Semes and genes in africa

Current Anthropology Vol/Iss. 43(2) University of Chicago Press Published In Pages: 313-321
By Hewlett, Barry S., de Silvestri, Annalisa, Guglielmino, C. Rosalba


Genetic, linguistic, and geographic data can be used to explain the distribution of cultural units ("semes") and to understand the evolutionary mechanisms of culture. Three broad models of cultural transmission attempt to explain why cultures share semes: (1) Cultural diffusion, emphasizing horizontal transmission. (2) Local adaptation, where trail-and-error learning leads to the independent adoption of semes by different peoples living in similar environments. (3) Demic diffusion, which emphasizes vertical and frequency-dependent transmission. Authors test the explanatory power of each model using cultural, genetic, linguistic and geographic data from 36 African cultures.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Ethnographic Atlas (EA)Other researchersCultural data used to classify "semes"
A guide to the world's languages (Ruhlen, 1991)Other researchersLinguistic classification
Standford University Genetic DatabaseMixedGenetic grouping

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:erik.ringen