(List of matrilineal or matrilocal societies) “Matrilineal means kinship is passed down through the maternal line, the mother’s lineage, which can involve the inheritance of property and titles.” ref, ref

Chiefdoms are powers that are often believed to mobilize due to surplus labor, food, and prestige items. However, I see it as a cultural package that started with hunter-gather/fisher-foragers in west Siberia with the switch from a Matrilineal society to a patrilineal society from 8,000 to 7,000 years ago and from there spread this new war and powerful male thinking, but some Matrilineal societies changed to the war and power modal as well but kept being female-centered. I often talk as if they were completely wiped out by male clans, but not all were, and some became as horrible as male clans. One such major transfer of such ideas, which I think relates to the Tlingit (Matrilineal Na-Dene language connected to patrilineal Yeniseian languages such as the Ket People of  Siberia with mostly to Y-DNA haplogroup Q-M242 linking Tlingit and South America) of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, were a Slaveholding, matrilineal clan chiefdom. And like 90% of South America shares their DNA and also, to me, likely somewhat influenced all Mesoamerican cultures and Moundbuilding cultures that had “Big Men/Big Women” pre/proto-chiefdoms, chiefdoms, and then clan monarchs: Kings/Empresses.

The Ket language has been linked to the Na-Dené languages of North America in the Dené–Yeniseian language family. This link has led to some collaboration between the Ket and northern Athabaskan peoples. Although a potential link to the Na-Dené languages has been identified, this link is not accepted by all linguists. The Ket people e share their origin with other Yeniseian people and are closely related to other Indigenous people of Siberia and Indigenous peoples of the Americas. They belong mostly to Y-DNA haplogroup Q-M242According to a 2016 study, the Ket and other Yeniseian people likely originated somewhere near the Altai Mountains or near Lake Baikal. It is suggested that parts of the Altaians are predominantly of Yeniseian origin and closely related to the Ket people. The Ket people are also closely related to several Native American groups. According to this study, the Yeniseians are linked to the Paleo-Eskimo groups.” ref

Nganasans, Kets, Selkups, and Yukaghirs form a cluster of populations most closely related to Paleo-Eskimos in Siberia (not considering indigenous populations of Chukotka and Kamchatka). Kets are closely related to modern Selkups and to some Bronze and Iron Age populations of the Altai region, with all these groups sharing a high degree of Mal’ta ancestry. Implications of these findings for the linguistic hypothesis uniting Ket and Na-Dene languages into a language macrofamily. The Altai region was suggested as a homeland of the Yeniseian language family, and ancestors of the Yeniseian people were tentatively associated with the Karasuk culture (3200-2700 years ago) of the upper Yenisei. Yeniseian linguistic substrate is evident in many contemporary Turkic languages of this region (South Siberia): Altaian, Khakas, Shor, Tubalar, Tuvinian, and in Mongolic Buryat language. Yet Ket language lacks apparent affiliation with any major language family and is clearly distinct from surrounding Uralic, Turkic, and Tungusic languages.” ref

“However, recently, a tentative link was proposed between the Yeniseian language family and the Na-Dene family of Northwest North America (composed of Tlingit, Eyak, and numerous Athabaskan languages), thus forming a Dene-Yeniseian macrofamily. The Dene-Yeniseian-linkage is viewed by some as the first relatively reliable trans-Beringian language connection, with important implications for timing of the alleged Dene-Yeniseian population split, the direction of the subsequent migration (from or to America), the possible language shifts and population admixture Using these data, we investigated connections between Kets and modern and ancient Siberian and North American populations (including the Mal’ta and Saqqaq ancient genomes). In addition, we estimated Neanderthal contribution in Kets’ genome and in specific gene groups.ref

“Mal’ta is a ~24,000 years ago old Siberian genome, recently described as a representative of ancient North Eurasians (ANE), a previously unknown northeastern branch of the Eurasian Paleolithic population. ANE contributed roughly 30–40% to the gene pool of Native Americans of the first settlement wave and about 50% to the Bronze Age Yamnaya culture in the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Massive expansion of the Corded Ware culture around 5,000-4,000 years ago, originating from the Yamnaya source, introduced the ANE genetic pool into Central and Western Europe and thus reshaped its genetic landscape. During the same period, the Afanasievo and Andronovo cultures, genetically similar to the Yamnaya culture, expanded into the Altai region (South Siberia) and later mixed with Siberian populations, giving rise to the Bronze Age Karasuk culture and later Iron Age cultures.ref

“A global maximum of ANE ancestry occurs in Native Americans, with lower levels in peoples of more recent Beringian origin, i.e. indigenous populations of Chukotka, Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, and the American Arctic. In modern Europe, ANE genetic contribution is the highest in the Baltic region, on the East European Plain and in the North Caucasus. However, little is known about the distribution of ANE ancestry in its Siberian homeland. According to a single f4 statistic, the Kets had the third highest value of ANE genetic contribution among all Siberian ethnic groups, preceded only by Chukchi and Koryaks. Thus, we suggest that the Kets might represent the peak of ANE ancestry in Siberia; the hypothesis we tested extensively in this study. We also investigated continuity between the modern Kets and Altaians and the ancient Bronze and Iron Age populations of the Altai region discussed above: the Karasuk culture samples dated to 3531-3261 years ago and Iron Age samples roughly dated to 2900-1100 years ago.ref

“The 4,000-year-old genome from Greenland represents the Saqqaq archeological culture (4,500-2,800 years ago). This culture formed a continuum with Dorset and Norton cultures (2,500-1,000 years ago), collectively termed Paleo-Eskimo. Paleo-Eskimos were culturally and genetically distinct from modern Inuits and Eskimos. The Saqqaq culture is a part of the wider Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt) that had rapidly spread across Beringia and the American Arctic coastal regions (but not the interior) after 4,800 years ago, bringing pottery, bow and arrow to the northern North America. According to the archaeological data, the likely source of this spread was located in Siberia, namely in the Lena River basin (probably, in the Bel’kachi culture).ref

“On genetic grounds, Paleo-Eskimos were also argued to represent a separate migration into America. ASTt spread coincided with the arrival of mitochondrial haplogroup D2 into America and the spread of haplogroup D2a; the Saqqaq individual bore haplogroup D2a1. The closest modern relatives of Saqqaq occur among Beringian populations (Chukchi, Koryaks, Inuits) and Siberian Nganasans. In addition, Saqqaq has been linked to Na-Dene-speaking Chipewyans (16% contribution to this population modeled with admixture graphs). However, mitochondrial haplogroup data argues against the proximity of Paleo-Eskimos to contemporary Na-Dene people, primarily due to the very high frequency of haplogroup A in the latter. Archeological evidence seems to support this argument.ref

“There is no archaeological evidence of considerable trans-Beringian population movements between the inundation of the Bering Platform around 13,000-11,000 years ago and 4,800 years ago. Therefore, it is unlikely that the hypothetical Dene-Yeniseian language family has separated prior to 11,000 years ago, according to current concepts of time depth in language evolution, and hence ASTt could be the vehicle spreading Dene-Yeniseian languages and genes from Siberia to Alaska and to the American Arctic. However, as argued based on language phylogenetic trees in the framework of the Beringian standstill model, the Dene-Yeniseian languages have originated in Beringia and spread in both directions. Irrespective of the migration direction and their relationship to contemporary Na-Dene groups, Paleo-Eskimos are the primary target for investigating genetic relationship with the Kets.ref

“In this study, we found that: (1) Kets and Selkups constitute a clade closely related to Nganasans; (2) Nganasans, Kets, Selkups, and Yukaghirs form a cluster of populations most closely related to Paleo-Eskimos in Siberia (not considering indigenous populations of Chukotka and Kamchatka); (3) unlike Nganasans, Kets derive roughly 30–40% of their ancestry from ancient North Eurasians; (4) Kets show genetic continuity with the hypothetical homeland of Yeniseian languages, as they are closely related to the ancient individuals of the Karasuk culture and to the later Iron Age individuals from the Altai.ref

‘Ket-Uralic’ admixture component

“Using the GenoChip SNP array, we genotyped 130 K ancestry-informative markers in the Ket, Selkup, Nganasan, and Enets populations. Following the exclusion of first-, second- and third-degree relatives among the individuals genotyped in this study, we merged the GenoChip array data with the published SNP array datasets to produce a worldwide dataset of 90 populations and 1,624 individuals, focused on Siberia and America. The intersection dataset, containing 32,189 SNPs, was analyzed with ADMIXTURE. At K ≥ 11, ADMIXTURE identified a characteristic component for the Ket population. This component reached its global maximum of nearly 100% in Kets, closely followed by Selkups from this study (up to 81.5% at K = 19), the reference Selkups (up to 48.5%) and the Enets (up to 22.6%). The difference between the Selkups from this study and the reference Selkups can be attributed to a much closer geographic proximity of the former population to the settlements of Kets, with whom they have a long history of cohabitation and mixture.ref

“The ‘Ket’ component occurred at high levels (up to ~20%) in four Turkic-speaking populations of the Altai region: Shors, Khakases, Altaians, and Teleuts. Notably, the Altai region was populated by Yeniseian-speaking people before they were forced to retreat north. Lower levels of the ‘Ket’ component, from 5% to 15%, were observed in the following geographic regions (in decreasing order): the Volga-Ural region, Central and South Asia, East Siberia and Mongolia, and North Caucasus. The ‘Ket’ component also occurred at a low level in Russians (up to 7.1%), Finns (up to 5.4%), and, remarkably, in the Saqqaq ancient genome from Greenland (7.2%, see below).ref

“In order to verify and explain the geographic distribution of the ‘Ket’ admixture component, we have performed ADMIXTURE analysis on two additional datasets, different in population and marker selection. In summary, we suggest the existence of an admixture component with a peculiar geographic distribution, observed in some previous studies but not discussed there. In addition to the Kets, this component is also characteristic of Samoyedic-speaking and Ugric-speaking people of the Uralic language family: Selkups, Enets, Nenets, Khanty, Mansi, with a notable exception of Samoyedic-speaking Nganasans. The proportion of the ‘Ket-Uralic’ admixture component correlated strongly with the worldwide frequency of mitochondrial haplogroup U4 (Pearson’s correlation coefficient up to 0.8 and a corresponding p-value of 7 × 10−8) and with the frequency of Y-chromosomal haplogroup Q in Eurasian populations (correlation coefficient up to 0.9 and p-value 2 × 10−7).ref

Kets in the context of Siberian populations

“In order to study the relationship of Kets and other Siberian populations with the relevant ancient genomes, we have constructed three additional datasets: the dataset based on the Ket genome sequences and the HumanOrigins array SNP data and two datasets based on genome sequences only. The Ket and Selkup populations were closely related according to multiple analyses. Nganasans appeared as the closest relatives of Kets according to statistics f3 (Yoruba; Ket, X): the statistic for Nganasans was significantly different from that of the second-best hit. In general, outgroup f3 statistics (Yoruba; Test, X) were tightly correlated between the Kets, the Selkups, and the Nganasans, with Pearson’s correlation coefficients ranging from 0.96 to 0.999, suggesting that these populations form a closely related group. In line with these results, Nganasans, Kets, Selkups, and Yukaghirs formed a clade in a maximum likelihood tree constructed with TreeMix on a HumanOrigins-based dataset of 194,750 SNPs.ref

“In our ADMIXTURE analyses, the Saqqaq Paleo-Eskimo individual featured the following components: Beringian, Siberian, and South-East Asian. Thus, Saqqaq Paleo-Eskimo has mostly Beringian ancestry (similar to modern Eskimo, Inuits, Aleutians, Koryaks, etc.): see outgroup f3 statistics and associated Zdiff scores, migration edges modeled with TreeMix and the ADMIXTURE results in the original study. Beringian ancestry in Saqqaq is combined with considerable Siberian ancestry: 32% or 28% as a sum of Siberian ADMIXTURE components in this study; ~25% according to ADMIXTURE analysis in the original study; from 31% to 57% according to f4 statistic ratios calculated with various outgroups.” ref

“This ‘core Siberian’ component in Saqqaq is apparently most closely related to modern Nganasans and to the Nganasan-related clade in general. The Kets are the only representatives of this clade in the genome-based datasets in this study. According to the pairwise correlation between outgroup f3 statistics, Kets are closer to Saqqaq as compared to Nivkhs, Altaians, Buryats, and Yakuts. According to Euclidean distances in the ten-dimensional space of principal components on the HumanOrigins dataset, Kets were a closer population to Saqqaq than Nganasans, Selkups, Yukaghirs and the other populations. However, the outgroup f3 statistics (Yoruba; Saqqaq, Ket) in many cases were not significantly different from f3 (Yoruba; Saqqaq, other Siberian population): e.g., see |Zdiff| scores < 3 for f3 (Yoruba; Saqqaq, Nivkh). The same result was produced with f4 (Saqqaq, Yoruba; Nivkh, Ket): an absolute Z-score was lower than 2.” ref

“Allentoft et al. have shown that in the early Bronze Age, the Altai region was inhabited by a genetically West Eurasian population of the Afanasievo archaeological culture, most similar to the Yamnaya culture with about 50% of ANE ancestry and to the modern Avars. In the late Bronze Age, this population apparently had been gradually admixed with Siberians, giving rise to the Karasuk culture and the later cultures of the Iron Age. The ancient genome ‘Iron Age Russia’, carbon-dated to 721–889 CE, is most closely related to the typical modern Siberians: Nganasans according to the outgroup f3 statistic in the original study and Altaians or Koryaks according to the outgroup f3 statistics and their pairwise correlations on our datasets lacking Nganasans.ref

“However, according to various analyses, the ‘Iron Age Altai’ (dated roughly to 2900-1500 years ago) and the Karasuk (carbon-dated to 3531-3261 years ago) populations of two and six genomes, respectively, are most closely related to each other and to Kets. The outgroup f3 statistics (Yoruba; Karasuk, X) on both genome-based datasets selected Kets as the best hit for Karasuk, although statistics for Mayans, Greenlanders, Mixe, Saqqaq, Mal’ta, Iron Age Russia, and Aleutian were not significantly different (|Zdiff| score < 3). Similarly, Native American, Beringian populations and Selkups were the best hits for Iron Age Altai and Karasuk according to the outgroup f3 statistics in the original study (Kets were lacking in the dataset, see Allentoft, et al.). Importantly, the Karasuk culture has been tentatively associated with the Yeniseian-speaking people based on the toponymic evidence, and the Altai region is considered to be the homeland of the Yeniseian language family. As another piece to this puzzle, we observed genetic continuity between the Kets and the ancient genomes from the Altai.ref

Mal’ta (ancient North Eurasian) ancestry in Kets

“The outgroup statistic f3 (Yoruba; Mal’ta, Ket) was higher than statistics for all other Siberian and most Beringian populations. However, the statistic values were not significantly different within a large group of North Eurasians, according to Zdiff scores. Zdiff score for f3 (Yoruba; Mal’ta, Ket) vs. f3 (Yoruba; Mal’ta, Nganasan) equaled 7.4, 7.0 vs. f3 (Yoruba; Mal’ta, Yukaghir) and only 2.7 vs. f3 (Yoruba; Mal’ta, Selkup). Thus, we suggest that, unlike the other members of the Nganasan-related clade, Kets and, to a lesser extent, Selkups have a high proportion of Mal’ta ancestry, alternatively referred to as the ANE ancestry. The Mal’ta ancestry in Kets was further supported by the TreeMix analysis, specifically by a migration edge connecting Mal’ta to the Ket-Karasuk clade, with a weight of 43%. Taking into account the admixture coefficients for the two sequenced Ket individuals (Ket891 and Ket884), researchers selected Ket891 as an individual with lower values of the North European and Siberian admixture components (in the K = 19 dimensional space). In addition, Ket891 was identified as non-admixed by reAdmix analyses. Ket891 demonstrated a slightly closer genetic affinity to Mal’ta.ref

“These results were consistent with calculations of f4 statistic in two configurations: (X, Chimp; Mal’ta, Stuttgart) or (X, Papuan; Sardinian, Mal’ta), reproducing the previously used statistics. f4 (X, Chimp; Mal’ta, Stuttgart) analysis tests whether the population X has more drift shared with Mal’ta or with Stuttgart (an early European farmer, EEF). Sardinians were used as the closest modern proxy for EEF in f4 (X, Papuan; Sardinian, Mal’ta). All possible population pairs (X,Y) were tested by f4 (Mal’ta, Yoruba; Y, X) on the genome-based dataset, including both Ket individuals. Compared to Kets, Mal’ta was significantly closer to none of the populations including Native Americans.

“Based on all analyses, we can tentatively model Kets as a two-way mixture of broadly defined East Asians and ANE. Therefore, ANE ancestry in Kets can be estimated, using various f4-ratios, at 27% to 43% (depending on reference populations and datasets), vs. 25–53% in various Native American groups. Given non-significant Zdiff scores and f4 statistics discussed above, it is difficult to identify the exact Eurasian population west of Chukotka and Kamchatka with the highest degree of the Mal’ta ancestry, but Kets are a good candidate. We speculate that ANE component was acquired by ancestors of Kets in the Altai region, where the Bronze Age Okunevo culture was located, with a surprisingly close genetic proximity to Mal’ta. Later, the Yeniseian-speaking people occupied this region until the 16th–18th centuries.ref

Kets and Na-Dene speakers

“In this study, Na-Dene-speaking people were represented by Athabaskans, Chipewyans, Tlingit, and, possibly, Haida. The latter language was originally included into the Na-Dene language family, although this affiliation is now disputed Na-Dene-speaking people were suggested to be related, at least linguistically, to Yeniseian-speaking Kets. ADMIXTURE, PCA, f3 and f4 statistics, and TreeMix analyses failed to identify a link between Kets and Athabaskans, Chipewyans, or Tlingit. TreeMix constructed trees where Athabaskans or Chipewyans formed a stable highly supported clade with other Native Americans. This topology was supported by statistics f4 (Athabaskan, Yoruba; Ket, X), which demonstrated significantly negative Z-scores < −5, for Clovis, Greenlanders, Karitiana, Mayans, and Mixe on the genome-based dataset with or without transitions. Notably, the same topology was previously demonstrated for Athabaskans.ref

“Notably, the Arctic Small Tool tradition the Saqqaq culture belongs to, may reflect the Dene-Yeniseian movement over the Bering Strait. According to the admixture graph analysis modeling relationships among Chipewyans, Saqqaq, Algonquin, Karitiana, Zapotec, Han, and Yoruba, only one topology fits these data. In this topology, the Chipewyans represent a mixture of 84% First Americans and 16% Saqqaq. Our estimates using f4-ratios are roughly similar: 4–15% Saqqaq ancestry in Chipewyans and 0–9% in Athabaskans. Considering 57% as the highest proportion of Siberian ancestry in Saqqaq obtained in this study, we predict up to ~9.1% of Siberian ancestry in Chipewyans, i.e. 57 × 16% of Saqqaq ancestry in Chipewyans. Similarly, only 1.2% (noise level) of the Ket-Uralic admixture component is predicted in Chipewyans, with 7.2% as the highest percentage of this component found in Saqqaq.ref

“Given such low levels of expected genetic signal, we cannot reliably test the hypothetical genetic connection between Yeniseian and Na-Dene-speaking people, provided the employed methods and population samples. Moreover, considerable Beringian ancestry in Saqqaq makes the Saqqaq ancestry in Chipewyans difficult to distinguish from potential admixture with Eskimo and Inuits, representatives of the third settlement wave. Hopefully, the question of the Dene-Yeniseian genetic relationship and its correlation with the linguistic relationship will be answered with a study of autosomal haplotypes and/or very rare allelic variants in relevant genomic data, which would test whether a relatively recent Siberian (Nganasan- and Ket-related) gene flow occurred into Chipewyans, for example and whether it was mediated by Paleo-Eskimos.ref

“Based on previous studies, the Saqqaq individual and the Paleo-Eskimos in general may represent a separate and relatively recent migration into America. The Paleo-Eskimos have large proportions of Beringian (i.e. Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskimo-Aleut), Siberian and South-East Asian ancestry. We have also shown that Kets and Selkups belong to a group of modern populations closest to an ancient source of Siberian ancestry in Saqqaq. This group also includes, but is probably not restricted to, Uralic-speaking Nganasans and Yukaghirs (the latter speak an isolated language). Unlike the other populations of this group, Kets, and, to a lesser degree Selkups, have a high proportion of Mal’ta (ancient North Eurasian) ancestry.ref

“As shown previously, Chipewyans, a modern Na-Dene-speaking population, have about 16% of Saqqaq ancestry. Thus, a gene flow dated at 5,000-6,000 years ago can be traced from the cluster of Siberian populations to Saqqaq and from Saqqaq to Na-Dene. However, the genetic signal in contemporary Na-Dene-speaking ethnic groups is substantially diluted. The genetic proximity of Kets to the source of Siberian ancestry in Saqqaq correlates with the hypothesis that Na-Dene languages of North America are specifically related to Yeniseian languages of Siberia, now represented by Ket language only. However, this genetic link is indirect and requires further study of population movement and language shifts in Siberia.ref

“In addition, we show that Kets represent a modern Siberian population closest to ancient individuals of the Karasuk culture, spanning a period from about 3400 to 2900 years ago (the individuals analyzed were dated to 3531-3261 years ago) and to few investigated Iron Age individuals of the Altai region (2900-1100 years ago). This genetic continuity correlates with historical linguistic data suggesting that the homeland of Yeniseian languages was located in the Altai region.ref

“The Karasuk culture (RussianКарасукская культураromanizedKarasukskaya kul’tura) describes a group of late Bronze Age societies who ranged from the Aral Sea to the upper Yenisei in the east and south to the Altai Mountains and the Tian Shan in ca. 1500–800 BCE. The distribution of the Karasuk culture covers the eastern parts of the Andronovo culture, which it appears to replace. It is considered that the Karasuk culture primarily formed out of the Andronovo culture with influences from the Okunevo culture. At least 2000 burials are known. The Karasuk period persisted down to c. 700 BCE. From c. 700 to c. 200 BCE, culture developed along similar lines. Vital trade contact is traced from northern China and the Baikal region to the Black Sea and the Urals, influencing the uniformity of the culture. The Karasuk was succeeded by the Tagar culture. Their settlements were of pit houses, and they buried their dead in stone cists covered by kurgans and surrounded by square stone enclosures.” ref

“The Karasuk culture had horse-drawn spoke-wheeled chariots, a technology first attested in the Sintashta culture (c. 2000 BCE) which spread eastwards with the Andronovo culture. Although no Karasuk chariots have been found, their existence is indicated by petroglyph drawings, chariot equipment, horse bridles and ‘charioteer burials’. These have close similarities to chariots and equipment from the Shang dynasty in China (c. 1200 BCE), such as the use of wheels with numerous spokes and bow-shaped rein holders. Both Karasuk and Shang chariots also have close similarities to chariots from Lchashen in Armenia, dating from c. 1500 BCE.” ref

The metallurgy of the Karasuk culture may have derived from the earlier Seima-Turbino tradition. It expanded on this tradition, and became the core of a regional hub in metallurgy, sometimes called the “East Asian Metallurgical Province”. Seima-Turbino had a westward expansion, encountering the Abashevo and Sintashta cultures during the 2200-1700 BCE period. On the contrary, the expansion of the Karasuk metallurgical culture was eastward. Karasuk styles were copied throughout Central and Eastern Asia, reaching China where numerous bronze objects on the Karasuk model have been excavated. In particular, the royal complex of the Anyang Cemetery from the 13-11th centuries BCE during the Shang dynasty period is known for numerous such imitations.ref

“It is thought that these metallurgical innovations from the Karasuk culture were transmitted by steppe nomads, within a context of rather conflictual relations between China and its northern neighbours. The Shang mainly imitated the curved one-edged knives with animal handles, and placed them in their tombs among other bronze paraphernalia. Altogether, these influences travelled over a distance of more than 3,500 kilometers, from the Sayan-Altai region to the heart of ancient China beyond the Yellow RiverWeapons of the contemporary Deer stones culture, as seen in their petroglyphs, are generally derived from those of the Karasuk culture, and belong to the Karasuk typology. Many bronze blades of the Shang dynasty (13th-11th centuries BCE) and Zhou dynasty were derived from Karasuk designs.” ref

“Ket Q-M242 is believed to have arisen around the Altai Mountains area (or South Central Siberia), approximately 17,000 to 31,700 years ago. Q-M3 M3 (Q1a2a1a1), dated between 10,000-15,000 years ago, Haplogroup Q-M3 is one of the Y-Chromosome haplogroups linked to the indigenous peoples of the Americas (over 90% of indigenous people in Meso & South America). Today, such lineages also include other Q-M242 branches (Q-M346Q-L54Q-P89.1Q-NWT01, and Q-Z780), haplogroup C-M130 branches (C-M217 and C-P39), and R-M207, which are almost exclusively found in the North America. Haplogroup Q-M3 is defined by the presence of the (M3) single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Q-M3 occurred on the Q-L54 lineage roughly 10-15 thousand years ago as the migration into the Americas was underway. There is some debate as to on which side of the Bering Strait this mutation occurred, but it definitely happened in the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.” ref, ref

“The haplogroup C-M217 is now found at high frequencies among Central Asian peoples, indigenous Siberians, and some Native peoples of North America. Such as, males belonging to the Koryaks. The oldest sample with C2-M217 is AR19K in the Amur River basin (19,587-19,175 years ago). C2a-L1373 (estimated TMRCA 16,000 [95% CI 14,300 <-> 17,800] years ago) has been found often in populations from Central Asia through North Asia to the Americas, and rarely in individuals from some neighboring regions, such as Europe or East Asia. C2a-L1373 subsumes two subclades: C2a1-F3447 and C2a2-BY63635/MPB374. C2a1-F3447 includes all extant Eurasian members of C2a-L1373, whereas C2a2-BY63635/MPB374 contains extant South American members of C2a-L1373 as well as ancient archaeological specimens from South America and Chertovy Vorota Cave in Primorsky Krai. C2b1a1a P39 Canada,USA(Found in several indigenous peoples of North America, including some Na-Dené-,Algonquian-, orSiouan-speaking populations).” ref

Q-NWT01 NWT01 (Q1a1a) Haplogroup Q-NWT01, dated between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago, Q-NWT01 is present in pre-Columbian populations in the Canadian Northwest. It also has been found in a specimen of the Saqqaq culture of prehistoric Greenland. In addition, Y-DNA that belongs to the Q-B143 subclade like the Saqqaq specimen from Greenland has been found in Koryaks, an Indigenous people of the Russian Far East culturally similar to the Chukchis of extreme northeast Siberia. Koryaks believe in a Supreme Being whom they call by various names: ŋajŋənen (Universe/World), ineɣitelʔən (Supervisor), ɣət͡ɕɣoletənvəlʔən (Master-of-the-Upper-World), ɣət͡ɕɣolʔən (One-on-High), etc. He is considered to reside in Heaven with his family and when he wishes to punish mankind for immoral acts, he falls asleep and thus leaves man vulnerable to unsuccessful hunting and other ills. Koryak mythology centers on the supernatural shaman Quikil (Big-Raven), who was created by the Supreme Being as the first man and protector of the Koryak. Big Raven myths are also found in Southeast Alaska in the Tlingit culture, and among the HaidaTsimshian, and other natives of the Pacific Northwest Coast Amerindians.” ref, ref

“Q-M242 in Kets (central Siberia) at 93.8% and is found in Na-Dené speakers at an average rate of 68%. The highest frequency is 92.3% in Navajo, followed by 78.1% in Apache as well as has been found in approximately 94% of Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica and South America. On the other hand, a 4000-year-old Saqqaq individual belonging to Q1a-MEH2* has been found in Greenland. Surprisingly, he turned out to be genetically more closely related to Far East Siberians such as Koryaks and Chukchi people rather than Native Americans. Today, the frequency of Q runs at 53.7% (122/227: 70 Q-NWT01, 52 Q-M3) in Greenland, showing the highest in east Sermersooq at 82% and the lowest in Qeqqata at 30%.

    • Afontova-Gora-2, Yenisei River Bank, Krasnoyarsk (South Central Siberia of Russia), 17000YBP: Q1a1-F1215 (mtDNA R)
  • North America
  • Altai (West Mongolia)
    • Tsagaan Asga and Takhilgat Uzuur-5 Kurgan sites, westernmost Mongolian Altai, 2900-4800 Years ago: 4 R1a1a1b2-Z93 (B.C. 10C, B.C. 14C, 2 period unknown), 3 Q1a2a1-L54 (period unknown), 1 Q-M242 (B.C. 28C), 1 C-M130 (B.C. 10C)
  • Greenland

“Several branches of haplogroup Q-M242 have been predominant pre-Columbian male lineages in indigenous peoples of the Americas. Most of them are descendants of the major founding groups who migrated from Asia into the Americas by crossing the Bering Strait. These small groups of founders must have included men from the Q-M346Q-L54Q-Z780, and Q-M3 lineages. In North America, two other Q-lineages also have been found. These are Q-P89.1 (under Q-MEH2) and Q-NWT01. They may have not been from the Beringia Crossings but instead come from later immigrants who traveled along the shoreline of Far East Asia and then the Americas using boats.” ref

“Populations carrying Q-M3 are widespread throughout the Americas. Since the discovery of Q-M3, several subclades of Q-M3 bearing populations have been discovered in the Americas as well. An example is in South America where some populations have a high prevalence of SNP M19 which defines subclade Q-M19. M19 has been detected in 59% of Amazonian Ticuna men and in 10% of Wayuu men with an Origin in South America approximately 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Subclades Q-M19 and Q-M199 appear to be unique to South American populations and suggests that population isolation and perhaps even the establishment of tribes began soon after migration into the Americas. The Kennewick Man has a Y chromosome that belongs to the most common sub-clade Q1b1a1a-M3 while the Anzick’s Y chromosome belongs to the minor Q1b1a2-M971 lineage.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

“The earth-diver is a common character in various traditional creation myths. In these stories, a supreme being usually sends an animal (most often a type of bird, but also crustaceans, insects, and fish in some narratives) into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land.” ref 

Axis Mundi Mythology– cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, mound/mountain of creation, or “World/Cosmic tree,” or “Eagle and Serpent tree.” ref, ref

“The World Turtle, also called the Cosmic Turtle or the World-bearing Turtle, is a mytheme of a giant turtle (or tortoise) supporting or containing the world. It occurs in Hindu mythology, Chinese mythology, and the mythologies of some of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.” ref

“Chucalissa, Mississippian culture Mounds in Memphis, art shows all the elements involved in the Path of Souls death journey, a widely held belief system among the mound builders of America.” ref

“Interpretation of southeastern Native cosmology, showing the tripartite division of the world. The axis mundi is depicted as a tree or post connecting the fire symbol of this world, the sun symbol of the upper world, and the ‘swastika’ symbol of the lower world.” ref

“It should be remembered that the Mississippian culture that built Cahokia may have considered a cedar tree or a striped cedar pole to be a symbol of the Axis Mundi (also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, the center of the world, or world tree – has been greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms), the pillar connecting the above, middle, & below worlds, & around which the cosmos turns An American Yggdrasil (Norse tree of life). Some work has gone into reconstructing the woodhenge, and it is one of the sites around Cahokia that you can visit today. (The Solar Calendar of Woodhenge in Cahokia | Native America: Cities of the Sky).” – Vulpine Outlaw @Rad_Sherwoodism

“Items adduced as examples of the axis mundi by comparative mythologists include plants (notably a tree but also other types of plants such as a vine or stalk), a mountain, a column of smoke or fire, or a product of human manufacture (such as a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagodatemple mountminaretchurch) or secular (obelisklighthouserocketskyscraper). The image appears in religious and secular contexts. The axis mundi symbol may be found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced “urban centers.” ref

Do we know what the symbols represent?

 “Yes. It’s a bit more than I’d want to post on TwiX right now. It’s showing the 3-part universe, an upper, lower, and middle world, & the Milky Way is shown as well as Orion the Hand Constellation, Scorpius the ruler of the underworld, and Cygnus, the Judge. Also the main powers of the upper & lower worlds.” – Gregory L Little, Ed.D. @DrGregLittle2

Gregory L Little, Ed.D. BA/MS Psychology, Ed.D. Counseling/Ed. Psych Author since ’84 (70+ books/workbooks). Mound Builder Society: Be Kind; Respect Everything; Honor the Ancient Ones.




“According to the myth about the origin of man recorded among the people of Eastern Europe and Siberia, the creator set a dog to guard the half-made human figures, but the antagonist bribed the guard and spoiled the creation, making humans vulnerable to disease. The creator told the dog to become the servant of man. Texts recorded in India (mostly among the Munda-speaking groups), the Dards of the Hindu Kush and the Abkhasians, though partly similar to the Northern Eurasian ones, do not share some important details: the antagonist is a horse, it tried to destroy man but a dog drove it away. In the Mongolian (more precisely, the Oirat) version, a cow acts instead of a horse, but in other respects, this variant is similar to the Abkhasian ones. Negative associations related to the horse are rather widespread
in Europe and Central Asia. Stories about the creation of man recorded in northern and southern Eurasia stemmed from the anthropogenic myth that was known to the Indo-Europeans of the Bronze Age. South Asia and the European–Siberian zone also share other tales, in particular the Earth-diver myth. Their analysis opens possibilities for reconstructing the early mythology of the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppe.” ref

Comparative Mythology

Since the term ‘Ancient North Eurasian’ refers to a genetic bridge of connected mating networks, scholars of comparative mythology have argued that they probably shared myths and beliefs that could be reconstructed via the comparison of stories attested within cultures that were not in contact for millennia and stretched from the Pontic–Caspian steppe to the American continent. The mytheme of the dog guarding the Otherworld possibly stems from an older Ancient North Eurasian belief, as suggested by similar motifs found in Indo-European, Native American and Siberian mythology. In Siouan, Algonquian, Iroquoian, and in Central and South American beliefs, a fierce guard dog was located in the Milky Way, perceived as the path of souls in the afterlife, and getting past it was a test.” ref

“The Siberian Chukchi and Tungus believed in a guardian-of-the-afterlife dog and a spirit dog that would absorb the dead man’s soul and act as a guide in the afterlife. In Indo-European myths, the figure of the dog is embodied by Cerberus, Sarvarā, and Garmr. In Zoroastrianism, two four-eyed dogs guard the bridge to the afterlife called Chinvat Bridge. Anthony and Brown note that it might be one of the oldest mythemes recoverable through comparative mythology.” ref

“A second canid-related series of beliefs, myths and rituals connected dogs with healing rather than death. For instance, Ancient Near Eastern and TurkicKipchaq myths are prone to associate dogs with healing and generally categorised dogs as impure. A similar myth-pattern is assumed for the Eneolithic site of Botai in Kazakhstan, dated to 3500 BC, which might represent the dog as absorber of illness and guardian of the household against disease and evil. In Mesopotamia, the goddess Nintinugga, associated with healing, was accompanied or symbolized by dogs. Similar absorbent-puppy healing and sacrifice rituals were practiced in Greece and Italy, among the Hittites, again possibly influenced by Near Eastern traditions.” ref

Earth-diver myth

(creation myth or cosmogonic myth, which is a type of cosmogony, 

symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it.)

“The earth-diver is a common character in various traditional creation myths. In these stories, a supreme being usually sends an animal (most often a type of bird, but also crustaceans, insects, and fish in some narratives) into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land. Some scholars interpret these myths psychologically while others interpret them cosmogonically. In both cases, emphasis is placed on beginnings emanating from the depths.” ref

According to Gudmund Hatt and Tristram P. Coffin, Earth-diver myths are common in Native American folklore, among the following populations: ShoshoneMeskwakiBlackfootChipewyanNewetteeYokuts of California, MandanHidatsaCheyenneArapahoOjibweYuchi, and Cherokee. American anthropologist Gladys Reichard located the distribution of the motif across “all parts of North America”, save for “the extreme north, northeast, and southwest.” ref 

“In a 1977 study, anthropologist Victor Barnouw surmised that the earth-diver motif appeared in “hunting-gathering societies“, mainly among northerly groups such as the HareDogribKaskaBeaverCarrierChipewyanSarsiCree, and Montagnais. Similar tales are also found among the Chukchi and Yukaghir, the Tatars, and many Finno-Ugric traditions, as well as among the Buryat and the Samoyed. In addition, the earth-diver motif also exists in narratives from Eastern Europe, namely Romani, Romanian, Slavic (namely, Bulgarian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian), and Lithuanian mythological traditions.” ref

“The pattern of distribution of these stories suggest they have a common origin in the eastern Asiatic coastal region, spreading as peoples migrated west into Siberia and east to the North American continent. However, there are examples of this mytheme found well outside of this boreal distribution pattern, for example the West African Yoruba creation myth of Ọbatala and OduduwaCharacteristic of many Native American myths, earth-diver creation stories begin as beings and potential forms linger asleep or suspended in the primordial realm. The earth-diver is among the first of them to awaken and lay the necessary groundwork by building suitable lands where the coming creation will be able to live. In many cases, these stories will describe a series of failed attempts to make land before the solution is found.” ref

“Among the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the earth-diver cosmogony is attested in Iroquois mythology: a female sky deity falls from the heavens, and certain animals, the beaver, the otter, the duck, and the muskrat dive in the waters to fetch mud to construct an island. In a similar story from the Seneca, people lived in a sky realm. One day, the chief’s daughter was afflicted with a mysterious illness, and the only cure recommended for her (revealed in a dream) was to lie beside a tree and to have it be dug up. The people do so, but a man complains that the tree was their livelihood, and kicks the girl through the hole. She ends up falling from the sky to a world of only water, but is rescued by waterfowl.” ref

“A turtle offers to bear her on its shell, but asked where would be a definitive dwelling place for her. They decide to create land, and the toad dives into the depths of the primal sea to get pieces of soil. The toad puts it on the turtle’s back, which grows larger with every deposit of soil. In another version from the Wyandot, the Wyandot lived in heaven. The daughter of the Big Chief (or Mighty Ruler) was sick, so the medicine man recommends that they dig up the wild apple tree that stands next to the Lodge of the Mighty Ruler, because the remedy is to be found on its roots.” ref

“However, as the tree has been dug out, the ground begins to sink away, and the treetops catch and carry down the sick daughter with it. As the girl falls from the skies, two swans rescue her on their backs. The birds decide to summon all the Swimmers and the Water Tribes. Many volunteer to dive into the Great Water to fetch bits of earth from the bottom of the sea, but only the toad (female, in the story) is the one successful.” ref


Earth-Diver is one of the most widely-distributed and well-studied cosmological myths. Found in mostly Uralic-speaking Eastern Europe, in Siberia, in Munda-speaking Northeast India and North America, its action is set in post-diluvial times when a demiurge sends various creatures to bring a piece of mud from the bottom of the ocean. The first creature fails, but the second one succeeds. Importantly, it’s the least likely creature that succeeds, while the more obvious favorite fails. A loon is a much better diver than a duck but it’s the duck that succeeds. In the end, the demiurge blows the earth out of the tiny piece of mud and restores life on it. Depending on the region, the diving creatures are different – in Eurasia it’s waterfowl birds – loon and duck, in North America it’s amphibians such as turtle or frog, animals such as otter or beaver or waterbirds, in Northeast India and the American Southwest – it’s arthropods.” ref

The Initial Stages of Evolution of Uralic-Speakers: Evidence from a Mythological Reconstruction (Proto-Uralic Cosmogonic Myth) have suggested that the Earth-Diver motif is the folkloric manifestation of a more comprehensive system of beliefs related to the experiences of a shamanic flight in Northern Eurasian and Amerindian cultures. Siberian shamans liken themselves to waterfowl birds flying between worlds in search of the soul of their patient and they manipulate waterfowl figurines during their shamanic seances. Remarkably, very similar figurines are found at the 24,000-year-old Mal’ta archaeological site in South Siberia (see one on the left made out of a mammoth tusk), and Napol’skikh, in his 1991 book as well as in a recent talk (see video in Russian, roughly from 11:40 on) proposed that the Mal’ta people possessed the “cult of a waterfowl” and told the Earth-Diver myth. This means that the Earth-Diver motif may go back to pre-LGM times.” ref

“Mal’ta has recently made headlines thanks to the sequencing of the genome of a 4-year-old boy found at this site. The DNA sample fell in-between West Eurasians and Amerindians, without any special connection to East Asians, and showed typical West Eurasian mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroups, namely U and R, respectively. They are sister lineages of widely distributed in the Americas hg B (mtDNA) and hg Q (Y-DNA). It appears that, in pre-LGM times, Amerindians and West Eurasians formed a genetic continuum and that modern East Asians did not yet emerge as a distinct population. This finding may put the distribution of the Earth-Diver myth into a new perspective. Per Davidski’s request  adduce the map of the distribution of the Earth-Diver motif in Eurasia and North America (see the shaded areas on the left).” ref

“One should not expect a perfect fit between the distribution of myths and genes but the Earth-Diver distribution is rather clearly demarcated on a worldwide scale and does show continuity between West Eurasia and North America. The motif is notably absent from Western Europe – precisely the area that was covered with the glacier from 25,000 to 14,000 years ago – and from Beringia (Paleoasiatic peoples such as Chukchees and Koryaks as well as Eskimos don’t tell earth-diver stories), which may have been blocked by ice as well. Its presence in the Balkans is a due to relatively recent events such as Turkic and Avar migrations across the southern European steppe.” ref

“According to Napol’skikh’s motif phylogeny (on the left), the Earth-Diver myth has gone through 3 evolutionary stages – MNP-0, MNP-1 and MNP-2. At MNP-0, any creature (and any number of creatures) could become the demiurge’s helper as long as the least likely creature succeeded. At MNP-1, the plot crystallized around a pair of waterfowls in Siberia and Western North America and a pair of animals in Eastern North America. At MNP-3, one of the creatures dropped off and the demiurge used the help of only one helper. The “cladistics” of the myth is, therefore, rather simple: the dynamic and variable ancestral forms crystallize into progressively fewer characters.” ref

“As the detailed maps of motif and submotif distribution show, North America and Northern Eurasia share MNP-2 but then the rest of the variation is continent-specific. Eurasia has a number of clearly derived variants that are missing from the Americas, while America has a number variants not seen in Eurasia.  Napol’skikh observes that stage MNP-0 is better represented in North America – the region that tends to have more archaic versions of the motif and more basal motif diversity (not just waterfowls, but animals, too; not just two creatures but many, etc.). Remarkably, the use of arthropods by the demiurge is a trait shared by Munda-speaking Northeast Indians (see the Berezkin map of Eurasia above) and the Muskogean-speaking Amerindians from the Southeast, both areas being the southernmost extremes of the Earth-Diver distribution. As the Mal’ta boy is re-writing the prehistory of Eurasia, opportunities are growing for cross-disciplinary integration that would tie together genes and culture into a coherent story.” ref

