the yąnomamö of brazil/venezuela:
these guys are the un–semai — from steven pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature:
“Helena Valero, a woman who had been abducted by the Yanomamö in the Venezuelan rain forest in the 1930s, recounted one of their raids:
“‘Meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured…. Then the men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them, and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and rocks. . . . All the women wept.'”
according to pinker, the annual yąnomamö death rate due to warfare was something like 275 out of 100,000 in the mid-twentieth century. definitely higher numbers than the semai:
warfare here, of course, refers to battles between villages (perhaps, too, between alliances of villages — i don’t know — haven’t finished reading the book yet!). and because there is so much violence between villages, the yąnomamö have to be wary [pg. 131]:
“Daily activities begin early in a Yanomamo village. One can hear people chatting lazily and children crying long before it is light enough to see. Most people are awakened by the cold and build up the fire just before daybreak….
“The entrances are all covered with dry brush so that any attempt to get through them is heard all over the village. There is always a procession of people leaving the village at dawn to relieve themselves in the nearby garden, and the noise they make going in and out of the village usually awakens the others….
“This is also the time of day when raiders strike, so people must be cautious when they leave the village at dawn. If there is some reason to suspect raiders, they do not leave the confines of the upright log palisade that surrounds the village. They wait instead until full light and leave the village in armed groups.”
would it surprise you to learn that the yąnomamö are pretty closely inbred? from pinker:
“Among the Yanomamo … two individuals picked at random from a village are related almost as closely as first cousins, and people who consider each other relatives are related, on average, even more closely.”
the yąnomamö prefer to marry their first cousins — specifically their cross cousins, outside their patrilineage, but within the village. from chagnon [pgs. 141, 144, & 150]:
“[M]en [can] marry only those women they put into the kinship category *suaboya.* By collecting genealogies that showed who was related to whom in specific ways, it was then possible to specify any man’s ‘nonmarriageable’ and ‘marriageable’ female kin. As it turned out, men could marry only those women who fell into the category of kin we would call ‘cross-cousin.’ These are, from a man’s point of view, the daughters of his mother’s brother or the daughters of his father’s sister…. The rule, therefore, is that the Yanomamo marry bilateral cross-cousins. Bilateral means ‘both sides,’ that is, father’s *and* mother’s side of the family. From their vantage, therefore, one of their marriage rules is, ‘Men should marry their *suaboya*.’ In a very real sense, this is like saying ‘We marry our wives,’ for men call their wives and their female cross-cousins suaboya. Thus, to ask, ‘Whom do you marry?’ seems somewhat peculiar to them. They marry their wives, as real people are supposed to do….
“The general Yanomamo rule about marriage, insofar as it can be phrased in terms of descent rule, is simply that everyone *must* marry outside of his or her own patrilineal group. The Yanomamo patrilineage is, therefore, an exogamic group: All members must marry outside of it into a different patrilineage…. In Yanomamo society, one’s cross-cousins will always belong to a different lineage but parallel cousins will belong to your own lineage….
“Each person belongs to the patrilineage of his or her father, and all men marry women who are *simultaneously* their Father’s Sister’s Daughters (hereafter FZD) *and* their Mother’s Brother’s Daughters (hereafter MBD). …
“The ‘ideal’ model presented above (Figure 4.8) represents each man as marrying a woman who is simultaneously his MBD and FZD. In actual practice, this rarely happens, largely because of physiological and demographic reasons…. What *does* happen is that men marry women who are sometimes FZDs or sometimes MBDs.“
how long have they been mating like this? who knows?
read more about yąnomamö marriage patterns here.
now, excuse me a sec while i indulge my other pet interest: the types of houses that different peoples construct for themselves (and their families). we saw before that quite a few cousin marrying populations live in homes that exclude outsiders (courtyard houses, for instance), while non-cousin marrying populations like the english live in homes that sorta invite outsiders in (like around the village green).
what sort of houses do you think the yąnomamö live in (traditionally anyway — hint: a shabono — more cool pics via google)?:
from chagnon again [pg. 131]:
“Kaobawa’s village is oval shaped. His house is located among those of his agnatic kinsmen, that is, men related through males ties. The occupy a continuous arc along one side of the village. Each builds his own section of the village, but in such a way that the roofs coincided and could be attached by simply extending the thatching. When completed, the village looked like a continuous, oval-shaped lean-to because of the way in which the roofs of the discrete houses were attached. Each house, however, is owned by the family that built it. Shararaiwa, Kaobawa’s youngest brother, helped build Kaobaw’s house and shares it with him. He also shares Koamashima, Kaobawa’s younger wife….”
apparently, there can be several shabonos in one village. the way that the extended family/clan’s houses all open on to the family’s central yard, and the houses’ backs face out to the world in a very uninviting way to strangers, reminds me of other inbred groups’ clan houses — like the hakka walled villages of southern china. those two — the shabonos and the hakka walled villages — are both even defensive in nature — the shabonos have a pallisade around them.
h/t henry harpending. (^_^)
previously: when did you stop beating your wife? and the semai and there’s no place like home
(note: comments do not require an email. yąnomamö kid.)