cousin marriage and all that jazz for a second. here’s what strict monogamy looks like (think christian europe). (yes, i know there’s always a little hanky-panky — the milkman and mrs. jones, for instance — this is just schematic.):

first of all, triangles are men and circles are women. i colorized only the men ’cause it just got too confusing to colorize everybody. the women have been numbered instead. the point is that, here in strict monogamy land, there are six men and six women, none of whom are related, who marry/mate, and each pair has two kids. each pair of kids, then, (barring any hanky-panky) is related to their parents and each other, but not to anybody else in their society. each little nuclear-family is a discrete, “atomized” group. (this isn’t completely the case in a real population, of course. in every natural society, the members are related somehow, even if it’s distantly.)

in contrast, polygamy narrows the gene pool since one man can have several wives. thus there are several sets of half-brothers and half-sisters within polygamy land who are (obviously) all related to one another (think arab and many african countries). and some men fall out of the gene pool altogether. here mr. green marries contestants women numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6, while messrs. red, orange and yellow are out of luck:

so, with polygamy, the gene pool within a society narrows. in reality, what typically happens, at least in arab/muslim societies, is that the polygamy occurs frequently within the extended family, so that the gene pool narrows even more within the extended family. the other thing that often happens — particularly in arab countries — is that there is a lot of divorce, so in reality you have something like a serial monogamy, only it’s a serially polygamous society.

(whew! this is gettin’ complicated. *hbd chick wipes brow*)

finally, serial monogamy (think the amhara of ethiopia — or modern western society):

here in my schematic serial monogamy land, each of the men has married twice to two different women and has had one kid with each of them. so, each kid has one half-sibling via his father AND one half-sibling via his mother. so, the relatedness is not quite as narrow as in a polygamous society (every man does get to produce offspring) — but at the same time, there are more genetic connections between the members of the society than in a strict monogamy. (in reality, serial monogamy is often more like polygamy since many women vie for the chance to mate with the best men, while the whiskeys of the world are left out in the cold.)

in strict monogamy, in the second generation, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with their one and only sibling. in serial monogamy, each child shares (probably) 25% of their genes with two siblings. the connections look like this (plus the kids of mr. blue and mr. yellow at the ends are also related):

complicated, huh?

(btw — in polygamy, each child shares (probably) 50% of their genes with the sibling with whom they share a mother, and (probably) 25% of their genes with their half-siblings via their father.)

so, if we recall again that in a natural population the members of a society do, of course, share a lot of genes in common, then we can see that a strict monogamy would keep the genetic ties between non-family members “broad but shallow”; a population practising serial monogamy has somewhat narrower and deeper genetic ties between non-immediate family members, i.e. extended familiy ties within the society are stronger; and polygamy leads to narrow and deep genetic ties within the extended family, which becomes somewhat cut-off from the larger society. (this is even more so the case when you recall that cousin-marriage is common in polygamous societies.)

i think that the coporate and individualistic nature of western europeans (especially the english!) is connected to the (somewhat) strictly monogamous, non-cousin marriage mating patterns which have been around since the early medieval period in much of europe. these mating patterns set the stage for the selection of certain personality traits — individualism + clark’s traits — since western european families were mostly discrete and independent units making their own way in the world. these traits made western european man what he is today was yesterday.

the fact that europeans (including those of us in the u.s., australia, etc.) are now adopting serial monogamy must mean big changes are in store.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

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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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just a short note/thought about the “generation counting” in ethiopia.

the ethiopian law code, the fetha negest, which includes this prohibition against marrying anybody closer than a sixth cousin, was adopted in ethiopia in the mid-1400s (or maybe the 1500s). it was the work of an egyptian copt, ‘abul fada’il ibn al-‘assal, who compiled it in 1240 (i guess it was used by the copts in egypt during that time?).

my guess is that ibn al-‘assal adapted current roman catholic ideas on marriage into his law code. well, kinda current. the roman catholic church had banned (as well as they could) up to sixth cousin marriage in the eleventh century, but reversed this at the fourth latern council in 1215 (back to only a ban up to third cousins). ibn al-‘assal may not have been aware of this at the time of writing — or maybe he was and thought the old regulations were better.

in any case, my guess (again) is that this practice of “generation counting” and marrying beyond sixth cousins by several ethiopian groups was not an indigenous practice but was introduced from egypt in the 1400-1500s. and the egyptians got their ideas from rome. this is just my guess, tho. i’ll be keepin’ my eye out for a confirmation (or not!) of my guess.

previously: ethiopia notes

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…(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.”

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

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

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


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