Folklore Parallels Between Siberia And South Asia And The Mythology Of The Eurasian Steppes

According to the myth about the origin of man recorded among the people of Eastern Europe and Siberia, the creator set a dog to guard the half-made human figures, but the antagonist bribed the guard and spoiled the creation, making humans vulnerable to disease. The creator told the dog to become the servant of man. Texts recorded in India (mostly among the Munda-speaking groups), the Dards of the Hindu Kush and the Abkhasians, though partly similar to the Northern Eurasian ones, do not share some important details: the antagonist is a horse, it tried to destroy man but a dog drove it away. In the Mongolian (more precisely, the Oirat) version, a cow acts instead of a horse, but in other respects this variant is similar to the Abkhasian ones. Negative associations related to the horse are rather widespread in Europe and Central Asia. Stories about the creation of man recorded in northern and southern Eurasia stemmed from the anthropogenic myth that was known to the Indo-Europeans of the Bronze Age. South Asia and the European–Siberian zone also share other tales, in particular the Earth-diver myth. Their analysis opens possibilities for reconstructing the early mythology of the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppe.” ref


“Scientific evidence has shown that at one point parts of the earth that are now dry were covered by water. Many myths allude to this fact by imagining a world once covered by water. Many myths, called diver-myths (Long 188), consisted of a being diving into the water that covers the earth to retrieve some earth. The earth brought to the surface became the land we know today. Other stories had the mud brought to the surface in a different way, but many had the common element of some earth being brought to the surface of the water and growing until it became the Earth.” ref

“According to the Iroquois Native Americans water animals inhabited the Earth before there was land. When a Sky Woman fell from her home above they caught her and dove into the seas to bring up mud. This mud they spread onto the back of Big Turtle. There it began to grow until it became North America.” ref

“The Japanese creation myth painted a picture of a muddy ocean which covered the world at the beginning of time. A god and goddess, Izanagi and Izanami, became curious about what was beneath the ocean. Izanagi took his staff and threw it into the ocean. As he lifted it back up some lumps of earth fell off into the water. These became the islands of Japan. No being dove beneath the waters to find mud, but the element of earth being covered by water and a being bringing the earth up is there.” ref

“The creation myth of Christians and Jews does not tell of God diving into the water to bring up mud, but Genesis 1:2 says Òthe Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Ó Therefore according to the Torah and Bible the Earth was once covered entirely by water.” ref

Power of Myths

“The most obvious function of myths is the explanation of facts, whether natural or cultural. One North American Indian (Abenaki) myth, for example, explains the origin of corn (maize): a lonely man meets a beautiful woman with long, fair hair; she promises to remain with him if he follows her instructions; she tells him in detail how to make a fire and, after he has done so, she orders him to drag her over the burned ground; as a result of these actions, he will see her silken hair (viz., the cornstalk) reappear, and thereafter he will have corn seeds for his use. Henceforth, whenever Abenaki Indians see corn (the woman’s hair), they know that she remembers them.” ref

“Obviously, a myth such as this one functions as an explanation, but the narrative form distinguishes it from a straightforward answer to an intellectual question about causes. The function of explanation and the narrative form go together, since the imaginative power of the myth lends credibility to the explanation and crystallizes it into a memorable and enduring form. Hence myths play an important part in many traditional systems of education. Many myths explain ritual and cultic customs. According to myths from the island of Ceram (in Indonesia), in the beginning life was not complete, or not yet “human”: vegetation and animals did not exist, and there was neither death nor sexuality. In a mysterious manner Hainuwele, a girl with extraordinary gift-bestowing powers, appeared.” ref

“The people killed her at the end of their great annual celebration, and her dismembered body was planted in the earth. Among the species that sprang up after this act of planting were tubers—the staple diet of the people telling the myth. With a certain circularity frequent in mythology, the myth validates the very cultic celebration mentioned in the myth. The cult can be understood as a commemoration of those first events. Hence, the myth can be said to validate life itself together with the cultic celebration. Comparable myths are told in a number of societies where the main means of food production is the cultivation of root crops; the myths reflect the fact that tubers must be cut up and buried in the earth for propagation to take place.” ref

“Ritual sacrifices are typical of traditional peasant cultures. In most cases such customs are related to mythical events. Among important themes are the necessity of death (e.g., the grain “dies” and is buried, only to yield a subsequent harvest), a society’s cyclic renewal of itself (e.g., New Year’s celebrations), and the significance of women and sexuality. New Year’s celebrations, often accompanied by a temporary abandonment of all rules, may be related to or justified by mythical themes concerning a return to chaos and a return of the dead.” ref

“In every mythological tradition one myth or cluster of myths tends to be central. The subject of the central mythology is often cosmogony (origin of the cosmos). In many of those ceremonies that each society has developed as a symbol of what is necessary to its well-being, references are made to the beginning of the world. Examples include the enthronements of kings, which in some traditions (as in Fiji or ancient India) are associated with a creation or re-creation of the world. Analogously, in ancient Mesopotamia the creation epic Enuma elish, which was read each New Year at Babylon, celebrated the progress of the cosmos from initial anarchy to government by the kingship of Marduk; hence the authority of earthly rulers, and of earthly monarchy in general, was implicitly supported and justified.” ref

“Ruling families in ancient civilizations frequently justified their position by invoking myths—for example, that they had divine origins. Examples are known from imperial China, pharaonic Egypt, the Hittite empire, Polynesia, the Inca empire, and India. Elites have also based their claims to privilege on myths. The French historian of ancient religion Georges Dumézil was the pioneer in suggesting that the priestly, warrior, and producing classes in ancient Indo-European societies regarded themselves as having been ordained to particular tasks by virtue of their mythological origins. And in every known cultural tradition there exists some mythological foundation that is referred to when defending marriage and funerary customs.” ref

“Creation myths play a significant role in healing the sick; they are recited (e.g., among the Navajo people of North America) when an individual’s world—that is to say, the person’s life—is in jeopardy. Thus, healing through recitation of a cosmogony is one example of the use of myth as a magical incantation. Another example is the case of Icelandic poets, who, in the singing of the episode in Old Norse mythology in which the god Odin wins for gods and humans the “mead of song” (a drink containing the power of poetic inspiration), can be said to be celebrating the origins of their own art and, hence, renewing it.” ref

“Modern science did not evolve in its entirety as a rebellion against myth, nor at its birth did it suddenly throw off the shackles of myth. In ancient Greece the naturalists of Ionia (western Asia Minor), long regarded as the originators of science, developed views of the universe that were in fact very close to the creation myths of their time. Those who laid the foundations of modern science, such as Nicholas of CusaJohannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and Gottfried Leibniz, were absorbed by metaphysical problems of which the traditional, indeed mythological, character is evident. Among these problems were the nature of infinity and the question of the omnipotence of God. The influence of mythological views is seen in the English physician William Harvey’s association of the circulation of the blood with the planetary movements and Charles Darwin’s explanation of woman’s menstrual cycles by the tides of the ocean.” ref

  1. Medicine Wheel
  2. Serpent Mound
  3. Mesa Verde
  4. Chaco Canyon
  5. Casas Grandes/Paquime
  6. Ciudad Perdida “lost city”; Teyuna
  7. Ingapirca “Inca”
  8. Chavín de Huántar “pre-Inca”
  9. Sacred City of Caral-Supe *Caral culture developed between 3000 – 1800 BCE*
  10. Machu Picchu
  11. Nazca Lines
  12. Sacsayhuamán
  13. Tiwanaku/Tiahuanaco
  14. Atacama Giant/Lines
  15. Pucará de Tilcara “pre-Inca”

Eighth Millennium Pottery from a Prehistoric Shell Midden in the Brazilian Amazon

9,000 years ago in the coastal city of Sao Luis, northeastern Brazil: stone tools, ceramic shards, decorated shells, and bones

“The top layer was left by the Tupinamba people, who inhabited the region when European colonizers founded Sao Luis in 1612. Then comes a layer of artifacts typical of Amazon rainforest peoples, followed by a “sambaqui”: a mound of pottery, shells and bones used by some Indigenous groups to build their homes or bury their dead. Beneath that, about 6.5 feet below the surface, lies another layer, left by a group that made rudimentary ceramics and lived around 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, based on the depth of the find. Far older than the oldest documented “pre-sambaqui” settlement found so far in the region, which dates to 6,600 years ago.” ref

Sambaqui (Shell Mound) Societies of Coastal Brazil

“Sambaquis (the Brazilian term for shell mounds, derived from the Tupi language) are widely distributed along the shoreline of Brazil and were noted in European accounts as early as the sixteenth century. They typically occur in highly productive bay and lagoon ecotones where the mingling of salt and fresh waters supports mangrove vegetation and abundant shellfish, fish, and aquatic birds. More than one thousand sambaqui locations are recorded in Brazil’s national register of archaeological sites, but represent a fraction of the original number because colonial through modern settlements coincide with these favorable environments. Although sambaquis are of variable scale overall, massive shell mounds are characteristic of Brazil’s southern coast.” ref

“The term “sambaqui” is applied to cultural deposits of varying size and stratigraphy in which shell is a major constituent, undoubtedly encompassing accumulations with a range of functions and origins. Proportions of soil, sand, shell, and the kinds of cultural inclusions and features in sambaquis also are variable. Small sambaquis often consist of shell layers over sandy substrates or sequences of shell and sand layers, with or without signs of burning or significant numbers of artifacts. Larger shell mounds typically have horizontally and vertically complex stratigraphy, including alternating sequences of shell deposits, narrower and darker layers of charcoal and burned bone that mark occupation surfaces, and clusters of burials, hearths, and postholes descending from these surfaces.” ref

The Chronology and Relationships of the Earliest Ceramic Complexes in the New World, 6000-1500 BCE. by John W Hoopes

Mound cultures are some of the most amazing things in North America and so-called “Americans” don’t care, think it’s Aliens, or believe some mythical white people from the minds of bigots. All Americans should have to learn about Indigenous American history.

“Many pre-Columbian cultures in North America were collectively termed “Mound Builders” ref

Bleera Kaanu-Shell Mound Nicaragua 5,900 years ago human-made shell mound

Watson Brake Louisiana 5,500 years ago human-made mounds

Caral culture 5,000 years ago pyramids, large earthwork platform mounds, and sunken circular plazas

“Archaeological evidence suggests use of textile technology and, possibly, the worship of common deity symbols, both of which recur in pre-Columbian Andean cultures. A sophisticated government is presumed to have been required to manage the ancient Caral.” ref, ref

“The alternative name, Caral–Supe, is derived from the city of Caral in the Supe Valley, a large and well-studied Caral–Supe civilization site. Complex society in the Caral–Supe arose a millennium after Sumer in Mesopotamia, was contemporaneous with the Egyptian pyramids, and predated the Mesoamerican Olmec by nearly two millennia. In archaeological nomenclature, Caral–Supe is a pre-ceramic culture of the pre-Columbian Late Archaic; it completely lacked ceramics and no evidence of visual art has survived. The most impressive achievement of the civilization was its monumental architecture, including large earthwork platform mounds and sunken circular plazas.” ref

Poverty Point  Louisiana 3,700 years ago human-made mounds 

Olmec La Venta Great pyramid 2,394 years ago human-made earth and clay mound

“Olmecs can be divided into the Early Formative (1800-900 BCE), Middle Formative (900-400 BCE), and Late Formative (400 BCE-200 CE). Olmecs are known as the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, meaning that the Olmec civilization was the first culture that spread and influenced Mesoamerica. The spread of Olmec culture eventually led to cultural features found throughout all Mesoamerican societies. Rising from the sedentary agriculturalists of the Gulf Lowlands as early as 1600 BCE in the Early Formative period, the Olmecs held sway in the Olmec heartland, an area on the southern Gulf of Mexico coastal plain, in Veracruz and Tabasco. Prior to the site of La Venta, the first Olmec site of San Lorenzo dominated the modern day state of Veracruz (1200-900 BCE).” ref

“Unlike later Maya or Aztec cities, La Venta was built from earth and clay—there was little locally abundant stone for the construction. Large basalt stones were brought in from the Tuxtla Mountains, but these were used nearly exclusively for monuments including the colossal heads, the “altars” (actually thrones), and various stelae. For example, the basalt columns that surround Complex A were quarried from Punta Roca Partida, on the Gulf coast north of the San Andres Tuxtla volcano. “Little more than half of the ancient city survived modern disturbances enough to map accurately.” Today, the entire southern end of the site is covered by a petroleum refinery and has been largely demolished, making excavations difficult or impossible. Many of the site’s monuments are now on display in the archaeological museum and park in the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco.” ref

“Complex C, “The Great Pyramid,” is the central building in the city layout, is constructed almost entirely out of clay, and is visible from a distance. The structure is built on top of a closed-in platform—this is where Blom and La Farge discovered Altars 2 and 3, thereby discovering La Venta and the Olmec civilization. A carbon sample from a burned area of the Structure C-1’s surface resulted in the date of 394 ± 30 BCE.” ref

“One of the earliest pyramids known in Mesoamerica, the Great Pyramid is 110 ft (34 m) high and contains an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of earth fill. The current conical shape of the pyramid was once thought to represent nearby volcanoes or mountains, but recent work by Rebecca Gonzalez Lauck has shown that the pyramid was in fact a rectangular pyramid with stepped sides and inset corners, and the current shape is most likely due to 2,500 years of erosion. The pyramid itself has never been excavated, but a magnetometer survey in 1967 found an anomaly high on the south side of the pyramid. Speculation ranges from a section of burned clay to a cache of buried offerings to a tomb.” ref

“Complex A is a mound and plaza group located just to the north of the Great Pyramid (Complex C). The centerline of Complex A originally oriented to Polaris (true north) which indicates the Olmec had some knowledge of astronomy. Surrounded by a series of basalt columns, which likely restricted access to the elite, it was erected in a period of four construction phases that span over four centuries (1000 – 600 BCE). Beneath the mounds and plazas were found a vast array of offerings and other buried objects, more than 50 separate caches by one count, including buried jade, polished mirrors made of iron-ores, and five large “Massive Offerings” of serpentine blocks. It is estimated that Massive Offering 3 contains 50 tons of carefully finished serpentine blocks, covered by 4,000 tons of clay fill.” ref

“Also unearthed in Complex A were three rectangular mosaics (also known as “Pavements”) each roughly 4.5 by 6 metres (15 by 20 feet) and each consisting of up to 485 blocks of serpentine. These blocks were arranged horizontally to form what has been variously interpreted as an ornate Olmec bar-and-four-dots motif, the Olmec Dragon, a very abstract jaguar mask, a cosmogram, or a symbolic map of La Venta and environs. Not intended for display, soon after completion these pavements were covered over with colored clay and then many feet of earth.” ref

“Five formal tombs were discovered within Complex A, one with a sandstone sarcophagus carved with what seemed to be an crocodilian earth monster. Diehl states that these tombs “are so elaborate and so integrated to the architecture that it seems clear that Complex A really was a mortuary complex dedicated to the spirits of deceased rulers. ref

Maya 3,000 years ago mounds, raised platforms, pyramids

“The Maya are a people of southern Mexico and northern Central America (GuatemalaBelize, western Honduras, and El Salvador(1000 BCE, approximately 3,000 years ago) they were building pyramidal-plaza ceremonial architecture. The earliest monuments consisted of simple burial mounds, the precursors to the spectacular stepped pyramids from the Terminal Pre-classic period and beyond. These pyramids relied on intricate carved stone in order to create a stair-stepped design. Many of these structures featured a top platform upon which a smaller dedicatory building was constructed, associated with a particular Maya deity. Maya pyramid-like structures were also erected to serve as a place of interment for powerful rulers. Maya pyramidal structures occur in a great variety of forms and functions, bounded by regional and periodical differences.” ref

Hopewell mtDNA, showed clear links between Adena culture, and earlier Glacial Kame culture, confirming Hopewell culture as the descendants of Adena culture (circa 800 BCE to CE 1) who were, in turn, descended from Archaic cultures (circa 3000-500 BCE).” ref

“The Glacial Kame culture was a culture of Archaic people in North America that occupied southern OntarioMichiganOhio, and Indiana from around 8000 to 1000 BCE. The name of this culture derives from its members’ practice of burying their dead atop glacier-deposited gravel hills. Among the most common types of artifacts found at Glacial Kame sites are shells of marine animals and goods manufactured from a copper ore, known as float copperOther regional cultures include the Maple Creek Culture of southwestern Ohio, Red Ocher Culture and Old Copper Culture of Wisconsin.” ref

“Glacial Kame culture produced ceramics, as seen in the discovery of basic pottery at the Zimmerman site near Roundhead, Ohio. Excavation of Glacial Kame sites frequently yields few projectile points — some of the most important sites have yielded no projectile points at all — and their few points that have been found are of diverse styles. For this reason, it appears that different groups of Glacial Kame peoples independently developed different methods of manufacturing their projectile points. This diversity appears even in the culture’s heartland in Champaign, Hardin, and Logan counties in western Ohio; one large Logan County site yielded just three points, each of which was significantly different from the other two.” ref

“Glacial Kame Culture, Late Archaic cultural grouping found around Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and southern Ontario in the period c.1500–1000 BCE. Characterized by mortuary rituals which involved interring the dead in natural hills of glacial gravel. Grave goods of copper ornaments and marine shells were sometimes included and attested to long‐distance trade links.” ref

“The Adena “mound-building” culture was a Pre-Columbian Native American culture that existed from 500 BCE to 100 CE, in a time known as the Early Woodland period. The Adena culture refers to what were probably a number of related Native American societies sharing a burial complex and ceremonial system. The Adena culture was centered on the location of the modern state of Ohio, but also extended into contiguous areas of northern Kentucky, eastern IndianaWest Virginia, and parts of extreme western Pennsylvania. The culture is the most prominently known of a number of similar cultures in eastern North America that began mound building ceremonialism at the end of the Archaic period.” ref

Amazonian Earthworks

“More than 1,100 ancient Amazonian earthworks, with over 1,050 geoglyphs and zanjas plus over 50 mound villages documented in both the Excel file and the KML placemarks file linked above. Almost all earthworks are outlined, along with highlighting of 1,000 lines, visible ancient roads and embankments. Hundreds of Geoglyphs Discovered in the Amazon.” ref

“Cahokia Mounds were involved in the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, which developed advanced societies across much of what is now the Central and the Southeastern United States, beginning more than 1,000 years before European contact.” ref

In response to my art above John Hoopes @KUHoopes Archaeologist said, Nice! Since you have the Ohio mound groups, you need to start adding the ones in Amazonia. Hundreds of Geoglyphs Discovered in the Amazon

My response, I was not aware of the Amazonia mounds, thanks. The shell mound erected above the woman’s grave buried in what is now Nicaragua nearly 6,000 years ago. I thought this was cool.

John Hoopes @KUHoopes Archaeologist – “Yes, it is! The revelation of thousands of mounds and ditch-and-embankment structures (unfortunately named “geoglyphs”) is radically changing our understanding of ancient South America.”

My response, I totally agree, great stuff, made by the indigenous, and why I get upset when people like Graham Hancock or Ancient Aliens, say it was someone else.

John Hoopes @KUHoopes Archaeologist – “James Q. Jacobs’ work in Google Earth is amazing. If you don’t know it, you really should check it out.”

My response, I will check it out. Thanks for your help.

John Hoopes @KUHoopes Archaeologist – “Sure thing! Thanks for YOUR help in getting correct and accurate information out to a wide audience!”

My response, I appreciate your support.

Your Shell Mound blog post, “looks good, I did want to make one clarification. The Caddo people don’t see themselves (or their ancestors) as being a “Mississippian” culture. I see on the drawn map that a few sites (particularly Spiro) are shown for “Mississippian cultures”. I assume that is from the H. Roe’s map from 2010. That map was done before Caddo Nation worked with archaeologists to re-classify the social systems/traditions of their ancestors during that time and found that the “Mississippian” label didn’t align with the cultural systems of their ancestors. It is not a big deal but just something to be aware of in the future. I only know because I work with Caddo Nation now and rather knowledge about the latest research of the Caddo.” – Jeffrey (JT) Lewis @jtlewis_arch Southeastern archaeologist. MA, RPA. PhD Grad Student at OU.

Jeffrey (JT) Lewis is a southeastern archaeologist and Ph.D. Grad Student who makes archaeology YouTube videos

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Ancient North Eurasian

A 2016 study found that the global maximum of Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) ancestry occurs in modern-day KetsMansiNative Americans, and Selkups. ANE ancestry has spread throughout Eurasia and the Americas in various migrations since the Upper Paleolithic, and more than half of the world’s population today derives between 5 and 42% of their genomes from the Ancient North Eurasians. Significant ANE ancestry can be found in Native Americans, as well as in regions of northern EuropeSouth AsiaCentral Asia, and Siberia. It has been suggested that their mythology may have featured narratives shared by both Indo-European and some Native American cultures, such as the existence of a metaphysical world tree and a fable in which a dog guards the path to the afterlife.” ref

Ancient Northern East Asian/ later became Ancient Northeast Asian
Ancient Paleo-Siberian
Mal’ta–Buret’ culture (Mal’ta boy MA-1)

The Kolyma Shaitans: Legends and Reality (I only use just a small part)

“A unique “shaitan” burial was discovered on the bank of Omuk-Kuel Lake in the Middle-Kolyma ulus in Yakutia. According to the legends, buried in it are mummified remains of a shaman woman who died during a devastating smallpox epidemics in the 18th c. In an attempt to overcome the deadly disease, the shaman’s relatives used her remains as an emeget fetish. The author believes that these legends reflect the real events of those far-away years. The Arabic word “shaitan” came to the Russian language from Turkic languages. According to Islamic tradition, a shaitan is a genie, an evil spirit, a demon. During Russian colonization and Christianization of Siberia, all sacred things used by the aborigines as fetishes, patron spirits of the family, and the tribe, grew to be called “shaitans.” There are various facts, dating to the 18th and 19th cc., confirming that this word also referred to the mummified remains of outstanding shamans.” ref

“In the 1740s, a member of the Second Kamchatka Expedition Yakov Lindenau wrote, “Meat is scratched off the [shaman’s] bones and the bones are put together to form a skeleton, which is dressed in human’s clothes and worshipped as a deity. The Yukagirs place such dressed bones…in their yurts, their number can sometimes reach 10 or 15. If somebody commits even a minor sacrilege with respect to these bones, he stirs up rancor on the part of the Yukagirs… While traveling and hunting, the Yukagirs carry these bones in their sledges, and moreover, in their best sledges pulled by their best deer. When the Yukagirs are going to undertake something really important, they tell fortune using these skeletons: lift a skeleton up, and if it seems light, it means that their enterprise will have a favorable outcome. The Yukagirs call these skeletons stariks (old men), endow them with their best furs, and sit them on beds covered with deer hides, in a circle, as though they are alive.” (Lindenau, 1983, p. 155)” ref

“In the late 19th c., a famous explorer of aboriginal culture V. I. Jochelson noted the changes that occurred in the ritual in the last century and a half. So, the Yukagirs divided among themselves the shaman’s meat dried in the sun and then put it in separate tents. The dead bodies of killed dogs were left there as well. “After that,” V. I. Jochelson writes, “they would divide the shaman’s bones, dry them and wrap in clothes. The skull was an object of worshipping. It was put on top of a trunk (body) cut out of wood. A caftan and two hats – a winter and a summer one – were sewn for the idol. The caftan was all embroidered. On the skull, a special mask was put, with holes for the eyes and the mouth… The figure was placed in the front corner of the home. Before a meal, a piece of food was thrown into the fire and the idol was held above it. This feeding of the idol… was committed before each meal.” (V. I. Jochelson, 2005, pp. 236—237)” ref

“The idol was kept by the children of the dead shaman. One of them was inducted into the shamanism mysteries while his father was still alive. The idol was carried in a wooden box. Sometimes, in line with the air burial ritual, the box was erected on poles or trees, and the idol was taken out only before hunting or a long journey so that the outcome of the enterprise planned could be predicted. With time, the Yukagirs began using wooden idols as charms. V. I. Jochelson notes that by the late 19th c. the Yukagirs had developed a skeptical attitude towards idols and referred to them as “shaitans.” In this way, under the influence of Christianity, the worshipped ancestor’s spirit turned into its opposite – an evil spirit, a devil, a Satan.” ref

Ancestral Native AmericanAncient Beringian

14,000-year-old Ust-Kyakhta-3 (UKY) individual found near Lake Baikal

Amur River Region

Chertovy Vorota Cave/Devil’s Gate Cave

Afanasievo culture

Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex


Haplogroup migrations related to the Ancient North Eurasians: I added stuff to this map to help explain. 

People reached Lake Baikal Siberia around 25,000 years ago. They (to Damien) were likely Animistic Shamanists who were also heavily totemistic as well. Being animistic thinkers they likely viewed amazing things in nature as a part of or related to something supernatural/spiritual (not just natural as explained by science): spirit-filled, a sprit-being relates to or with it, it is a sprit-being, it is a supernatural/spiritual creature, or it is a great spirit/tutelary deity/goddess-god. From there comes mythology and faith in things not seen but are believed to somehow relate or interact with this “real world” we know exists.

Both areas of Lake Baikal, one on the west side with Ancient North Eurasian culture and one on the east side with Ancient Northern East Asian culture (later to become: Ancient Northeast Asian culture) areas are the connected areas that (to Damien) are the origin ancestry religion area for many mythologies and religious ideas of the world by means of a few main migrations and many smaller ones leading to a distribution of religious ideas that even though are vast in distance are commonly related to and centering on Lake Baikal and its surrounding areas like the Amur region and Altai Mountains region. 

To an Animistic Thinker: “Things are not just as they seem, they may have a spirit, or spirit energy relates to them” 

To a Totemistic Thinker: “Things are not just as they seem, they may have a spirit, or spirit energy relates to them; they may have religio-cultural importance.” 

“Ancient North Eurasian population had Haplogroups R, P, U, and Q DNA types: defined by maternal West-Eurasian ancestry components (such as mtDNA haplogroup U) and paternal East-Eurasian ancestry components (such as yDNA haplogroup P1 (R*/Q*).” ref 

People may have first seen the Shaman Rock with the natural brown rock formation resembling a dragon between 30,000 to 25,000 years ago.

Shaman Rock, on Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Siberia, with a natural rock image that resembles a dragon. And is one of the “Nine Holy Sites of Asia.”

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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“Several linguists and geneticists suggest that the Uralic languages are related to various Siberian languages and possibly also some languages of northern Native Americans. A proposed family is named Uralo-Siberian, it includes Uralic, Yukaghir, Eskimo–Aleut (Inuit), possibly Nivkh, and Chukotko-Kamchatkan. Haplogroup Q is found in nearly all Native Americans and nearly all of the Yeniseian Ket people (90%).” ref, ref

You can find some form of Shamanism, among Uralic, Transeurasian, Dené–Yeniseian, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, and Eskaleut languages.

My speculations of shamanism are its dispersals, after 24,000 to 4,000 years ago, seem to center on Lake Baikal and related areas. To me, the hotspot of Shamanism goes from west of Lake Baikal in the “Altai Mountains” also encompassing “Lake Baikal” and includes the “Amur Region/Watershed” east of Lake Baikal as the main location Shamanism seems to have radiated out from.

Shamanism Among the Peoples of the North: Uralic, Transeurasian, Dené–Yeniseian, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, and Eskaleut languages

Haplogroup N from China to Fennoscandia: Migrations and Relationship of Language (Dene-Yeniseian and Uralic), DNA, and Cultures

Postglacial genomes from foragers across Northern Eurasia reveal prehistoric

mobility associated with the spread of the Uralic and Yeniseian languages


“The North Eurasian forest and forest-steppe zones have sustained millennia of sociocultural connections among northern peoples. We present genome-wide ancient DNA data for 181 individuals from this region spanning the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age. We find that Early to Mid-Holocene hunter-gatherer populations from across the southern forest and forest-steppes of Northern Eurasia can be characterized by a continuous gradient of ancestry that remained stable for millennia, ranging from fully West Eurasian in the Baltic region to fully East Asian in the Transbaikal region. In contrast, cotemporaneous groups in far Northeast Siberia were genetically distinct, retaining high levels of continuity from a population that was the primary source of ancestry for Native Americans. By the mid-Holocene, admixture between this early Northeastern Siberian population and groups from Inland East Asia and the Amur River Basin produced two distinctive populations in eastern Siberia that played an important role in the genetic formation of later people. Ancestry from the first population, Cis-Baikal Late Neolithic-Bronze Age (Cisbaikal_LNBA), is found substantially only among Yeniseian-speaking groups and those known to have admixed with them. Ancestry from the second, Yakutian Late Neolithic-Bronze Age (Yakutia_LNBA), is strongly associated with present-day Uralic speakers. We show how Yakutia_LNBA ancestry spread from an east Siberian origin ~4,500 years ago, along with subclades of Y-chromosome haplogroup N occurring at high frequencies among present-day Uralic speakers, into Western and Central Siberia in communities associated with Seima-Turbino metallurgy: a suite of advanced bronze casting techniques that spread explosively across an enormous region of Northern Eurasia ~4,000 years ago. However, the ancestry of the 16 Seima-Turbino-period individuals–the first reported from sites with this metallurgy–was otherwise extraordinarily diverse, with partial descent from Indo-Iranian-speaking pastoralists and multiple hunter-gatherer populations from widely separated regions of Eurasia. Our results provide support for theories suggesting that early Uralic speakers at the beginning of their westward dispersal where involved in the expansion of Seima-Turbino metallurgical traditions, and suggests that both cultural transmission and migration were important in the spread of Seima-Turbino material culture.” ref

Y-DNA Q and Tlingit

Y-chromosome analysis reveals genetic divergence and new founding native lineages in Athapaskan- and Eskimoan-speaking populations

“Abstract: For decades, the peopling of the Americas has been explored through the analysis of uniparentally inherited genetic systems in Native American populations and the comparison of these genetic data with current linguistic groupings. In northern North America, two language families predominate: Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene. Although the genetic evidence from nuclear and mtDNA loci suggest that speakers of these language families share a distinct biological origin, this model has not been examined using data from paternally inherited Y chromosomes. To test this hypothesis and elucidate the migration histories of Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking populations, we analyzed Y-chromosomal data from Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, and Tłįchǫ populations living in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Over 100 biallelic markers and 19 chromosome short tandem repeats (STRs) were genotyped to produce a high-resolution dataset of Y chromosomes from these groups. Among these markers is an SNP discovered in the Inuvialuit that differentiates them from other Aboriginal and Native American populations. The data suggest that Canadian Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking populations are genetically distinct from one another and that the formation of these groups was the result of two population expansions that occurred after the initial movement of people into the Americas. In addition, the population history of Athapaskan speakers is complex, with the Tłįchǫ being distinct from other Athapaskan groups. The high-resolution biallelic data also make clear that Y-chromosomal diversity among the first Native Americans was greater than previously recognized.” ref

“The peopling of the Americas is a question of fundamental importance in anthropological and historical disciplines. Much research on the issue has focused on testing the hypothesis that several separate migrations entered the New World, with each migration being associated with different linguistic, dental, and presumably, genetic characteristics. Under this model, Amerind is the largest, most varied, and oldest language family in the Americas. However, some have questioned the use and/or appropriateness of this linguistic classification. Despite this controversy, the designation of the Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut language families is well-established, although the inclusion of Haida with Athapaskan, Eyak, and Tlingit (forming the Na-Dene family) has been reconsidered.” ref

“In addition, there has been debate concerning the validity (or strict separation/genetic differentiation) between speakers of Athapaskan and Eskimo-Aleut languages. It has been argued based on blood group markers and cranial trait data that some Inuit are more closely related to non-Inuit groups and that certain Athapaskan-speaking populations have greater genetic affinity with non-Athapaskan groups. Complete correlations between genetics and linguistic classifications are lacking from mtDNA data. Even the dental traits used to justify a three-migration hypothesis did not group all Na-Dene speakers into a single category separate from the other two (Amerind and Eskimo-Aleut) groups and furthermore, suggested the inclusion of Aleuts with Athapaskan speakers from northwestern America. Thus, although it is generally accepted that the two language families differ from each other, it is not clear whether they have different genetic origins or instead, are the result of separate migrations from the same source.” ref

“Not surprisingly, the number and timing of migrations into the Americas are still vigorously debated. Previous work focused mostly on mtDNA variation in northern Native American populations. Work using the Y chromosome to explore these issues, however, used relatively low-resolution haplogroup and haplotype data or did not test the correlation between Y-chromosomal diversity and language use (Athapaskan vs. Eskimoan) in a localized geographic space. Here, we rectify this issue by generating the highest resolution nonrecombining region of the Y-chromosome (NRY) dataset to date for the Americas and analyzing populations that fill a major geographic gap between the previously studied Alaskan Inupiat and Greenlandic Inuit.” ref

“We characterized the NRY in Athapaskan [Gwich’in (Kutchin) and Tłįchǫ (Dogrib)] and Inuvialuktun (Inuvialuit) speakers from the Canadian Northwest Territories. This analysis led to the more precise identification of indigenous haplogroups and a better understanding of the extent of recent European admixture. In addition, by generating highly resolved Y-chromosome lineages, we were able to confirm the phylogeny of haplogroup Q, providing a detailed basis for future work. We also assessed whether Athapaskan and Eskimoan speakers derived from separate migrations (i.e., whether their genetic variation was structured by language) and examined the relationships of populations within and among these linguistic groups. In doing this assessment, we have expanded our understanding of the migration histories of Aboriginal [the term aboriginal describes indigenous populations in Canada, including First Nations (Indians), Inuit, and Métis] populations from northern North America.” ref

Results: Haplogroup Q Phylogeny.

“The structure of the haplogroup Q phylogeny is essentially the same as presented in the work by Dulik et al., but it is enhanced for Native American and Aboriginal Y chromosomes. The relative position of the Q1a3 branch was verified. A single Chumash haplotype possessed the four markers defining Q1a3 but lacked all nine markers defining Q1a3a, Q1a3b, and Q1a3c. Q1a3a remains defined as described in the work by Dulik et al. Five of the Aboriginal participants had the L54 marker, which defines Q1a3a1*, but lacked any additional derived markers, including the Native American-specific M3. The remaining samples from this branch had the M3 marker but none of the four derived markers common in South America.” ref

A number of haplogroup Q Y chromosomes did not belong to the Q1a3 branch. Most of these chromosomes had markers defining Q1a but lacked those markers that define Q1a1, Q1a2, Q1a3, Q1a4, and Q1a5. M323, which formerly defined Q1a6 , is now positioned as a derived mutation in relation to M346. A marker detected in this analysis, called NWT01, differentiated almost one-half of the Inuvialuit Y chromosomes from all others. We have classified these Y chromosomes as belonging to haplogroup Q1a6. In addition to this haplogroup, two samples had the P89 marker, which defines haplogroup Q1a5. Thus, three of six known Q1a branches are found in the Americas (Q1a3, Q1a5, and Q1a6).” ref

“We observed significant differences in NRY haplogroup frequencies among the three Aboriginal groups from northern Canada (Table 1 and Table S1). All populations had high to moderate frequencies of Q1a3a1a*. The Athapaskan-speaking Gwich’in and Tłįchǫ had higher frequencies of C3b than the Inuvialuit, whereas the Inuvialuit had significantly more Q1a6 lineages. Additional haplogroups that seem to be indigenous in origin were found at low frequencies in the Athapaskan groups. Four samples (three Gwich’in and one First Nation member from British Columbia) belonged to paragroup Q1a3a1*. We also identified 10 samples (9 Athapaskans and 1 Inupiat samples) that clustered with these haplotypes, suggesting a common origin for them. Another Q1a3a1* lineage belonged to a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, but it is not clear that this person’s Y chromosome also shares a recent origin with these other haplotypes. Finally, one Tłįchǫ and one Slave belonged to Q1a5, whereas a similar Y-chromosome short tandem repeat (Y-STR) haplotype was found in one Alaskan Athapaskan. This SNP was previously described in the work by Karafet et al., although its geographic distribution was not discussed.” ref

“Earlier studies of Aboriginal and Native American Y chromosomes struggled to identify the number of indigenous founder haplogroups from those haplogroups that recently came from European and African sources. Based on our examination of genealogical information and high-resolution genotypes, we were able to distinguish between these sources; 48% of the Gwich’in and 43% of the Inuvialuit Y chromosomes were more typically found in Europeans. By contrast, only 19% of the Tłįchǫ lineages were nonindigenous. Comparisons of these data with data from worldwide populations (www.yhrd.org) showed exact or near matches between the haplotypes of nonindigenous lineages and those haplotypes of Europeans. Hence, although these men are Aboriginal, some of their genetic ancestry traces back to Europe.” ref

“Because variation accumulates with time, a relative chronology can be constructed by assessing haplogroup STR diversity, ρ, and mean pairwise differences. We noted that Q1a Y chromosomes had far greater diversity than C3 Y chromosomes, and within Q1a, those chromosomes with M3 (Q1a3a1a*) had the greatest amount. The Q1a3a1a* network exhibited only one definitive haplotype cluster, which was composed entirely of Athapaskan-speakers (mostly Tłįchǫ) and distinctive in having a duplication of the DYS448 locus. All other Q1a3a1a* lineages were dispersed among longer branches of the network, indicating that they derived from a common source much farther in the past. Tłįchǫ Q1a3a1a* showed the lowest intrapopulation variance (Vp) estimate, whereas values were higher in the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit. The low diversity of the Tłįchǫ is likely caused by a recent founder event. Interestingly, when comparisons were expanded to include populations from southeast Alaska, the Tlingit had far greater diversity within this haplogroup, possibly as a result of their geographic location and increased interaction with other Native Americans.” ref

“Haplogroups Q1a6 and C3b had roughly one-third of the diversity of Q1a3a1a*, suggesting that they arose more recently and at approximately the same time. The majority of Y chromosomes for each of these haplogroups belonged to single haplotype clusters, suggesting that they likely originated from two different ancestors relatively recently (one for each haplogroup). Q1a6 is especially important, because it is largely confined to the Inuvialuit, Inuit, and Inupiat populations. Although no SNP data were presented in the work by Davis et al., a number of their STR haplotypes were similar to the Q1a6 lineages and in several cases, shared with the Inuvialuit. Furthermore, Q1a6 may also be present in Greenlandic Inuit and Aleuts, although these populations were characterized with fewer STRs. Diversity estimates indicated the greatest assortment of haplotypes in the Yupik and less assortment in Inupiat and Inuvialuit. This trend of slightly decreasing values from west to east suggests an origin for Q1a6 in the westernmost Arctic and its dispersal through an eastward expansion.” ref

“Haplogroup C3b was found at comparatively high frequencies in Athapaskan populations. The Tłįchǫ and Gwich’in C3b lineages were similar to one another, forming a single large cluster. We reduced our NRY data to 8-STR loci haplotypes to compare them with published data and determine the directionality of movement by bearers of C3b Y chromosomes. Vp estimates for the 8-STR haplotypes showed the greatest diversity in the Tanana Athapaskans and Alaskan Athapaskans of the work by Davis et al., moderate values among the Tłįchǫ and Gwich’in, and the lowest values in the Apache, thus forming a north to south gradient of C3b diversity. The evolutionary mutation rate was used to calculate times to most recent common ancestor (TMRCAs), because previous estimates using the pedigree-based mutation rate gave values that were too recent and conflicted with nongenetic data.” ref

“In most cases, the estimates from Batwing were greater than those estimates from Network—a difference previously noted. Unlike ρ-estimates, the estimates generated with Batwing are useful only when the demographic model that is used is appropriate for the sample set. In this case, the model involves a population at a constant size that expands exponentially at time β. Although generally useful, the 95% confidence intervals of Batwing estimates show that the TMRCAs are not precise. In addition, if the root haplotypes were incorrectly inferred for the ρ-statistics, then the TMRCAs could be skewed. Regardless, the relative chronology of these haplogroups should not be affected. The TMRCAs for M3-derived Y chromosomes indicated a coalescent event between 13,000 and 22,000 years ago.” ref

“TMRCAs from each population were substantially more recent, although the dates mirror the diversity estimates in showing the varied collection of Q1a3a1a* haplotypes in each population. The TMRCAs for Q1a6 and C3b were comparable. For Q1a6, the TMRCA was between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago. The overall TMRCA estimate of the C3b lineages was 5,000 years ago with ρ-statistics and about two times that value with Batwing. Similar estimates were calculated for each of the ethnic groups, with a range between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago; Alaskan Athapaskans had greater diversity and an older TMRCA.” ref

“Much of the genetic research on northern Aboriginal populations has centered on the origins of Inuit peoples, particularly from Greenland, and the possible contributions of historic European (Norse) populations to their genetic makeup. This study has examined Y-chromosome diversity in the Inuvialuit to better understand the origin of their Aboriginal lineages. We accomplished this task effectively by using high-resolution haplotypes. In addition, the samples came from populations living in a region not previously well-described, thus filling a significant geographic void in genetic information about northern Aboriginal history.” ref

“From an mtDNA perspective, Inuit populations around the Arctic seemed similar to one another, with low levels of genetic diversity. The general model for Inuit origins proposes a discontinuity between the earliest inhabitants of Greenland (Paleo-Eskimo) and later (Dorset and Thule) cultures. Debate continues as to whether Inuit are wholly descended from Thule tribes that migrated across the Arctic about 1,000 years ago or whether modern Inuit formed out of interactions between the previous Dorset inhabitants and later Thule migrants. A complete ancient Paleo-Eskimo mitogenome was sequenced to test these models. The sample belonged to haplogroup D2a1, which does not appear in modern Inuit populations and is most similar to Aleut and Siberian Yupik D2a1a mitogenomes, suggesting a genetic discontinuity between ancient and modern Inuit populations.” ref

