A worldwide view of matriliny: using cross-cultural analyses to shed light on human kinship systems

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Vol/Iss. 347(1780) The Royal Society Publishing Published In Pages: 1-12
By Surowiec, Alexandra, Snyder, Kate T., Creanza, Nicole


The study is about matrilineal systems, where descent is traced along female lines. Matrilineal systems are relatively rare in human populations, and previous research has discussed the rarity and apparent instability of matriliny. The study aims to study the evolution of descent systems on a worldwide scale. The study tests for significant associations between matriliny and numerous cultural traits that have been theoretically associated with its stability or loss, such as subsistence strategy, animal domestication, mating system, residence pattern, wealth transfer, and property succession. Additionally, by combining genetic and linguistic information to build a global supertree that includes 16 matrilineal populations, the study also performs phylogenetically controlled analyses to assess the patterns of correlated evolution between descent and other traits.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Standard Cross Cultural Sample (SCCS)Other researchersUsed as an EA subsample
Ethnographic Atlas (EA)CombinationCoded into 126 binarized traits
mtDNA sequences from the NCBI databaseOther researchersGenetic information
Human Mitochondrial Genome DatabaseOther researchersGenetic information
Genomes ProjectOther researchersGenetic information
Kivisild et al. 2006Other researchersGenetic information

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