“From an NRY perspective, many Eskimoan Y chromosomes belonged to Q1a6, which has a TMRCA that predates the Paleo-Eskimo material culture. The Y chromosome of the ancient Paleo-Eskimo man was assigned to paragroup Q1a*, but the NWT01 locus was not sequenced. Assignment of the Paleo-Eskimo Y chromosome to Q1a6 does not conflict with these data or the TMRCA of Q1a6. Furthermore, autosomal analysis of the ancient Paleo-Eskimo genome suggested that this man had close affinities with the Nganasan, Koryak, and Chukchi of northeastern Siberia. In fact, four Koryaks also have Q1a* Y chromosomes, with the number of repeat differences being within the typical range of confirmed Q1a6 haplotypes. Thus, although a discontinuity in mtDNAs between the Paleo-Eskimo and modern Inuit has been shown, this finding may not be the case for Y chromosomes.” ref

“Our Q1a6 TMRCAs were comparable with the estimate that the work by Rasmussen et al. calculated from genomic SNP data for a migration from Siberia to the Americas. Although the work by Rasmussen et al. inferred a Siberian origin for this migration, an origin in northwestern North America with a subsequent back migration across the Bering Strait is equally likely (as seen with M3), given that Q1a6 is found at higher frequencies and with greater diversity in Eskimoan speakers. In addition, NRY lineages common to coastal Siberian populations (i.e., C3c and N1c) were not present in American Arctic groups.” ref

“In addition to identifying this Eskimo-Aleut haplogroup, we also noted significant genetic differences between Inuvialuit and Athapaskan speakers. Previous mtDNA studies found haplotype sharing between Inuit and Athapaskan speakers . This finding was evident from the high frequency of A2 mtDNAs in both linguistic groups and reduced genetic diversity relative to populations to the south—possibly caused by more recent reexpansions from Beringia or northwestern North America . In contrast, their Y-chromosome diversity was structured by language affiliation, which suggested that the distribution of genes and language are consistent with at least two migratory events. It is especially convincing given that some number of Inuvialuit and Gwich’in live in the same communities (Aklavik and Inuvik). Furthermore, within the Eskimoan-speaking populations, the Inuvialuit and Inupiat (Inuit speakers) and Yupik (Yupik speakers) have genetically diverged from each other.” ref

“However, the data for Na-Dene-speaking populations did not show the same correspondence between populations and language. The Tlingit, who speak the most divergent language of those languages in the Athapaskan-Eyak-Tlingit linguistic family, are not significantly different from the Gwich’in and Athapaskan Indians from Central Alaska. Because the Tłįchǫ speak an Athapaskan language closer to the language of the Gwich’in, we expected that the Tłįchǫ and Gwich’in would be more similar to one another than to the Tlingit. However, the Tłįchǫ were genetically distinct from other Athapaskan speakers, possibly because of their lower levels of European admixture. This finding, however, does not explain the small genetic distance between Tlingit and Gwich’in and may indicate that the Tlingit sample is too small and unrepresentative to allow for a complete comparison. The genetic differences between these Aboriginal groups do suggest that the spread of Inuit culture across the Arctic was not simply a cultural phenomenon and that Athapaskan Indians living in the interior were not differentiated by their cultural adaptations to local environments alone (at least from a strictly paternal genetic perspective).” ref

“Previous studies using Y-chromosomal data have not conclusively determined whether the Americas were peopled by a single migration event or multiple migrations. Initial data from STRs, Y-chromosome centromeric heteroduplexes, and surveys of the M3 marker suggested a single migratory event. The presence of haplogroup C in the Americas has been cited as evidence for a second migration and has also been used as evidence of a separate homeland for Native American progenitors. Our data are most consistent with the model in the work by Forster et al. that proposes a single migration into the Americas followed by a second subsequent expanding wave. The first wave was associated with the initial peopling of the Americas through Beringia, and the founding populations were likely composed of Q-MEH2 (xL54), Q-L54, and C-M217 Y chromosomes. Other Y chromosomes were likely present in the founding population at low frequencies but subsequently lost over time.” ref

“Q-L54 is unmistakably a founding haplogroup and provides a clear connection to southern Siberia, where L54 is also found. The designation of Q-L54 as a major founding haplogroup is also supported by the presence of Q-L54 (xM3) Y chromosomes in our sample set. However, the geographic distribution of this paragroup is not yet clear. By contrast, Q-M3 arose (either in Beringia or Alaska) from a Q-L54 founder and has been shown to be ubiquitous and diverse in most indigenous populations, pointing to its primacy in the first expansions of men throughout the Americas.
Furthermore, a handful of C-M217 Y chromosomes without the P39 marker were found in southeast Alaska and Colombia, South America. The spread of C-P39 involved mostly Athapaskan speakers and was associated with a second wave of expansion, which is the same as Q1a6 for Eskimoan speakers. These second wave expansions likely originated from American sources that amalgamated with the first wave inhabitants as they spread throughout the north. Because of the imprecision of TMRCA estimates, it is not possible to determine whether haplogroup C3b originated before Q1a6 or vice versa.” ref

“The disparities in language, culture, and Y-chromosome diversity between Athapaskan- and Eskimoan-speaking populations likely reflect the effects of demic expansions after the initial migratory event that brought human groups to the Americas. This second wave likely occurred roughly in parallel, resulting in different migration and population histories, and contributed to the genetic makeup of extant Aboriginal populations of North America. We should emphasize that we are referring to the populations themselves and not the languages that they speak. We can only say that speakers of these two language families have comparatively recent paternal histories. This analysis has allowed us to develop a more detailed picture of the paternal genetic history of Aboriginal and Native Americans, and it shows that the diversity of the founding indigenous American populations was greater than previously acknowledged.” ref

 Mt-DNA (Mitochondrial/from the mother) and Tlingit

Genetic Diversity and Relationships of Tlingit Moieties

“Abstract: The Tlingit from Southeast Alaska belong to the Northwest Coast cultural tradition, which is defined by regionally shared sociocultural practices. A distinctive feature of Tlingit social organization is the matrilineal exogamous marriage system among clans from two opposite moieties: the Raven/Crow and Eagle/Wolf. Clan and moiety membership are determined by matrilineal descent, and previous genetic studies of Northwest Coast populations have shown that there is a relationship between clan membership and genetic variation of matrilines and patrilines. To further understand this association, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from the Tlingit (n=154) are examined. By comparing mtDNA with moiety membership information, we explore the impact of marriage traditions among the Tlingit with their observable genetic variation. At the genetic level, the results support cultural persistence of Tlingit maternal moiety identity despite the negative impacts of European colonization. Our study additionally illustrates the relevance of data derived from Tlingit oral traditions to test hypotheses about population history on the Northwest Coast.” ref

“For the Tlingit, oral traditions are intangible properties, a fundamental part of their ideological system whose narrative contains information about clan origins, interrelationships, migrations, and first settlements. Here, we seek to explore Tlingit clan and moiety systems by integrating genetic data with oral history and the ethnographic record. We examined Tlingit mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences in terms of clan membership information to elucidate marriage traditions from a biocultural perspective. The Tlingit share a number of features with other Norwest Coast Cultures which includes a subsistence system heavily reliant on marine resources, distinctive woodworking technology used for the production of ceremonial and utilitarian items, formline art, hierarchical social organization, and spiritual beliefs based on animism. However, most anthropological research on the Tlingit has focused on investigating their origins and social-political evolution using ethnohistorical, anthropological, and archaeological information.” ref

“Early archaeological sites in this region include On Your Knees Cave (OYKC) in Prince of Wales Island, Ground Hog Bay 2 in the Chilkat Peninsula, and Hidden Falls in Baranof Island, with dates ranging from 10,500 to 7,500 years ago, and are defined by microblade assemblages. The form and function of these tools, suggest an increasing reliance on marine resources through time. By the Late Holocene, complex sociopolitical groups, similar to those reported from ethnohistorical sources, inhabited the northern Northwest Coast. In southeast Alaska, house-depression villages and fortified sites from the Late Holocene resemble Tlingit settlements observed at the time of European contact. Artifact types associated with the ethnographic Tlingit date to as early as 1600 years ago.” ref

Moiety and Clan System

“The Tlingit people follow an exogamous matrilineal system in which clan membership and social status are directly transmitted from mother to children through the concept of haa tláa yinaanáx (our mother’s side). Clans belong to either of two moieties or “opposite side” (guneit kanaayi) descent groups: Raven/Crow (Yeil naa or Tléix’ Laayaneidí) or Eagle/Wolf (Cha’aak’/Gooch naa or Tléix’ Shangukeidí). Moiety members had reciprocal ceremonial duties during important events in the life cycle, but the most important function was marriage regulation. Each moiety is further subdivided into clans, the number of which ranges from 60 to over 70, which, in turn, are divided into lineages or houses (hit).” ref

“Members of a clan only married individuals from an opposing moiety. Political organization centered on clan membership, and clan identity was integral to Tlingit society. The clans possessed territories, rights to resources, and trade routes (de Laguna 1990). Oral accounts and ethnographic literature indicate that communities were initially inhabited by a single clan, expanded and diversified to occupy multiple settlements. Thus, clans were not geographically restricted. Contemporary clans are products of complex fission and fusions of more ancient clans, making clan histories deeply connected. Oral histories indicate that new clans existed independently, both ceremonially and politically from a parent clan. Russian Orthodox and Protestant missionization, along with the imposition of Russian and American legal practices regarding marriage in the second half of the 19th century, affected not only the role marriage played in society but also altered traditional gender/status roles of women as well rules of inheritance and wealth in Tlingit society.” ref

“The Tlingit were also distributed in seventeen tribally distinct groups or kwáans The kwáan is interpreted as a geographic unit rather than a meaningful social or political category. Each kwáan consisted of one or more matrilineal clans that shared one or multiple winter villages. A kwáan remained an independent body which did not recognize tribal authority or a central governing figure (Emmons and de Laguna). Most Tlingit clans trace their origins to the Tsimshian coast, around the mouth of the Skeena River, and migrated from present-day Tsimshian territory along a northward route. Migration histories depict movements from the interior to the coast through the Nass, Stikine, and Taku Rivers (de Laguna 1990:205-206). Swanton (1908) and Emmons and de Laguna (1991) hypothesize that the two Tlingit moieties originated from the interaction and intermarriage of two separate Tlingit populations, with oral histories supporting a model where
the Raven and Eagle/Wolf moiety clans reached southeast Alaska following different routes, and at different times.” ref

“The oral accounts also reveal that when later groups arrived in Southeast Alaska, they found an existing population belonging to the Raven moiety. In this scenario, the first clans that belong to the Raven moiety moved from the Tsimshian Peninsula northwards to the Skeena, Nass, Stikine, and Taku rivers, and later Eagle moiety clans originated from the interior. Likewise, Worl (1998, 2005) supports the idea that an ancestral population of the Raven moiety initially moved into the Tlingit territory. Worl’s (2005) analysis of the oral traditions also reveals that Eagle/Wolf moiety clans track their migrations from the interior to the coast, and then north, while the Ravens trace theirs from the Nass and Skeena Rivers area. The ethnographic information supports the above scenario. These arguments, derived from anthropological studies and oral history, can be used to explore biocultural information in order to illuminate the migration history of the Tlingit.” ref

“The integration of genetic analyses in anthropology is useful for testing hypotheses about population histories. When combined with evidence from culture history and language, genetic tools are useful for reconstructing the past. The Northwest Coast populations were among the first cultural groups to attract the attention of researchers who sought to use genetic evidence to evaluate population histories and relationships. Regionally, the Northwest Coast cultures share similarities in their mtDNA haplogroup distributions. Coastal populations such as the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tend to exhibit high frequencies of haplogroup A, and moderate to low frequencies of haplogroups B, C, and D. This genetic pattern seems to have been already well established around the time the Northwest Coast tradition emerged (e.g. before 3000 years ago), and haplotypes observed in the region have shown continuity throughout time.” ref

“Schurr and colleagues (2012) studied the genetic diversity of modern Tlingit and Haida populations, performing statistical and phylogenetic analyses on mtDNA and Y-chromosomal data in order to investigate the influence of migration and cultural practices (marriage) as well as the relationship between linguistic groups. A majority of Tlingit and Haida individuals belonged to subhaplogroup A2 with a lower frequency belonging to either haplogroup C or D. Both populations exhibited less haplotype variation compared to Artic and central Northwest Coast populations. Genetic distances (FST) of Northwest Coast populations were high, indicating considerable population differentiation in the region. Finally, Schurr and colleagues (2012) found a high correspondence between mitochondrial haplotypes and maternal moiety affiliation. The researchers found a strong association between geographic range, clan identity, and genetic composition among Tlingit individuals, and were able to differentiate haplotypes that were exclusive of each moiety.” ref

“Mitochondrial DNA collected from Tlingit volunteers was used to address the relationships between maternal genetic composition and marriage traditions in Tlingit cultural history. The general objective is to expand the knowledge about the genetic patterns of the northern Northwest Coast groups by integrating genetic data of modern Tlingit populations in the context of oral history, ethnographic accounts, and marriage traditions. Thus, this study aims to test the hypothesis that clan social customs have had a profound impact on the modern genetic composition of the two moieties: Eagle/Wolf and Raven/Crow. A main assumption is that sociocultural signatures of marriage customs are traceable through mtDNA haplotype patterning and moiety membership.” ref

“If this holds true, the clans found in the Eagle/Wolf moiety should have distinctive matrilineal lineages from those observed in Raven moiety clans. According to the reviewed ethnographic studies and oral histories, both groups represent two different populations that could, in turn, reflect two separate population movements into the historical Tlingit territory of Southeast Alaska. Swanton (1908), Emmons and de Laguna (1991) and Worl (1998, 2005) support the idea that clans found in the Raven moiety are descendants of the first Tlingit group that reached southeast Alaska. In this scenario, the two Tlingit moieties are descendants of two distinct ancestral populations. Mitochondrial DNA variation was analyzed by screening the samples obtained in this study for markers that define mtDNA haplogroups A, B, C, and D.” ref

“In order to assess moiety genetic variation, a median-joining network of HVSI haplotypes belonging to haplogroup A2. For this network, a subset of Tlingit individuals that reported clan maternal ancestry to at least one generation was used (Raven n=47; Eagle n=35). To minimize the problem of reticulation within the network, data on rate heterogeneity on the HVSI of the human mitochondrial genome obtained by Meyer et al. (1999) were used to modify the weights of mutational positions that showed higher relative mutation rates than average. The weight values for these positions were assigned as described by Kemp and colleagues (2010). In this way, reticulation due to mutational “hotspots” was reduced. A hierarchical analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) was conducted in order to explore the genetic structure among the Tlingit. Sequences were sorted by moiety, excluding those composed of a single individual. The analysis used data from 76 Tlingit (Raven=42; Eagle/Wolf=34) individuals for whom both moiety and clan information were available. A second AMOVA was conducted removing two individuals of Tagish descent that belonged to haplogroup B in order to assess the impact of this variation in the final results.” ref

“The majority of Tlingit individuals from this study exhibit haplogroup A2 haplotypes, two of the most common A2 lineages are types 1 (n=44), and 2 (n=41). The former lineage is widespread in the Americas, while the latter is more restricted to populations of the Northwest Coast, such as Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Bella Coola (Lorenz and Smith 1997; Malhi et al. 2004), Haida, Tlingit, as well as populations from California, the American Southwest, Mexico (Kemp et al. 2010), and South America. Type 3 with a transition at nucleotide position (np) 16519 relative to type 2, was shared among 6 Tlingit individuals. Type 7 was present in about 10% of Tlingit sequences (n=17). This haplotype has been previously reported in 19 Tlingit individuals.” ref

“Twelve percent of Tlingit individuals (n=19) belonged to type 4, a common A2 lineage in the Americas. This mtDNA HVSI haplotype is the same exhibited by the 550-year-old remains of the individual found in Canada known as Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi (Long-ago dead person). This A2 variant has been reported in Haida, Maya, Quiche, and Brazilian populations. Three Tlingit individuals, including one belonging to the Raven moiety, exhibit type 5. This is an A2 subhaplogroup known as A2a5. It is estimated that this A2a sublineage originated in Alaska between 4000–7000 years ago, followed by western and southern expansions of Athapaskan speakers between 3000-600 years ago. In addition, four percent of the Tlingit (n=6) exhibit type 10. One Tlingit individual belongs to haplogroup A2b1 (type 11). The transition at np 16265 defines this A2b subhaplotype. A2b1 is frequently found in Artic populations such as the Inuit and has also been previously reported before in one Tlingit individual.” ref

“Two Tlingit individuals belong to type 12, which is haplogroup B2a. This B2 branch has been reported in one Tsimshian individual, is predominantly found in populations of the American Southwest, and may represent a founding haplotype in the Americas. Only two Tlingit individuals belong to haplogroup C, with one participant from the Wolf clan belonging to the basal C lineage, while an individual belonging to the Eagle moiety exhibited the C1 variant. At a regional level, Tlingit mtDNA diversity is similar to other Northwest Coast populations. Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Tsimshian, Alaskan Athapaskan, and Inuit populations are characterized by high frequencies of haplogroup A (ranging from about 70 percent in Haida to 100 percent in Athapaskan populations). Haplogroup B is also present in moderate frequencies among the Tsimshian. Tlingit, Haida, and Alaskan Athapaskans. The A2 haplotype network illustrates the distribution of haplotypes among the Tlingit and their neighbors. Tlingit and Haida populations are characterized by sharing five A2 haplotypes.” ref

Moiety Diversity

Table 5 displays the haplotypes found among Tlingit individuals (this study) relative to their clan membership. There are seven haplotypes specific to the Raven moiety, two that are specific to the Eagle, and one haplotype that is shared between them. The majority of clans found in the Eagle moiety belong to the A2 lineage with transitions at nps 16111-16223-16290-16319-16362 and the lineage with the additional transition at np 16189. While most individuals belonging to the Raven moiety are part of the lineage with the transition at np 16129, it is also the only other shared matriline across moieties. All three individuals of the Eagle moiety that belong to this haplotype are members of the Teikweidí clan. The Raven moiety is the most diverse, with eight different A2 lineages. Among the Eagle, members of the Dakl’aweidí clan are the most diverse, with three mtDNA haplotypes. There are three haplotypes (8, 9, 10) found only in Raven individuals that are most closely related to a haplotype (1) found in the Eagle moiety. Most of the haplotypes are specific to a moiety as illustrated by the A2 haplotype network of Tlingit individuals organized by moiety.” ref

“The AMOVA analyses reveal additional information in regards to mtDNA variation and clan structure. When grouped by moiety, the first AMOVA revealed that withinpopulation variation was high (49.41%), while variation between clans (20.91%), and among moiety is low (29.68%). This is likely due to the two mtDNA sequences from two members of the Dakl’aweidí Eagle clan who belong to the B2a lineage. These Tlingit individuals reported having a distant Tagish ancestry, a northern Northwest Coast group of the Yukon. Thus, the presence of this lineage in the Tlingit dataset might be a product of gene flow between Tagish and Tlingit populations. In order to assess the impact of this lineage, a second AMOVA was performed, excluding these individuals. The variation among groups component rose, although the within populations variation remained moderate. These results suggest that Eagle and Raven clans are genetically distinct, although there is also considerable variation within each clan.” ref

“The analysis of mtDNA variation in Tlingit individuals provide biological data that, in conjunction with oral traditions, ethnographic, and archaeological data, can be integrated into the reconstruction of population histories of the Northwest Coast peoples. The material derived from this study contributes to an increasing mtDNA dataset in the Americas and provides new information about the population history of the Northwest Coast peoples. Overall, the data indicates that the Tlingit individuals analyzed in this study exhibit a strong correspondence between moiety membership and mtDNA lineages, which is a product of the dual marriage system. On a regional level, Tlingit populations are marked by a high frequency of haplogroup A2, which is one of the most common founding lineages in the Americas.” ref

“A closer examination of the A2 lineages present among the Tlingit offers significant details about the genetic composition of this group. The distribution of mtDNA lineages among clans from the Raven and Eagle moieties supports the idea that both groups are distinguishable on a genetic level, even after the detrimental effects European contact and the United States government had on Tlingit cultural practices. Overall, it is possible to separate members from the Eagle and Raven moieties based on their haplotypes. Moieties only share the type 2 haplotype. Moreover, all three individuals of the Eagle moiety that belong to this haplotype are members of the Teikweidí clan. However, each moiety also has exclusive lineages. Members of clans found in the Eagle moiety belong to three A2 and one B2 lineages. On the other hand, members of the
Raven moiety belong to eight different A2 lineages. Most of the clans in the Eagle moiety are part of the basal A2 haplogroup and the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi lineage, while the majority of clans in the Raven moiety exhibit the transition at np 16129.” ref

“However, intramoiety variation for each moiety is high. The Raven moiety is considerably more diverse than the Eagle. Members of the L’uknax.ádi Raven clan belong to four different haplotypes, which make this clan the most diverse. This diversity could support the argument that clans in the Raven moiety represent the ancestral Tlingit population, although the current evidence cannot exclude the possibility that Eagle lineages were also part of the ancestral maternal gene pool. Assuming that the basal A2 lineage represents the genetic composition of Tlingit ancestors, then clans in the Eagle moiety can trace back directly to the same ancestral population as the clans found in the Raven moiety. The fact that there are individuals belonging to the Raven moiety that are more related to the basal A2 (e.g. types 9 and 11) which is characteristic of the Eagle moiety could alternatively be explained as a product of events where some clans belonging to the Raven moiety decided to integrate into the Eagle moiety.” ref

“Schurr and colleagues (2012) reported Raven moiety clans that belonged to the basal A2 haplotype. This would suggest that the founder A2 lineage was present in both moieties, and then particular haplotypes within each moiety arose over time. However, the type 2 A2 lineage is shared with clans from both Eagle and Raven moieties, marking it as possible early ancestral lineage. If this is the case, individuals belonging to clans found in the Raven moiety are most likely direct descendants of the original Tlingit inhabitants, which is consistent with oral histories and ethnographic evidence. This study supports the idea that Tlingit moieties are distinguishable biocultural units. AMOVA results indicate higher variation among the Tlingit population but with lower subgroups diversity, meaning that moieties are genetically structured. Finally, the only individual from this study that belonged to the Neix.ádi clan exhibited the basal A2 haplogroup. Consequently, the sample size is not significant to offer a definite answer about the hypothetical separate origins of this clan. However, the fact that the individual belongs to the basal A2 haplogroup, common among both Eagle and Raven clans, does not suggest that Neix.ádi is external to the moiety system.” ref

“Future studies focusing on sampling members of this clan could offer some insights into this particular issue. An interesting finding was the presence of haplogroup B2a. Achilli and colleagues (2013) reported a Tsimshian individual belonging to one of these lineages. The presence of this subhaplogroup in Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian and its estimated age of 8,000 – 10,000 years ago supports the idea that B2a is a founding lineage in the Americas, or an earlier haplotype originating along the Northwest Coast. With regards to temporal continuity, it was not possible to detect a direct matrilineal link between Shuká Kaa, the male individual found in On Your Knees Cave, and modern Northwest Coast populations, since no individuals in this study exhibited haplotypes belonging to subhaplogroup D4h3a. One possibility for the absence of this lineage in contemporary Tlingit populations is that D4h3a decreased in frequency over time due to genetic drift, despite continuity of nuclear DNA in the region. This would make the lineage rare in certain areas, where certain founding lineages might have been replaced others.” ref

“In contrast, direct maternal ancestry can be traced between Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi from Canada, and the Tlingit, and Haida. The A2 lineage with the transition at np 16189 is common in other Northwest Coast populations. The presence of this variant indicates regional continuity of this lineage for at least 550 years. Finally, an issue that was not possible to address due to the lack of geographic information was the comparison of different Tlingit tribes or kwaan (geographic units). Future research should focus on integrating this variable and compare this with previously reported  Tlingit sequences in order to gain a full understanding of moiety history in terms of genetic composition.” ref

The results obtained in this study are consistent with Tlingit clan history derived from oral histories and the ethnographic and archaeological record. On a regional scale, the Tlingit mtDNA sequences look similar to other Northwest Coast populations, sharing a significant number of lineages with their surrounding neighbors. At the same time, their internal structure has been culturally shaped in terms of marriage traditions. The effects of these practices have produced long-lasting genetic signatures that are recognizable even after the impact of the European and United States colonization and the change of marriage practices associated to missionization, boarding schools, and the outlaw of cultural practices. Members of the different Tlingit clans are distinguishable from each other on the dual moiety level.” ref

“The unity within Eagle and Raven moieties is not only sociocultural, but also biological. The antiquity of Raven and Eagle moieties cannot be addressed by the current genetic information. Archaeological and historical data remains inconclusive in terms of the Tlingit first populations, as we have a rough estimation for the origins of the moiety system within the past 3000 years. Thus, defining specific chronologies for the origins of clans that belong to the Raven and Eagle moieties was beyond the scope of this paper. However, it has been shown the importance of oral histories to establish relative time boundaries, and more importantly, to develop models about sociocultural change. It can be argued that the biological elements of clan membership correspond to what is known in the ethnohistorical and oral record. The observed haplotype patterns are strong indicators of the genetic integrity of the matrilineal clan system. In sum, this study supports the idea that Tlingit moieties are distinguishable biocultural units.” ref 

Bands, Tribes, Chiefdoms

“Another means of identifying the boundaries between modern and traditional societies was the categorization of the differences between the manner of their social organization and their driving mechanism. Based on the multi-criteria approach the American Elman Service was the first anthropologist to define the division of society into four groups, while his typology also reflected its evolutionary aspect. The division into bands, tribes, chieftain units, and states is still in current use today, though not without certain reservations. Critics point in particular to the problems that are associated with attempts to apply a typology that was created in relation to recent pre-industrial populations to societies that are identified only in historical or archaeological sources.” ref

“Smaller groups of hunter-gatherers are referred to as bands. In general, their members were related either by blood or by marriage. The bands lacked any formal chieftains, nor were there any striking differences in regard to the ownership of property or of social status between the members. The fact that the bands were both quite small and mobile was also reflected in the size and structure of their settlements. Modern examples of bands of this nature are the Bushmen of southern Africa and the Hadza in Tanzania.” ref

“According to Elman Service, generally the tribes were more significant than the bands, but only rarely did the number of their members attain several thousand people. Their diet usually comprised domestic resources. They were both sedentarised farmers and migrant herders. The tribe comprised a collection of individual communities (families, villages, etc.) that were mutually linked by family ties, either real or declared (i.e. claimed). Tribes usually lacked both official representatives and a “Capital City” because there was no need for an economic base in order to create power structures. The settlements took the form of homesteads or of villages. According to Service, this grouping was supposed to represent some sort of transitional form, somewhere between a band and a chiefdom.” ref

“As social organizations, chiefdoms were made up of several branches of various kinship groups or conical clans. Their members were internally differentiated in them on the basis of their kinship with a real or a mythological ancestor who was viewed as being the founder. The political representative of a society of this nature was a chieftain who inherited his position from within a specific defined circle of relatives. Prestige and status in the society were derived from how close the relationship between the individual and the chieftain was. This was also reflected in the funeral rites. The centralization of power was manifested primarily in the area of spiritual ceremonies and rituals. The authority of the chieftain largely coincided with his priestly functions. Another feature, therefore, was also the existence of a permanent sacred place.  It must be admitted that there could be a large number of chieftain systems with different mechanisms of functioning that could co-exist. Historical traces of this can be found on the northwest coast of North America, for example.” ref

“The last category is that of the early states. They gave rise to a complexity that characterizes the more intricate social formations. Though the early states retained a number of the features of the chieftain groups, unlike them, these were societies of a non-relational type (i.e., status was acquired based on qualities, not on origin) stratified into different social classes. This gave rise to an elite that included officials, soldiers, and priests. The top level of this imaginary pyramid was occupied by the King. He had explicitly been given the power to implement laws and to enforce them, even by violent means. The institution of donation also ended in the early stages and was replaced by the levying of taxes.” ref

“Usually, the early states were small in terms of the size of their territory, often consisting of a single dominant city together with its economic hinterland. Because the state-building process was also regionally contagious, so to speak, several states coexisted in the area more or less on a regular basis. Inevitably, together, they formed an interactive network that dynamically transformed its goals from peacekeeping to war. The King had become the King of Kings by conquering the neighboring rulers, and inevitably, his empires ceased to meet the requisite criteria for being an early stage.” ref

“All cultures have one element in common: they somehow exercise social control over their own members. Like the “invisible hand” of the market to which Adam Smith refers in analyzing the workings of capitalism, two forces govern the workings of politics: power—the ability to induce behavior of others in specified ways by means of coercion or use or threat of physical force—and authority—the ability to induce behavior of others by persuasion. Extreme examples of the exercise of power are the gulags (prison camps) in Stalinist Russia, the death camps in Nazi-ruled Germany and Eastern Europe, and so-called Supermax prisons such as Pelican Bay in California and the prison for “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the United States. In all of these settings, prisoners comply or are punished or executed. At the other extreme are most forager societies, which typically exercise authority more often than power. Groups in those societies comply with the wishes of their most persuasive members.” ref

“In actuality, power and authority are points on a continuum, and both are present in every society to some degree. Even Hitler, who exercised absolute power in many ways, had to hold the Nuremberg rallies to generate popular support for his regime and persuade the German population that his leadership was the way to national salvation. In the Soviet Union, leaders had a great deal of coercive and physical power but still felt the need to hold parades and mass rallies on May Day every year to persuade people to remain attached to their vision of a communal society. At the other end of the political spectrum, societies that tend to use persuasion through authority also have some forms of coercive power. Among the Inuit, for example, individuals who flagrantly violated group norms could be punished, including by homicide.” ref

A related concept in both politics and law is legitimacy: the perception that an individual has a valid right to leadership. Legitimacy is particularly applicable to complex societies that require centralized decision-making. Historically, the right to rule has been based on various principles. In agricultural states such as ancient Mesopotamia, the Aztec, and the Inca, justification for the rule of particular individuals was based on hereditary succession and typically granted to the eldest son of the ruler. Even this principle could be uncertain at times, as was the case when the Inca emperor Atahualpa had just defeated his rival and brother Huascar when the Spaniards arrived in Peru in 1533.” ref

“In many cases, supernatural beliefs were invoked to establish legitimacy and justify rule by an elite. Incan emperors derived their right to rule from the Sun God and Aztec rulers from Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird-to-the-Left). European monarchs invoked a divine right to rule that was reinforced by the Church of England in Britain and by the Roman Catholic Church in other countries prior to the Reformation. In India, the dominance of the Brahmin elite over the other castes is justified by karma, cumulative forces created by good and evil deeds in past lives. Secular equivalents also serve to justify rule by elites; examples include the promise of a worker’s paradise in the former Soviet Union and racial purity of Aryans in Nazi Germany. In the United States and other democratic forms of government, legitimacy rests on the consent of the governed in periodic elections (though in the United States, the incoming president is sworn in using a Christian Bible despite the alleged separation of church and state).” ref

“In some societies, dominance by an individual or group is viewed as unacceptable. Christopher Boehm (1999) developed the concept of reverse dominance to describe societies in which people rejected attempts by any individual to exercise power. They achieved this aim using ridicule, criticism, disobedience, and strong disapproval and could banish extreme offenders. Richard Lee encountered this phenomenon when he presented the !Kung with whom he had worked over the preceding year with a fattened ox. Rather than praising or thanking him, his hosts ridiculed the beast as scrawny, ill fed, and probably sick. This behavior is consistent with reverse dominance.” ref

“Even in societies that emphasize equality between people, decisions still have to be made. Sometimes, particularly persuasive figures such as headmen make them, but persuasive figures who lack formal power are not free to make decisions without coming to a consensus with their fellows. To reach such a consensus, there must be general agreement. Essentially, then, even if in a backhanded way, legitimacy characterizes societies that lack institutionalized leadership. Another set of concepts refers to the reinforcements or consequences for compliance with the directives and laws of a society. Positive reinforcements are the rewards for compliance; examples include medals, financial incentives, and other forms of public recognition. Negative reinforcements punish noncompliance through fines, imprisonment, and death sentences. These reinforcements can be identified in every human society, even among foragers or others who have no written system of law. Reverse dominance is one form of negative reinforcement.” ref

“If cultures of various sizes and configurations are to be compared, there must be some common basis for defining political organization. In many small communities, the family functions as a political unit. As Julian Steward wrote about the Shoshone, a Native American group in the Nevada basin, “all features of the relatively simple culture were integrated and functioned on a family level. The family was the reproductive, economic, educational, political, and religious unit.” In larger more complex societies, however, the functions of the family are taken over by larger social institutions. The resources of the economy, for example, are managed by authority figures outside the family who demand taxes or other tribute. The educational function of the family may be taken over by schools constituted under the authority of a government, and the authority structure in the family is likely to be subsumed under the greater power of the state. Therefore, anthropologists need methods for assessing political organizations that can be applied to many different kinds of communities. This concept is called levels of socio-cultural integration.” ref

“Elman Service developed an influential scheme for categorizing the political character of societies that recognized four levels of socio-cultural integration: band, tribe, chiefdom, and state. A band is the smallest unit of political organization, consisting of only a few families and no formal leadership positions. Tribes have larger populations but are organized around family ties and have fluid or shifting systems of temporary leadership. Chiefdoms are large political units in which the chief, who usually is determined by heredity, holds a formal position of power. States are the most complex form of political organization and are characterized by a central government that has a monopoly over legitimate uses of physical force, a sizeable bureaucracy, a system of formal laws, and a standing military force.” ref

“Each type of political integration can be further categorized as egalitarian, ranked, or stratified. Band societies and tribal societies generally are considered egalitarian—there is no great difference in status or power between individuals and there are as many valued status positions in the societies as there are persons able to fill them. Chiefdoms are ranked societies; there are substantial differences in the wealth and social status of individuals based on how closely related they are to the chief. In ranked societies, there are a limited number of positions of power or status, and only a few can occupy them. State societies are stratified. There are large differences in the wealth, status, and power of individuals based on unequal access to resources and positions of power. Socio-economic classes, for instance, are forms of stratification in many state societies.” ref

In a complex society, it may seem that social classes—differences in wealth and status—are, like death and taxes, inevitable: that one is born into wealth, poverty, or somewhere in between and has no say in the matter, at least at the start of life, and that social class is an involuntary position in society. However, is social class universal? As they say, let’s look at the record, in this case, ethnographies. We find that among foragers, there is no advantage to hoarding food; in most climates, it will rot before one’s eyes. Nor is there much personal property, and leadership, where it exists, is informal. In forager societies, the basic ingredients for social class do not exist. Foragers such as the !Kung, Inuit, and aboriginal Australians, are egalitarian societies in which there are few differences between members in wealth, status, and power. Highly skilled and less skilled hunters do not belong to different strata in the way that the captains of industry do from you and me. The less skilled hunters in egalitarian societies receive a share of the meat and have the right to be heard on important decisions. Egalitarian societies also lack a government or centralized leadership. Their leaders, known as headmen or big men, emerge by consensus of the group. Foraging societies are always egalitarian, but so are many societies that practice horticulture or pastoralism. In terms of political organization, egalitarian societies can be either bands or tribes.” ref


“Societies organized as a band typically comprise foragers who rely on hunting and gathering and are therefore nomadic, are few in number (rarely exceeding 100 persons), and form small groups consisting of a few families and a shifting population. Bands lack formal leadership. Richard Lee went so far as to say that the Dobe! Kung had no leaders. To quote one of his informants, “Of course, we have headmen. Each one of us is headman over himself.” At most, a band’s leader is primus inter pares or “first among equals” assuming anyone is first at all. Modesty is a valued trait; arrogance and competitiveness are not acceptable in societies characterized by reverse dominance. What leadership there is in band societies tends to be transient and subject to shifting circumstances. For example, among the Paiute in North America, “rabbit bosses” coordinated rabbit drives during the hunting season but played no leadership role otherwise. Some “leaders” are excellent mediators who are called on when individuals are involved in disputes, while others are perceived as skilled shamans or future-seers who are consulted periodically. There are no formal offices or rules of succession.” ref

“Bands were probably the first political unit to come into existence outside the family itself. There is some debate in anthropology about how the earliest bands were organized. Elman Service argued that patrilocal bands organized around groups of related men served as the prototype, reasoning that groups centered on male family relationships made sense because male cooperation was essential to hunting. M. Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies pointed out in rebuttal that gathering vegetable foods, which typically was viewed as women’s work, actually contributed a greater number of calories in most cultures and thus that matrilocal bands organized around groups of related women would be closer to the norm..Indeed, in societies in which hunting is the primary source of food, such as the Inuit, women tend to be subordinate to men while men and women tend to have roughly equal status in societies that mainly gather plants for food.” ref

Law in Band Societies

“Within bands of people, disputes are typically resolved informally. There are no formal mediators or any organizational equivalent of a court of law. A good mediator may emerge—or may not. In some cultures, duels are employed. Among the Inuit, for example, disputants engage in a duel using songs in which, drum in hand, they chant insults at each other before an audience. The audience selects the better chanter and thereby the winner in the dispute. The Mbuti of the African Congo use ridicule; even children berate adults for laziness, quarreling, or selfishness. If ridicule fails, the Mbuti elders evaluate the dispute carefully, determine the cause, and, in extreme cases, walk to the center of the camp and criticize the individuals by name, using humor to soften their criticism—the group, after all, must get along.” ref

Warfare in Band Societies

“Nevertheless, conflict does sometimes break out into war between bands and, sometimes, within them. Such warfare is usually sporadic and short-lived since bands do not have formal leadership structures or enough warriors to sustain conflict for long. Most of the conflict arises from interpersonal arguments. Among the Tiwi of Australia, for example, failure of one band to reciprocate another band’s wife-giving with one of its own female relative led to abduction of women by the aggrieved band, precipitating a “war” that involved some spear-throwing (many did not shoot straight and even some of the onlookers were wounded) but mostly violent talk and verbal abuse. For the Dobe !Kung, Lee found 22 cases of homicide by males and other periodic episodes of violence, mostly in disputes over women—not quite the gentle souls Elizabeth Marshall Thomas depicted in her Harmless People.” ref


“Whereas bands involve small populations without structure, tribal societies involve at least two well-defined groups linked together in some way and range in population from about 100 to as many as 5,000 people. Though their social institutions can be fairly complex, there are no centralized political structures or offices in the strict sense of those terms. There may be headmen, but there are no rules of succession, and sons do not necessarily succeed their fathers as is the case with chiefdoms. Tribal leadership roles are open to anyone—in practice, usually men, especially elder men who acquire leadership positions because of their personal abilities and qualities. Leaders in tribes do not have a means of coercing others or formal powers associated with their positions. Instead, they must persuade others to take actions they feel are needed. A Yanomami headsman, for instance, said that he would never issue an order unless he knew it would be obeyed. The headman Kaobawä exercised influence by example and by making suggestions and warning of consequences of taking or not taking an action.” ref

“Like bands, tribes are egalitarian societies. Some individuals in a tribe do sometimes accumulate personal property but not to the extent that other tribe members are deprived. And every (almost always male) person has the opportunity to become a headman or leader and, like bands, one’s leadership position can be situational. One man may be a good mediator, another an exemplary warrior, and a third capable of leading a hunt or finding a more ideal area for cultivation or grazing herds. An example illustrating this kind of leadership is the big man of New Guinea; the term is derived from the languages of New Guinean tribes (literally meaning “man of influence”). The big man is one who has acquired followers by doing favors they cannot possibly repay, such as settling their debts or providing bride-wealth. He might also acquire as many wives as possible to create alliances with his wives’ families. His wives could work to care for as many pigs as possible, for example, and in due course, he could sponsor a pig feast that would serve to put more tribe members in his debt and shame his rivals. It is worth noting that the followers, incapable of repaying the Big Man’s gifts, stand metaphorically as beggars to him.” ref

“Still, a big man does not have the power of a monarch. His role is not hereditary. His son must demonstrate his worth and acquire his own following—he must become a big man in his own right. Furthermore, there usually are other big men in the village who are his potential rivals. Another man who proves himself capable of acquiring a following can displace the existing big man. The big man also has no power to coerce—no army or police force. He cannot prevent a follower from joining another big man, nor can he force the follower to pay any debt owed. There is no New Guinean equivalent of a U.S. marshal. Therefore, he can have his way only by diplomacy and persuasion—which do not always work.” ref

Tribal Systems of Social Integration

Tribal societies have much larger populations than bands and thus must have mechanisms for creating and maintaining connections between tribe members. The family ties that unite members of a band are not sufficient to maintain solidarity and cohesion in the larger population of a tribe. Some of the systems that knit tribes together are based on family (kin) relationships, including various kinds of marriage and family lineage systems, but there are also ways to foster tribal solidarity outside of family arrangements through systems that unite members of a tribe by age or gender.” ref

Integration through Age Grades and Age Sets

Tribes use various systems to encourage solidarity or feelings of connectedness between people who are not related by family ties. These systems, sometimes known as sodalities, unite people across family groups. In one sense, all societies are divided into age categories. In the U.S. educational system, for instance, children are matched to grades in school according to their age—six-year-olds in first grade and thirteen-year-olds in eighth grade. Other cultures, however, have established complex age-based social structures. Many pastoralists in East Africa, for example, have age grades and age sets. Age sets are named categories to which men of a certain age are assigned at birth. Age grades are groups of men who are close to one another in age and share similar duties or responsibilities. All men cycle through each age grade over the course of their lifetimes. As the age sets advance, the men assume the duties associated with each age grade.” ref

“An example of this kind of tribal society is the Tiriki of Kenya. From birth to about fifteen years of age, boys become members of one of seven named age sets. When the last boy is recruited, that age set closes, and a new one opens. For example, young and adult males who belonged to the “Juma” age set in 1939 became warriors by 1954. The “Mayima” were already warriors in 1939 and became elder warriors during that period. In precolonial times, men of the warrior age grade defended the herds of the Tiriki and conducted raids on other tribes while the elder warriors acquired cattle and houses and took on wives. There were recurring reports of husbands who were much older than their wives, who had married early in life, often as young as fifteen or sixteen. As solid citizens of the Tiriki, the elder warriors also handled decision-making functions of the tribe as a whole; their legislation affected the entire village while also representing their own kin groups. The other age sets also moved up through age grades in the fifteen-year period.” ref

“The elder warriors in 1939, “Nyonje,” became the judicial elders by 1954. Their function was to resolve disputes that arose between individuals, families, and kin groups, of which some elders were a part. The “Jiminigayi,” judicial elders in 1939, became ritual elders in 1954, handling supernatural functions that involved the entire Tiriki community. During this period, the open age set was “Kabalach.” Its prior members had all grown old or died by 1939 and new boys joined it between 1939 and 1954. Thus, the Tiriki age sets moved in continuous 105-year cycles. This age grade and age set system encourages bonds between men of similar ages. Their loyalty to their families is tempered by their responsibilities to their fellows of the same age.” ref

“Among most, if not all, tribes of New Guinea, the existence of men’s houses serves to cut across family lineage groups in a village. Perhaps the most fastidious case of male association in New Guinea is the bachelor association of the Mae-Enga, who live in the northern highlands. In their culture, a boy becomes conscious of the distance between males and females before he leaves home at age five to live in the men’s house. Women are regarded as potentially unclean, and strict codes that minimize male-female relations are enforced. Sanggai festivals reinforce this division. During the festival, every youth of age 15 or 16 goes into seclusion in the forest and observes additional restrictions, such as avoiding pigs (which are cared for by women) and avoiding gazing at the ground lest he see female footprints or pig feces. One can see, therefore, that every boy commits his loyalty to the men’s house early in life even though he remains a member of his birth family. Men’s houses are the center of male activities. There, they draw up strategies for warfare, conduct ritual activities involving magic and honoring of ancestral spirits, and plan and rehearse periodic pig feasts.” ref

“Exchanges and the informal obligations associated with them are primary devices by which bands and tribes maintain a degree of order and forestall armed conflict, which was viewed as the “state of nature” for tribal societies by Locke and Hobbes, in the absence of exercises of force by police or an army. Marcel Mauss, nephew and student of eminent French sociologist Emile Durkheim, attempted in 1925 to explain gift giving and its attendant obligations cross-culturally in his book, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. He started with the assumption that two groups have an imperative to establish a relationship of some kind. There are three options when they meet for the first time. They could pass each other by and never see each other again. They may resort to arms with an uncertain outcome. One could wipe the other out or, more likely, win at great cost of men and property or fight to a draw. The third option is to “come to terms” with each other by establishing a more or less permanent relationship. Exchanging gifts is one way for groups to establish this relationship.” ref

“These gift exchanges are quite different from Western ideas about gifts. In societies that lack a central government, formal law enforcement powers, and collection agents, the gift exchanges are obligatory and have the force of law in the absence of law. Mauss referred to them as “total prestations.” Though no Dun and Bradstreet agents would come to collect, the potential for conflict that could break out at any time reinforced the obligations. According to Mauss, the first obligation is to give; it must be met if a group is to extend social ties to others. The second obligation is to receive; refusal of a gift constitutes rejection of the offer of friendship as well. Conflicts can arise from the perceived insult of a rejected offer. The third obligation is to repay. One who fails to make a gift in return will be seen as in debt—in essence, a beggar. Mauss offered several ethnographic cases that illustrated these obligations. Every gift conferred power to the giver, expressed by the Polynesian terms mana (an intangible supernatural force) and hau (among the Maori, the “spirit of the gift,” which must be returned to its owner). Marriage and its associated obligations also can be viewed as a form of gift-giving as one family “gives” a bride or groom to the other.” ref

“Understanding social solidarity in tribal societies requires knowledge of family structures, which are also known as kinship systems. The romantic view of marriage in today’s mass media is largely a product of Hollywood movies and romance novels from mass-market publishers such as Harlequin. In most cultures around the world, marriage is largely a device that links two families together; this is why arranged marriage is so common from a cross-cultural perspective. And, as Voltaire admonished, if we are to discuss anything, we need to define our terms. Marriage is defined in numerous ways, usually (but not always) involving a tie between a woman and a man. Same-sex marriage is also common in many cultures. Nuclear families consist of parents and their children. Extended families consist of three generations or more of relatives connected by marriage and descent.” ref

“Bilateral descent (commonly used in the United States) recognizes both the mother’s and the father’s “sides” of the family while unilineal descent recognizes only one sex-based “side” of the family. Unilineal descent can be patrilineal, recognizing only relatives through a line of male ancestors, or matrilineal, recognizing only relatives through a line of female ancestors. Groups made up of two or more extended families can be connected as larger groups linked by kinship ties. A lineage consists of individuals who can trace or demonstrate their descent through a line of males or females to the founding ancestor. Most tribal societies’ political organizations involve marriage, which is a logical vehicle for creating alliances between groups. One of the most well-documented types of marriage alliance is bilateral cross-cousin marriage in which a man marries his cross-cousin—one he is related to through two links, his father’s sister and his mother’s brother.” ref

“These marriages have been documented among the Yanomami, an indigenous group living in Venezuela and Brazil. Yanomami villages are typically populated by two or more extended family groups also known as lineages. Disputes and disagreements are bound to occur, and these tensions can potentially escalate to open conflict or even physical violence. Bilateral cross-cousin marriage provides a means of linking lineage groups together over time through the exchange of brides. Because cross-cousin marriage links people together by both marriage and blood ties (kinship), these unions can reduce tension between the groups or at least provide an incentive for members of rival lineages to work together.” ref

“Another type of kin-based integrative mechanism is a segmentary lineage. As previously noted, a lineage is a group of people who can trace or demonstrate their descent from a founding ancestor through a line of males or a line of females. A segmentary lineage is a hierarchy of lineages that contains both close and relatively distant family members. At the base are several minimal lineages whose members trace their descent from their founder back two or three generations. At the top is the founder of all of the lineages, and two or more maximal lineages can derive from the founder’s lineage. Between the maximal and the minimal lineages are several intermediate lineages.” ref 

“The classic examples of segmentary lineages were described by E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1940) in his discussion of the Nuer, pastoralists who lived in southern Sudan. Paul Bohannan also described this system among the Tiv, who were West African pastoralists, and Robert Murphy and Leonard Kasdan analyzed the importance of these lineages among the Bedouin of the Middle East. Segmentary lineages often develop in environments in which a tribal society is surrounded by several other tribal societies. Hostility between the tribes induces their members to retain ties with their kin and to mobilize them when external conflicts arise. An example of this is ties maintained between the Nuer and the Dinka. Once a conflict is over, segmentary lineages typically dissolve into their constituent units. Another attribute of segmentary lineages is local genealogical segmentation, meaning close lineages dwell near each other, providing a physical reminder of their genealogy.” ref

Law in Tribal Societies

“Tribal societies generally lack systems of codified law whereby damages, crimes, remedies, and punishments are specified. Only state-level political systems can determine, usually by writing formal laws, which behaviors are permissible and which are not (discussed later in this chapter). In tribes, there are no systems of law enforcement whereby an agency such as the police, the sheriff, or an army can enforce laws enacted by an appropriate authority. And, as already noted, headman and big men cannot force their will on others.” ref

In tribal societies, as in all societies, conflicts arise between individuals. Sometimes the issues are equivalent to crimes—taking of property or commitment of violence—that are not considered legitimate in a given society. Other issues are civil disagreements—questions of ownership, damage to property, an accidental death. In tribal societies, the aim is not so much to determine guilt or innocence or to assign criminal or civil responsibility as it is to resolve conflict, which can be accomplished in various ways. The parties might choose to avoid each other. Bands, tribes, and kin groups often move away from each other geographically, which is much easier for them to do than for people living in complex societies.” ref

One issue in tribal societies, as in all societies, is guilt or innocence. When no one witnesses an offense or an account is deemed unreliable, tribal societies sometimes rely on the supernatural. Oaths, for example, involve calling on a deity to bear witness to the truth of what one says; the oath given in court is a holdover from this practice. An ordeal is used to determine guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous, painful, or risky tests believed to be controlled by supernatural forces. The poison oracle used by the Azande of the Sudan and the Congo is an ordeal based on their belief that most misfortunes are induced by witchcraft (in this case, witchcraft refers to ill feeling of one person toward another). A chicken is force fed a strychnine concoction known as benge just as the name of the suspect is called out. If the chicken dies, the suspect is deemed guilty and is punished or goes through reconciliation.” ref

“A more commonly exercised option is to find ways to resolve the dispute. In small groups, an unresolved question can quickly escalate to violence and disrupt the group. The first step is often negotiation; the parties attempt to resolve the conflict by direct discussion in hope of arriving at an agreement. Offenders sometimes make a ritual apology, particularly if they are sensitive to community opinion. In Fiji, for example, offenders make ceremonial apologies called i soro, one of the meanings of which is “I surrender.” An intermediary speaks, offers a token gift to the offended party, and asks for forgiveness, and the request is rarely rejected.” ref

“When negotiation or a ritual apology fails, often the next step is to recruit a third party to mediate a settlement as there is no official who has the power to enforce a settlement. A classic example in the anthropological literature is the Leopard Skin Chief among the Nuer, who is identified by a leopard skin wrap around his shoulders. He is not a chief but is a mediator. The position is hereditary, has religious overtones, and is responsible for the social well-being of the tribal segment. He typically is called on for serious matters such as murder. The culprit immediately goes to the residence of the Leopard Skin Chief, who cuts the culprit’s arm until blood flows. If the culprit fears vengeance by the dead man’s family, he remains at the residence, which is considered a sanctuary, and the Leopard Skin Chief then acts as a go-between for the families of the perpetrator and the dead man.” ref

“The Leopard Skin Chief cannot force the parties to settle and cannot enforce any settlement they reach. The source of his influence is the desire for the parties to avoid a feud that could escalate into an ever-widening conflict involving kin descended from different ancestors. He urges the aggrieved family to accept compensation, usually in the form of cattle. When such an agreement is reached, the chief collects the 40 to 50 head of cattle and takes them to the dead man’s home, where he performs various sacrifices of cleansing and atonement. This discussion demonstrates the preference most tribal societies have for mediation given the potentially serious consequences of a long-term feud. Even in societies organized as states, mediation is often preferred. In the agrarian town of Talea, Mexico, for example, even serious crimes are mediated in the interest of preserving a degree of local harmony. The national authorities often tolerate local settlements if they maintain the peace.” ref

Warfare in Tribal Societies

“What happens if mediation fails and the Leopard Skin Chief cannot convince the aggrieved clan to accept cattle in place of their loved one? War. In tribal societies, wars vary in cause, intensity, and duration, but they tend to be less deadly than those run by states because of tribes’ relatively small populations and limited technologies. Tribes engage in warfare more often than bands, both internally and externally. Among pastoralists, both successful and attempted thefts of cattle frequently spark conflict. Among pre-state societies, pastoralists have a reputation for being the most prone to warfare.” ref

“However, horticulturalists also engage in warfare, as the film Dead Birds, which describes warfare among the highland Dani of west New Guinea (Irian Jaya), attests. Among anthropologists, there is a “protein debate” regarding causes of warfare. Marvin Harris in a 1974 study of the Yanomami claimed that warfare arose there because of a protein deficiency associated with a scarcity of game, and Kenneth Good supported that thesis in finding that the game a Yanomami villager brought in barely supported the village. He could not link this variable to warfare, however. In rebuttal, Napoleon Chagnon linked warfare among the Yanomami with abduction of women rather than disagreements over hunting territory, and findings from other cultures have tended to agree with Chagnon’s theory.” ref

“Tribal wars vary in duration. Raids are short-term uses of physical force that are organized and planned to achieve a limited objective such as acquisition of cattle (pastoralists) or other forms of wealth and, often, abduction of women, usually from neighboring communities. Feuds are longer in duration and represent a state of recurring hostilities between families, lineages, or other kin groups. In a feud, the responsibility to avenge rests with the entire group, and the murder of any kin member is considered appropriate because the kin group as a whole is considered responsible for the transgression. Among the Dani, for example, vengeance is an obligation; spirits are said to dog the victim’s clan until its members murder someone from the perpetrator’s clan.” ref


“Unlike egalitarian societies, ranked societies (sometimes called “rank societies”) involve greater differentiation between individuals and the kin groups to which they belong. These differences can be, and often are, inherited, but there are no significant restrictions in these societies on access to basic resources. All individuals can meet their basic needs. The most important differences between people of different ranks are based on sumptuary rulesnorms that permit persons of higher rank to enjoy greater social status by wearing distinctive clothing, jewelry, and/or decorations denied those of lower rank. Every family group or lineage in the community is ranked in a hierarchy of prestige and power. Furthermore, within families, siblings are ranked by birth order, and villages can also be ranked.” ref

“The concept of a ranked society leads us directly to the characteristics of chiefdoms. Unlike the position of headman in a band, the position of chief is an office—a permanent political status that demands a successor when the current chief dies. There are, therefore, two concepts of chief: the man (women rarely, if ever, occupy these posts) and the office. Thus the expression “The king is dead, long live the king.” With the New Guinean big man, there is no formal succession. Other big men will be recognized and eventually take the place of one who dies, but there is no rule stipulating that his eldest son or any son must succeed him. For chiefs, there must be a successor, and there are rules of succession.” ref

“Political chiefdoms usually are accompanied by an economic exchange system known as redistribution in which goods and services flow from the population at large to the central authority represented by the chief. It then becomes the task of the chief to return the flow of goods in another form. The chapter on economics provides additional information about redistribution economies. These political and economic principles are exemplified by the potlatch custom of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other indigenous groups who lived in chiefdom societies along the northwest coast of North America from the extreme northwest tip of California through the coasts of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southern Alaska. Potlatch ceremonies observed major events such as births, deaths, marriages of important persons, and installment of a new chief.” ref

“Families prepared for the event by collecting food and other valuables such as fish, berries, blankets, animal skins, carved boxes, and copper. At the potlatch, several ceremonies were held, dances were performed by their “owners,” and speeches delivered. The new chief was watched very carefully. Members of the society noted the eloquence of his speech, the grace of his presence, and any mistakes he made, however egregious or trivial. Next came the distribution of gifts, and again the chief was observed. Was he generous with his gifts? Was the value of his gifts appropriate to the rank of the recipient or did he give valuable presents to individuals of relatively low rank? Did his wealth allow him to offer valuable objects?” ref

“The next phase of the potlatch was critical to the chief’s validation of his position. Visitor after visitor would arise and give long speeches evaluating the worthiness of this successor to the chieftainship of his father. If his performance had so far met their expectations, if his gifts were appropriate, the guests’ speeches praised him accordingly. They were less than adulatory if the chief had not performed to their expectations and they deemed the formal eligibility of the successor insufficient. He had to perform. If he did, then the guests’ praise not only legitimized the new chief in his role, but also it ensured some measure of peace between villages. Thus, in addition to being a festive event, the potlatch determined the successor’s legitimacy and served as a form of diplomacy between groups.” ref

“Much has been made among anthropologists of rivalry potlatches in which competitive gifts were given by rival pretenders to the chieftainship. Philip Drucker argued that competitive potlatches were a product of sudden demographic changes among the indigenous groups on the northwest coast. When smallpox and other diseases decimated hundreds, many potential successors to the chieftainship died, leading to situations in which several potential successors might be eligible for the chieftainship. Thus, competition in potlatch ceremonies became extreme with blankets or copper repaid with ever-larger piles and competitors who destroyed their own valuables to demonstrate their wealth. The events became so raucous that the Canadian government outlawed the displays in the early part of the twentieth century. Prior to that time, it had been sufficient for a successor who was chosen beforehand to present appropriate gifts.” ref

Kin-Based Integrative Mechanisms: Conical Clans

“With the centralization of society, kinship is most likely to continue playing a role, albeit a new one. Among Northwest Coast Indians, for example, the ranking model has every lineage ranked, one above the other, siblings ranked in order of birth, and even villages in a ranking scale. Drucker points out that the further north one goes, the more rigid the ranking scheme is. The most northerly of these coastal peoples trace their descent matrilineally; indeed, the Haida consist of four clans. Those further south tend to be patrilineal, and some show characteristics of an ambilineal descent group. It is still unclear, for example, whether the Kwakiutl numaym are patrilineal clans or ambilineal descent groups.” ref

“Because chiefdoms cannot enforce their power by controlling resources or by having a monopoly on the use of force, they rely on integrative mechanisms that cut across kinship groups. As with tribal societies, marriage provides chiefdoms with a framework for encouraging social cohesion. However, since chiefdoms have more-elaborate status hierarchies than tribes, marriages tend to reinforce ranks. The patrilineal cross-cousin marriage system also operates in a complex society in highland Burma known as the Kachin. In that system, the wife-giving lineage is known as mayu and the wife-receiving lineage as dama to the lineage that gave it a wifeThus, in addition to other mechanisms of dominance, higher-ranked lineages maintain their superiority by giving daughters to lower-ranked lineages and reinforce the relations between social classes through the mayu-dama relationship.” ref

The Kachin are not alone in using interclass marriage to reinforce dominance. The Natchez peoples, a matrilineal society of the Mississippi region of North America, were divided into four classes: Great Sun chiefs, noble lineages, honored lineages, and inferior “stinkards.” Unlike the Kachin, however, their marriage system was a way to upward mobility. The child of a woman who married a man of lower status assumed his/her mother’s status. Thus, if a Great Sun woman married a stinkard, the child would become a Great Sun. If a stinkard man were to marry a Great Sun woman, the child would become a stinkard. The same relationship obtained between women of noble lineage and honored lineage and men of lower status. Only two stinkard partners would maintain that stratum, which was continuously replenished with people in warfare.” ref

“Other societies maintained status in different ways. Brother-sister marriages, for example, were common in the royal lineages of the Inca, the Ancient Egyptians, and the Hawaiians, which sought to keep their lineages “pure.” Another, more-common type was patrilateral parallel-cousin marriage in which men married their fathers’ brothers’ daughters. This marriage system, which operated among many Middle Eastern nomadic societies, including the Rwala Bedouin chiefdoms, consolidated their herds, an important consideration for lineages wishing to maintain their wealth.” ref

Poro and sande secret societies for men and women, respectively, are found in the Mande-speaking peoples of West Africa, particularly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea. The societies are illegal under Guinea’s national laws. Elsewhere, they are legal and membership is universally mandatory under local laws. They function in both political and religious sectors of society. So how can such societies be secret if all men and women must join? According to Beryl Bellman, who is a member of a poro association, the standard among the Kpelle of Liberia is an ability to keep secrets. Members of the community are entrusted with the political and religious responsibilities associated with the society only after they learn to keep secrets. There are two political structures in poros and sandes: the “secular” and the “sacred.” ref

“The secular structure consists of the town chief, neighborhood and kin group headmen, and elders. The sacred structure (the zo) is composed of a hierarchy of “priests” of the poro and the sande in the neighborhood, and among the Kpelle the poro and sande zo take turns dealing with in-town fighting, rapes, homicides, incest, and land disputes. They, like leopard skin chiefs, play an important role in mediation. The zo of both the poro and sande are held in great respect and even feared. Some authors have suggested that sacred structure strengthens the secular political authority because chiefs and landowners occupy the most powerful positions in the zo. Consequently, these chiefdoms seem to have developed formative elements of a stratified society and a state, as we see in the next section.” ref


“Opposite from egalitarian societies in the spectrum of social classes is the stratified society, which is defined as one in which elites who are a numerical minority control the strategic resources that sustain life. Strategic resources include water for states that depend on irrigation agriculture, land in agricultural societies, and oil in industrial societies. Capital and products and resources used for further production are modes of production that rely on oil and other fossil fuels such as natural gas in industrial societies. (Current political movements call for the substitution of solar and wind power for fossil fuels.)” ref

“Operationally, stratification is, as the term implies, a social structure that involves two or more largely mutually exclusive populations. An extreme example is the caste system of traditional Indian society, which draws its legitimacy from Hinduism. In caste systems, membership is determined by birth and remains fixed for life, and social mobility—moving from one social class to another—is not an option. Nor can persons of different castes marry; that is, they are endogamous. Although efforts have been made to abolish castes since India achieved independence in 1947, they still predominate in rural areas.” ref

“India’s caste system consists of four varna, pure castes, and one collectively known as Dalit and sometimes as Harijan—in English, “untouchables,” reflecting the notion that for any varna caste member to touch or even see a Dalit pollutes them. The topmost varna caste is the Brahmin or priestly caste. It is composed of priests, governmental officials and bureaucrats at all levels, and other professionals. The next highest is the Kshatriya, the warrior caste, which includes soldiers and other military personnel and the police and their equivalents. Next are the Vaishyas, who are craftsmen and merchants, followed by the Sudras (pronounced “shudra”), who are peasants and menial workers. Metaphorically, they represent the parts of Manu, who is said to have given rise to the human race through dismemberment. The head corresponds to Brahmin, the arms to Kshatriya, the thighs to Vaishya, and the feet to the Sudra.” ref

“There are also a variety of subcastes in India. The most important are the hundreds, if not thousands, of occupational subcastes known as jatis. Wheelwrights, ironworkers, landed peasants, landless farmworkers, tailors of various types, and barbers all belong to different jatis. Like the broader castes, jatis are endogamous, and one is born into them. They form the basis of the jajmani relationship, which involves the provider of a particular service, the jajman, and the recipient of the service, the kamin. Training is involved in these occupations but one cannot change vocations. Furthermore, the relationship between the jajman and the kamin is determined by previous generations. If I were to provide you, my kamin, with haircutting services, it would be because my father cut your father’s hair. In other words, you would be stuck with me regardless of how poor a barber I might be. This system represents another example of an economy as an instituted process, an economy embedded in society.” ref

“Similar restrictions apply to those excluded from the varna castes, the “untouchables” or Dalit. Under the worst restrictions, Dalits were thought to pollute other castes. If the shadow of a Dalit fell on a Brahmin, the Brahmin immediately went home to bathe. Thus, at various times and locations, the untouchables were also unseeable, able to come out only at night. Dalits were born into jobs considered polluting to other castes, particularly work involving dead animals, such as butchering (Hinduism discourages consumption of meat so the clients were Muslims, Christians, and believers of other religions), skinning, tanning, and shoemaking with leather. Contact between an upper caste person and a person of any lower caste, even if “pure,” was also considered polluting and was strictly forbidden.” ref

“The theological basis of caste relations is karma—the belief that one’s caste in this life is the cumulative product of one’s acts in past lives, which extends to all beings, from minerals to animals to gods. Therefore, though soul class mobility is nonexistent during a lifetime, it is possible between lifetimes. Brahmins justified their station by claiming that they must have done good in their past lives. However, there are indications that the untouchable Dalits and other lower castes are not convinced of their legitimation.” ref

“Although India’s system is the most extreme, it not the only caste system. In Japan, a caste known as Burakumin is similar in status to Dalits. Though they are no different in physical appearance from other Japanese people, the Burakumin people have been forced to live in ghettos for centuries. They descend from people who worked in the leather tanning industry, a low-status occupation, and still work in leather industries such as shoemaking. Marriage between Burakumin and other Japanese people is restricted, and their children are excluded from public schools.” ref

“Some degree of social mobility characterizes all societies, but even so-called open-class societies are not as mobile as one might think. In the United States, for example, actual movement up the social latter is rare despite Horatio Alger and rags-to-riches myths. Stories of individuals “making it” through hard work ignore the majority of individuals whose hard work does not pay off or who actually experience downward mobility. Indeed, the Occupy Movement, which began in 2011, recognizes a dichotomy in American society of the 1 percent (millionaires and billionaires) versus the 99 percent (everyone else), and self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders made this the catch phrase of his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In India (a closed-class society), on the other hand, there are exceptions to the caste system. In Rajasthan, for example, those who own or control most of the land are not of the warrior caste as one might expect; they are of the lowest caste and their tenants and laborers are Brahmins.” ref


“The state is the most formal of the four levels of political organization under study here. In states, political power is centralized in a government that exercises a monopoly over the legitimate use of force. It is important to understand that the exercise of force constitutes a last resort; one hallmark of a weak state is frequent use of physical force to maintain order. States develop in societies with large, often ethnically diverse populations—hundreds of thousands or more—and are characterized by complex economies that can be driven by command or by the market, social stratification, and an intensive agricultural or industrial base.” ref

“Several characteristics accompany a monopoly over use of legitimate force in a state. First, like tribes and chiefdoms, states occupy a more or less clearly defined territory or land defined by boundaries that separate it from other political entities that may or not be states (exceptions are associated with the Islamic State and are addressed later). Ancient Egypt was a state bounded on the west by desert and possibly forager or tribal nomadic peoples. Mesopotamia was a series of city-states competing for territory with other city-states.” ref

“Heads of state can be individuals designated as kings, emperors, or monarchs under other names or can be democratically elected, in fact or in name—military dictators, for example, are often called presidents. Usually, states establish some board or group of councilors (e.g., the cabinet in the United States and the politburo in the former Soviet Union.) Often, such councils are supplemented with one or two legislative assemblies. The Roman Empire had a senate (which originated as a body of councilors) and as many as four assemblies that combined patrician (elite) and plebian (general population) influences. Today, nearly all of the world’s countries have some sort of an assembly, but many rubber-stamp the executive’s decisions (or play an obstructionist role, as in the U.S. Congress during the Obama administration).” ref

“States also have an administrative bureaucracy that handles public functions provided for by executive orders and/or legislation. Formally, the administrative offices are typically arranged in a hierarchy, and the top offices delegate specific functions to lower ones. Similar hierarchies are established for the personnel in a branch. In general, agricultural societies tend to rely on inter-personal relations in the administrative structure while industrial states rely on rational hierarchical structures. An additional state power is taxation—a system of redistribution in which all citizens are required to participate. This power is exercised in various ways. Examples include the mitá or labor tax of the Inca, the tributary systems of Mesopotamia, and monetary taxes familiar to us today and to numerous subjects throughout the history of the state. Control over others’ resources is an influential mechanism undergirding the power of the state.” ref

“A less tangible but no less powerful characteristic of states is their ideologies, which are designed to reinforce the right of powerholders to rule. Ideologies can manifest in philosophical forms, such as the divine right of kings in pre-industrial Europe, karma and the caste system in India, consent of the governed in the United States, and the metaphorical family in Imperial China. More often, ideologies are less indirect and less perceptible as propaganda. We might watch the Super Bowl or follow the latest antics of the Kardashians, oblivious to the notion that both are diversions from the reality of power in this society. Young Americans, for example, may be drawn to military service to fight in Iraq by patriotic ideologies just as their parents or grandparents were drawn to service during the Vietnam War. In a multitude of ways across many cultures, Plato’s parable of the shadows in the cave—that watchers misperceive shadows as reality—has served to reinforce political ideologies.” ref

“Finally, there is delegation of the state’s coercive power. The state’s need to use coercive power betrays an important weakness—subjects and citizens often refuse to recognize the powerholders’ right to rule. Even when the legitimacy of power is not questioned, the use and/or threat of force serves to maintain the state, and that function is delegated to agencies such as the police to maintain internal order and to the military to defend the state against real and perceived enemies and, in many cases, to expand the state’s territory. Current examples include a lack of accountability for the killing of black men and women by police officers; the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, is a defining example.” ref

State and Nation

“Though state and nation are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A state is a coercive political institution; a nation is an ethnic population. There currently are about 200 states in the world, and many of them did not exist before World War II. Meanwhile, there are around 5,000 nations identified by their language, territorial base, history, and political organization. Few states are conterminous with a nation (a nation that wholly comprises the state). Even in Japan, where millions of the country’s people are of a single ethnicity, there is a significant indigenous minority known as the Ainu who at one time were a distinct biological population as well as an ethnic group. Only recently has Japanese society opened its doors to immigrants, mostly from Korea and Taiwan. The vast majority of states in the world, including the United States, are multi-national.” ref

Some ethnicities/nations have no state of their own. The Kurds, who reside in adjacent areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, are one such nation. In the colonial era, the Mande-speaking peoples ranged across at least four West African countries, and borders between the countries were drawn without respect to the tribal identities of the people living there. Diasporas, the scattering of a people of one ethnicity across the globe, are another classic example. The diaspora of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews is well-known. Many others, such as the Chinese, have more recently been forced to flee their homelands. The current ongoing mass migration of Syrians induced by formation of the Islamic State and the war in Syria is but the most recent example.” ref

Formation of States

“How do states form? One precondition is the presence of a stratified society in which an elite minority controls life-sustaining strategic resources. Another is increased agricultural productivity that provides support for a larger population. Neither, however, is a sufficient cause for development of a state. A group of people who are dissatisfied with conditions in their home region has a motive to move elsewhere—unless there is nowhere else to go and they are circumscribed. Circumscription can arise when a region is hemmed in by a geographic feature such as mountain ranges or desert and when migrants would have to change their subsistence strategies, perhaps having to move from agriculture back to foraging, herding, or horticulture or to adapt to an urban industrialized environment. The Inca Empire did not colonize on a massive scale beyond northern Chile to the south or into the Amazon because indigenous people there could simply pick up and move elsewhere. Still, the majority of the Inca population did not have that option. Circumscription also results when a desirable adjacent region is taken by other states or chiefdoms.” ref

“Who, then, were the original subjects of these states? One short answer is peasants, a term derived from the French paysan, which means “countryman.” Peasantry entered the anthropological literature relatively late. In his 800-page tome Anthropology published in 1948, Alfred L. Kroeber defined peasantry in less than a sentence: “part societies with part cultures.” Robert Redfield defined peasantry as a “little tradition” set against a “great tradition” of national state society. Louis Fallers argued in 1961 against calling African cultivators “peasants” because they had not lived in the context of a state-based civilization long enough.” ref

“Thus, peasants had been defined in reference to some larger society, usually an empire, a state, or a civilization. In light of this, Wolf sought to place the definition of peasant on a structural footing. Using a funding metaphor, he compared peasants with what he called “primitive cultivators.” Both primitive cultivators and peasants have to provide for a “caloric fund” by growing food and, by extension, provide for clothing, shelter, and all other necessities of life. Second, both must provide for a “replacement fund”—not only reserving seeds for next year’s crop but also repairing their houses, replacing broken pots, and rebuilding fences. And both primitive cultivators and peasants must provide a “ceremonial fund” for rites of passage and fiestas. They differ in that peasants live in states, and primitive cultivators do not. The state exercises domain over peasants’ resources, requiring peasants to provide a “fund of rent.” That fund appears in many guises, including tribute in kind, monetary taxes, and forced labor to an empire or lord. In Wolf’s conception, primitive cultivators are free of these obligations to the state.” ref

Subjects of states are not necessarily landed; there is a long history of landless populations. Slavery has long coexisted with the state, and forced labor without compensation goes back to chiefdoms such as Kwakwaka’wakw. Long before Portuguese, Spanish, and English seafarers began trading slaves from the west coast of Africa, Arab groups enslaved people from Africa and Europe. For peasants, proletarianization— loss of land—has been a continuous process. One example is landed gentry in eighteenth century England who found that sheepherding was more profitable than tribute from peasants and removed the peasants from the land. A similar process occurred when Guatemala’s liberal president privatized the land of Mayan peasants that, until 1877, had been held communally.” ref

Law and Order in States

“At the level of the state, the law becomes an increasingly formal process. Procedures are more and more regularly defined, and categories of breaches in civil and criminal law emerge, together with remedies for those breaches. Early agricultural states formalized legal rules and punishments through codes, formal courts, police forces, and legal specialists such as lawyers and judges. Mediation could still be practiced, but it often was supplanted by adjudication in which a judge’s decision was binding on all parties. Decisions could be appealed to a higher authority, but any final decision must be accepted by all concerned. The first known system of codified law was enacted under the warrior king Hammurabi in Babylon (present day Iraq). This law was based on standardized procedures for dealing with civil and criminal offenses, and subsequent decisions were based on precedents (previous decisions).” ref

“Crimes became offenses not only against other parties but also against the state. Other states developed similar codes of law, including China, Southeast Asia, and state-level Aztec and Inca societies. Two interpretations, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, have arisen about the political function of codified systems of law. Fried (1978) argued, based on his analysis of the Hammurabi codes, that such laws reinforced a system of inequality by protecting the rights of an elite class and keeping peasants subordinates. This is consistent with the theory of a stratified society as already defined. Another interpretation is that maintenance of social and political order is crucial for agricultural states since any disruption in the state would lead to neglect of agricultural production that would be deleterious to all members of the state regardless of their social status. Civil laws ensure, at least in theory, that all disputing parties receive a hearing—so long as high legal expenses and bureaucratic logjams do not cancel out the process. Criminal laws, again in theory, ensure the protection of all citizens from offenses ranging from theft to homicide.” ref

“Inevitably, laws fail to achieve their aims. The United States, for example, has one of the highest crime rates in the industrial world despite having an extensive criminal legal system. The number of homicides in New York City in 1990 exceeded the number of deaths from colon and breast cancer and all accidents combined. Although the rate of violent crime in the United States declined during the mid-1990s, it occurred thanks more to the construction of more prisons per capita (in California) than of schools. Nationwide, there currently are more than one million prisoners in state and federal correctional institutions, one of the highest national rates in the industrial world. Since the 1990s, little has changed in terms of imprisonment in the United States. Funds continue to go to prisons rather than schools, affecting the education of minority communities and expanding “slave labor” in prisons, according to Michelle Alexander who, in 2012, called the current system the school-to-prison pipeline.” ref

Warfare in States

“Warfare occurs in all human societies but at no other level of political organization is it as widespread as in states. Indeed, warfare was integral to the formation of the agricultural state. As governing elites accumulated more resources, warfare became a major means of increasing their surpluses. And as the wealth of states became a target of nomadic pastoralists, the primary motivation for warfare shifted from control of resources to control of neighboring populations.” ref

“A further shift came with the advent of industrial society when industrial technologies driven by fossil fuels allowed states to invade distant countries. A primary motivation for these wars was to establish economic and political hegemony over foreign populations. World War I, World War II, and lesser wars of the past century have driven various countries to develop ever more sophisticated and deadly technologies, including wireless communication devices for remote warfare, tanks, stealth aircraft, nuclear weapons, and unmanned aircraft called drones, which have been used in conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Competition among nations has led to the emergence of the United States as the most militarily powerful nation in the world.” ref

“The expansion of warfare by societies organized as states has not come without cost. Every nation-state has involved civilians in its military adventures, and almost everyone has been involved in those wars in some way—if not as militarily, then as member of the civilian workforce in military industries. World War II created an unprecedented armament industry in the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan, among others, and the aerospace industry underwent expansion in the so-called Cold War that followed. Today, one can scarcely overlook the role of the process of globalization to explain how the United States, for now an empire, has influenced the peoples of other countries in the world.” ref

Stability and Duration of States

“It should be noted that states have a clear tendency toward instability despite trappings designed to induce awe in the wider population. Few states have lasted a thousand years. The American state is more than 240 years old but increases in extreme wealth and poverty, escalating budget and trade deficits, a war initiated under false pretenses, escalating social problems, and a highly controversial presidential election suggest growing instability. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse compared the decline and fall of Easter Island, Chaco Canyon, and the Maya with contemporary societies such as the United States, and he found that overtaxing the environment caused the collapse of those three societies. Chalmers Johnson (2004) similarly argued that a state of perpetual war, loss of democratic institutions, systematic deception by the state, and financial overextension contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire and will likely contribute to the demise of the United States “with the speed of FedEx.” ref

“Why states decline is not difficult to fathom. Extreme disparities in wealth, use of force to keep populations in line, the stripping of people’s resources (such as the enclosures in England that removed peasants from their land), and the harshness of many laws all should create a general animosity toward the elite in a state. Yet, until recently (following the election of Donald Trump), no one in the United States was taking to the streets calling for the president to resign or decrying the government as illegitimate. In something of a paradox, widespread animosity does not necessarily lead to dissolution of a state or to an overthrow of the elite. Thomas Frank addressed this issue in What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2004). Despite the fact that jobs have been shipped abroad, that once-vibrant cities like Wichita are virtual ghost towns, and that both congress and the state legislature have voted against social programs time and again, Kansans continue to vote the Republicans whose policies are responsible for these conditions into office.” ref

“Nor is this confined to Kansas or the United States. That slaves tolerated slavery for hundreds of years (despite periodic revolts such as the one under Nat Turner in 1831), that workers tolerated extreme conditions in factories and mines long before unionization, that there was no peasant revolt strong enough to reverse the enclosures in England—all demand an explanation. Frank discusses reinforcing variables, such as propaganda by televangelists and Rush Limbaugh but offers little explanation beside them. However, recent works have provided new explanations. Days before Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8, 2016, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild released a book that partially explains how Trump appealed to the most marginalized populations of the United States, residents around Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana.” ref

“In the book, Strangers in Their Own Land (2016), Hochschild contends that the predominantly white residents there saw the federal government providing preferential treatment for blacks, women, and other marginalized populations under affirmative action programs while putting white working-class individuals further back in line for governmental assistance. The people Hochschild interviewed were fully aware that a corporate petroleum company had polluted Lake Charles and hired nonlocal technicians and Filipino workers to staff local positions, but they nonetheless expressed their intent to vote for a billionaire for president based on his promise to bring outsourced jobs back to “America” and to make the country “great again.” Other books, including Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal (2016), Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash (2016), and Matt Wray’s Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness (2006), address the decline of the United States’ political power domestically and worldwide. These books all link Trump’s successful election to the marginalization of lower-class whites and raise questions about how dissatisfaction with the state finds expression in political processes.” ref

Stratification and the State: Recent Developments

“States elsewhere and the stratified societies that sustain them have undergone significant changes and, in some instances, dramatic transformations in recent years. Consider ISIS, formed in reaction to the ill-advised U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003, which will be discussed in greater detail below. Other states have failed; Somalia has all but dissolved and is beset by piracy, Yemen is highly unstable due in part to the Saudi invasion, and Syria is being decimated by conflict between the Bashar Assad government and a variety of rebel groups from moderate reform movements to extremist jihadi groups, al-Nusra and ISIS. Despite Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) partial transition from a militarized government to an elective one, the Muslim minority there, known as Rohingya, has been subjected to discrimination and many have been forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been unable to enforce safety regulations to foreign investors as witnessed by the collapse of a clothing factory in 2013 that took the lives of more than 1,100 workers.” ref

Chiefdom Structure of Influence

“The chiefdom structure of influence is modeled using status characteristics theory as supplemented by network formulations. Influence relations organized by that status structure solves problems of social organization, including collective action problems such as inter-polity conflict, while maintaining the system of privilege.” ref

“All chiefdoms that have been anthropologically identified were based on horticulture or intensive agriculture with one notable exception. In the Pacific Northwest of North America, chiefdoms emerged based on foraging.” ref

“GENDER DIFFERENCES IN COMPETITION: EVIDENCE FROM A MATRILINEAL AND A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY Women are less competitive than men in patriarchal societies, but this result reverses in matrilineal societies, where women are more competitive than men.” ref

Woman Chief

“Bíawacheeitchish, in English Woman Chief (c. 1806 – 1858), was a bacheeítche (chief) and warrior of the Crow people. Interested in traditionally male pursuits from an early age, she became one of the Crows’ most significant leaders, joining the Council of Chiefs as the third ranking member. However, unlike other Two-Spirits, she wore typical female clothing rather than adopting men’s garments.” ref

“Tlingit clans: Each clan has its own history, songs, and totems, and each forms a social network of extended families which functions as a political unit in Tlingit society. Clan allegiance is governed through a matrilineal system; children are born to the mother’s clan and gain their status within her family, including what was traditionally hereditary leadership positions.” ref

Tlingit tribes, clans and clan houses


Tlingit & Haida

“The Haida Nation and the Tlingit Nation have existed as two separate and distinct people since time immemorial. This great land (Aani) known as Southeast Alaska is the ancestral home of the Tlingit and Haida people. Tlingit people and Haida people are born into their identity through a matrilineal clan system: One’s identity is established through the mother’s clan. All Haida and Tlingit clans are organized into two major moieties: Eagle and Raven. In Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch’aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle). Each clan is made up of clan houses.” ref

Differences between male and female height in Early Neolithic Europe are likely to have been driven by culture.

Clan Systems

“The Iroquois clans were developed at a time in our history when there were a lot less people than there are today. It was a time when the people were not sure who they were related to. The elders were worried that the young people were getting together with their closely related family members. There was much apprehension about how to relate with each other. The elders began to meet about how this was going to be addressed.” ref

“After a few meetings had failed to bring any ideas to address this, a young man stood up and asked if it would be ok to address them. He was the kind of man that was usually very quiet and reserved. He told the Council about his idea to alleviate the problems that people were having. He said the animal world all have their own ways of doing things. The birds all have their own ways, each species. The trees have their own ways also, each family. He suggested that each family have their eldest woman intently pay attention to what she sees in the next morning. Each woman seen a different animal in the morning. This animal is to represent the clan for each of the women’s families.” ref


“In the Iroquois Creation Story, the earth was created on the back of a turtle. It was there that life began to grow. The Turtle Clan represents the shifting of the earth and the cycles of the moon. The people of the Turtle Clan are considered the well of information and the keepers of the land. The responsibility of the Turtle Clan is everything that has to do with the environment.” ref


“The Bear Clan people are known as Medicine People, the healers. There are stories passed down about how the Bear Clan people were given the gift of medicine from an elder woman who had the knowledge of all the medicine plants here on earth. The Great Law speaks of how all members of each clan have a relationship to each other. The laws of clanship are quite rigid. For instance, since you have a family relationship with everyone in your clan it is forbidden to marry a person of the same clan, even if one is Mohawk and their partner is Oneida. Additionally, the clans have a relationship to each other. The Wolf Clan is considered a cousin to the Turtle Clan and an uncle to the Bear Clan. The Turtle Clan is the older brother to the Bear Clan.” ref

“Symbols of the clans can be seen everywhere throughout the Oneida Nation Reservation; on the tribal logo, the Human Resources Department orientation folder, and throughout the Oneida Tribal School. Each wing of the Elder Complex on Overland Drive is named for one of the clans. The Oneida Nation Elementary School was designed in the shape of a turtle and is recognized as a point of interest to incoming and outgoing airline passengers who travel through Austin Straubel Airport. Even the Oneida tribal license plates bear symbols of the clans.” ref


“The Wolf Clan represents the path finders. Their responsibility is to guide the people in living their lives in the way the Creator intended.” ref


“The Iroquois people are a matrilineal society, which means they follow the mother’s side of the family when it comes to identity and family. If a man would marry a woman, then he would move in with her family. The woman’s family would include her mother, father, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and grandfathers. The women in the household took care of everyone’s children. Any and all children in the house were considered a son or daughter. All aunties were looked at as mother. Uncles were looked at as father figures, and grandparents were of highest graces to all. The grandmothers and grandfathers had small duties but major roles in helping to raise the children. As the children grew older, the young men would go with the men and learn how to hunt, fish, gather wood, and they would learn how to fight if it were ever necessary. The young women would stay home with the women and grandparents and learn household chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing, and gathering foods to be prepared later.” ref

“All the children would listen to the elders’ stories of the old times and they would learn from them. Their stories would explain a life lesson and they would be able to apply it to their everyday life. As the young men became men, they would start to travel to find a wife. They would find a good woman and court her in the proper way. He would go home and tell his mother who she was and who her family is. Then they would prepare a basket for that family and the parents would negotiate a deal as to weather he is good enough for their daughter to marry their son. Sometimes there were arranged marriages. One thing that occurred during these negotiations was the man’s brother would also come and live in the same village as the son, so he doesn’t get to lonely for his family. Sometimes even if the man finds a woman it is still up to the mothers to make an agreement. When a girl is ready to become a mother, the grandmothers let her know when it is her time. She then waits for the right man and finds out what her life is going to be. She could find a man and bring him to her mother and then her mother and his mother go through the process of getting married.” ref


“The clan mothers are responsible for appointing the chiefs on the peoples’ behalf. The clan mothers watch young boys and see how they act and how they mature over time. They look at the progress the child into young adulthood and determine which young man could be a potential chief. The clan mothers are the leaders when it came to voicing opinions of the people. They have the first and last say as to what the Chiefs do to help the people. They meet and tell the chief what the people want to be done. The clan mothers are also responsible for informing and listening to the men, women and children in their respective clan families. They are counselors for the people. If the people have a problem they can always go to the clan mothers for advice or knowledge. The clan mothers are the backbone of the Iroquois people.” ref

Clan Mothers in the Onondaga Nation, The Clan Mother is very important in the role of Haudenosaunee culture. When the Peacemaker came to the warring people, it was a woman who first accepted Peacemaker’s vision of peace. The Clan Mother holds much weight in the Haudenosaunee.  The Clan Mother is a leader not only of her clan, but of the nation as well.  The Clan Mother selects their spokesman (Hoyane or Chief) to represent them in council.  If their Hoyane doesn’t represent their clan, the Clan Mother has the authority to remove their leader as well after warnings.  The Hoyane and the Clan Mother work together to best represent the people of her clan. Not only is the Clan Mother working with the chiefs in making decisions for the people, they also have the duty to ensure that our way of life continues. The Clan Mothers gather and sit to decide when the ceremonies will begin.” ref

“Then the Clan Mothers supervise the procedures of the ceremony, the food, and soups that are needed. The Clan Mothers are so integral, that the ceremonies cannot begin without the Clan Mothers present. Children are the future of any community and the Clan Mothers are important in raising the children. When a new baby is born, it is the Clan Mother who provides the name of the baby of her clan. It is said that the Clan Mother has a bag of names at the ready. When a person passes away from her clan, she takes back that name to be used again for future member of the clan. The Clan Mothers also make sure that the children are raised in the ways and customs of the Longhouse. They are often teaching the young and old of the ways of the Haudenosaunee. Often when people have questions or there is a dispute among families, often it is the Clan Mother who is sought after for guidance. Their words hold great weight in the community. The Clan Mother holds an important role in both the political and social world of the Onondaga.” ref


“The chiefs are responsible for making the right decision in the community’s best interests. The chiefs listen to what the clan mothers say and they then become the voice of the people. The chiefs are the advisors for the people. They are there as support for the community. They also act as counselors for the people. If the people have problems or needed advice they can go to the chief and ask him. The chief also helps conduct the ceremonies a long side of the faithkeepers. Most times he will be the one to conduct the traditional ceremonies. The chiefs are there for the people and the advisors at chiefs meetings. They bring back what they talked about in Grand Council and tell the clan mothers what went on. They then let the people know, and if there were a problem or a decision that had to be made by the community they all would have a chance to speak. Then the chiefs would take it back to the clan mothers and figure out the best decisions for the people are. The chief would then go back and let the rest of the chiefs know what his community wants to do. The chief is the voice, ears, and advocate for his people.” ref


“The faithkeepers are the operatives of the actions that the clan mothers, chiefs, and community’s decide. They get the longhouse ready for anything that may be happening on the grounds, whether it be a ceremony, a social gathering or anything like that. They make sure the ceremonies are ran as they are supposed at the right times of the year. They are also responsible for bringing the people together. The faithkeepers let the people know when there is something going on. They organize the longhouse and keep everything running smoothly. They are also the ones who find helpers around the community. They are responsible for the wellbeing of the people. The faithkeepers act as spiritual advisors for the people. The faithkeepers are the ones who carryout what the chiefs and clan mothers say. Their primary responsibility is to insure that the four sacred ceremonies are being conducted. The four sacred ceremonies are The Great Feather Dance, Mens Chant, Water Drum Dance, and the Peachstone Game. They see to it that these four ceremonies stay active within the longhouse.” ref

A man’s world? Not according to biology or history.

“For proof, we can look to the many matrilineal societies dotted all over the world. In some regions, these traditions may date back thousands of years.” ref

Matrilineality and Matrilineal society 

Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline, their mother’s lineage, and which can involve the inheritance of property and titles. A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant of either gender in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers. In a matrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as their mother. This ancient matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the currently more popular pattern of patrilineal descent from which a family name is usually derived. The matriline of historical nobility was also called their enatic or uterine ancestry, corresponding to the patrilineal or “agnatic” ancestry.” ref

Matrilineal surnames are names transmitted from mother to daughter, in contrast to the more familiar patrilineal surnames transmitted from father to son, the pattern most common among family names today. For clarity and for brevity, the scientific terms patrilineal surname and matrilineal surname are usually abbreviated as patriname and matrinameThere appears to be some evidence for the presence of matrilineality in Pre-Islamic Arabia, in a very limited number of the Arabian peoples (first of all among the Amorites of Yemen, and among some strata of Nabateans in Northern Arabia); A modern example from South Africa is the order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen in a culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.ref

“In some traditional societies and cultures, membership in their groups was – and, in the following list, still is if shown in italics – inherited matrilineally. Examples include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Gitksan, Haida, Hopi, Iroquois, Lenape, Navajo and Tlingit of North America; the Cabécar and Bribri of Costa Rica; the Naso and Kuna people of Panama; the Kogi, Wayuu and Carib of South America; the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia and Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia; the Trobrianders, Dobu and Nagovisi of Melanesia; the Nairs, some Thiyyas & Muslims of Kerala and the Mogaveeras, Billavas & the Bunts of Karnataka in south India; the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo of Meghalaya in northeast India and Bangladesh; the Ngalops and Sharchops of Bhutan; the Mosuo of China; the Kayah of Southeast Asia, the Picti of Scotland, the Basques of Spain and France; the Ainu of Japan, the Akan including the Ashanti, Bono, Akwamu, Fante of Ghana; most groups across the so-called “matrilineal belt” of south-central Africa; the Nubians of Southern Egypt & Sudan and the Tuareg of west and north Africa; the Serer of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.ref

Clan names vs. surnames

“Most of the example cultures in this article are based on (matrilineal) clans. Any clan might possibly contain from one to several or many descent groups or family groups – i.e., any matrilineal clan might be descended from one or several or many unrelated female ancestors. Also, each such descent group might have its own family name or surname, as one possible cultural pattern. Note well that if a culture did include one’s clan name in one’s name and routinely handed it down to all children in the descent group then it would automatically be the family name or surname for one’s descent group (as well as for all other descent groups in one’s clan).ref

“The following two example cultures each follow a different pattern, however:

Example 1. Members of the (matrilineal) clan culture Minangkabau do not even have a surname or family name, see this culture’s own section below. In contrast, members do have a clan name, which is important in their lives although not included in the member’s name. Instead, one’s name is just one’s given name.

Example 2. Members of the (matrilineal) clan culture Akan, see its own section below, also do not have matrilineal surnames and likewise their important clan name is not included in their name. However, members’ names do commonly include second names which are called surnames but which are not routinely passed down from either father or mother to all their children as a family name.ref

Care of children

“While a mother normally takes care of her own children in all cultures, in some matrilineal cultures an “uncle-father” will take care of his nieces and nephews instead: in other words social fathers here are uncles. There is not a necessary connection between the role of father and genitor. In many such matrilineal cultures, especially where residence is also matrilocal, a man will exercise guardianship rights not over the children he fathers but over his sisters’ children, who are viewed as ‘his own flesh’. These children’s biological father – unlike an uncle who is their mother’s brother and thus their caregiver – is in some sense a ‘stranger’ to them, even when affectionate and emotionally close. According to Steven Pinker, attributing to Kristen Hawkes, among foraging groups matrilocal societies are less likely to commit female infanticide than are patrilocal societies.ref

“In the Americas, the Bororo people of Brazil and Bolivia live in matrilineal clans, with husbands moving to live with their wives’ extended families. The clan system of the Bribri people of Costa Rica and Panama is matrilineal; that is, a child’s clan is determined by the clan his or her mother belongs to. Only women can inherit land. The social organization of the Cabécar people of Costa Rica is predicated on matrilineal clans in which the mother is the head of household. Each matrilineal clan controls marriage possibilities, regulates land tenure, and determines property inheritance for its members. In the traditional culture of the Guna people of Panama and Colombia, families are matrilinear and matrilocal, with the groom moving to become part of the bride’s family. The groom also takes the last name of the bride.” ref

“The Hopi (in what is now the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona), according to Alice Schlegel, had as its “gender ideology … one of female superiority, and it operated within a social actuality of sexual equality.” According to LeBow (based on Schlegel’s work), in the Hopi, “gender roles … are egalitarian …. [and] [n]either sex is inferior.” LeBow concluded that Hopi women “participate fully in … political decision-making.” According to Schlegel, “the Hopi no longer live as they are described here” and “the attitude of female superiority is fading”. Schlegel said the Hopi “were and still are matrilinial” and “the household … was matrilocal.ref

“Schlegel explains why there was female superiority as that the Hopi believed in “life as the highest good … [with] the female principle … activated in women and in Mother Earth … as its source” and that the Hopi “were not in a state of continual war with equally matched neighbors” and “had no standing army” so that “the Hopi lacked the spur to masculine superiority” and, within that, as that women were central to institutions of clan and household and predominated “within the economic and social systems (in contrast to male predominance within the political and ceremonial systems)”, the Clan Mother, for example, being empowered to overturn land distribution by men if she felt it was unfair, since there was no “countervailing … strongly centralized, male-centered political structure.ref

“The Iroquois Confederacy or League, combining five to six Native American Haudenosaunee nations or tribes before the U.S. became a nation, operated by The Great Binding Law of Peace, a constitution by which women retained matrilineal-rights and participated in the League’s political decision-making, including deciding whether to proceed to war, through what may have been a matriarchy or “gyneocracy.” The dates of this constitution’s operation are unknown: the League was formed in approximately 1000–1450, but the constitution was oral until written in about 1880. The League still exists. Other Iroquoian-speaking peoples such as the Wyandot and the Meherrin, that were never part of the Iroquois League, nevertheless have traditionally possessed a matrilineal family structure.ref

“The Kogi people of northern Colombia practice bilateral inheritance, with certain rights, names or associations descending matrilineally. Occupied for 10,000 years by Native Americans, the land that is present-day New Jersey was overseen by clans of the Lenape, who farmed, fished, and hunted upon it. The pattern of their culture was that of a matrilineal agricultural and mobile hunting society that was sustained with fixed, but not permanent, settlements in their matrilineal clan territories. Leadership by men was inherited through the maternal line, and the women elders held the power to remove leaders of whom they disapproved.ref

“Villages were established and relocated as the clans farmed new sections of the land when soil fertility lessened and when they moved among their fishing and hunting grounds by seasons. The area was claimed as a part of the Dutch New Netherland province dating from 1614, where active trading in furs took advantage of the natural pass west, but the Lenape prevented permanent settlement beyond what is now Jersey City. “Early Europeans who first wrote about these Indians found matrilineal social organization to be unfamiliar and perplexing. As a result, the early records are full of ‘clues’ about early Lenape society, but were usually written by observers who did not fully understand what they were seeing.ref

“The Mandan people of the northern Great Plains of the United States historically lived in matrilineal extended family lodges. The Naso (Teribe or Térraba) people of Panama and Costa Rica describe themselves as a matriarchal community, although their monarchy has traditionally been inherited in the male line. The Navajo people of the American southwest are a matrilineal society in which kinship, children, livestock and family histories are passed down through the female. In marriage the groom moved to live with the brides family. Children also came from their mother’s clan living in hogans of the females family. The Tanana Athabaskan people, the original inhabitants of the Tanana River basin in Alaska and Canada, traditionally lived in matrilineal semi-nomadic bands.” ref

“The Powhatan and other tribes of the Tsenacommacah, also known as the Powhatan Confederacy, practiced a version of male-preference matrilineal seniority, favoring brothers over sisters in the current generation (but allowing sisters to inherit if no brothers remained), but passing to the next generation through the eldest female line. In A Map of Virginia John Smith of Jamestown explains: His [Chief Powhatan‘s] kingdome descendeth not to his sonnes nor children: but first to his brethren, whereof he hath 3 namely Opitchapan, Opechancanough, and Catataugh; and after their decease to his sisters. First to the eldest sister, then to the rest: and after them to the heires male and female of the eldest sister; but never to the heires of the males.ref

“The Upper Kuskokwim people are the original inhabitants of the Upper Kuskokwim River basin. They speak an Athabaskan language more closely related to Tanana than to the language of the Lower Kuskokkwim River basin. They were traditionally hunter-gatherers who lived in matrilineal semi-nomadic bands. The Wayuu people of Colombia and Venezuela live in matrilineal clans, with paternal relationships in the background.” ref

Originally, Chinese surnames were derived matrilineally, although by the time of the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 BCE) they had become patrilineal. Archaeological data supports the theory that during the Neolithic period (7000 to 2000 BCE) in China, Chinese matrilineal clans evolved into the usual patrilineal families by passing through a transitional patrilineal clan phase. Evidence includes some “richly furnished” tombs for young women in the early Neolithic Yangshao culture, whose multiple other collective burials imply a matrilineal clan culture. Toward the late Neolithic period, when burials were apparently of couples, “a reflection of patriarchy,” an increasing elaboration of presumed chiefs’ burials is reported. Relatively isolated ethnic minorities such as the Mosuo (Na) in southwestern China are highly matrilineal.ref

While men held positions of religious and political power, the Spartan constitution mandated that inheritance and proprietorship pass from mother to daughter. In Pictish society, succession in leadership (later kingship) was matrilineal (through the mother’s side), with the reigning chief succeeded by either his brother or perhaps a nephew but not through patrilineal succession of father to son.” ref

Matrilineality in Judaism or matrilineal descent in Judaism is the tracing of Jewish descent through the maternal line. Close to all Jewish communities have followed matrilineal descent from at least early Tannaitic (c. 10–70 CE) times through modern times. The origins and date-of-origin of matrilineal descent in Judaism are uncertain. Orthodox Judaism maintains that matrilineal descent is an Oral Law from at least the time of the Receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (c. 1310 BCE). According to some modern academic opinions, it was likely instituted in either the early Tannaitic period (c. 10–70 CE) or the time of Ezra (c. 460 BCE).ref

“In practice, Jewish denominations define “Who is a Jew?” via descent in different ways. All denominations of Judaism have protocols for conversion for those who are not Jewish by descent. Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism still practice matrilineal descent. Karaite Judaism, which rejects the Oral Law, generally practices patrilineal descent. Reconstructionist Judaism has recognized Jews of patrilineal descent since 1968.ref

“In 1983, the Central Conference of American Rabbis of Reform Judaism passed a resolution waiving the need for formal conversion for anyone with at least one Jewish parent, provided that either (a) one is raised as a Jew, by Reform standards, or (b) one engages in an appropriate act of public identification, formalizing a practice that had been common in Reform synagogues for at least a generation. This 1983 resolution departed from the Reform Movement’s previous position requiring formal conversion to Judaism for children without a Jewish mother. However, the closely associated Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism has rejected this resolution and requires formal conversion for anyone without a Jewish mother.ref

Family ties: Examining ideas of kinship in the early Bronze Age

New analysis of two Bronze Age burials discovered more than a century – and over 300 miles – apart has raised intriguing questions about prehistoric ideas of family relationships, highlighting cross-Channel cultural links stretching back 5,000 years. Carly Hilts reports. Excavations on Bedfordshire’s Dunstable Downs revealed a poignant prehistoric scene. Within the remains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow, the skeletons of a young woman and a child lay face to face, their arms entwined as if in a protective embrace. Such a carefully curated grave must have been full of symbolic or emotional significance for the people who had laid this pair to rest. Now new light has been shed on the possible motivations behind this arrangement, following the discovery of a strikingly similar grave hundreds of miles away in Luxembourg.” ref

“The Bedfordshire burial formed part of a dispersed cemetery, and while most of its neighbors had been heavily disturbed by looters as well as by agricultural activity, ‘Barrow 8’ still had secrets to reveal. Within the mound, a large central grave had been cut into the underlying chalk, with seven less substantial graves scattered around it. Although most had been rifled and their contents lost to scrutiny, one was more intact: that of the woman and child. They were accompanied by grave goods including pots, animal bones, a white pebble, and a handful of stone tools, also reportedly an arrowhead.” ref

“Rather more unexpected, however, was the presence of dozens of small stone spheres, each marked with a five-pointed star: fossilized sea urchins. Twelve were found arranged around the paired skeletons, but more than 200 in total were claimed to have been recovered from the wider area of the grave and the disturbed barrow material. It is not known why these items had been selected for inclusion alongside the more conventional grave goods, but fossils appear to have attracted attention throughout prehistory (and into more recent centuries; see box opposite).” ref

“The double-burial dates to the early Bronze Age, a transformative time when the Beaker ‘cultural package’ crossed the Channel to bring dramatic technological changes and significant genetic turnover to Britain c.2500 BCE. This movement also brought distinctive new burial traditions to these shores – and we can now understand the Bedfordshire grave in the context of this cultural shift and Continental connections, thanks to research that was recently published in Scientific Reports. Key to these new insights was the discovery of another Beaker-period burial in Luxembourg, which was uncovered in 2000 during highway construction works at Altwies near the French border. Like the Bedfordshire burial, it contained the skeletons of a woman and a child, and these individuals had also been laid on their sides, facing each other, with the adult’s hand tucked beneath the child’s head.” ref

“Strikingly, they were surrounded by a ring of stones, too, possibly fossilized shells. This aspect invites intriguing comparisons with the Bedfordshire pair, as a drawing showed, with them nestled within an oval of urchins. Given that only 12 were said to have been found around the skeletons themselves, however, the suspiciously even, thick line of fossils might reflect the artist’s desire for a decorative border to frame his drawing more than any archaeological reality. Other Bronze Age burials where nodules of flint and chalk have been carefully placed around bodies are known from sites in Yorkshire and Wessex, however.” ref

Different Graves in Different areas, yet have Striking Similarities

“The striking similarities between both burials were noted during a recent wider project investigating Luxembourg’s prehistory, and a team was quickly put together to analyze the skeletal remains and associated objects from each in order to investigate whether there were any other links between them. Although over a century has passed since the Bedfordshire remains were excavated, the two skeletons were still well-preserved in the collections of The Culture Trust Luton, enabling the team (led by researchers from the universities of Mainz and Ferrara) to carry out genetic analysis of both individuals, as well as the adult and child from Altwies. This revealed that, while the pairs were buried far apart, they all drew most of their ancestry from Steppe pastoralists who migrated from Eastern and Central Europe in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was also possible to establish the biological relationships between each pairing, providing the first genetic evidence that Bell Beaker communities in north-western Europe buried children with their close relatives.” ref

“The Altwies pair, it was revealed, were mother and son (the child being around 3 years old), while the young woman (aged 18-25) and girl (c.6 years old) from Bedfordshire were paternal aunt and niece. Now that we know the individuals’ biological sex, interesting insights are provided by the way that they were arranged in their respective graves. In Beaker-period Continental Europe, the researchers note, women and girls were strictly laid to rest on their right side with their head pointing to the south, while men and boys were placed on their left side, with their head to the north (this rule seems to have been loosened by the time Beaker people reached Britain). In the mixed-sex burial from Altwies, however, alignment has defaulted to reflect the male child, not the adult woman, with both individuals lying with their head to the north. Might this reflect the existence of a patrilineal society at this time, the researchers wonder – something that might have also influenced the choice of a paternal aunt to accompany the Bedfordshire child?” ref

“In neither case was there any sign of what had caused the pair’s death. Although Smith darkly speculates on themes of human sacrifice, suggesting that the Bedfordshire child may have been buried alive with its deceased mother, the pair’s peaceful posture belies such a traumatic death – and the fact that Smith’s report forms part of a book that he titled Man, the Primeval Savage rather hints at prejudices about ‘primitive’ prehistoric practices. With no indication of violence on any of the skeletons, disease may be a more likely explanation. The turn of the 3rd millennium BCE marks a watershed in later prehistoric European burial practices, moving away from communal burials to individual graves. Exceptions continued to be made for adult–child pairings, however, and the team went on to study 131 more burials of this kind, from 88 sites, all dating to the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE, scattered across Eurasia.” ref

“It is thought that these graves might reflect the spread of burial practices linked to Steppe pastoralists and their descendants, perhaps hinting at evolving ideas of family identity or kinship. It could be that child burials became more archaeologically prominent at this time because children were becoming more culturally or socially important, the researchers suggest, with their pairing with an adult perhaps representing an individual or their community’s fertility or status, or links between or within social groups, perhaps even between the past and the present. Where children are buried with people who are not their biological parents, could the exchange of foster children have helped to create or strengthen social/political networks?” ref

“The aunt-niece pairing could represent the child’s primary caregiver in life, or the woman might have been chosen as a ‘substitute parent’ to ensure the girl’s safe passage into death. Whatever their precise meaning, though, these rites seem to have been sufficiently formalized and sufficiently important to have been transmitted across the Channel with the Beaker migration. As the research paper concludes: ‘the body of a woman, lying as though sleeping, clasping a child in her arms, obviously had a specific meaning to early Bronze Age peoples, a meaning retained across thousands of miles and amongst many diverse and fluid contemporary funerary practices. Whatever it was, it represented something powerful and emotive.” ref

The Evolution of Avunculocal Chiefdoms: A Reconstruction of Taino Kinship and Politics

“The present study examines the interrelationship of social organization, specifically matrilocal/avunculocal residence and matrilineal descent, and the Lucayan Taino settlement of the Bahama archipelago (ca. A.D. 800–1500). The study involves an archeo-ethnological collaboration in which archeological questions of Taino kinship and politics and ethnological questions concerning the evolution of avunculocal chiefdoms are addressed. The results include a remarkably complete reconstruction of Taino social organization and a diachronic test of the evolutionary sequence proposed for the development of avunculocal institutions.” ref 

“North America’s Indigenous peoples shared some broad traits. Spiritual practices, understandings of property, and kinship networks differed markedly from European arrangements. Most Native Americans did not neatly distinguish between the natural and the supernatural. Spiritual power permeated their world and was both tangible and accessible. It could be appealed to and harnessed. Kinship bound most Native North American people together. Many Native cultures understood ancestry as matrilineal: family and clan identity proceeded along the female line, through mothers and daughters, rather than fathers and sons. Fathers, for instance, would often join mothers’ extended families and sometimes even a mother’s brothers would take a more direct role in child-raising than biological fathers. Mothers could therefore often wield enormous influence at local levels and men’s identities and influence often depended on their relationships to women. Native American culture meanwhile generally afforded greater sexual and marital freedom than European cultures did. Women often chose their husbands, and divorce often was a relatively simple and straightforward process. Moreover, most Native peoples’ notions of property rights differed markedly from Europeans’ notions of property. Native Americans generally felt a personal ownership of tools, weapons, or other items that were actively used, and this same rule applied to land and crops. Groups and individuals exploited particular pieces of land, and used violence or negotiation to exclude others. But the right to the use of land did not imply the right to its permanent possession.” ref

“Kinship can be used to form discrete, stable groups that persist over time. However, how societies do this organizing of stable groups varies considerably. Knowing a society’s kinship system, who was related to whom and what relationship this entailed, opened up the worldview of the group. Kinship relations entail the idea of rights and obligations, as well as ideas about how humans are created.  In certain societies, kinship connections form the basis of their social, economic, and political structure. Kinship was so important to anthropology. Families, and kinship in general, are about relationships. Relationships are defined by status and roles. Status is any culturally-designated position a person occupies in a particular setting.​ Role is the set of behaviors expected of an individual who occupies a particular status. For example, a person may have the status of “mother.” The role associated with the status, the behaviors expected of a “mother,” would include caring for children. Cross-culturally, the basic unit of the family is mother and child.” ref

“Cultures vary in how many spouses are allowed. Monogamy, the norm in our only culture, only allows one partner/spouse. Polygamous marriages allow more than one spouse/partner. Polygamous marriages vary in whether they allow more women or men. Polygynous marriage is the marriage of one man to multiple women, while polyandrous marriage is the marriage of one women to multiple men. Polyandrous marriage is very rare and often includes the marriage of brothers to one woman. This is called fraternal polyandry and is common in some areas of Tibet where arable land is rare. This marriage arrangement allows large parcels of arable land to be kept in the family, which would not the case in monogamy, as successive generations would receive smaller and smaller plots of land. Cultures also vary in where married people should live. There are several different types of postmartial residence patterns.” ref

“Types of Postmarital Residence Patterns: 

  •  Matrilocal (uxorilocal) – couple lives with or near bride’s kin​
  • Patrilocal (virilocal) – couple lives with or near groom’s kin
  •  Ambilocal – couple can choose to live with or near kin of either side​
  •  Neolocal – couple moves to a new household or location, living with neither side’s kin​
  •  Natolocal – wife and husband remain with their own natal kin​
  •  Avunculocal – couple moves to or near the residence of the groom’s mother’s brother(s)​” ref

“Patrilocal residence is most common in patrilineal societies, while matrilocal, natolocal, and avunculocal residence patterns are most common in matrilineal societies. Natolocal residence patterns are the rarest form of postmartial residence patterns. The Mosuo, an ethnic Chinese community that lives in Yunnan province, practice natolocal residence patterns as part of their “walking marriages.” In this arrangement, spouses do not live together, but only visit each other in the evenings. Husbands live with their female kin, and wives with their female kin. Any children conceived in the marriage live with the mother. Learn more about this group and their “walking marriages” in the clip below. Note, though the clip claims the Mouso are a matriarchy, this is not the case. The oldest male relative and the oldest female relative have the same status and power.” ref

“Matrilineal society, group adhering to a kinship system in which ancestral descent is traced through maternal instead of paternal lines (the latter being termed patrilineage or patriliny). Every society incorporates some basic components in its system of reckoning kinship: family, marriage, postmarital residence, rules that prohibit sexual relations (and therefore marriage) between certain categories of kin, descent, and the terms used to label kin. A lineage is a group of individuals who trace descent from a common ancestor; thus, in a matrilineage, individuals are related as kin through the female line of descent.” ref

“Matrilineage is sometimes associated with group marriage or polyandry (marriage of one woman to two or more men at the same time). Anthropologists have provided different perspectives and interpretations about kinship and its role in society. With a perspective based in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, some 19th-century scholars, such as Johann Jakob Bachofen and Lewis Henry Morgan, believed that matrilineal societies predated patrilineal ones and represented an earlier evolutionary stage. Accordingly, patrilineal systems were also considered more “civilized” and advanced than matrilineal systems. Writing within the framework of the evolutionary thinking developing at the time, Morgan also argued that matrilineal systems would progressively evolve into patrilineal systems. Over time, that view gained popularity far beyond anthropological and ethnological circles.” ref

“Scholars have often analyzed matrilineal norms and practices within the framework of the “matrilineal puzzle,” a term that was introduced to kinship theory by the British anthropologist Audrey Richards. It arose from structural functionalism—which was most strongly associated with the work of social anthropologist A.R. Radcliffe-Brown—and, by the mid-20th century, replaced Bachofen and Morgan’s kinship theories as the dominant analysis model in social anthropology. Working within a structural-functionalist framework—which viewed social structures such as institutions, relationships, and norms in terms of their roles in the functioning and continuance of a society—Richards was puzzled by the position of men in matrilineal societies. The issue at question was whether, in practice, a matrilineal system in which men have ambiguous roles and dual loyalties could work. The debate that followed also focused on what it was that made matrilineal societies different from what was seen as “normal” patrilineal systems.” ref

“In the study of kinship and matrilineal versus patrilineal systems, a basic normative assumption is that the essential family unit consists of father, mother, and children. A closely linked assumption has been that one sex is dominant and the other “weaker.” According to scholar David M. Schneider, in classic kinship theory, it was assumed that men had authority over their wives and offspring; thus, that authority was considered a constant. As a consequence, anthropological debate and analysis also assumed that constant. Schneider also noted that in patrilineal societies authority and kinship were passed on through patrilineal descent, but in matrilineal societies males did not pass their status to their sons. Men’s authority would be based only on their position in the matriliny. The salient roles of the male, therefore, would be that of brother and uncle instead of husband and father. The fundamental assumption was that the demotion of the “normal” patriarchal role was unnatural.” ref

“Under that interpretation of the structures and norms of all societies, male dominance, assumed as a given in patrilineal societies, did not translate into a corresponding female dominance in matrilineal societies. Under the assumed normative “principle of male authority,” in a matrilineage, descent passed from a woman’s brother to her son and from him to her sister’s son. That meant, to some scholars, that the core structures of matrilineal groups were the positions of uncle and brother. In the practice of virilocal residence (in which a woman moves into her husband’s home), the in-marrying wife will presumably adapt to a dependent role (as in a patrilineal society) but also occupy a significant role as the mother of children, particularly of sons who will perpetuate the patriliny. In matrilineal societies, although in-marrying men may be deemed necessary and useful as husbands, fathers, and human resources for labour, their function becomes part of the puzzle; in the context of assumptions about male authority, their roles may seem to be effete or ambiguous.” ref

“Matrilineal societies are found in various places around the world, such as in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and India. Specific cultural practices differ significantly among such groups. Though there are similarities, matrilineal practices in Africa differ from those in Asia, and there are even differences in such practices within specific regions. The Asante, or Ashanti, of Ghana are one of the few matrilineal societies in West Africa in which women inherit status and property directly from their mothers. The Minangkabau of Sumatra, Indonesia, are the world’s largest matrilineal society, in which properties such as land and houses are inherited through female lineage. In Minangkabau society, the man traditionally marries into his wife’s household, and the woman inherits the ancestral home. Matrilineal societies in India are typified by the Khasi in Meghalaya state and by the traditional Nayar in Kerala.” ref

“Among those groups, the main difference is observed in matrilocal, duolocal, and neolocal residence patterns. The pattern of duolocal residence (the husband and wife occupy different homes) exists among the Asante, the Minangkabau, and the Nayar. The Khasi generally follow the matrilocal residence pattern (the husband moves in with his wife’s matrilineal kin) or neolocal residence pattern (the couple sets up home in a new residence in or around the wife’s maternal residence). According to some scholars, matriliny has historically existed in different parts of the world, although it was mostly restricted to isolated communities within the non-Western world. In the late 19th century, under the growing influence of social Darwinism, early European and American anthropologists began to explore different kinship systems on a global scale. One aspect of that study focused on delving into the nature of human social evolution.” ref

“A substantial proportion of historical research on European societies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries focused on the family unit. Whereas earlier research in that area was limited to the search for the Western family structure, later analyses highlighted the error of presuming historical continuity in that structure and argued that the term family was fundamentally ambiguous. Notions of family and kinship are based on the existence of marriage, and in that context most later studies examined gender differences only as an expression of a particular cultural system. Consequently, they failed to include ideological nuances behind the concepts of “marriage” or “family” within those social groups.” ref

“Non-Western scholars have also argued that the distinction between household and family is grounded in Western conceptions. The household is regarded merely as a coresident group, whereas the family is made up of those household members who also share kinship. That normative distinction assumes that the family, including a heterosexual couple as parents, is the natural unit, a generalization that ignores differences of class and race. It also fails to account for the fact that household could refer to members outside the family, such as landlords, tenants, and family retainers. Hence, only large property-owning households that include all these external family members can provide sufficient data to study the complex relationships between class, caste, gender, and kinship.” ref

“The current definitions and paradigms of matrifocal domestic systems (where a female is the central stable figure of the family unit) are also based on the classic kinship theory’s focus on marriage and the heterosexual couple. That encourages the assumption of heteronormativity in households—i.e., that sexual and marital relations are “normal” only when between people of different sexes. It also assumes that as married heterosexual couples, men and women have certain natural functions in life, with men as “heads.” Matrifocal domestic systems are seen as troublesome departures from this norm because they are not structured around a heterosexual couple or are viewed as temporary solutions to the absence of male household heads instead of functional households headed and managed by women.” ref

“According to scholar Evelyn Blackwood, Western norms about marriage and where the husband/father stood in the family encouraged anthropologists to question the validity of matrilineal kin groups that embodied the function of the husband and the married couple even when there was no such relationship (or one that did not meet the norm). Within Minangkabau matrilineal groups, for example, it was the matrilineal line, including members of the external family descended through that line, that represented kinship; conjugal and marital ties were considered secondary.” ref

“Blackwood also pointed out the anthropological attention devoted to the “plight” of husbands in matrilineal societies, again based on normative assumptions about men’s place as husbands. In such scholarly work the marital tie was assumed to be weak, owing to, for example, power struggles between husbands and interfering mothers-in-law, pressures from the husband’s own lineage, and the overly prominent position of the mother-in-law’s brother. Women’s economic independence, particularly control of the land, was attributed to unreliable husbands or those who had chosen to leave the household. Thus, in that view, matrilineal systems are only the result of “weak husbands” or “missing men.” Blackwood’s research on the Minangkabau extended households, however, indicates that matrilineal practices come first and marital relationships and the husbands’ roles are of secondary importance.” ref

“In the study of matrilineal societies, classic kinship theory develops normative structures to contextualize heterosexuality and male domination, failing to include the wider social nuances and connotations. Those normative structures form the rhetoric of what Blackwood calls “the specter of the Patriarchal Man,” which persistently dominates concepts of kinship, marriage, and family. Classic kinship theory has been challenged by feminist scholars, who have succeeded in shifting the focus from gender and kinship to social constructs in kinship relationships.” ref

Warfare and Peacemaking among Matricultural Societies

The view that ‘War is a game for men’ has been declaimed with loud voices – yet the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) people, who have been described as the most fierce warriors of eastern North America, have a strong matriculture where the Clan Mothers nominate, install, and remove male Chiefs. The Haida, once known as the sea wolves of the Pacific Coast, are a matrilineal society, where personal identity is defined through one’s mother. Up to six thousand Fon women, known as Mino or ‘our mothers, fought in the army of Dahomey until the early twentieth century. The matriarchal Minangkabau of Indonesia militarily resisted Dutch colonization for almost fifteen years and, over a century later, launched a guerilla-based civil war against the Sukarno government. Scythian warriors of the Ancient period were women as well as men, since horse-riding largely negates the advantages of upper body strength. Clearly, these matricultural societies have not been strangers to war and violence, whether defensive or offensive, and many more examples could be provided. At the same time, many scholars claim that matricultural societies are, by definition, cultures of peace.” ref

“Taking matriculture as a cultural system in the classical Geertzian sense of the term, this issue of Matrix (Journal for Matricultural Studies, which is open access, and peer-reviewed) will explore the institutions and customs around warfare and peacemaking among matricultural societies, including cultures where women go to war themselves (whether as warriors, soldiers, spies, or in another way), where women are central to peace-building traditions, where women exercise military authority over men (formally or informally), or exercise the political authority to declare war (and end it). We take it as a given that some cultures have a weakly defined matricultural system, while others, who have strong matricultural systems, express this strength in several ways – one of which is through designating women as authorities over or active participants in violent conflict or as builders of peace.” ref

Matrilineality in Mythology?

Certain ancient myths have been argued to expose ancient traces of matrilineal customs that existed before historical records. The ancient historian Herodotus is cited by Robert Graves in his translations of Greek myths as attesting that the Lycians of their times “still reckoned” by matrilineal descent, or were matrilineal, as were the Carians. In Greek mythology, while the royal function was a male privilege, power devolution often came through women, and the future king inherited power through marrying the queen heiress. This is illustrated in the Homeric myths where all the noblest men in Greece vie for the hand of Helen (and the throne of Sparta), as well as the Oedipian cycle where Oedipus weds the recently widowed queen at the same time he assumes the Theban kingship.” ref

“This trend also is evident in many Celtic myths, such as the (Welsh) mabinogi stories of Culhwch and Olwen, or the (Irish) Ulster Cycle, most notably the key facts to the Cúchulainn cycle that Cúchulainn gets his final secret training with a warrior woman, Scáthach, and becomes the lover of her daughter; and the root of the Táin Bó Cuailnge, that while Ailill may wear the crown of Connacht, it is his wife Medb who is the real power, and she needs to affirm her equality to her husband by owning chattels as great as he does. The Picts are widely cited as being matrilineal. A number of other Breton stories also illustrate the motif. Even the King Arthur legends have been interpreted in this light by some. For example, the Round Table, both as a piece of furniture and as concerns the majority of knights belonging to it, was a gift to Arthur from Guinevere‘s father Leodegrance. Arguments also have been made that matrilineality lay behind various fairy tale plots which may contain the vestiges of folk traditions not recorded.” ref

“For instance, the widespread motif of a father who wishes to marry his own daughter—appearing in such tales as Allerleirauh, Donkeyskin, The King who Wished to Marry His Daughter, and The She-Bear—has been explained as his wish to prolong his reign, which he would lose after his wife’s death to his son-in-law. More mildly, the hostility of kings to their daughter’s suitors is explained by hostility to their successors. In such tales as The Three May Peaches, Jesper Who Herded the Hares, or The Griffin, kings set dangerous tasks in an attempt to prevent the marriage. Fairy tales with hostility between the mother-in-law and the heroine—such as Mary’s Child, The Six Swans, and Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty—have been held to reflect a transition between a matrilineal society, where a man’s loyalty was to his mother, and a patrilineal one, where his wife could claim it, although this interpretation is predicated on such a transition being a normal development in societies.” ref

The Evolution of Matrilineal Kinship Organization

Matrilineal vs. Patrilineal Descents

Matrilineal and patrilineal descent are two different ways of tracing kinship, lineage, or membership in a clan or family group. In matrilineal descent, kinship is determined based on a line of female relatives traced back to a particular female ancestor. In patrilineal descent, kinship is determined based on a line of male relatives traced back to a particular male ancestor. The patrilineal definition is a system that determines kinship based on a male lines of relatives. A patrilineal society is a society that bases lineage or ancestry off a male line, rather than a female line.” ref

Matrilineal descent and patrilineal descent are two different ways of tracing ancestry or creating lineage groups. A lineage group is a group of people who trace their descent to a common ancestor. A lineage group is another word for a clan, a group of people who consider themselves descended from a common ancestor. A clan or a lineage group is similar to a family, but any individual may belong to more than one clan or lineage group, through birth or marriage. People often use the phrase ”my family” to refer to the total list of clans to which they belong.ref

What is the difference between matrilineal vs. patrilineal descent? Matrilineal descent traces a lineage through women to a founding female relative or ancestor. Conversely, patrilineal descent traces a lineage through men, to a founding male relative or ancestor. Systems of tracing descent are important because they might determine certain factors in an individual’s life, such as their surname, social status, property inheritances, and residence patterns.ref

9 Matrilineal society In The World

You Can See a Video here: Matrilineal society

“Many animals, such as the African elephant, live in a matriarchal society. African elephants live in herds, with women or matriarchs in charge of the herds. The herd’s top matriarch leads with confidence and the ability to detect and alert others to danger while working as a unit to raise their young. Matriarchies can also be found in other animal groups, such as bonobos, lemurs, meerkats, and ants. Human societies, like the African elephant, are led by women. These ladies are fierce, loyal, intelligent, and simply badass. Here are ten female-led societies. And a woman can accomplish anything.” ref 


“Minangkabau is the world’s largest matriarchal society, located in the eastern islands above Australia. This culture, in which women are respected and even favored, is home to over four million people. Having a daughter is frowned upon in some cultures, but not here. Because women are the leaders of Minangkabau society, the family name is passed down through the women, and property is passed down from mothers to daughters. Grooms live in the bride’s home after marriage, and despite the impression that women control everything, men and women contribute equally in Minangkabau society. Boys leave their mother’s homes at the age of ten to live in men’s quarters and learn practical skills and religious teachings. Men hold religious and political positions with the consent of women. While the clan chieftain is always male, women assist in their selection and can remove them from office if they are provoked.” ref 


“The Bribri tribe, located just off the coast of South America, is a small indigenous group known for growing all of its food, medicine, and construction materials. The clans of this self-sufficient society are made up of extended families. Every person belongs to a clan, which is determined by the mother and female lineage. Because the father’s clan does not raise boys, men are only allowed to raise their sister’s children. Because only women can inherit the land, growing and harvesting their food becomes more sustainable and achievable. Agroforestry encourages foraging and food gathering from natural flora and fauna sources. Providing necessities for their families is a source of pride and leadership shared by the women. Women are the only individuals who can prepare a drink for sacred religious rituals or momentous life events such as marriage, funerals, or even the announcement of a pregnancy as a sacred honor.” ref 


“The Khasi people are one of India’s last matriarchal societies. Khasi children are given the surname of their mother. Women go to the market to work and sell their wares, while men stay at home and raise their children. If a husband works, he may even work in another city, splitting the family’s income but increasing his earning potential. When a couple marries, the groom moves into the home of the bride’s parents. In addition, the groom will adopt the bride’s surname. When children arrive, the youngest female will inherit the most money and the family home, but this inheritance comes with the responsibility of caring for their aging parents. Men inherit less than women, but if he has any sisters, the women inherit more. Although the Khasi society is more equal in terms of responsibility sharing than others, women continue to hold the majority of power. The people follow Indian government laws, and many Khasis practice Christianity, with some families incorporating men as family patriarchs, as seen in Western culture.” ref 


“Mosuo people are a small community in China’s southern provinces. The house matriarch has the final say in their culture. Lineage is traced through the women of the family, as in many matriarchal cultures. When a child is born, they become a member of their mother’s family and live in a multigenerational home with blood relatives. Walking marriages are practiced by Mosuo people, in which a couple does not live together but enjoys each other’s company at night or when it is convenient. While many walking marriages are long-term, if both parties are interested, women can entertain other men. Because lineage is passed down through the mother, there is no such thing as an illegitimate child. Because children are always raised by their mothers, the father has a minor role in their upbringing. If the land is to be passed down through the family, it must go through the maternal line. After their mother, the oldest daughter will become the next matriarch, and even adopted daughters can become matriarchs.” ref 


“Nagovisi’s people live on a large tropical island near Indonesia and Australia. Food production is the focus of life on the island, much like it is for the Bribri of Costa Rica, and women take the lead in successfully carrying out such a massive undertaking. Every adult woman has the right to farm on her ancestor’s land, which is passed down to her daughter. The tribe’s husbands and men do manual labor such as clearing the land, farming and harvesting the actual goods. Though marriage is not widely practiced, a couple is considered married if they are seen together, sleep together, and the man helps them with their land.” ref 


“The Akan people, who live along the Gulf of Guinea, are another matrilineal society led by women. Because their culture is based on maternal ancestry, positions in the financial and political world are assigned based on the mother’s lineage. In Akan culture, men play an important role in the lives of their sisters’ children but not their own. Men hold positions of power, but these positions are inherited and passed down through their mothers, sisters, and daughters. Men are expected to support their family and female relatives and typically associate with female family members. While men play a more traditional family role, women are free to associate with all group members and seek to care for the entire clan.” ref 

Umoja Usao.

“The Umoja Usao is one of the newer female-led societies. This all-female village, founded in 1990, began as a refuge for women in abusive relationships and girls fleeing forced marriages or genital mutilation. Women previously belonged to the Samburu tribe, where women were considered the property of their husbands and played subordinate roles in society. If a woman was raped, her husband would expel her from the house for being unclean, leaving her with nowhere to go; Umoja Usao became a haven for runaway and homeless women. Women who fled their violent homes came to Umoja, often bringing their children with them, creating a haven. Umoja means “unity” in Swahili, and the Umoja people work to educate others about their rights. To support their village financially, they host a primary school, make jewelry, and entertain tourists. Men are not permitted to live in the village but are permitted to visit. The only men permitted to spend the night in the village are those who grew up there.” ref 

Meghalaya Garo.

“The Garo, India’s second-largest tribe, is another tribe in the hills. The Garos, like their Khasi neighbors, pass property and political succession from mother to daughter. The youngest daughter usually inherits her mother’s property. Men govern society and manage property in a matrilineal but not matriarchal society. Garo is also a feminist, which is why the properties are owned by women but governed by men. The marriage of a daughter is frequently arranged, and the husband moves into the wife’s home. Interestingly, despite the marriage being arranged, the union can be dissolved without stigma.” ref 


“The Nubians are inextricably linked to the Nile River. For hundreds of years, the Nubians cultivated land along stretches of the Nile River, feeding their families with agriculture and animal products produced by the river’s rich valley and soil. Following the construction of dams in the twentieth century, the Nubian people were forced to relocate and seek work elsewhere. While the men went out to find work, the women stayed at home to raise their children, care for the elderly, and cultivate what land was available. Due to the harsh environmental and working conditions as laborers or mercenaries, the men would frequently not return home. Art, storytelling, music, and even Egyptian royalty are all part of the Nubian culture. While many Nubians have converted to Christianity, their culture remains a matrilineal society dominated by fierce, unyielding women.” ref 

Strong Mothers, Weak Wives?

“Some of the most widely studied cases of societies in which females enjoy relatively high prestige and power are matrilineal-matrilocal horticultural societies. These societies count descent mainly through the mothers line, and husbands live on lands owned by the matrilineage.” ref

Implicit Bias

“Research on “implicit bias” suggests that people can act on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes without intending to do so.” ref 

Implicit Stereotype

“An Implicit stereotype is the pre-reflective attribution of particular qualities by an individual to a member of some social out group. Recent studies have determined that “implicit bias” towards those of the opposite gender may be even more influential than racial implicit bias. Implicit stereotypes are thought to be shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender. Explicit stereotypes, by contrast, are consciously endorsed, intentional, and sometimes controllable thoughts and beliefs.” ref  

Race, Perception, and Implicit Bias

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Pre-historic Woman Chief/Rulers?

“Spain’s entombed ‘Ivory Lady’, dating back nearly 5,000 years, reveals leadership role of women in antiquity, a finding that indicates the leadership role women played in this ancient society that predated the pyramids of Egypt – and perhaps elsewhere.” ref

Kubaba (Sumerian𒆬𒀭𒁀𒌑kug-Dba-u₂) was a legendary Mesopotamian queen who according to the Sumerian King List ruled over Kish for a hundred years before the rise of the dynasty of Akshak. It is typically assumed that she was not a historical figure. Due to spatial and temporal differences, a connection between the names of Kubaba and the similarly named goddess Kubaba cannot be established. Gonzalo Rubio stresses that the name of the latter has no clear etymology and cannot be interpreted as originating in either Sumerian or any of the Semitic languages. It was written in cuneiform as dku-ba-ba or dku-pa-pa.” ref

“Arguments have been made that Kubaba might have been a historical ruler, though this view is not regarded as plausible today. Earliest sources mentioning her were only composed centuries after she supposedly lived. Assyriologists consider her a “legendary” or “mythical” ruler. As noted by Gianni Marchesi, names starting with the element ku- are not attested before the Ur III period, and placing a ruler bearing one of them in the Early Dynastic period constitutes an anachronism. Claus Wilcke points out that in the Sumerian King List Kubaba’s reign is supernaturally long, lasting 100 years. It has been pointed out that the SKL does not accurately reflect Early Dynastic history, as indicated by the complete omission of Lagash, which was a major political power, especially during the reign of Eannatum. Kubaba is also not mentioned in any of the discovered inscriptions of historical Early Dynastic rulers. Martel Stol concludes that texts mentioning Kubaba should only be interpreted as speculation about traditional folk stories.” ref

“Kubaba is mentioned in the Sumerian King List, though due to her gender her inclusion is considered unusual. While some modern authors refer to her as a queen, the Sumerian title applied to her is lugal (“king”), which had no feminine counterpart. A recension from Ur instead states that there was no king while Kubaba reigned. She is the only ruler from the third dynasty of Kish listed. The list describes her as an innkeeper (LÚ.KAŠ.TIN-na), credits her with “strengthening the foundation of Kish” and attributes a 100 years long reign culminating in a temporary transfer of power from Kish to Akshak before it was regained by Puzur-Suen. The latter ruler is said to be Kubaba’s son, which makes her the grandmother of Ur-Zababa, a legendary opponent of historical Sargon of Akkad; Piotr Steinkeller points out that the historicity of these rulers of Kish and the related Sargon tradition is contradicted by an inscription which mentions the city was sacked by Enshakushanna of Uruk, who might have been a contemporary of Sargon, and its king at the time, who was taken as a captive, was named Enbi-Eštar.” ref 

“The oldest known copies of the SKL date back to the Ur III period. While names of some rulers, for example Mesannepada, were likely sourced from votive inscriptions, others, like Bazi and Zizi, might have been ordinary given names copied from lexical lists, such as the Early Dynastic so-called Names and Professions List, or outright inventions. Early versions of the SKL do not contain anecdotes about individual rulers, including Kubaba, which indicates they most likely were a later invention. The compilers used few, if any, historical accounts. Accordingly, Kubaba’s background is treated as fantastical, and has been compared to other unusual stories or members of various professions becoming kings in the same composition, including the fuller Susuda, the sailor Mamagal, and the stone worker Nanniya.” ref

“In the so-called Weidner Chronicle, which is considered a derivative of the Sumerian King List, the order of Kubaba’s dynasty and the dynasty of Akshak is switched around, with Puzur-Niraḫ [pl] reigning before her rather than later on. The section dedicated to her is poorly preserved. It relays how Kubaba was granted kingship by Marduk after he delivered an offering of fish to his temple Esagil. The composition is focused on conveying the message that kings who neglected to worship Marduk were rendered powerless, and to that end employs a number of anachronisms, this account being one of them. It is known from Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian copies, and was originally composed no earlier than around 1100 BCE.ref

“References to Kubaba are also known from texts focused on omens linked to liver divination. As noted by Beate Pongratz-Leisten, references to legendary rulers such as her, Gušur, Etana or Gilgamesh in works belonging to this category were meant to establish them as paradigmatic models of kingship. In one of the omen compendiums, the “omen of Kubaba” is the birth of an androgynous being with both a penis and a vagina. It is possible the birth of a sheep rather than a human is meant. Such an event is said to foretell that “the country of the king shall be ruined.” Marten Stol argues that its negative character reflected a negative perception of a woman fulfilling a typically masculine role, that of a ruler. Other omens preserve a tradition according to which Kubaba was a warrior.ref

“The Sumerian King List is unsurprisingly filled with the names of men: Alulim, Hadanish and Zizi. But alongside its male monarchs, the world’s first known civilization also produced the first known female ruler: Kubaba (also Kug-Bau or Ku-Baba) who brewed and sold beer in the ancient city of Kish in Mesopotamia. The story of powerful ancient women often centers on Egypt, where Sobekneferu,  Hatshepsut and Cleopatra reigned as pharaohs. But Kubaba ascended to the throne of Sumer long before them all, likely around 2400 BCE. To be clear, she was a true monarch — a queen regnant who ruled in her own right, rather than a queen consort, who is simply the wife of the monarch. The King List refers to her as lugal (king), not as eresh (queen consort). She is the only woman to bear this title.” ref

“The little we know about her comes from this list, a chronicle of rulers that frequently blurs the line between history and legend. Enmen-lu-ana, for example, allegedly ruled for 43,200 years. Kubaba’s reign is more plausible, but she’s still credited with an unlikely 100 years at Sumer’s helm. Her epithet is longer than most, which suggests that ancient scribes found her especially noteworthy. Alongside her name it reads, “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” ref

“In the Sumerian tradition, kingship isn’t tied to a permanent capital. It shifts from place to place, bestowed by the gods upon one city and then, at their pleasure, transferred elsewhere after a few generations. Before Kubaba, the lone member of the Third Dynasty of Kish, the kingship rested in Mari for more than a century. After Kubaba it moved to Akshak. But Kish returned to prominence once more with Kubaba’s son, Puzer-Suen, and grandson, Ur-Zababa, who served as the first two rulers in the city’s fourth and final dynasty. (However, some versions of the King List do not show an intervening Akshak Dynasty between Kubaba and her descendants.)” ref

How Kubaba Rose to Power

“One source claims, vaguely, that Kubaba “seized” the throne. A more detailed account of her rise to power comes from the Weidner Chronicle, which isn’t a proper history so much as “a blatant piece of propaganda,” in the words of Canadian Assyriologist Albert Kirk Grayson. Grayson has written that “the whole point of the narrative is to illustrate that those rulers who neglected or insulted [the god] Marduk or failed to provide fish offerings for the temple Esagil had an unhappy end.” ref

“According to the text, Kubaba feeds a fisherman and persuades him to offer his catch to Esagila. Marduk’s favor in response comes as no surprise: “Let it be so,” the god said, and with that, he “entrusted to Kubaba, the tavern-keeper, sovereignty over the whole world.” That’s right — her campaign expenses for world domination amounted to a loaf of bread and some water.” ref

“Coincidentally, bread and water (the ingredients of Sumerian beer) were the foundation of her pre-monarch life as well. It’s tempting to imagine Kubaba’s path from lowly brewer to lofty queen as a rags-to-riches tale, but female tavern-keepers were common and well-respected. Sometimes they were members of the nobility. Considering the people of Sumer cherished beer as a gift from the gods, it may be more accurate to think of her as “a successful business woman with divine associations herself,” writes theologist Carole R. Fontaine.ref

“Whatever made her fit to rule, it clearly made her unique among the women of Sumer. In an empire that endured well over 1,000 years, she was the only queen to reign without a man. But it seems later generations rejected this transgression of gender roles, associating it with other supposedly abnormal blends of masculine and feminine. The birth of an intersex child became the foreboding “omen of Ku-Bau who ruled the land,” with the consequence that “the land of the king will become waste.” As Assryiologist Rivkah Harris writes, “sitting on the throne was behavior unbecoming for a woman, just as a bearded woman was an unnatural phenomenon.” ref

“Over time, it seems the human Kubaba faded from memory and the divine associations took precedence. She was apparently deified in the next millennium, during the Hittite period, as the protector of the Syrian city of Carchemish. However, the relationship between the deity and the historical person is unclear, especially because Baba was the name of a Sumerian god, and the prefix “ku” meant “holy,” according to the American archaeologist William F. Albright. If the goddess does stem from the real-life queen, though, her legacy outlasted the fall of Sumer, and even of the Hittites. After evolving into the Greco-Roman Cybele, or Cybebe, this “great mother of the gods” still boasted a cult of worshippers as late as 3,000 years after her death — not bad for a barmaid.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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12 Powerful Women that Held the Position of Rulers/Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

Here are the names and possible dates for these women who may have been rulers. 1. Queen Meryt-Neith ruled 5,020 years ago. 2. Queen Nimaathap (Third Dynasty, 4,706–4,633 years ago). 3. Queen Khentkaus (Fourth Dynasty, 4,633–4,514 years ago). 4. Queen Ankhesenpepi II (Sixth Dynasty, 4,385–4,201 years ago). 5. Princess Neithhikret (Died 4,201 years ago). 6. Princess-Queen Sobeknefru (Died 3,822 years ago). 7. Queen Ashotep (3,580–3,550 years ago). 8. Princess-Queen Ahmose-Nefertari (3,582–3,515 years ago). 9. Queen Hatshepsut (3,527–3,478 years ago). 10. Queen Nefertiti (3,390–3,350 years ago). 11. Queen Tausret (Died 3,209 years ago). 12. Queen Cleopatra I (2,224–2,196 years ago).

Queen Regnant

This is a list of current and former female monarchs regardless of title, including queens regnant, empresses regnant, pharaohs and monarchs by other titles (grand duchess, princess, etc.). Consorts, such queens consort (i.e. spouses of male monarchs) are not included, see list of current consorts of sovereigns. Female regents are not included, see list of regents. Various female rulers who were referred to with the title “Chieftainess.”

queen regnant (pl.: queens regnant) is a female monarch, equivalent in rank, title and position to a king. She reigns suo jure (in her own right) over a realm known as a kingdom; as opposed to a queen consort, who is married to a reigning king; or a queen regent, who is the guardian of a child monarch and rules pro tempore in the child’s stead or instead of her husband who is absent from the realm, be it de jure in sharing power or de facto in ruling alone. A queen regnant is sometimes called a woman king. A princess regnant is a female monarch who reigns suo jure over a principality; an empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns suo jure over an empire.” ref

“A queen regnant possesses and exercises sovereign powers, whereas a queen consort or queen regent shares her spouse’s or child’s rank and titles but does not share the sovereignty of her spouse or child. The husband of a queen regnant traditionally does not share the queen regnant’s rank, title, or sovereignty. However, the concept of a king consort or prince consort is not unheard of in both contemporary and historical periods. The oldest attested queen regnant was the Pharaoh Sobekneferu from the 18th/17th century BCE.ref

“In Ancient Africa, Ancient Persia, Asian and Pacific cultures, and in some European countries, female monarchs have been given the title king or its equivalent, such as pharaoh, when gender is irrelevant to the office, or else have used the masculine form of the word in languages that have grammatical gender as a way to classify nouns. The Roman Empress Irene of Athens sometimes titled herself basileus (βασιλεύς), ’emperor’, rather than basilissa (βασίλισσα), ’empress’, and Mary of Hungary was crowned as Rex Hungariae, King of Hungary in 1382. Among the Davidic Monarchs of the Kingdom of Judah, there is mentioned a single queen regnant, Athaliah, though the Hebrew Bible regards her negatively as a usurper. The much later Hasmonean Queen Salome Alexandra (Shlom Tzion) was highly popular.ref

“Accession of a queen regnant occurs as a nation’s order of succession permits. Methods of succession to kingdoms, tribal chiefships, and such include nomination (the reigning monarch or a council names an heir), primogeniture (in which the children of a monarch or chief have preference in order of birth from eldest to youngest), and ultimogeniture (in which the children have preference in the reverse order of birth from youngest to eldest). The scope of succession may be matrilineal, patrilineal, or both; or, rarely, open to general election when necessary. The right of succession may be open to men and women, or limited to men only or to women only.ref

“The most typical succession in European monarchies from the Late Middle Ages until the late 20th century was male-preference primogeniture: the order of succession ranked the sons of the monarch in order of their birth, followed by the daughters. Historically, many realms, like France, Holy Roman Empire forbade succession by women or through a female line in accordance with the Salic law, and nine countries still do, such countries being Japan, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei, Liechtenstein, Bhutan. No queen regnant ever ruled France, for example. Only one woman, Maria Theresa, ruled Austria. As noted in the list below of widely-known ruling queens, many reigned in European monarchies.ref

“In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom amended their laws of succession to absolute primogeniture (in which the children of a monarch or chief have preference in order of birth from eldest to youngest regardless of gender). In some cases, the change does not take effect during the lifetimes of people already in the line of succession at the time the law was passed. In 2011, the United Kingdom and the 15 other Commonwealth realms agreed to remove the rule of male-preference primogeniture. Once the necessary legislation was passed, this means that had Prince William had a daughter first, a younger son would not have become heir apparent.ref

“In 2015, Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state in world history. She was the longest currently serving head of state and longest currently reigning monarch from 2016 until her death on 8 September 2022. Since the abdication of Margrethe II of Denmark on 14 January 2024, there are currently no female sovereigns in the world, for the first time in over 200 years. Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant (monarchy of Belgium), and Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange (monarchy of the Netherlands) are currently heiresses apparent to the thrones of their respective monarchies, along with Leonor, Princess of Asturias, who is the heiress presumptive of the throne of Spain. All four are therefore liable to become queens regnant following the end of the current reigns.ref

“Because there is no feminine equivalent to king and emperor in East Asian languages, different titles are used for female monarchs and female consorts. The titles of female monarchs in East Asia are translated directly as “female king” or “female emperor” and the titles of female consorts in East Asia are translated directly as “king’s consort” or “emperor’s consort”. So, the titles of female monarchs in East Asia are the same as those of male monarchs, just indicating that they are women.ref

“In China, the term nǚhuángdì (女皇帝, “female emperor”), abbreviated as nǚhuáng (女皇), has been used for three empresses regnant to assume the title of huángdì: Daughter of Xiaoming, Chen Shuozhen and Wu Zetian, because the title huánghòu (皇后, “emperor’s consort”) means only an empress consort. The term nǚwáng (女王, “female king”) was also used for queens regnant of Eastern Kingdom of Women [zh] of the tribe Sumpa and it is different from the title wánghòu (王后, “king’s consort”) which means a queen consort.ref

“In Korea, the term yeowang (Hangul: 여왕, Hanja: 女王, “female king”) was developed to refer to three queens regnant of Silla: Seondeok, Jindeok and Jinseong, because the title wangbi (Hangul: 왕비, Hanja: 王妃, “king’s consort”) means only a queen consort. The term yeoje (Hangul: 여제, Hanja: 女帝, “female emperor”) was also used for Yi Hae-won, the titular empress regnant of Korean Empire because the title hwanghu (Hangul: 황후, Hanja: 皇后, “emperor’s consort”) means only an empress consort.ref

“Although Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia, it used the royal titles of East Asia. The title as a queen regnant of Trưng Trắc was Nữ vương (chữ Hán: 女王, “female king”) and the title as an empress regnant of Lý Chiêu Hoàng was Nữ hoàng (chữ Hán: 女皇, “female emperor”), and they are different from the titles of female consorts. In Japan, the title used for two queens regnant of Yamatai: Himiko and Toyo was joō (女王, “female king”) and it is different from the title ōhi (王妃, “king’s consort”) which means only a queen consort. The term jotei (女帝, “female emperor”) or josei tennō (女性天皇, “female heavenly emperor”) has been used for empresses regnant of Japan because the title kōgō (皇后, “emperor’s consort”) means only an empress consort.ref

“Although the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan is currently barred to women following the Imperial Household Law (Emperor Naruhito has a daughter, Princess Aiko. She cannot accede to the Chrysanthemum Throne), this has not always been the case; throughout Japanese history, there have been eight empresses regnant. The Japanese imperial succession debate became a significant political issue during the early 2000s, as no male children had been born to the Imperial House of Japan since 1965. Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi pledged to present parliament with a bill to allow women to ascend the Imperial Throne, but he withdrew this after the birth of Prince Hisahito (Naruhito’s nephew) in 2006.ref 

Female Monarchs

“The first verified female monarch of Egypt is Sobekneferu of the Twelfth dynasty. However, queens from earlier periods such as NeithhotepMerneith and Khentkaus I held powerful positions and may have ruled Egypt in their own right, but the archaeological evidence is ambiguous. Ptolemy II instituted a new practice of brother-sister marriage when he married his full sister, Arsinoe II. They became, in effect, co-rulers, and both took the epithet Philadelphus (“Brother-Loving” and “Sister-Loving”). Because of this custom many of the kings ruled jointly with their spouses, who were also of the royal house. The only Ptolemaic Queens who ruled alone were Cleopatra IIBerenice III and Berenice IVCleopatra VI did co-rule, but it was with another female, Berenice IV. Cleopatra VII officially co-ruled with Ptolemy XIII Theos PhilopatorPtolemy XIV, and Ptolemy XV, but effectively, she ruled Egypt alone. Zenobia took Roman Egypt by Palmyrene invasion and was declared Queen of Egypt.” ref

Sobekneferu Mid-18th century BCE Ruled: 3 years, Hatshepsut 1479–1458 BCE Ruled: 21 years, Neferneferuaten 1334–1332 BCE Ruled: 3 years, and Twosret 1191–1189 BCE Ruled: 2 years.” ref

Kandake was a title for queens, queen mothers, and queens consort in Nubia, but ruling kandakes included:

Nahirqo Mid-2nd century BCE, Amanirenas End of 1st century BCE–Beginning of 1st century CE, Amanishakheto Early 1st century CE, Nawidemak First half of the 1st century CE, Amanitore Mid-1st century CE, Amanikhatashan Mid-2nd century CE, Amanikhalika Second half of the 2nd century CE, Patrapeamani First half of the 4th century CE, and Amanipilade Mid-4th century CE.” ref

Algeria Tin Hinan 4th century CE

Algeria Dihya 668–703 CE Ruled: 35 years

Canary Islands (off North Africa) Inés Peraza 1452–1477 CE Ruled: 25 years

Spain Isabella I of Castile 1479–1504 CE Ruled: 25 years

Spain Joanna of Castile 1504–1555  Ruled: 51 years

Spain Isabella II of Spain 1833–1868 Ruled: 35 years” ref

Female Monarchs of the Americas





  • Azcasuch (reigned in the late 15th–early 16th century CE)

Toltec Empire





    El Perú

    La Florida




    Female Monarchs of Asia

    Wu Zetian (Chinese武則天) – Empress regnant of China, ruling from 690 to 705 CE. She was the only orthodox reigning empress in the history of China. Although Wu Zetian is the only undisputed empress regnant recognized in orthodox Chinese historiography, there are two other documented cases of a woman holding the title of “Empress regnant” in Chinese history:

    Eastern Kingdom of Women [zh]

    “In Tibet, there was Nüguo (Chinese: 女國, lit. “Kingdom of Women”), also known as Dong nüguo (Chinese: 東女國, lit. “Eastern Kingdom of Women”), related to the tribe Sumpa. Several queens regnant of there were recorded in Chinese history books.” ref



    Queen Himiko of Yamatai 180–247/248 CE 68 years

    Queen Toyo of Yamatai 248–unknown 

    Empress Suiko 593–628 CE Ruled: 35 years

    Empress Kōgyoku 642–645 CE Ruled: 3 years

    Empress Saimei 655–661 CE Ruled: 6 years

    Empress Jitō 686–697 CE Ruled: 9 years

    Empress Genmei 707–715 CE Ruled: 8 years

    Empress Genshō 715–724 CE Ruled: 9 years

    Empress Kōken 749–758 CE Ruled: 9 years

    Empress Shōtoku 764–770 CE Ruled: 6 years

    Empress Meishō 1629–1643 CE Ruled: 14 years

    Empress Go-Sakuramachi 1762–1771 CE Ruled: 9 years ref




    “There were many chiefdoms on Timor, but according to the hierarchy among the Timorese domains, the ruler of Sonbai of West Timor, the ruler of Wehali of Central Timor, and the ruler of Likusaen (today: Liquiçá) of East Timor were three paramount rulers of Timor.” ref

    Dominican Republic



    Ancient Hawaii

    Kingdom of Hawaii



    South Africa


    “Very few women ever rose to power in the kingdoms and empires of the ancient world. The handful who did, in the Near East, Asia, and Europe, fought their way through significant barriers in often violent times. These women first accessed their power through men—fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. But they stayed in power, sometimes for decades, through a mix of ambition, intelligence, political savvy, generosity, guile, and, in some cases, a ruthless and bloody drive for power.” ref

    “In every single case, it’s a crisis that brings them to the throne. It’s a lack of men, they are there as placeholders or stopgaps, and they usually have a bad end,” says Egyptologist and archaeologist Kara Cooney, who teaches about female rulers in antiquity at the University of California, Los Angeles.  When their reigns ended, they sometimes died violently. Their lives and achievements were often scrubbed from collective memory by subsequent male rulers eager to take credit and reinforce prevailing patriarchal norms.” ref

    “In each case, the woman is swept aside. In each, case the woman has no genetic legacy. And in each case, her ambition is judged as self-serving and dangerous,” says Cooney, author of The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. And for millennia thereafter, their stories were chronicled largely by male historians. Those narratives, sometimes framed around the women’s violent or promiscuous ways (think Egypt’s Cleopatra or Phoenician royal Jezebel), became “cautionary tales” that “have invaded our cultural psyche,” says Cooney, preventing many from seeing a more complete picture of their real lives and accomplishments.” ref

    “Here is an ancient female ruler who overcame obstacles to help shape the history of her time. Boudica of Ancient Britain, Queen Boudica of the ancient British Iceni tribe became a leader for her people and a legendary figure and cultural symbol through revolt, violence, and war.  When her husband Prasutagus died in the year CE 60, the Roman Empire moved in to annex the Iceni Kingdom. During the takeover, Romans publicly flogged the queen and raped her two daughters.  Author David Furlow said the Romans mistakenly believed the violence would make her submit. “It had the opposite effect. It made her strong beyond belief. It gave her power to wage a crusade of fire and steel.” ref

    “Boudica, who had been trained as a warrior, rallied the Iceni and other British tribe. Together, they attacked the three main Roman population centers, including Londonium (roughly present-day London) and defeated a detachment of the Roman legion. Her followers killed between 70,000 and 80,000 Romans and pro-Roman Britons and came close to success in the uprising until a regrouped Roman army defeated the tribes decisively in a third and final battle. Boudica died by suicide or illness soon after. The short-lived revolt in CE 61 would make her a national heroine and a cultural symbol 15 centuries later during the English Renaissance.” ref

    “Queen Cartimandua of the Brigante: This ancient woman used her shrewd negotiating skills to remain in power and rule her people. The Brigantes from the northern part of Britain was a community ruled by Queen Cartimandua. Her leadership was most significant from circa 43 CE after she had bargained with the emperor of Rome at the time, Claudius,  in order to remain in power. Her clever and strategic negotiating skills enabled her to enlist the assistance of the Romans in 48 CE. They helped her to hold her position as queen when several anti-Roman factions attempted to rebel against her leadership.” ref

    Queen Cartimandua again reinforced her reign ca 51 CE when she had her army arrest the British resistance leader Caratacus. She handed him over to the Romans, thereby reaffirming her treaty with Rome and strengthening support from the Roman troops. By continuously strengthening her alliance with the Romans the queen solidified her rule over the region and its population. Even her husband Venutius, who was supposed to be a joint ruler with her, attempted to depose her as queen between 52 CE to 57 CE. His attempts failed because the Romans defeated him in order to guarantee that Cartimandua remain in power. It is remarkable for a woman in antiquity to have garnered such support from the great Roman empire, even being favored above a man in such a prominent political role.” ref

    “The queen was eventually overthrown by Venutius after they divorced. He plotted against her for a third time, and this time he succeeded. Her loss was largely due to the political turmoil and lack of leadership back in Rome, which had transitioned through four emperors in a brief period. The Romans eventually dethroned Venutius in 71 CE. Queen Cartimandua is a true example of a woman in antiquity who rose above the male gender to rule by masterfully gaining the support of the Romans who kept her in the position of queen. Silver coins which were minted during the time of Cartimandua are prominent among artifacts from this time.” ref

    “When was the veneration of women, symbolized by ancient mother goddesses, replaced by patriarchal societies? We will never know. But throughout history, some ancient women have nonetheless broken their boundaries. Throughout history women have played subservient roles to their male counterparts in most societies. When did the male role of protector change to total male dominance one wonders? Whatever the case, several ancient women were crucial protagonists in various critical and dominant spheres in their communities and nations. Their achievements were accomplished despite the disparity in gender roles, and it is noteworthy to mention that their accomplishments were made due to their unique abilities to think and act outside their boundaries. They ingeniously proved themselves more capable than the men of their times, who were automatically regarded as superior simply based on their gender.” ref

    “On the back of their elephants, two Vietnamese warrior-sisters led a momentous rebellion at a time when it was unheard of for ancient women to do so. Vietnam had been under Chinese rule for centuries and several small, somewhat insignificant insurrection attempts by Vietnamese men had so far been unsuccessful. In 39 CE however, after the murder of her husband who was plotting against the Chinese, Trung Trac and her younger sister Trung Nhi successfully led an army against them. They were so determined that within a year they controlled sixty-five northern strongholds in the country. In the years to follow, between 39 CE to 43 CE, the sisters were so successful that they managed to create an independent state.ref

    “The sisters were at the forefront of the movement toward Vietnam’s independence and they led the way for other women to follow their heroic and triumphant efforts. Without supplies and the support of more troops, the sisters took their own lives rather than concede to the far mightier Chinese forces in 43 CE. The sisters have been honored for their heroism, and they have a road named after them in former Saigon (Known as Ho Chi Minh City), as well as a pagoda in Hanoi and one at Hat Mon. Their accomplishments are often praised by teachers and scholars across Asia, especially in places where culture remains very much male-dominated to this day.” ref

    “Following the defeat of the Trung sisters and the resumption of Chinese assimilation of the Vietnamese population, another ancient woman rose to make a name for herself in the fight for independence. Ba Trieu, also known as the Vietnamese Joan of Arc, lived with her brother Trieu Quoc Dat, a powerful leader in the Cuu Chan District. She lost both her parents when she was only a young girl. Writings about this ancient woman portray her as having been physically resilient with a fighting spirit. She was a forward thinker in the third century.ref 

    “At nineteen she was advised by her brother to marry, to which she defiantly retorted that she would be better off serving her people as a warrior for independence against the tight controls of the Chinese who had oppressed the Vietnamese for centuries. I only want to ride the wind and walk the waves, slay the big whales of the eastern sea, clean up frontiers and save the people from drowning. Why should I imitate others, bend my back to men, stoop over and be a slave.”
    (Warriors, Poets, and Radio Hosts, 
    Glenn Macdonald). She added: “Why resign myself to menial housework?” These words are ascribed to Ba Trieu when her family tried to talk her out of battle.” ref

    “At some point during the third century, Ba Trieu’s brother was planning to lead an insurrection against the Chinese occupiers in the region. Ba Trieu, only 19 years of age at the time, gathered an army of around one thousand fighters whom she trained and subsequently led into battle to assist her brother’s army. The rebellion was successful, and the army was so impressed with the courage and conviction Ba Trieu had displayed as well as her astute leadership skills, that they declared her their leader. At the age of 23 Ba Trieu took her own life rather than be captured when she was defeated in battle. Today, she is a renowned national hero of Vietnam and a revered example to the country’s women of a fighter against oppression.ref

    A Few Great Warrior Women of the Ancient World 

    Fu Hao (d. c. 1200 BCE)

    “Lady Fu Hao was one of the 60 wives of Emperor Wu Ding of ancient China’s Shang Dynasty. She broke with tradition by serving as both a high priestess and military general. According to inscriptions on oracle bones from the time, Fu Hao led many military campaigns, commanded 13,000 soldiers and was considered the most powerful military leaders of her time. The many weapons found in her tomb support Fu Hao’s status as a great female warrior. She also controlled her own fiefdom on the outskirts of her husband’s empire. Her tomb was unearthed in 1976 and can be visited by the public.” ref

    Tomyris (fl. 530 BCE)

    “Tomyris was the Queen of the Massaegetae, a confederation of nomadic tribes that lived east of the Caspian Sea. She ruled during the 6th century BCE and is most famous for the vengeful war she waged against the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Initially, the war did not go well for Tomyris and the Massaegetae. Cyrus destroyed their army, and Tomyris’ son, Spargapises, committed suicide out of shame. The grief-stricken Tomyris raised another army and challenged Cyrus to battle a second time. Cyrus believed another victory was certain and accepted the challenge, but in the ensuing engagement Tomyris emerged victorious. Cyrus himself fell in the melee. During his reign he had won many battles and defeated many of the most powerful men of his time, yet Tomyris proved a Queen too far. Tomyris’ vengeance was not sated by Cyrus’ death. Following the battle, the Queen demanded her men find Cyrus’ body; when they located it, the 5th century BCE historian Herodotus reveals Tomyris’ gruesome next move: …she took a skin, and, filling it full of human blood, she dipped the head of Cyrus in the gore, saying, as she thus insulted the corpse, “I live and have conquered you in fight, and yet by you am I ruined, for you took my son with guile; but thus I make good my threat, and give you your fill of blood.ref 

    Artemisia I of Caria (fl. 480 BCE)

    “The Ancient Greek Queen of Halicarnassus, Artemisia ruled during the late 5th century BCE. She was an ally to the King of Persia, Xerxes I, and fought for him during the second Persian invasion of Greece, personally commanding 5 ships at the Battle of Salamis. Herodotus writes that she was a decisive and intelligent, albeit ruthless strategist. According to Polyaenus, Xerxes praised Artemisia above all other officers in his fleet and rewarded her for her performance in battle.ref

    Cynane (c. 358 – 323 BCE)

    “Cynane was the daughter of King Philip II of Macedon and his first wife, the Illyrian Princess Audata. She was also the half-sister of Alexander the Great. Audata raised Cynane in the Illyrian tradition, training her in the arts of war and turning her into an exceptional fighter – so much so that her skill on the battlefield became famed throughout the land. Cynane accompanied the Macedonian army on campaign alongside Alexander the Great, and according to the historian Polyaenus, she once slew an Illyrian queen and masterminded the slaughter of her army. Such was her military prowess. Following Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BCE, Cynane attempted an audacious power play. In the ensuing chaos, she championed her daughter, Adea, to marry Philip Arrhidaeus, Alexander’s simple-minded half-brother who the Macedonian generals had installed as a puppet king.ref 

    “Yet Alexander’s former generals – and especially the new regent, Perdiccas – had no intention of accepting this, seeing Cynane as a threat to their own power. Undeterred, Cynane gathered a powerful army and marched into Asia to place her daughter on the throne by force. As she and her army were marching through Asia towards Babylon, Cynane was confronted by another army commanded by Alcetas, the brother of Perdiccas and a former companion of Cynane. However, desiring to keep his brother in power Alcetas slew Cynane when they met – a sad end to one of history’s most remarkable female warriors. Although Cynane never reached Babylon, her power play proved successful. The Macedonian soldiers were angered at Alcetas’ killing of Cynane, especially as she was directly related to their beloved Alexander. Thus they demanded Cynane’s wish be fulfilled. Perdiccas relented, Adea and Philip Arrhidaeus were married, and Adea adopted the title Queen Adea Eurydice.ref

    Olympias and Eurydice

    “The mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias was one of the most remarkable women in antiquity. She was a princess of the most powerful tribe in Epirus (a region now divided between northwest Greece and southern Albania) and her family claimed descent from Achilles. Despite this impressive claim, many Greeks considered her home kingdom to be semi-barbarous  – a realm tainted with vice because of its proximity to raiding Illyrians in the north. Thus the surviving texts often perceive her as a somewhat exotic character. In 358 BCE Olympias’ uncle, the Molossian King Arrybas, married Olympias to King Philip II of Macedonia to secure the strongest possible alliance. She gave birth to Alexander the Great two years later in 356 BCE.ref

    “Further conflict was added to an already tempestuous relationship when Philip married again, this time a Macedonian noblewoman called Cleopatra Eurydice. Olympias began to fear this new marriage might threaten the possibility of Alexander inheriting Philip’s throne. Her Molossian heritage was starting to make some Macedonian nobles question Alexander’s legitimacy. Thus there is a strong possibility that Olympias was involved in the subsequent murders of Philip II, Cleopatra Eurydice and her infant children. She is often portrayed as a woman who stopped at nothing to ensure Alexander ascended the throne. Following Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BCE, she became a major player in the early Wars of the Successors in Macedonia. In 317 BCE, she led an army into Macedonia and was confronted by an army led by another queen: none other than Cynane’s daughter, Adea Eurydice. This clash was the first time in Greek history that two armies faced each other commanded by women. However, the battle ended before a sword blow was exchanged. As soon as they saw the mother of their beloved Alexander the Great facing them, Eurydice’s army deserted to Olympias.ref

    Upon capturing Eurydice and Philip Arrhidaeus, Eurydice’s husband, Olympias had them imprisoned in squalid conditions. Soon after she had Philip stabbed to death while his wife watched on. On Christmas Day 317, Olympias sent Eurydice a sword, a noose, and some hemlock, and ordered her to choose which way she wanted to die. After cursing Olympias’ name that she might suffer a similarly sad end, Eurydice chose the noose. Olympias herself did not live long to cherish this victory. The following year Olympias’ control of Macedonia was overthrown by Cassander, another of the Successors. Upon capturing Olympias, Cassander sent two hundred soldiers to her house to slay her. However, after being overawed by the sight of Alexander the Great’s mother, the hired killers did not go through with the task. Yet this only temporarily prolonged Olympias’ life as relatives of her past victims soon murdered her in revenge.ref

    Queen Teuta (fl. 229 BCE)

    “Teuta was the Queen of the Ardiaei tribe in Illyria during the late third century BCE. In 230 BCE, she was acting as regent for her infant stepson when a Roman embassy arrived at her court to mediate concerns about Illyrian expansion along the Adriatic shoreline. During the meeting, however, one of the Roman delegates lost his temper and began to shout at the Illyrian queen. Outraged by the outburst, Teuta had the young diplomat murdered. The incident marked the outbreak of the First Illyrian War between Rome and Teuta’s Illyria. By 228 BC, Rome had emerged victorious, and Teuta was banished from her homeland.ref

    Zenobia (240 – c. 275 CE)

    “The Queen of Syria’s Palmyrene Empire from 267 CE, Zenobia conquered Egypt from the Romans only 2 years into her reign. Her empire only lasted a short while longer, however, as the Roman Emperor Aurelian defeated her in 271 CE, taking her back to Rome where she — depending on which account you believe — either died shortly thereafter or married a Roman governor and lived out a life of luxury as a well-known philosopher, socialite, and matron. Dubbed the ‘Warrior Queen’, Zenobia was well-educated and multi-lingual. She was known to behave ‘like a man’, riding, drinking and hunting with her officers.” ref

    Women in Ancient Warfare

    The role of women in ancient warfare differed from culture to culture. There have been various historical accounts of females participating in battle. Instances of women recorded as participating in ancient warfare, from the beginning of written records to approximately 500 CE. Contemporary archaeological research regularly provides better insight into the accuracy of ancient historical accounts. Women active in direct warfare, such as warriors and spies, are included in this list. Also included are women who commanded armies, but did not fight.” ref

    Known Timeline of women in ancient warfare worldwide from 17th century BCE to 2nd century CE

    17th century BCE

    • 17th century BCE – Ahhotep I is credited with a stela at Karnak for “having pulled Egypt together, having cared for its army, having guarded it, having brought back those who fled, gathering up its deserters, having quieted the South, subduing those who defy her”.
    • Ahhotep II is buried with a dagger and axe, as well as three golden fly pendants, which were given as rewards for military valor. However, it is debated as to whether or not they actually belong to her. ref

    15th century BCE

    • 1479–1458 BCE – Reign of Hatshepsut. It is possible that she led military campaigns against Nubia and Canaan. ref

    13th century BCE

    • 13th century BCE – Estimated time of the Trojan War. According to ancient sources, several women participate in battle (see Category:Women of the Trojan war). Epipole of Carystus is one of the first women who are reported to have fought in a war.
    • 13th century BCE – Lady Fu Hao, consort of the Chinese emperor Wu Ding, led 3,000 troops into battle during the Shang dynasty. Fu Hao had entered the royal household by marriage and took advantage of the semi-matriarchal slave society to rise through the ranks. Fu Hao is known to modern scholars mainly from inscriptions on Shang dynasty oracle bone artifacts unearthed at Yinxu. In these inscriptions she is shown to have led numerous military campaigns. The Tu fought against the Shang for generations until they finally were defeated by Fu Hao in a single decisive battle. Further campaigns against the neighbouring Yi, Qiang, and Ba followed, the latter is particularly remembered as the earliest recorded large-scale ambush in Chinese history. With up to 13,000 troops and the important generals Zhi and Hou Gao serving under her, she was the most powerful military leader of her time. This highly unusual status is confirmed by the many weapons, including great battle-axes, unearthed from her tomb. One of Wu Ding’s other wives, Fu Jing, also participated in military expeditions.
    • Vedic period (1200–1000 BCE) roughly – The Rigveda (RV 1 and RV 10) hymns mention a female warrior named Vishpala, who lost a leg in battle, had an iron prosthesis made, and returned to warfare. ref

    12th century BCE

    11th century BCE

    • 11th century BCE – According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Queen Gwendolen fought her husband, Locrinus, in battle for the throne of Britain. She defeated him and became the monarch. However, Geoffrey of Monmouth is not considered a reliable historical source.
    • 11th century BCE – 4th century CE – Approximate time for the burial of a Kangju woman in modern Kazakhstan who was buried with a sword and a dagger. ref

    10th century BCE

    • 10th century BCE – According to Greek legendary history, Messene conquered a territory and founded a city at roughly this time. ref

    9th century BCE

    • Late 9th century–8th century BCE – Shammuramat (Semiramis) ruled the Neo-Assyrian Empire. She was the first woman to rule an empire without a man ruling with her. She is believed to have been the inspiration for the legendary warrior queen Semiramis.
    • Late 9th– 8th century BCE – According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Queen Cordelia, on whom the character in Shakespeare’s King Lear is based, battled her nephews for control of her kingdom. However, Geoffrey of Monmouth is not considered a reliable historical source. ref

    8th century BCE

    • 8th to 6th centuries BCE – Early Armenian period. A woman is buried in the Armenian highlands at this time. Her skeleton indicates strong muscles and a healed wound to her skeleton contained an iron arrowhead. Other injuries suggest that she was a warrior.
    • 732 BCE – Approximate time of the reign of Samsi, an Arabian queen who may have been the successor of Zabibe. She revolted against the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III. ref

    7th century BCE

    • 660 BCE – Lady Xu Mu is credited with saving the state of Wey from military invasion with her appeals for aid. The Wey people remembered her for bringing supplies, getting military aid and rebuilding the state. She is also the first recorded female poet in Chinese history.
    • 654 BCE – Lampsacus is founded by the Greeks. According to Greek legendary history, written centuries later, a Bebryces woman named Lampsace informed the Greeks of a plot against them by the Bebryces, and thus enabled them to conquer the area and found the city, which was named in her honor. She was deified and worshipped as a goddess.
    • A Scythian warrior girl, aged approximately 13, is buried Saryg-Bulun in Central Tuva, Russia. The remains, discovered in 1988, were originally assumed to be male, but DNA sequencing in 2020 determines the mummy to be female. ref

    6th century BCE

    • 6th through 4th centuries BCE – Women are buried with weapons as well as jewelry on the KazakhstanRussia border at roughly this time.
    • 6th century BCE  Pheretima (Cyrenaean queen) leads a military force.
    • 580 BCE – Massagetae Queen Tomyris led an army that defeated a Persian army under Cyrus the Great. Tomyris would be known forever after as “the killer of Cyrus”, although the actual soldier who slew Cyrus is unknown.
    • 539 BCE – Pantea Arteshbod participate in the Battle of Opis as a Lieutenant Commander in the army of Cyrus the Great.
    • 514–496 BCE – During the Warring States period of China, Sun Tzu wrote a contemporary report of how Ho Lu, King of Wu (ruled in 514–496) tested his skill by ordering him to train an army of 180 women.
    • 510 BCE – Greek poet Telesilla defended the city of Argos from the Spartans.
      • 506 BCE – Cloelia, a Roman girl who was given as a hostage to the Etruscans, escaped her captors and led several others to safety. ref
    • 5th century BCE

      • 5th century BCE – The Lady of Yue trained the soldiers of the army of King Goujian of Yue.
        • 480 BCE – Artemisia I of Caria, Queen of Halicarnassus, was a naval commander and advisor to Xerxes at the Battle of Salamis.
        • 480 BCE – Greek diver Hydna and her father sabotaged enemy ships before a critical battle, thus causing the Greeks to win.
        • 460–425 BCE  – Greek historian Herodotus described Scythian Amazons. Herodotus‘ in The Histories recorded that queen Tomyris of the Massagetae fought and defeated Cyrus the Great. He also records the Zaueces people of Ancient Libya, whom he describes as having their women drive their chariots to war, as well as the festival of Athena Tritogenia among the Ausean people, whose young women are divided into two groups and fight each other with stones and sticks. This festival, taking place in Ancient Libya, describes the girls from the Machlyans and Auseans tribes fighting each other, and those who died were labeled false virgins.
        • 460–370 BCE – Approximate lifetime of Hippocrates, who wrote of the Sauromatae, Scythian women fighting battles.
        • Late 400s: Ctesias records the story of Zarinaea, a Sacae woman who participated in battle. ref
      • 4th century BCE

        • 4th century BCE – Onomaris is estimated to have lived around this time period. According to Tractatus De Mulieribus, she led her people in migration to a new land and conquered the local inhabitants.
        • 4th century BCE – Cynane, a half-sister to Alexander the Great, accompanied her father on a military campaign and killed an Illyrian leader named Caeria in hand-to-hand combat, and defeated the Illyrian army.
        • 4th century BCE  Pythagorean philosopher, Timycha, was captured by Sicilian soldiers during a battle. She and her husband were the only survivors. She is admired for her defiance after capture, because while being questioned by the Sicilian tyrant, she bit off her tongue and spat it at his feet.
        • 4th century BCE – Chinese statesman Shang Yang wrote The Book of Lord Shang, in which he recommended dividing the members of an army into three categories; strong men, strong women, and the weak and old of both sexes. He recommended that the strong men serve as the first line of defence, that the strong women defend the forts and build traps, and that the weak and elderly of both sexes control the supply chain. He also recommended that these three groups not be intermingled, on the basis that doing so would be detrimental to morale.
        • 4th century BCE – Artemisia II of Caria led a fleet and played a role in the military-political affairs of the Aegean after the decline in Athenian naval superiority.
        • 350 BCE – According to Heracleides of Cyme, Achaemenid kings employed a 300-woman entourage of concubines who served also as bodyguards.
        • 339 BCE – Mania became satrap of Dardanus. Polyaenus described her as going into battle riding in a chariot, and as being such an excellent general that she was never defeated.
        • 335 BCE – Timoclea, after being raped by one of Alexander the Great‘s soldiers during his attack on Thebes, pushed her rapist down a well and killed him. Alexander was so impressed with her cunning in luring him to the well that he ordered her to be released and that she not be punished for killing his soldier.
        • 333 BCE – Stateira I accompanied her husband Darius III while he went to war. It was because of this that she was captured by Alexander the Great after the Battle of Issus at the town of Issus. Other female family members, including Drypetis, Stateira II, and Sisygambis were present and were captured as well.
        • 332 BCE – The Nubian queen, Candace of Meroe, intimidated Alexander the Great with her armies and her strategy while confronting him, causing him to avoid Nubia, instead heading to Egypt, according to Pseudo-Callisthenes. However, Pseudo-Callisthenes is not considered a reliable source, and it is possible that the entire event is fiction. More reliable historical accounts indicate that Alexander never attacked Nubia and never attempted to move farther south than the oasis of Siwa in Egypt.
        • 331 BCE – Alexander the Great and his troops burned down Persepolis several months after its capture; traditionally Thaïs (a hetaera who accompanied Alexander on campaigns) suggested it when they were drunk, but others record that it had been discussed previously.
        • January 330 BCE – Youtab fights against Greek Macedonian King Alexander the Great at the Battle of the Persian Gate.
        • 320s BCE – Cleophis surrendered to Alexander the Great after he laid siege to her city. In the same battle, the wives of Indian mercenaries took up the weapons and armors of their fallen husbands and fought against the Macedonians.
        • 320s BCE – Reign of Chandragupta Maurya, who started the custom of kings of the ancient India to employ armed women as bodyguards. They rode war chariots, horses and elephants, and would also partake in military campaigns. This custom apparently was still in force until the Gupta period (320 to 550 CE).
        • 324 BCE – The satrap Atropates presented Alexander the Great with 100 horsewomen armed with war axes and light shields. Alexander did not add them to his army, however, believing their presence might incite his troops to molest them. This has been considered related to the myth of Thalestris.
        • 318 BCE – Eurydice III of Macedon fought Polyperchon and Olympias.
        • 314–308 BCE – Cratesipolis commanded an army and forced cities to submit to her. ref

    3rd century BCE

      • Early 3rd century BCE – Legendary Empress Jingū of Japan may have led an invasion against Korea at this time. However, the story is regarded as semi-fictional by many scholars.
      • 3rd century BCE – Graves of women warriors buried at during this period were found near the Sea of Azov.
      • 3rd century BCE – Stratonice of Macedon revolts against Seleucus II Callinicus.
      • 295 BCE – Phila (daughter of Antipater) was besieged in Salamis, Cyprus by the king of Egypt Ptolemy I, and ultimately compelled to surrender, but was treated by him in the most honorable manner and sent together with her children in safety to Macedonia.
      • 279 BCE – During the Gallic Invasion of Greece a large Gallic force entered Aetolia. Women and the elderly joined in its defense.
      • 272 BCE – When Pyrrhus attacked Sparta, the women of the city assisted in the defense, assisted by Chilonis.
      • 272 BCE – Spartan princess Archidamia leads Spartan women in the construction of a defensive trench and in the aiding of the wounded in battle during the siege of Pyrrhus.
      • 272 BCE – Pyrrhus of Epirus, the conqueror and source of the term pyrrhic victory, according to Plutarch died while fighting an urban battle in Argos when an old woman threw a roof tile at him, stunning him and allowing an Argive soldier to kill him.
      • 231 BCE – Teuta (Illyrian: *Teutana, ‘mistress of the people, queen’; Ancient Greek: Τεύτα; Latin: Teuta) was the queen regent of the Ardiaei tribe in Illyria, Following the death of her spouse Agron in 231 BCE, she assumed the regency of the Ardiaean Kingdom for her stepson Pinnes, continuing Agron’s policy of expansion in the Adriatic Sea, in the context of an ongoing conflict with the Roman Republic regarding the effects of Illyrian piracy on regional trade.
      • 220 BCE – Vaccaei and Vetton women fought in the siege of Salmantica against Hannibal. The inhabitants pretended to give up the city, but the women carried hidden weapons in their clothing while they exited, and once outside they armed themselves and the men and attacked the Carthaginians. One of the women disarmed the Carthaginian interpreter, Banno, and attacked him with his own spear. Many of the Salmantines managed to reach the mountains, from where they negotiated with Hannibal. The latter was so impressed that he gave them back their city.
      • 220 BCE – Cisalpine Gaul women served as judges in their people’s disputes with Hannibal.
      • 219 BCE – A possibly fictitious Libyan princess named Asbyte fights for Hannibal at the Siege of Saguntum along with an entourage of horsewomen and war charioteers.
      • 217 BCE – Arsinoe III of Egypt accompanied Ptolemy IV at the Battle of Raphia. When the battle went poorly, she appeared before the troops and exhorted them to fight to defend their families. She also promised two minas of gold to each of them if they won the battle, which they did.
      • 216 BCE – During the siege of Petelia, women accompanied their husbands in sorties against Hannibal.
      • 216 BCE – Busa of Canosa di Puglia is recorded as aiding soldiers fleeing Hannibal.
      • 206 BCE – Iberian women assisted in the siege of Illiturgis against Scipio Africanus.
      • 206–202 BCE – Consort Yu accompanies Xiang Yu on all battles during the Chu–Han Contention. ref

      2nd century BCE

      • 2nd century BCE – Queen Stratonice convinced Docimus to leave his stronghold, and her forces took him captive.
      • 2nd century BCE – The Book of Judith was probably written at this time. It describes Judith as assassinating Holofernes, an enemy general. However, this incident is regarded by historians fictional due to the historical anachronisms within the text.
      • Late 2nd century BCE  Amage, a Sarmatian queen, attacked a Scythian prince who was making incursions onto her protectorates. She rode to Scythia with 120 warriors, where she killed his guards, his friends, his family, and ultimately, killed the prince himself. She allowed his son to live on the condition that he obey her.
      • 186 BCE – Chiomara, a Galatian princess, was captured in a battle between Rome and the Galatians and was raped by a centurion. After a reversal she ordered him killed by her companions, and she had him beheaded after he was dead. She then delivered his head to her husband.
      • 2nd century BCE – Queen Rhodogune of Parthia was informed of a rebellion while preparing for her bath. She vowed not to brush her hair until the rebellion was ended. She waged a long war to suppress the rebellion, and won it without breaking her vow.
      • 138 BCE – The Roman Decimus Junius Brutus found that in Lusitania the women were “fighting and perishing in company with the men with such bravery that they uttered no cry even in the midst of slaughter”. He also noted that the Bracari women were “bearing arms with the men, who fought never turning, never showing their backs, or uttering a cry.”
      • 131 BCE – Cleopatra II led a rebellion against Ptolemy VIII in 131 BCE, and drove him and Cleopatra III out of Egypt.
      • 102 BCE – A battle between Romans and the Teutonic Ambrones at Aquae Sextiae took place during this time. Plutarch described that “the fight had been no less fierce with the women than with the men themselves… the women charged with swords and axes and fell upon their opponents uttering a hideous outcry.” The women attacked both the Romans and the Ambrones who tried to desert.
      • 102/101 BCE – General Marius of the Romans fought the Teutonic Cimbrians. Cimbrian women accompanied their men into war, created a line in battle with their wagons and fought with poles and lances, as well as staves, stones, and swords. When the Cimbrian women saw that defeat was imminent, they killed their children and committed suicide rather than be taken as captives. ref

    1st century BCE 

    • 1st century BCE  Hypsicratea fights in battles.
    • 41–40 BCE – Fulvia becomes involved in the Perusine War. The extent of her involvement is not agreed upon by scholars.
    • 27–21 BCE – Amanirenas led the Kushite armies against the Romans. ref

    1st century CE

      • 1st century – There were detailed reports of women accompanying their men on Germanic battlefields to provide morale support. Tacitus mentions them twice; in his Germania and again in his Annals, specifically at the battle near modern Nijmegen when the XV Primigenia and V Alaudae legions were sent packing back to Castra Vetera where they were later besieged during the Revolt of the Batavi. He writes in detail how the women would gather behind the warhost, and show their breasts to flagging warriors while screaming that their loss that day would mean the enemy gaining these as slaves. Women held an honored position in German tribes, and were seen as holy spirits as shown by their adoration of such as Aurinia and Veleda. Slavery was the fate of cowards and the unlucky – and letting one’s women fall into that fate was a hideous deed. Thus the men were encouraged to fight harder.
      • 1st century – A Sarmatian woman was buried with weapons in what is now modern Russia.
      • 1st century – A woman was entombed with a sword in Tabriz, Iran. The tomb was discovered in 2004.
      • 1st century – Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, allied with the Roman Empire against other Britons.
      • 1st century: The historian Tacitus wrote that Triaria, wife of Lucius Vitellius the younger, was accused of having armed herself with a sword and behaved with arrogance and cruelty while at Tarracina, a captured city.
      • 1st century: There are several historical Roman references to female gladiators from this time period.
      • 1st century – 5th century: Four women were buried in Phum Snay, Cambodia with metal swords. The graves date approximately from this time period, and were discovered in 2007.
      • 14–18 – Lu Mu, a Chinese peasant also known as Mother Lu, led a rebellion against Wang Mang.
      • 15 – Agrippina the Elder defends a bridge upon the Rhine.
      • 21 – Debate erupted as to whether or not the wives of Roman governors should accompany their husbands in the provinces. Caecina Severus said that they should not, because they “paraded among the soldiers” and that “a woman had presided at the exercises of the cohorts and the manoeuvres of the legions”.
      • 40 – The Trung Sisters revolt against the Chinese in Vietnam. Phung Thi Chinh joins them.
      • 60 – According to Tacitus, druidesses among the Britannian lines waged psychological warfare against the Roman forces in the island of Mona.
      • 60–61 – Boudica, a Celtic queen of the Iceni in Britannia, led a massive uprising against the occupying Roman forces. According to Suetonius, her enemy Gaius Suetonius Paulinus encouraged his soldiers by joking that her army contained more women than men, implying the presence of warrior women.
      • 69–70 – Veleda of the Germanic Bructeri tribe wielded a great deal of influence in the Batavian rebellion. She was acknowledged as a strategic leader, a priestess, a prophet, and as a living deity. ref

    2nd century CE 

    Female Military Units Throughout History

    “Women warriors appear in myths across the world. According to Greek mythology, the Amazons were a group of female soldiers famed for their ferocity and skill in battle. Meanwhile, the Vikings believed in the mythical Valkyries who carried worthy warriors to Valhalla. Although soldiering has typically been a male pursuit throughout history, there are several examples of women taking to the battlefield. Women have fought either in entirely female units or amongst their male counterparts in mixed units.” ref

    Female Military used by Steppe peoples

    The Eurasian Steppe has been home to many nomadic equestrian groups over the course of history. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, women from several cultures in this vast region may have fought alongside men. The majority of evidence concerning warrior women of the steppe comes from archaeological finds in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Female remains from several ancient cultures have been discovered, for example, in kurgans (burial mounds) alongside objects implying they were warriors. Some burials belonging to the Sauromatian culture, which inhabited southern Russia in the 4th and 6th centuries BCE, have also been found to contain the remains of women buried with arrowheads and quivers.” ref

    “Even more finds of a similar nature have been unearthed belonging to the closely-related Scythian and Sarmatian cultures. The Scythians dominated the Pontic Steppe from the 7th century BCE until the 3rd century BCE. The Sarmatians thrived in roughly the same region between the 3rd century BCE and 4th century CE. Anthropologist David Anthony has observed that roughly twenty percent of Scythian and Sarmatian graves excavated in the lower Don and Volga regions containing artifacts associated with warriors belonged to women. Kurgans containing the remains of “warrior women” continue to be found. In 2019, two burials were discovered in Russia dating back to the 4th century BC. Archaeologists found the skeletons of two women buried alongside horse riding equipment and weapons, including iron daggers and thirty arrowheads. Female steppe warriors probably fought as horse archers. For centuries, nomads from the Steppe were feared in Europe and Asia for their ability to shoot arrows from fast moving horses. Their mobility on the battlefield gave them an advantage over more cumbersome enemies.” ref

    Warrior Women of the Illyrians

    “The Illyrians were a group of Paleo-Balkan peoples who inhabited the Western Balkan Peninsula across land that today forms parts of Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some parts of Serbia and Slovenia. Illyrian women had more freedom than their Greek and Roman contemporaries. Eduard Shehi, an archaeologist from Albania’s Institute of Archaeology, notes: “There are ancient writers’ accounts of Illyrian women going with their husbands to a banquet, drinking with them and even raising a toast, something unacceptable in ancient Greece or Rome.” They may also have accompanied the men to battle. References to Illyrian women on the battlefield come mostly from Greek sources. One of Philip II of Macedon’s wives, Audata, was an Illyrian. Contrary to Macedonian customs, Audata taught their daughter Cynane (Greek: Κυνάνη or Κύνα) how to fight.” ref

    “Polyaenus, a 2nd CE Greek author, wrote that Cynane “was famous for her military knowledge; she commanded armies, and in the field charged at the head of them. In an engagement with the Illyrians, she herself slew their queen with a fatal blow to the throat; and she defeated the Illyrian army with great slaughter.” After her half-brother, Alexander the Great, died in 323 BCE, Cynane was embroiled in the struggles to carve up his empire. Alcetas, one of Alexander’s generals, murdered her, however, in 323 BCE. Before her death, Cynane had taught her daughter Eurydice (also called Adea) the martial arts that she had learned from her own mother. Eurydice followed in her footsteps and was active in the successor wars. Alexander’s mother, Olympias, outplayed her nevertheless and Eurydice committed suicide in captivity.” ref

    “In the 3rd century BCE, another Illyrian woman became famous for her military exploits. Teuta of the Illyrian Ardiaei kingdom was pronounced queen regent when her husband Agron died. Queen Teuta continued her husband’s expansionist foreign policy and was successful in multiple conflicts against neighboring Greek states. However, Teuta’s decision to sponsor Illyrian pirates angered the Romans, whose trading vessels were attacked across the Adriatic Sea. The Romans sent ambassadors, but she murdered one and imprisoned the others. The Romans responded with an invasion which resulted in the First Illyrian War and ultimately triumphed. Yet Teuta remained in power and the Ardiaei kingdom retained its autonomy until 168 BCE, when they were defeated again by the Romans in the Third Illyrian War.” ref

    “Today, Queen Teuta is regarded as a national heroine in Albania and is featured on Albanian currency. Due to the lack of concrete evidence, it is difficult to determine whether Illyrian women were a common sight on the battlefield. Several literary sources describing the military education of Illyrian royal women seems to suggest that at least some Illyrian women belonging to the nobility were trained for war with the expectation that they might see combat.” ref

    Onna-musha: Japan’s Samurai women

    “The onna-musha were female warriors who fought throughout pre-modern Japanese history. They took part in many of the same battles as their more famous male samurai counterparts. References to the onna-musha are quite extensive. The most famous were Tomoe Gozen and Hangaku Gozen, who fought on opposite sides of the Genpei War in the 12th century.” ref 

    “Tomoe Gozen is described as an exceptionally capable soldier in the 14th century epic, The Tale of the HeikeTomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.” ref

    “At times, the onna-musha appear to have fought in exclusively female units. Writing in the 14th century, Tōin Kinkata mentioned the existence of a cavalry force mostly comprised of women. In the 16th century, Ikeda Sen, a female samurai, is believed to have led a unit of two hundred women musketeers. She may have fought in the battles of Yamazaki, Shizugatake, Komaki, and Nagakute.” ref

    “The archaeological record supports literary evidence that women sometimes took part in feudal Japanese battles. For example, DNA analysis conducted on 105 skeletons excavated from the Battle of Senbon Matsubaru revealed that thirty-five of them were women. The naginata is the weapon most commonly associated with the onna-musha. It was a polearm with a long wooden handle and a curved blade. Its wielder would have enjoyed the reach advantages of a spear with similar cutting potential to a sword. The onna-musha almost certainly used a variety of other weapons. Bows, shot from horseback or on foot, swords like the katana, and spears were all probable weapons of choice. When firearms like the tanegashima became available, these were also used by the onna-musha.” ref

    Dahomey Amazons

    “The Dahomey “Amazons” were an all-female unit loyal to the king of Dahomey, a highly militaristic West African kingdom located in what is today the Republic of Benin. They were active in the 18th and 19th centuries. European explorers and traders who encountered this female force referred to them as Amazons, in reference to the Greek myth. In their own language, the Dahomey called them Ahosi (‘king’s wives’) or Mino (‘our mothers’). The Dahomey Amazons were likely institutionalized as a fighting force by King Gezo in the 19th century. However, a force of fighting women appears to have been used by the kings of Dahomey since the 18th century.” ref

    “In the 18th century, several European explorers noted that King Agaja kept a force of female palatial guards. Agaja would not permit men to remain in the palace after sunset, so an exclusively female force was required to guard the king. Women warriors appear to have been largely confined to palatial guard duties until Gezo’s reign. This was not an entirely uneventful duty. Violence often accompanied the death of a Dahomey king until the succession was secured. According to a British trader who visited Dahomey in the late 18th century, 285 women were killed during fighting in the palace after the death of King Tegbesu in 1774. King Gezo is largely credited with deploying women on the battlefield. He also appears to have started recruiting female captives of war, whereas his predecessors largely depended on their many wives to fill the ranks. Estimates on the size of the Amazon force vary greatly.” ref

    “Some European travelers report numbers as low as two to three hundred, whereas others reported a force of six to eight thousand. Dahomey Amazons fulfilled several roles on the battlefield. Most of them fought as riflewomen and were armed with muskets, and later, lever action Winchester rifles. Archers also existed, but bows were phased out in favor of firearms. Some Amazons functioned as gunners and operated artillery. Knives, clubs, spears, and swords were used in close combat. The Dahomey Amazons served in conflicts against rival African kingdoms and the Europeans from around the mid-19th century.” ref 

    “Europeans who encountered the Amazons often held their fighting prowess in higher esteem than the Dahomey men. For example, a British diplomat noted that the women delivered more accurate fire than the men because they shouldered their muskets, unlike the men who hip-fired. Similarly, the French reckoned the men took around fifty seconds to reload, whereas the women could reload in thirty. The “Amazons” were disbanded after the Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892-1894). Most of the female corps were wiped out in the Battle of Adegon during a French bayonet charge.” ref

    Here are some Women Warriors in Folklore

    This is a list of women who engaged in war, found throughout mythology and folklore, studied in fields such as literature, sociology, psychologyanthropologyfilm studiescultural studies, and women’s studies. A mythological figure does not always mean a fictional one, but rather, someone of whom stories have been told that have entered the cultural heritage of a people. Some women warriors are documented in the written or scientific record and as such form part of history (e.g. the Ancient Briton queen Boudica, who led the Iceni into battle against the Romans). However, to be considered a warrior, the woman in question must have belonged to some sort of military, be it recognized, like an organized army, or unrecognized, like revolutionaries.” ref


    Berber history

    • Kahina or al-Kāhina (Classical Arabic for “female seer”; modern Maghreb Arabic l-Kahna, commonly romanised as Kah(i)na, also known as Dihya or Kahya) was a 7th-century female Berber religious and military leader, who led indigenous resistance to Arab expansion in Northwest Africa, the region then known as Numidia, known as the Maghreb today. She was born in the early 7th century and died around the end of the 7th century probably in modern-day Algeria. ref

    Burkina Faso

    • Yennenga was a legendary warrior woman skilled in spear and bow, considered by the Mossi people as the mother of their empire. ref


    • Ankt may have originated in Asia Minor. Within Egypt she was later syncretized as Neith (who by that time had developed aspects of a war goddess).
    • Cleopatra VII was a Hellenistic co-ruler of Egypt with her father (Ptolemy XII Auletes) and later with her brothers/husbands Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Her patron goddess was Isis, and thus during her reign, it was believed that she was the re-incarnation and embodiment of the goddess of wisdom.
    • Sekhmet is a warrior goddess depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians.
    • Though her reign was primarily peaceful, the pharaoh Hatshepsut fought in several battles during her younger years.
    • Nefertiti, wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten, has been at times depicted as smiting enemies in a manner similar to how a male ruler typically would.
    • Ahhotep, wife of Seqenenre Tao II, was believed to have been in command of the army while her son Ahmose I was still young. ref


    • Aqualtune was a princess of Kongo who led an army of ten thousand in the Battle of Mbwila, where she was captured. She was enslaved and carried to Brazil, where according to legend she escaped and founded the runaway slave settlement of Quilombo dos Palmares, or Angola Janga. ref


    • Arawelo was a legendary ancient Somali queen. The queen defied gender roles of the time. During her reign, Arawelo’s husband objected to her self-ascribed role as the breadwinner to all of society, as he thought women should restrict themselves to merely domestic duties about the house and leave everything else to men. In response, Arawelo demanded that all women across the land abandon their womanly role in society, and started hanging men by their testicles. ref


    • Gudit (Ge’ez: Yodit, Judith) is a semi-legendary, non-Christian, Beta Israel, queen (flourished c.960) who laid waste to Aksum and its countryside, destroyed churches and monuments, and attempted to exterminate the members of the ruling Axumite dynasty. Her deeds are recorded in the oral tradition and mentioned incidentally in various historical accounts. ref

    Ghana (then Gold Coast)

    Hausa history

    • Amina Sukhera (also called Aminatu) was a Muslim princess of the royal family of the kingdom of Zazzau, in what is now northeast Nigeria, who lived c. 1533 – 1610. Her military achievements brought her great wealth and power; she was responsible for conquering many of the cities in the area surrounding her seat.
    • Sarraounia Mangou, chief/priestess of the animist Azna subgroup of the Hausa, who fought French colonial troops of the Voulet–Chanoine Mission at the Battle of Lougou (in present-day Niger) in 1899. She is the subject of the 1986 film Sarraounia based on the novel of the same name by Nigerien writer Abdoulaye Mamani. ref

    Yoruba mythology and history

    • Oya is the Orisha of the Niger River. She is the warrior-spirit of the wind, lightning, fertility, fire, and magic. It is believed that she creates hurricanes and tornadoes, and serves as guardian of the underworld. Prior to her post-mortem deification, the historical Oya was a queen of the Oyo clan as the consort of Shango, its reigning king. She is often depicted with leopard-like spots, these being either war paint or ritual scarification. This is done for propaganda purposes, as the Leopard is famous in Yoruba folklore for its cunning.
    • Efunroye Tinubu was a powerful titled aristocrat in Colonial Nigeria. As the first Iyalode of Egbaland, she and her private battalion fought against the Dahomeyans when they invaded Abeokuta in the 1850s and the 1860s. ref

    Nubia/Kush (Sudanese) history

    • The legendary Candace of Meroe (a title, her real name never given) was a warrior queen in the Alexander Romance who caused Alexander The Great himself to retreat upon witnessing the army she’d gathered. This however may be classified a non-historical account because Alexander never reached Sudan.
    • Amanirenas, however, was a historical holder of the title of Candace who fought against the Romans after their conquest of Egypt. ref

    Historical Mongolia

    • Khutulun was a 13th-century Mongol princess, the daughter of the Mongol leader Qaidu Khan and a great-great-granddaughter of Genghis Khan. According to legend she was a skilled warrior and wrestler who vowed that she would only marry a man who could defeat her in wrestling. Although no man was ever able to out-wrestle her, Khutuln ended up marrying a warrior named Abtakul (possibly to squelch rumors about an incestuous relationship between her and her father). Her story was made famous by foreign chroniclers Marco Polo, and Ibn Battuta, both of whom had heard of Khutuln’s legend on their travels through Asia. ref

    Historical China

    • Hua Mulan was a (possibly legendary) woman who went to war disguised as a man, and was able to return home after years of war without being found out.
    • Ng Mui was a Shaolin monastery abbess who created a kung fu system especially suitable for women.
    • Yim Wing-chun, often cited in Wing Chun legends as the first Wing Chun master outside the monastic tradition, was a pupil of Ng Mui.
    • Fu Hao was one of the many wives of King Wu Ding of the Shang Dynasty and, unusually for that time, also served as a military general and high priestess.
    • Mother Lü began a peasant rebellion.
    • Li Xiu defeated rebels as a military commander.
    • Lady of Yue was a famous swordswoman.
    • Qin Liangyu fought battles with her husband.
    • Liang Hongyu was a Chinese general of the Song Dynasty.
    • Sun Shangxiang, who is often depicted as a tomboy, was the sister of the warlord Sun Quan. She received extensive martial arts training, and her maidservants were armed with weapons, which was odd for her time.
    • Lady Zhurong It’s unknown whether she existed, but she was the only woman portrayed in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms who took part in fighting in the war during the three kingdoms period alongside her husband.
    • Mu Guiying was a woman who commanded the armies against barbarian invaders
    • Princess Pingyang formed a rebel army to assist her father in overthrowing the Emperor, and was declared ‘no ordinary woman’ upon her death.
    • Ching Shih (1775–1844) prominent pirate in middle Qing China, early 19th century. A brilliant Cantonese pirate, she commanded over 300 junks crewed by 20,000 to 40,000 pirates – men, women, and even children. She challenged the empires of the time, such as the British, Portuguese, and the Qing dynasty. Undefeated, she would become one of China and Asia’s strongest pirates, and one of world history’s most powerful pirates. She was also one of the few pirate captains to retire from piracy.
    • Ruler of Women’s Country is the ruler of a nation in Xiliang with an all-female population.
    • Ani Pachen a Tibetan freedom fighter ref

    Historical Japan

    • Empress Jingū was a Japanese empress who led an army.
    • Hangaku Gozen was an onna-bugeisha (“woman warrior”).
    • Tomoe Gozen (c. 1157  c. 1247) was an onna-bugeisha.
    • Marishi-Ten the goddess of heaven, who was adopted by warriors in the 8th century as a protector and patron goddess. While devotions to Marishi-ten predate Zen, they appear to be geared towards a similar meditative mode to enable the warrior to achieve a more heightened spiritual level. They lost interest in the issues of victory or defeat (or life and death), thus transcending to a level where they became so empowered that they were freed from their own grasp on mortality. The result was that they became better warriors.
    • Kaihime (presumably born 1572) was said to have fought during the Siege of Odawara and to have personally crushed a rebellion, earning her father the respect of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. However, historians aren’t entirely sure if she truly did accomplish those events. ref


    Historical Indonesia

    • Cut Nyak Dhien, (1850–1908), leader of the Acehnese guerrilla forces during the Aceh War. Following the death of her husband Teuku Umar, she led guerrilla actions against the Dutch for 25 years. She was posthumously awarded the title of National Hero of Indonesia on 2 May 1964 by the Indonesian government.
    • Cut Nyak Meutia, (1870–1910), commander of the Achenese guerrilla forces during the Aceh War. Together with her husband, Teuku Cik Tunong, they worked hand in hand with the Acehnese to fight against the Dutch invasion.
    • Admiral Keumalahayati, (fl. 16th century), an admiral in the navy of the Aceh Sultanate, which ruled the area of modern Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. She was the first woman admiral in the modern world (if Artemisia I is not included). Her troops were drawn from Aceh’s widows and known as the “Inong Balee”, after the Inong Balee Fortress near the city of Banda Aceh.
    • Martha Christina Tiahahu, (1800–1818), a Moluccan freedom fighter and National Heroine of Indonesia. Born to a military captain, Tiahahu was active in the military from a very young age. She joined the war led by Pattimura against the Dutch colonial government when she was 17, fighting in several battles.
    • Nyi Ageng Serang, (1752–1838), born under the name Raden Ajeng Kustiyah Wulaningish Retno Edhi, was a commander during the Diponegoro War. The name Nyi Ageng Serang was given to her after her father died of disease and she took over his position. At the beginning of Diponegoro War in 1825, 73-year-old Nyi Ageng Serang commanded the force on a stretcher to help Pangeran Diponegoro fighting the Dutch. One of her best-known strategies was the use of lumbu (green taro leaves) for disguise.
    • Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi, was a Javanese queen regnant and the third Majapahit monarch, reigning from 1328 to 1350. She appointed Gajah Mada as prime minister and pursued massive expansion of the empire. In 1331, she led the empire’s army personally to the battlefield with the help of her cousin, Adityawarman, to crush the rebellion in Sadeng and Keta. ref

    Historical Malaysia

    • Walinong Sari, (ca. 4th–5th century CE) was a legendary princess of Inderapura, in the Old Pahang Kingdom. She was known for her beauty and strong character. She was an expert in weaponry like Kris, spears and swords, and was also renowned for her mastery of silat, the Malay martial art.
    • Tun Fatimah, (ca. 1488–1500s CE) a well-known queen of JohorRiau Kingdom and daughter of Tun Mutahir, the Malaccan bendahara (prime minister) who lived in during the 16th century. She was one of Malacca’s Sultan Mahmud Shah spouses. She was known to help the army to lead the Malays in their fight against the invading Portuguese forces in the early 16th century.
    • Siti Wan Kembang, (17th century) was legendary queen who reigned over a region on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. She was a warrior queen and engaged in battle on horseback with a sword accompanied by an army of female horse-riders. ref

    Historical Philippines

    • Queen Sima, (ca. 637 CE) The legendary Queen of lower Cotabato known for her sense of justice and respect for the law.
    • Urduja, (ca. 1350–1400 CE) a legendary warrior princess who is recognized as a heroine in Pangasinan, Philippines. The name Urduja appears to be Sanskrit in origin, and a variation of the name “Udaya”, meaning “arise” or “rising sun”, or the name “Urja”, meaning “breath”. A historical reference to Urduja can be found in the travel account of Ibn Battuta (1304 – possibly 1368 or 1377 CE), a Muslim traveler from Morocco.
    • Gabriela Silang, (1731–1761), led insurgents from Ilocos during the Philippine Revolution against Spain, after the death of her husband, Diego Silang. She was captured by Spanish colonial forces in September 1761 and executed in the town square of Vigan, reportedly after watching the executions of all her men.
    • Bulaw is a brave and proficient swordswoman in Subanon indigenous narratives. She is the daughter of the Subanen chief Gomotan Sangira.
    • There are various women warrior deities in the indigenous Philippine folk religions. In Sebwano and Hiligaynon religious narratives, Ynaguiguinid is the goddess of war. In Tagalog religious narratives, Mayari is the moon goddess of revolutions. In Bicol religious narratives, Haliya is masked moon warrior goddess. ref

    Historical Thailand

    Historical Vietnam

    • The Trung Sisters, (c. 12 – 43 CE), known in Vietnamese as Hai Bà Trưng (“the two Trưng ladies”‘), and individually as Trưng Trắc (Traditional Chinese: 徵側; pinyin: Zhēng Cè) and Trưng Nhị (Traditional Chinese: 徵貳; pinyin: Zhēng Èr), were two first century CE women leaders who repelled Chinese invasions for three years, winning several battles against considerable odds, and are regarded as national heroines of Vietnam.
      • Phùng Thị Chính was a Vietnamese noble woman who fought alongside the Trưng sisters. Legend says she gave birth on the front lines and carried her newborn in one arm and a sword in the other as she fought to open the ranks of the enemy.
      • Lê Chân, general of Trưng Sisters.
    • Triệu Thị Trinh once said “I’d like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man.”
    • Tây Sơn Ngũ Phụng Thư (Five Phoenix women generals of Tay Son dynasty):

    Celtic mythology and Irish mythology

    This Amazon is famous in their traditions: her house or dairy of stone is yet extant; some of the inhabitants dwell in it all summer, though it be some hundred years old; the whole is built of stone, without any wood, lime, earth, or mortar to cement it, and is built in form of a circle pyramid-wise towards the top, having a vent in it, the fire being always in the centre of the floor; the stones are long and thin, which supplies the defect of wood; the body of this house contains not above nine persons sitting; there are three beds or low vaults that go off the side of the wall, a pillar betwixt each bed, which contains five men apiece; at the entry to one of these low vaults is a stone standing upon one end fix’d; upon this they say she ordinarily laid her helmet; there are two stones on the other side, upon which she is reported to have laid her sword: she is said to have been much addicted to hunting, and that in her time all the space betwixt this isle and that of Harries, was one continued tract of dry land. ref

    Similar stories of a female warrior who hunted the now submerged land between the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda are reported from Harris. ref

    Historical Czech Lands

    • The story of Šárka and Vlasta is a legend dealing with events in the “Maidens’ War” in 7th-century Bohemia. ref

    The Netherlands


    • Nora of Kelmendi (17th century), is also referred to as the “Helen of Albania” as her beauty also sparked a great war. She is also called the Albanian Brünhilde too, for she herself was the greatest woman warrior in the history of Albania.
    • Tringe Smajl Martini, a young girl in war against the Ottoman Empire army after her father Smajl Martini, the clan leader was kidnapped. She never married, never had children, and did not have any siblings. In 1911, the New York Times described Tringe Smajli as the “Albanian Joan of Arc”.
    • Shote Galica (1895–1927), remarkable warrior of the Albanian insurgent national liberation with the goal of unification of all Albanian territories. ref

    Historical France

    • Jeanne Hachette (1456 – ?) was a French heroine known as Jeanne Fourquet and nicknamed Jeanne Hachette (‘Jean the Hatchet’).
    • Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc in French) asserted that she had visions from God which told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. She was tried and executed for heresy when she was only 19 years old. The judgment was rejected by the Pope and she was declared innocent 24 years later (and canonized in 1920). ref

    Centralized Societies: Chiefdoms and States – Introduction to Anthropology 

    “Anthropologists refer to those with formal, inherited positions of community leadership as chiefs. Over time, a chief can expand their dominion to incorporate several towns and villages into a small chiefdom. Chiefs may form political alliances with other regional chiefs in large pyramidal systems consisting of various levels of village chiefs and regional chiefs, with one very powerful chief at the top. When a chiefdom expands to encompass multiple ethnic groups in a regional empire, the leader is referred to as a king.” ref

    “Chiefdoms are a very common form of political organization, found in historical and contemporary societies all over the world. Archaeologists and cultural anthropologists have discovered chiefdoms in Africa, Oceania, the Middle East, Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and North, Central, and South America. While there is considerable diversity in the way these various systems of chieftaincy operate, anthropologists have identified a set of elements common to many of them. The fusing of multiple forms of power is the defining feature of chiefdoms, common to all of them. Economic, political, religious, and military power are all concentrated in the position of the chief.” ref

    “In Mesopotamia, the cities of Sumer were initially ruled by religious priests who represented local gods and oversaw work on common lands. Over time, priests began to share their power with secular governors who maintained law and order, managed the economy, and led military campaigns. Eventually, religious and civil power became fused in the office of the lugal. As lugals solidified their power, they began passing down their office to their sons, establishing dynasties.” ref

    “Central to the power of a chief is control over economic resources such as land, agricultural surplus, and trade. Chiefs often hold land in public trust, determining who may farm where and also allocating farmland to newcomers. They have their own farming plots, commanding regular public labor to work on them. Farmers are obliged to channel a portion of their surplus to the chief, who holds it in storage facilities for public feasts or distribution to those in need. Chiefs regulate local trade and negotiate regional trade networks to benefit their own communities. They control the production and distribution of certain prestige goods, such as royal textiles and ornaments made of jade, gold, copper, or shell.” ref

    “Chiefdoms developed throughout the Polynesian Pacific, including the peoples of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and Tonga and the Maori of New Zealand. In Hawaii, chieftaincy developed from the intensive cultivation of taro using systems of irrigation and terracing (Earle 2011). Hawaiian chiefs controlled the distribution of land, giving out subsistence plots in return for labor in their own gardens. They used accumulated wealth and communal labor to build roads, garden terraces, fish ponds, and military fortifications. Their power was reinforced by a belief system that identified chiefs as god figures responsible for agricultural prosperity and social welfare. Chiefs conducted important annual religious rituals to ensure the success of crops. They commanded public labor to build and refurbish shrines for the worship of local gods, personal gods, and high gods such as Lono. Military forces were recruited and commanded by chiefs who used them to defend their chiefdoms and expand their territories.” ref

    “Militarism is another common feature of chiefdoms throughout the world. While the power of leaders in acephalous societies depends on their ability to persuade others to do what they say, chiefs have coercive power to force people to carry out their commands. The powerful West African chiefdom of Asante was originally founded in 1700 as a military confederation of chiefs who united to defeat the neighboring Denkyira. Under the Asantehene (the king), the top chiefs commanded different divisions of the military, including the scouts, the advance guard, the main body, the right and left wings, and the rear guard. As commander in chief, the Asantehene coordinated these divisions into a highly effective military machine that conquered a region larger than present-day Ghana. Subduing neighboring groups enabled the Asantehene to collect tribute in the form of agricultural surplus, trade goods, and slaves.” ref

    “Also common to many chiefdoms is the promotion of moral and religious ideology that supports the legitimacy of their rule. Like Hawaiian chiefs, Asante chiefs were considered to be embodied links to the realm of the supernatural, and they conducted rituals and ceremonies for the benefit of the community. Every 40 days, Asante chiefs led processions to present ritual gifts of food and drink to the ancestors and ask for their blessings to ensure the fertility of the land and the well-being of the people. Although they wielded great power, Asante chiefs were bound by a morality that compelled them to use resources such as land and gold for the good of the people rather than for private benefit.” ref

    “Europeans who colonized African societies often assumed that African chiefs were cruel despots who used violence and exploitation to enrich themselves and oppress their subjects. On the contrary, research by historians and anthropologists has revealed that many African chiefdoms were highly moralized political systems that incorporated checks and balances on the rule of the chief.” ref

    “Among the Akans (the larger cultural group that includes the Asante), there were several avenues for popular representation and critique as well as a procedure for getting rid of inept and corrupt chiefs. At the advisory level, the chief was guided by a council of elders as well as the queen mother, often his aunt, mother, or sister. The young men of the community formed a group called asafo that had as one of its many purposes the responsibility to represent popular opinion to the chief and his advisors. If the people wished to depose their chief, they could communicate their wishes to the young men, who then conveyed the message to the queen mother, who would then advise the chief to mend his ways. If he didn’t, the young men could seize him, touch his feet to the ground (thus ritually defiling him), shoot off a gun, and declare him deposed. At that point, the queen mother would meet with the elders to nominate a new chief. In Akan societies, it was far easier to depose a bad chief than it is to impeach a bad president in the US political system.” ref


    “Starting around 5,000 years ago, a new form of political organization emerged independently in many parts of the world, including Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, India, Mesoamerica, and South America. As some societies in these areas became more populous and hierarchical, their leaders developed modes of governance that combined forms of economic extraction such as taxation and tribute with mechanisms of social control such as law and policing. These governments used public revenues to build infrastructure and monuments. They developed extensive bureaucracies to interpret and enforce laws and maintain social order. Large military forces defended and expanded control over territory, resulting in multiethnic empires. The government asserted a monopoly on the use of violence, meaning that only the government was allowed to use extreme forms of violence to control or punish anyone. Societies with this form of political organization are called state societies.” ref

    “Many of the features of states mentioned above are common to the political organization of chiefdoms, and indeed states have generally emerged from the increasing centralization of political power in large chiefdoms. This concentration of power happens gradually over time, stimulated by a variety of pressures, some very general and universal and others more particular to the context of specific societies. Population growth and increasing social stratification are among the more general pressures, while the militaristic threats of specific neighboring societies and the particular opportunities of regional trade affect societies in different ways. Attempting to explain the rise of the state, theorists emphasize two sets of forces that propel the process: integrative pressures and conflict pressures.” ref

    “Integrative pressures arise from the need for greater coordination in order to satisfy the needs of a growing population. As the population increases, agricultural production must also be increased to meet subsistence needs and for trade. Leaders are compelled to organize more complex irrigation systems and forms of landscape management, such as terracing and raised fields. These complex systems are built and maintained using public resources and labor. Increasing trade also exerts an integrative force, as leaders strive to maximize the wealth of their societies by stimulating production of agricultural and craft goods and establishing local markets and regional trade opportunities. As agriculture and trade become more complex, power becomes more centralized in order to manage the necessary conditions and infrastructure for economic growth.” ref

    “Conflict pressures arise from the need to manage both internal and external threats to the power of leaders and the integrity of their societies. Some theorists argue that political power becomes increasingly centralized as a leader builds a large military force and wages long-term warfare to defend and expand territory. Conquering neighboring societies allows leaders to command regular tribute. In addition to conquest, military forces provide leaders with large cadres of loyal, well-armed supporters. Other theorists argue that internal tensions are just as pivotal to the centralization of power. State societies are built upon a system of social stratification; that is, they feature class and caste systems with unequal access to wealth and power. With the emergence of a class of privileged elites governing over urban craft workers and rural peasantry, leaders face new forms of inequality and potential conflict. Systems of law and ideology are developed to command the cooperation of disadvantaged groups.” ref

    Archaic States: The Aztecs

    “In the 14th century, the Aztec state of Mesoamerica arose from a combination of integrative and conflict pressures. Migrants to the area, the Mexica (as they called themselves) first worked as mercenaries for other regional powers, then established their own city of Tenochtitlan on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco (Peters-Golden 2002). As newcomers, the Mexica were keen to build up the military might necessary to defend their new settlement. They joined forces with two neighboring states to defeat the regional superpower and establish a “Triple Alliance” of three city-states, which they came to dominate. To strengthen their position, they also sought to generate wealth through agricultural surplus, craft manufacture, and trade. At the height of its power in the 15th century, the Aztec state comprised some 50 individual city-states, each with its own ruler who served the Aztec king. The Aztec empire spanned most of present-day central and southern Mexico.” ref

     “The Aztec state was constructed on a foundation of intensive agriculture, particularly the cultivation of maize. Beans, squash, chiles, cotton, cacao, and other produce also contributed to subsistence and trade. Farmers used a variety of cultivation methods, the most intensive being chinampas agriculture. Chinampas are rectangular plots constructed out of layers of mud and vegetation piled up in a shallow part of a lake and secured with anchoring poles. Using this cultivation method, farmers produced a hefty surplus, which was heavily taxed by the state. This surplus fed urban classes of craftspeople, warriors, bureaucrats, and nobles. Farmers formed the class of commoners who lived outside the urban centers of government and trade. They lived in mud houses roofed with thatch and wore simple clothes with cloaks that were required by law to end above the knee.” ref


    “The agricultural base was diversified by urban classes of craft manufacturers, including weavers, sculptors, goldsmiths, and feather workers. Many of these products were not for general use but reserved for rulers and nobles, giving these craftspeople a class distinction above agricultural commoners. These craftspeople were organized into guilds and lived in exclusive neighborhoods near the nobles they served. Also included in the urban classes were merchants who traveled throughout central Mexico, trading Aztec goods within and beyond the empire. The Aztecs were a highly militant society, valuing perpetual warfare as a political and religious necessity. All young men were expected to serve in the military, waging wars of conquest to collect tribute and captives. A class of warrior elites enjoyed high social status, living among other elite classes in major urban centers. This class was divided into two groups, the Eagle and Jaguar cults.” ref

    “At the top level of this highly stratified society were nobles who could trace their ancestry back to the first Aztec rulers. Only nobles could live in two-story stone houses and wear headbands, gold armbands, and jewels in their lips, ears, and noses. Nobles owned land and monopolized positions in government and religion. Each city-state was governed by a noble ruler, considered a representative of the gods, who collected tribute from commoners, organized military campaigns, sponsored public feasts, and settled disputes. Government consisted of the city-state ruler and their advisors, a bureaucracy for collecting tribute, a justice system of high and lesser courts, and the lesser rulers of provinces and towns. At the very bottom of the class system were serfs and enslaved people, who were commoners who had gotten into debt and/or been sold into slavery. People who fell on hard times economically could sell themselves or their kin into servitude.” ref

    “Through the coordinated labor of these classes, the Aztecs built a sprawling empire of tributary provinces all channeling wealth to the core of three city-states, headed by Tenochtitlan. The largest city in the Americas at the time, Tenochtitlan was a professionally planned symmetrical city with well-maintained roads, canals, gardens, and markets. The center of the city was dominated by around 45 large stone buildings, including temples, pyramids, and palaces. The ruler’s palace had 100 rooms, each with its own bathroom. The city had a zoo, an aquarium, and botanical gardens. Life was congenial and luxurious for nobles who lived in such a beautiful and culturally stimulating environment. Life was not so great for the vast majority of commoners, serfs, and slaves who toiled long hours on the land, struggling to pay the tribute and taxes that supported the very luxuries that were denied to them. Why did they do it?” ref

    “Every state has a set of institutions for maintaining social order, such as law, courts, police, and military forces. The Aztecs had a complex legal system that banned drunkenness, adultery, and homicide, among other crimes. Even more important for the cohesion of social classes were laws that banned any behavior above one’s own social class. Commoners who wore elite forms of dress, built elaborate houses, or tried to obtain private property could be punished by death. Under these conditions, people tended to accept the social class they were born into rather than struggle to change their class status or the hierarchical system of classes as a whole.” ref

    “Even more powerful than state law was a set of ideas and practices threaded throughout the daily lives of Aztec peoples at all levels of society. The official religion of the Aztecs emphasized the importance of continual sacrifice in order to keep the world functioning. In the Aztec origin myth, the gods sacrificed themselves to generate the world, offering up their own blood to put the sun in motion. This act of sacrifice put humans forever in debt to the gods, with continual rituals of human sacrifice required to appease them. Without blood sacrifice, the world would end. Priests conducted ritual sacrifices of men, women, and children throughout the year. Many victims were warriors captured in constant battles with neighboring states. Conquered provinces were required to provide a continuous supply of victims to fuel the ritual calendar.” ref

    Ideology and Hegemony

    “People are often shocked to learn about the prevalence of human sacrifice in Aztec society. We might wonder, how could people go along with such routine public violence conducted by representatives of the state? How did they not protest? Every society develops a set of dominant ideas that frame the existing social order as the way things should be. These ideas form a narrative about the way the world works and the roles of different groups in promoting social harmony and collective prosperity. Typically, a society has many competing ideas about the way the world works, each one reflecting the perspectives and experiences of a particular group. The worldview of a particular group or class in society is called an ideology. Literary theorist Terry Eagleton (1991) describes ideology as an intertwined set of ideas, values, and symbols that can be either conscious or unconscious. When an ideology transcends one group to become the dominant way nearly all people in a society think about social reality, it becomes hegemony. Hegemony is a strategic set of “common sense” ideas that support the social order.” ref

    “As a form of sociopolitical organization, the state requires the vast majority of citizens to lead lives of hard labor and sacrifice in order to support classes of artisans and nobles who live in great cities full of bustling trade, luxurious goods, and monumental architecture. Tearing the heart from a victim on a public altar may seem shocking, but the logic of sacrifice serves as a metaphor for the bodily sacrifice of commoners required to endure lives of hardship to support the well-being of the state. To manage the inequality of classes and ensure the cooperation of all groups, the Aztecs came to embrace the hegemonic notion that sacrifice was necessary to ensure the very existence of the world.” ref

    “The wealth of all state societies, past and present, rests on the hardship of manual laborers at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The dominant ideas of any state are ways of justifying the inequality inherent to all states. These ideas are highly variable. Some societies emphasize religious ideologies of self-sacrifice or the dangers of eternal damnation. Others celebrate economic ideologies of economic growth and consumerism. In American society, for instance, some believe it is necessary to keep the minimum wage of workers very low in order to protect economic growth, an idea not so far removed from notions of bodily sacrifice. In recent decades, the American system has offset these low wages by supplying working-class people with a vast array of cheap consumer goods. The relentless stream of advertising pervading social life continuously reiterates the consumerist mantras of affordability and satisfaction.” ref

    “Ironically, however, those goods are cheap because American manufacturers have relocated their factories to parts of the world where they can pay workers even less than they would pay Americans. The dominant ideology of consumerism draws attention away from the conditions of work and production and toward the ideals of choice and leisure. As both Aztec and American societies demonstrate, the economic and political systems of state societies are deeply entwined, and this relationship is often reflected in the dominant ideas of a society. Political economy is the study of the way political and economic realms frequently reinforce and sometimes contradict one another over time.” ref


    “Regions of ancient state political systems that evolved into complex civilizations. While these six centers of early civilization had major cultural and historical differences, they created remarkably similar political solutions.” ref

    Political Organization: Political Levels of Integration

    Some horticultural societies of the past developed more intensive agricultural subsistence patterns when their populations grew into the thousands.  As this interrelated economic and populational transition occurred, they were forced to create a new level of political integration in order to maintain unity and order.  This was the chiefdom and ultimately the state.  This marks the beginning of centralized, fulltime leadership and nonegalitarian societies.  Before examining the nature of chiefdoms and states, it is important to keep in mind that the political systems in many societies do not clearly fit either category completely.  They are essentially in transition from tribes to chiefdoms or from chiefdoms to states. Chiefdoms are similar to bands and tribes in being mostly classless societies.  However, chiefdoms differ in having a more or less permanent, fulltime leader with real authority to make major decisions for their societies.” ref

    “These leaders are usually referred to by anthropologists as chiefs.  Sometimes there is an advisory council as well, but there is no bureaucracy of professional administrators.  The government is essentially just the chief.  Some of the more advanced chiefdoms in Africa are an exception in that they have a paramount chief and lesser chiefs who perform administrative functions. The Baganda and Bunyoro of Uganda are examples of this.  The chiefdoms of ancient Hawaii and elsewhere in Polynesia were similar in having several levels of chiefs.  Chiefdoms also are known historically from Europe, Asia, the southeastern United States, the Caribbean islands, Panama, Colombia, and the Amazon Basin of Brazil.” ref

    “Seniority in kin groups is usually the primary basis for individual status within chiefdoms.  The chief is at the top of the kinship hierarchy.  Other people are commonly ranked in terms of their genealogical distance from the chief.  Subsequently, there is a keen interest in maintaining records of descent from important family ancestors. Chiefs and their families generally have a higher standard of living than ordinary people.  What makes this possible is that chiefs usually perform a society-wide economic redistribution function that, in some cases, is cloaked in the guise of ritual gift giving.  This essentially siphons off surplus agricultural products from farmers and then redistributes them throughout the society.  In the process, a small amount is held back in order to support the chief’s more lavish lifestyle.ref 

    “The ritualized redistribution of surplus food and other commodities in chiefdoms is, in a sense, the rudimentary beginnings of a taxation system.  It is probably tolerated by people because of the economic advantages that it can provide in addition to social stability.  The larger territorial size of chiefdoms often encompasses diverse environmental zones with somewhat different products.  The redistribution of surpluses can serve as a method of providing security in times of crop failures as well as greater food variety for the populace as a whole.  For instance, a farmer may give up some of his crop but get different kinds of food in return along with enhanced status.ref

    “The larger populations of chiefdoms generally means that the people have less in common than do those in the smaller societies of bands and tribes.  Disputes inevitably arise that cannot be settled by informal means based on kinship and friendship.  A chief usually functions as an arbitrator and judge in these cases.  In some of the kingdoms of West Africa, the paramount chiefs still today “license” official truth testers to deal with contradictory testimony in legal cases.  They often use an ordeal to determine the truth.  In the hot knife ordeal, only someone telling the truth is thought to not be burned when a red hot knife blade is stroked across his leg.ref

    “An important advantage that chiefdoms have over band and tribal level societies when conflicts arise between them is that chiefdoms are usually more effective in warfare.  This is due to the fact that chiefdoms have two important advantages.  They have larger populations so they can assemble larger military forces. In addition, the chief can provide centralized direction which potentially allows more decisive action. Some chiefdoms in Western South America had in excess of 100,000 people. The Chibcha of Colombia was one of them. They became a militarily powerful force in the mountain regions that made up their homeland. Once functioning, the position of the chief usually becomes essential to the functioning of society.  Chiefdoms cannot go back to a tribal level unless their population drops significantly.ref


    The “Pyramid of Power” in Ancient States   

    “As independent kingdoms within each of the geographic regions of the ancient civilization competed for land, water, and other important resources, warfare became more frequent and larger in scale. Professional armies were created along with more efficient weapons. In the Old World, these included horse drawn chariots, war ships, and metal swords, arrow, and spear tips. The consequence of these wars of conquest was powerful kingdoms destroying and annexing weaker ones. Eventually, the victors ruled enormous multi-city, multi-cultural, and multi-language empires with millions of people living over vast areas. These super-states required even more centralization of authority and larger permanent armies. Professional armies have always been important tools of rule in ancient and modern states.ref

    All of the ancient civilizations were preindustrial agricultural societies with the majority of their populations living in hamlets and small villages. Most of these essentially rural societies only had one or a few small cities of about 5,000-50,000 people. These urban areas were primarily centers for the elite ruling class along with the state government bureaucracy and the majority of the fulltime craft specialists and traders who worked for them. In addition, cities were the locations of major temples of the state religions. At the top of the religious, political, and military hierarchies were key members of the ruling elite. There was not the separation of church and state that is characteristic of the U.S. and many other large nation states today. For instance, a prince could serve as an army general, a province governor, and a head priest at the same time. This was not viewed as a conflict of interest.” ref

    Ancient states were far from being egalitarian. There were a few rich, politically powerful people and many more comparatively poor commoners who had little political influence and almost no possibility of acquiring it. As single-city kingdoms became multi-city empires with vast territories, the political systems generally became more rigid. Not uncommonly, the ruler became a god-king with absolute authority. The Pharaohs of Egypt are a prime example of this.  They were thought to be not just mortals but god-kings. As living gods, their authority was absolute.” ref

    “Most ancient states had slavery. The conquest of competitor states usually provided most of them. Slaves were not always at the bottom of the pyramid of power in these societies. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, women slaves were often integrated into the households of wealthy, powerful men as servants and concubines. Slave children fathered by their owner sometimes acquired freedom and far higher status, wealth, and power than that of commoners.” ref

    Hopewell Mound Builder culture (200 BCE–500 CE)

    “The Hopewell inherited from their Adena Mound Building culture (500 BCE–100 CE) forebears an incipient social stratification.” ref

    “These cultures likely accorded certain families a special place of privilege. Some scholars suggest that these societies were marked by the emergence of “big-men/women”, leaders whose influence depended on their skill at persuasion in important matters such as trade and religion. They also perhaps augmented their influence by cultivating reciprocal obligations with other important community members. The emergence of “big-men/women” was a step toward the development of these societies into highly structured and stratified chiefdoms.” ref

    On the Significance of Matrilineal Chiefship

    ” UNDER the term chiefship as here used we include only that civil office in which the incumbent is the head of a family and has under his rule a band of families, a tribe, or a nation. Such chiefs are, for example, the band chiefs of the north and east Algonkian, the chiefs of the households of the Nootka, of the households or matrilineal “families” of the Iroquois; the tribal head chiefs of the Nootka, Coast, and Delt Salish, Tsimshian, etc., and the kings of the Natchez, man African states, modern European nations, etc. The first essential fact we have to note about this office is that universally it is the prerogative of an adult male. Occasionally, it is held by a child, the functions of pending the child chief’s maturity, being exercise warmer” or regent. Occasionally also, which is more the office is held by a female. A child holds office those peoples with whom the chiefship has become hereditary, and the heir presumptive may not be A woman holds office only where the office is strictly a given family, and when no eligible male heir is near enough in blood to be considered acceptable in a closely related female who can be expected soon son and so perpetuate the chiefship through the descent.” ref

    “An example of the type of situation which gave rise to the installation of queens even among so-called “primitive” folk may
    well be noted at length at this point, in part because of certain remarkable features which will interest us more in a moment. In the year 1660 the Piscottoways (Ganawagas, Conoys) of Maryland applied to the governor of the province for ratification of their choice of an “emperor,” and to his inquiry as to their customs relative to succession they replied that the office went, on the death of an incumbent, to his brother, “and for want of such, to a sister’s son,” and stated that in such wise the office had descended from their first emperor-who had been some one come to rule over them from the eastern Shore of Maryland-for thirteen generations, without interruption, until the time of the emperor Kittamaqund who preceded the emperor just deceased.” ref

    “Kittamaqund had died without having brother or sister, (and, presum without a sister’s son) to succeed him, and took it upon him, therefore, to appoint his daughter to be “queen.” The perejected this appointment, however, as contrary to tribal custom and chose as emperor, Weghucasso, who was descended “from of the brothers, which one, they knew not, of the first emperor “And Weghucasso at his death appointed to be king some descendant of one of the first kings.” This appointee was Jan Wizous, which in their language signifies a true king [they] would not suffer us to call him Towzin, which is the they give to the sons of their kings who by their custom ar to succeed in rule, but his brothers, or the sons of his sisters.” To avoid possible misconceptions it is perhaps at this point to consider a practice prevailing among
    Kwakiutl of British Columbia.” ref

    “For them Boas patrilineal inheritance is the rule for certain circumstances the annual or winter ceremonies of the secret societies, such as that of master-of-ceremonies, those of caretaker of the drum, of the batons, of the eagle-down, etc. Civil privileges also are sometimes so inherited but much the larger number of these are given by a father to his son-in-law expressly in trust for the donor’s grandson. Hill-Tout has noted for the not-distant Siciatl that the chiefship, a civil “privilege” on the Northwest Coast, maybe so inherited, or bestowed; regularly it goes to the eldest son of a chief but where there is no son the son-in-law will succeed,5 as a consequence of which in the third generation the reigning chief will be the grandson of the chief whose son-in-law succeeded, the chiefship, thereby descending in the direct line of succession just as if the daughter herself had actually succeeded to the office and exercised its functions. It has been suggested that the practice of the southern Kwakiutl indicates an adaptation of a former patrilineal inheritance to concepts diffused from the tribes farther up the coast with whom all privileges and property including the privilege of chiefship descend matrilineally.” ref

    “However, it has also been pointed out that the kinship terms of the Kwakiutl correspond to a loose organization in which relationship is reckoned bilaterally, as is the case with the closely related Nootka. For the Nootka Sapir has shown that privileges are inherited through both the male and female lines, with a preference for the male line, the inheritance of privileges being in a measure conditioned by the fact that privileges are not only personally owned but also definitely associated with the local group among whom they originate. More data, especially on the inheritance of the particular of chiefship, is desirable, but it seems evident that the Kwa represent simply a people reckoning bilaterally, but who, like peoples whose developing institution of chiefship has not be affected by the influence of a matrilineal kinship reckoning, the develop a patrilineal inheritance of office.” ref

    “Rather than an indication of influences from the northern tribes and an addition to the idea of a matrilineal reckoning, the peculiar Kwa inheritance practice we have noted is simply an indication of Kwakiutl concern that privileges, in general, should descend patrilineally. And, in case a chief only has daughters, the Kw, like the Society, with the son-in-law arrangement, are able to the chiefship in the direct line of descent and, at the same, avoid having a woman chief or queen. We may now confine ourselves to the actual chiefship. Typically, though not always, it is cor the mother-sib. Despite the fact that with many whom the sib, and, specifically, the mother-sib, is a institution-such as the Iroquois, the Haida, etc.-this does not include the concept of even a fictitious kin its members, it yet remains obvious that sib member
    patrilineally or matrilineally reckoned, is acquired the blood relationship to a father or a mother member obvious, and is perhaps superfluous to observe, also, whether transmitted matrilineally or patrilineally inherited by virtue of actual blood relationship cumbent of the office.” ref

    “But a matrilineal reckoning for an which is universally the prerogative of a male and his male cessors appears as a noteworthy phenomenon, particularly of the fact that different types of inheritance reckonings for ent prerogatives, privileges, things, relationships, etc. contained within the same cultural considered in connection with the processes by which chiefship undoubtedly evolved. Definitely, instituted chiefship is itself an office which cannot be placed too far back in social evolution; and the concept and practice of the inheritance of the office exclusively within some one family of the group of families concerned must be placed reltively later, in that obviously intermediary developments remain on record as the existing practice of many peoples-though very definite records of this gradual evolution for any one people are hardly available. This evolution of the concept of ban and higher chiefships as hereditary within a given family and even as with many peoples, through an inflexible rule of picture took place of course concurrently with the of concepts of the inheritance of other things such ship, real, and personal property, songs, names, other office, etc.” ref

    The Real Mound Builders of North America: matrilineal chiefdom

     Mississippian Chiefdoms

    “Although groups speaking several different languages produced Mississippian societies, they shared many cultural traits. The most spectacular features of these societies were the temple- and burial-mound centers they constructed. The largest such site is at Cahokia in what is now Collinsville, Illinois, just east of St. Louis, Missouri; the village area extended for six miles along the Illinois River, contained eighty-five temple and burial mounds, and sustained a population perhaps as high as seventy-five thousand persons. Being master farmers allowed the Mississippians to develop such large societies, although most chiefdoms were much smaller than Cahokia. All Mississippian sites utilized maize or corn as a primary staple and supplemented it with other plants and meats.” ref

    “Chiefdoms. Mississippian societies are called chiefdoms because they were governed by small groups of elites or even by a single individual, called a paramount chief. Commoners and outlying satellite villages paid tributes of corn, deer meat, animal skins, and prestige items to the principal town. In some cases new towns joined a chiefdom by military conquest. The labor of commoners built the mounds and suggests that elites held the power to assemble large bodies of people to do their bidding. Leadership passed through hereditary lines in at least some of these chiefdoms, but high status was most likely based upon command of spiritual forces. The general population recognized the large amounts of power that leaders manipulated and honored them with positions of prestige. Matrilineal kinship characterized Mississippian culture, and female paramount chiefs greeted Spanish expeditions, such as the “Lady of Cofitachequi” from the chiefdom of Cofitachequi in present-day South Carolina who welcomed Hernando de Soto in the 1540s.” ref

    “Decline. Mississippian chiefdoms still existed in the mid 1500s when de Soto and others traveled through the Southeast, but just a century later, the mound sites were abandoned. Because of this timing, scholars looked to the de Soto campaign as the cause of this phenomenon. It is probable that some of de Soto’s men, or maybe the horses and pigs that accompanied them, carried diseases to which the Indians had no immunity. Pandemics may have wiped the Mississippians from the map, replacing them with refugee groups of survivors who banded together for protection but lacked the numbers to maintain the mounds. Many Mississippian sites became vacant before European contact, however, which suggests that local reasons contributed to abandonment. Perhaps Mississippians overused their resources, depleting the soil for corn and cutting down trees necessary for their buildings and fires. Possibly, climatic changes resulted in drought or a shorter growing season, thus reducing the food supply. Political conflict and war between chiefdoms could have weakened some to the point of being unsustainable. Likely, all of the above factors contributed to the abandonment of the mound sites. The Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Seminoles descended from the Mississippian peoples and held many traits in common with their ancestors.” ref

    “Although the first people entered what is now the Mississippi about 12,000 years ago, the earliest major phase of earthen mound construction in this area did not begin until some 2100 years ago. Mounds continued to be built sporadically for another 1800 years, or until around 1700 CE. Archeologists, the scientist who study the evidence of past human lifeways, classify moundbuilding Indians of the Southeast into three major chronological/cultural divisions: the Archaic, the Woodland, and the Mississippian traditions. To date, no mounds of the Archaic period (7000 to 1000 BCE) have been positively identified in Mississippi; the mounds described herein all date to the last two cultural periods.” ref

    “The Middle Woodland period (100 BCE to 200 CE) was the first era of widespread mound construction in Mississippi. Middle Woodland peoples were primarily hunters and gatherers who occupied semipermanent or permanent settlements. Some mounds of this period were built to bury important members of local tribal groups. These burial mounds were rounded, dome-shaped structures that generally range from about three to 18 feet high, with diameters from 50 to 100 feet. Distinctive artifacts obtained through long-distance trade were sometimes placed with those buried in the mounds. The construction of burial mounds declined after the Middle Woodland, and only a few were built during the Late Woodland period (circa 400 to 1000 CE). Woodland burial mounds can be visited at the Boyd, Bynum, and Pharr sites and at Chewalla Lake in Holy Springs National Forest. (The Chewalla Mound is not included in this itinerary because it is not listed in the National Register of Historic Places).” ref

    “The Mississippian period (1000 to 1700 CE) saw a resurgence of mound building across much of the southeastern United States. Most Mississippian mounds are rectangular, flat-topped earthen platforms upon which temples or residences of chiefs were erected. These buildings were constructed of wooden posts covered with mud plaster and had thatched roofs. Mississippian platform mounds range in height from eight to almost 60 feet and are from 60 to as much as 770 feet in width at the base. Mississippian period mounds can be seen at the Winterville, Jaketown, Pocahontas, Emerald, Grand Village, Owl Creek, and Bear Creek sites.” ref

    “Mississippian period mound sites mark centers of social and political authority. They are indicators of a way of life more complex than that of the Woodland and earlier periods. In contrast to the relatively simple, egalitarian tribal organization of most societies of the Woodland period, regional Mississippian populations were typically organized into chiefdoms–territorial groups with hereditary, elite leadership classes. Across the Southeast, the chiefdom system of political organization arose as a means of managing increased social complexity caused by steady population growth. This population growth was sustained by agriculture (corn, beans, and squash)–a revolutionary new means of subsistence that became an economic mainstay during the Mississippian period.” ref

    “Mound construction was once again in decline by the time the first Europeans came to this region in the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, epidemic diseases introduced by early European explorers decimated native populations across the Southeast, causing catastrophic societal disruption. As a result, by the time sustained contact with European colonists began about 1700 CE, the long tradition of mound building had nearly ended.” ref

    Ancient Colombian chiefdoms

    “Chiefdoms in Central America were small groups who developed unique art forms in order to distinguish themselves and compete with one another. c. 500 B.C.E.–1600 C.E.” ref

    Tribe versus Chiefdom in Lower Central America

    “Abstract: It has commonly been argued that chiefdoms were the dominant form of prehispanic political organization in Lower Central America. Reexamination of the data base, however, reveals that tribal forms of organization were also present in Lower Central America at the time of Spanish contact and before. The salient characteristics of both tribes and chiefdoms are discussed, and criteria for identifying tribes and chiefdoms in the archaeological record are outlined. Data from the Central Provinces of Panama and the Gulf of Nicoya are then examined in light of these criteria. We argue that while a chiefdom form of organization prevailed in Panama, the Gulf of Nicoya was occupied by tribal groups immediately prior to contact with the Spanish.” ref

    “The customs and social systems of South American peoples are closely and naturally related to the environments in which they live. These environmental relationships are mediated by the systems of technology that the people use to exploit their resources. Four basic types of social and cultural organization of South American peoples emerge from the archaeological and historical records: (1) central Andean irrigation civilizations, (2) chiefdoms of the northern Andes and the circum-Caribbean, (3) tropical-forest farming villages, and (4) nomadic hunters and gatherers. Each type developed in its own fashion during thousands of years, and since the 16th century each has made a distinctive adjustment to the impact of European civilization. The original migrants to the New World had no knowledge of the domestication of plants or animals, with the exception of dogs, which were used in hunting. Recent discoveries in Mexico indicate that agriculture was independently discovered in the New World in roughly the same era that it was established in the Middle East (about 7000–8000 BCE) and that New World civilizations were built on an indigenous agricultural base.ref

    “The evidence on early hunting and gathering peoples in Peru is still sparse. It is not yet possible to reconstruct social patterns, since most of the remains consist only of shellfish middens and small, widely scattered campsites along the coast. It was a period of thousands of years’ duration, however, toward the end of which some knowledge of plant domestication reached the Peruvian coast. The next major era is set off by incipient agriculture and also is characterized by the remains of small, hamlet-type communities along the Pacific Ocean near river mouths, where the alluvial soil was able to support crops. Technology remained simple, irrigation was not practiced, and population remained small.” ref

    “After the passage of 1,000 years or so, marked developments appear in the archaeological record. These include many new crops, irrigation ditches that extended the arable area and controlled the supply of water, more and larger communities that attest to a growing population, and important temple mounds that formed the symbolic centres of theocratic government controlled by a priestly class. The formative era saw the development of the basic technologies and life-styles that were to become elaborated into even more complex cultural forms and state institutions. The emergence of city-states and empires in the central Andes is the result of local cultural-ecological adjustments of this sort, based on an irrigation agriculture that supported growing populations and necessitated controls in the hands of priests and nobles, with a warrior class subservient to the state.” ref

    Subsistence Economy and Chiefdom Emergence in the Muisca Area

    “ABSTRACT: Muisca societies located in the central mountains of Colombia impressed early Spanish arrivals in the sixteenth century with the power and level of respect commanded by their chiefs and the quality and variety of the crafts their artisans produced, sometimes from raw materials obtained from other regions. Early Spanish accounts especially emphasize the “advanced” economic development of Muisca societies, with what seemed to European eyes especially well-organized and flourishing trade and dense populations that were well-provisioned despite the fairly cold, wet, high-elevation zone they inhabited. As several regional chiefdoms in northern South America have been studied archaeologically, it has often turned out that their subsistence and craft economies do not involve very high degrees of trade, tribute, or household interdependence. This emerging pattern contrasts with sixteenth-century descriptions of the Muisca.” ref

    “The archaeological evidence of Muisca societies has provided at best only incomplete confirmation of the descriptions in historical sources, particularly in regard to the development of local, regional, and supra-regional patterns of economic interdependence and the importance of such an economy to the emergence of chiefly power. One aspect of economic interdependence specifically discussed in the historical sources, however, has been subject to very little archaeological investigation. This is the agricultural exploitation of warmer low-elevation zones located quite close to some of the principal Muisca chiefly centers. In these areas higher temperatures led to greater productivity as well as protection from the frosts that were a constant risk to agriculture in the Muisca heartland. There are detailed sixteenth-century historical accounts of the importance of these resources for sustaining the very high population densities of the Muisca heartland, high densities fully attested to by both historical and archaeological information.” ref

    “Under the supervision of Dr. Robert D. Drennan, Pedro Argüello will carry out a systematic regional survey of some 100 sq km in the Tena region on the slopes leading down from the western edge of the Muisca heartland toward the valley of the Magdalena River. The Tena region, which ranges from 2200 m above sea level down to about 700 m, is specifically mentioned in sixteenth-century documents as a major source of agricultural produce for the Bogotá chiefdom. If its agricultural resources were increasingly intensively exploited as Muisca chiefdoms emerged and developed and population levels in the high-elevation Muisca heartland grew, this will be reflected in changing patterns of distribution of human occupation in the Tena region. Such a result would provide stronger support for the historical accounts of one of the economic foundations of Muisca chiefly power than has been forthcoming from archaeological investigations of other aspects of Muisca economy. It would help to explain the relatively late but extremely rapid development of the Muisca chiefdoms and to position these societies properly in comparative analysis of the pathways toward the consolidation of political power in general.” ref

    “The societies of the Muisca area in the eastern highlands of Colombia were described by early Spanish conquerors as among the richest and most highly developed societies they encountered in northern South America. Chiefs were rich and powerful, and controlled regional populations engaged in well-organized intensive agricultural production to sustain quite high population densities. Archaeological evidence tends to agree that these societies developed vigorously during the last few hundred years before the sixteenth-century arrival of the Spanish, but evidence available to date provides conflicting views about their earlier trajectories of development. In several ways archaeological evidence has failed to convincingly substantiate sixteenth-century written accounts. One aspect of Muisca demography and agricultural production is described in these accounts in particular detail. It involves the expansion by Muisca populations from the high-elevation Bogotá Savannah down the slopes toward the Magdalena River at the expense of Panche people who had previously occupied the zone. The driving force behind this expansion was said to be the need to increase and intensify agricultural production in the warmer Tena region in order to sustain burgeoning populations in the Bogotá Savannah.” ref

    The archaeological research confirmed that Muisca people did, in fact, live in the Tena region, not only in the last few hundred years before the Spanish Conquest but in much earlier times as well. The history of this occupation goes back at least 2400 years to the initial period of sedentary farming. During the earliest occupation of the Tena region—during the Herrera period (400 BCE–800 CE)—the majority of the population lived in widely scattered dispersed farmsteads, although a cluster of occupation more like a nucleated village also occurred. This settlement pattern continued in similar form during the next period—Early Muisca (800–1200 CE)—during which the region witnessed quite substantial population growth. During the last prehispanic period—Late Muisca (1200–1550 CE)—a combination of dispersed farmsteads and nucleated villages persisted, but in sharp contrast to the implications of the sixteenth-century accounts, population actually decreased somewhat, making the Tena region extremely unusual among the demographic patterns for the Muisca area at this time.ref

    “The region’s inhabitants, like those of earlier periods, were Muisca farmers living there year-round, and practicing relatively extensive agriculture. There is no sign of a major influx of seasonal occupation by people whose permanent residences were in the higher-elevation Bogotá Savannah. Nor is there indication of more intensive agricultural production. These results question literal interpretations of sixteenth-century written accounts of late Muisca expansion beyond the Altiplano Cundiboyacense and of the intensive and organized exploitation of the agricultural resources of adjacent lower-elevation zones as a source of chiefly wealth and power. They thus add to our knowledge of the variety of pathways followed in the development of very early complex societies, in which the foundations of much modern human social organization were constructed.ref

    Chiefdoms in northern South America

    “Abstract: The multiple and varied trajectories of chiefdom development in northern South America (and adjacent Central America) offer a rich opportunity for evaluating generalizations about the processes of chiefdom development. Sequences of the south coast of Ecuador, the Alto Magdalena, Calima, the Muisca region, Barinas, and the Tairona region are well enough documented to attempt to use in this way. Although centralized, hierarchical societies develop in all these regions, there are many differences in the character of centralization and hierarchy and in the pacing of the development, and none of the traditionally proposed forces of social change is entirely adequate to account for these cases. Attention to the role played by competition between aspiring chiefs and their factions offers promise for more satisfactory generalizations that could be evaluated through further comparative study.” ref

    Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís

    The property includes four archaeological sites located in the Diquís Delta in southern Costa Rica, which are considered unique examples of the complex social, economic, and political systems of the period CE 500–1500. They contain artificial mounds, paved areas, burial sites, and, most significantly, a collection of stone spheres between 0.7 m and 2.57 m in diameter, whose meaning, use, and production remain largely a mystery. The spheres are distinctive for their perfection, number, size and density, and placement in original locations. Their preservation from the looting that befell the vast majority of archaeological sites in Costa Rica has been attributed to the thick layers of sediment that kept them buried for centuries.” ref

    “Four archaeological sites (Finca 6, Batambal, El Silencio, and Grijalba-2) located in the Diquís Delta in southern Costa Rica illustrates a collection of unique stone spheres located in chiefdom settlement structures of the Precolumbian period. The four sites represent different settlement structures of chiefdom societies (500-1500 CE) containing artificial mounds, paved areas, and burial sites. Special objects of wonder and admiration are the distinctive Diquís stone spheres, which are rare in their perfection of large-sized (up to 2.57m diameter) spherical structures but are also distinct for their number and location in their original positions within residential areas.ref 

    “The Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís illustrate the physical evidence of the complex political, social, and productive structures of the Precolumbian hierarchical societies. The chiefdoms which inhabited the Diquís Delta created hierarchical settlements expressing the division of different levels of power centers, presented by the different serial components. Likewise, the exceptional stone spheres, which continue to leave researchers speculating about the method and tools of their production, represent an exceptional testimony to the artistic traditions and craft capabilities of these Precolumbian societies.ref 

    Simple Chiefdoms


     Elite Status and Gender: Women Leaders in Chiefdom Societies of the Southeastern U.S.

    “ABSTRACT: This dissertation presents an ethnohistorical study of women chiefs in the Southeastern United States. Women chiefs were a recurring feature of Southeastern chiefdom societies at and following European contact. Knowledge of how and why women filled these public roles helps explain how chiefdom societies were organized, their political structure, and how gender roles were defined. Chiefdom structure, political economy, and chiefly succession are examined to provided a framework for understanding how chiefdoms operate and how chiefs come to power. Ethnohistoric data are presented and analyzed, supporting the conclusion that women chiefs were present at the very dawn of European contact, even when there were high ranking men available to fill the office. Women sometimes served as regents, usually for an immature child, but some of the women identified as regents were actually chiefs. Women chiefs are present because their elite status takes precedence over their gender. Chiefly offices may not necessarily be gendered male or female, since women accessed them regularly. This analysis shows that elite status, personal ability, and strong support from a faction are needed for both women and men to become chiefs, regardless of gender. Women chiefs were present in both matrilineal and patrilineal societies, so the form of kinship reckoning is not a critical or limiting variable for determining the likelihood of women chiefs being present. The most salient variable is the presence of ascribed, elite statuses that women can access. Therefore, the innate structure of chiefdom societies themselves makes it likely that women chiefs will be present. Baseline comparative data from chiefdom societies having women chiefs from outside the U.S.–Tonga and Taíno –are used to generate a hypothesis about the presence of women chiefs.” ref

    Paramount Chief

    A paramount chief is the English-language designation for the highest-level political leader in a regional or local polity or country administered politically with a chief-based system. This term is used occasionally in anthropological and archaeological theory to refer to the rulers of multiple chiefdoms or the rulers of exceptionally powerful chiefdoms that have subordinated others. Paramount chiefs were identified by English-speakers as existing in Native American confederacies and regional chiefdoms, such as the Powhatan Confederacy and Piscataway Native Americans encountered by European colonists in the Chesapeake Bay region of North America. During the Victoria era, paramount chief was a formal title created by British colonial administrators in the British Empire and applied in Britain’s colonies in Asia and Africa. They used it as a substitute for the word “king” to ensure that only the British monarch held that title. Since the title “chief” was already used in terms of district and town administrators, the addition of “paramount” was made so as to distinguish between the ruling monarch and the local aristocracy.” ref

    In Asia

    Khan, alternately spelled lowercase as khan and sometimes spelled as Han, Xan, Ke-Han, Turkic: khān, Mongolian: qāān, Chinese: 可汗 or 汗, kehan or han) is an originally Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, first used by medieval Turko-Mongol nomadic tribes living to the north of China. ‘Khan’ is first seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289 and was used as a state title by the Rouran confederation. It was subsequently adopted by the Göktürks before Turkic peoples and the Mongols brought it to the rest of Asia. In the middle of the sixth century it was known as “Kagan – King of the Turks” to the Persians. It now has many equivalent meanings such as commander, leader, or ruler. The most famous khan was the Great Khan of Mongols: Genghis Khan. Another famous Manchu khan was Nurhachi.” ref

    “Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, Huguan Siou is the paramount leader for the Kadazandusun Murut indigenous community in Sabah. The current and the second Huguan Siou is Joseph Pairin Kitingan. The office is near sacred and can be left vacant if no one is deemed worthy to hold the title.” ref

    New Zealand, Ariki Nui of Ngati Tuwharetoa, a Māori tribe in the central North Island – a hereditary chieftainship which still has great influence. In the 1850s the Māori King Movement resulted in the election of a Waikato chief as Māori King.” ref

    Cook Islands, the paramount chief of the Cook Islands was an ariki of the Makea Nui dynasty, a chiefdom of the Te Au O Tonga tribe in Rarotonga, the Kingdom of Rarotonga was established in 1858 and ended in 1888.” ref

    “Fiji, during the October–December 1987 secession agitation on one island, known as the Republic of Rotuma, led by Henry Gibson (remained in New Zealand), his style was Gagaj Sau Lagfatmaro, rendered as Paramount chief or King of the Molmahao Clan. NB: This title was not recognized by the Rotuma Island Council as the titles Gagaja and Sau have never been used together. The closest thing to a paramount chief is the position of Fakpure, currently belonging to the district chief (gagaj ‘es itu’u) of Noa’tau. The British Sovereign was recognized as “Paramount Chief“, even after the country became a republic on 7 October 1987; however, this was not an office of state.” ref

    “Polynesia, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) paramount chief or king, the ariki henua or ariki mau*. Samoa, paramount titles in the fa’amatai chiefly system include; MalietoaMata’afaTupua Tamasese, and Tuimaleali’ifano. American Samoa, paramount chief titles in the fa’amatai chiefly system include; Tui Manu’aLe’iato.” ref

    In Africa

    “Eastern African paramount chieftainships and titles, Kenya: Title since 1904 of the former laibon of all the