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The following list includes societies that have been identified as matrilineal or matrilocal in ethnographic literature.
"Matrilineal" means property is passed down through the maternal line on the death of the mother, not that of the father.
The Akans of Ghana, West Africa, are matrilineal. Akans are the largest ethnic group in Ghana. They are made of the Akims, Asantes, Fantis, Akuapims, Kwahus, Denkyiras, Brongs, Akwamus, Krachis, etc.
"Matrilocal" means new families are established in proximity to the brides' extended family of origin, not that of the groom.
Note: separate in the marriage column refers to the practice of husbands and wives living in separate locations, often informally called walking marriages . See the articles for the specific cultures that practice this for further description.
|Group name||Continent||Country / Region||Marriage||Lineage||Reference||(c. year)|
|Alor||Asia||Indonesia||Cora du Bois||1944|
|Bamenda||Africa||Cameroon||patrilocal||only Kom matrilineal||Phyllis Kaberry||1952|
|Batek||Asia||Malaysia||patrilocal||Kirk Michael Endicott||1974|
|Bontoc||Asia||Philippines|| Albert Jenks |
|Boyowan||Australasia||Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea||patrilocal||matrilineal||Bronisław Malinowski||1916|
|Bribri||North America||Costa Rica||matrilocal||matrilineal||William More Gabb||1875|
|Bunt||Asia||India||patrilocal||matrilineal||E Kathleen Gough||1954|
|Chambri||Australasia||Papua New Guinea||Margaret Mead||1935|
|Fore||Australasia||Papua New Guinea||Shirley Glasse (Lindenbaum)||1963|
|Greek||Europe||various islands||matrilocal||John Hawkins||to the end of the 18th century AD|
|Hopi||North America||United States of America||matrilocal||matrilineal||Barbara Freire-Marreco||1914|
|[ citation needed ]||South America||Ecuador||[ citation needed ]||[ citation needed ]|
|Iban||Asia||Borneo||both||neither||Edwin H Gomes||1911|
|Imazighen||Africa||North Sahara||George Peter Murdock||1959|
|Iroquois||North America||North East North America||matrilocal||matrilineal||Lewis Henry Morgan||1901|
|Jívaro||South America||West Amazon||Rafael Karsten||1926|
|Jews in the Kibbutzim||Israel||matrilineal||Judith Buber Agassi||1989|
|Karen||Asia||Burma||matrilocal||matrilineal||Harry Ignatius Marshall||1922|
|Khasi||Asia||India||matrilocal||matrilineal||P. R. T. Gurdon||1914|
|Kuna people||South America||Panama, Colombia||matrilocal|
|!Kung San||Africa||Southern Africa||Marjorie Shostak||1976|
|Minangkabau||Asia||Indonesia||separate||matrilineal||Pieter Johannes Veth||1882|
|Mosuo/Nakhi||Asia||China||separate||matrilineal||Joseph Francis Charles Rock||1924|
|Nair||Asia||India||matrilocal||matrilineal||E Kathleen Gough||1954|
|Navajo||North America||United States of America||matrilocal||matrilineal|
|Ngazidja/Grande Comore||Africa||Comoros||matrilocal||matrilineal|| Paul Guy |
Martine Gestin, Nicole-Claude Mathieu
|Ovambo||Africa||Namibia||matrilineal||Maija Hiltunen (Tuupainen)||1970|
|Serer||Africa||Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania||patrilocal||both||Henry Gravrand||1990 |
|Siraya||Austronesia||Taiwan||duolocal, uxorilocal||matrilineal||Shepherd & Candidius||1995|
|Tlingit||North America||United States of America||matrilocal||matrilineal||Aurel Krause||1885|
|Vanatinai||Australasia||Papua New Guinea||matrilocal||matrilineal||Maria Lepowsky||1981|
|Wemale||Asia||Indonesia||Adolf E Jensen||1939|
|Basques||Europe||Spain and France||matrilocal||matrilineal|
|Rhade (Ê Đê)||Asia||Vietnam, Cambodia||matrilocal||matrilineal|
|Han Taiwanese (antiquated, mostly rural)||Asia||Taiwan||matrilocal||matrilineal|
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/or titles. A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers – in other words, a "mother line". In a matrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as their mother. This matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the more common 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.
In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist Robin Fox states that "the study of kinship is the study of what man does with these basic facts of life – mating, gestation, parenthood, socialization, siblingship etc." Human society is unique, he argues, in that we are "working with the same raw material as exists in the animal world, but [we] can conceptualize and categorize it to serve social ends." These social ends include the socialization of children and the formation of basic economic, political and religious groups.
In social anthropology, matrilocal residence or matrilocality is the societal system in which a married couple resides with or near the wife's parents. Thus, the female offspring of a mother remain living in the mother's house, thereby forming large clan-families, typically consisting of three or four generations living in the same place.
The Akan is a meta-ethnicity living in the southern regions of present-day Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa. The Akan language is a group of dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano subfamily of the Niger–Congo family.
The avunculate, sometimes called avunculism or avuncularism, is any social institution where a special relationship exists between an uncle and his sisters' children. This relationship can be formal or informal, depending on the society. Early anthropological research focused on the association between the avunculate and matrilineal descent, while later research has expanded to consider the avunculate in general society.
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan is an 1884 historical materialist treatise by Friedrich Engels. It is partially based on notes by Karl Marx to Lewis H. Morgan's book Ancient Society (1877). The book is an early anthropological work and is regarded as one of the first major works on family economics.
Marumakkathayam was a system of matrilineal inheritance prevalent in what is now Kerala, India. Descent and the inheritance of property was traced through females. It was followed by all Nair castes, some of the Ambalavasis, Mappilas, and tribal groups. The elder male was considered the head known as karanavar and the entire assets of the family were controlled by him as if he was the sole owner. The properties were not handed to his sons but to the daughters of his sons or to their sisters.
Sir John Rankine Goody, was a British social anthropologist. He was a prominent lecturer at Cambridge University, and was William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology from 1973 to 1984.
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The Serer people are a West African ethnoreligious group. They are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal making up 15% of the Senegalese population. They are also found in northern Gambia and southern Mauritania.
Women in Senegal have a traditional social status as shaped by local custom and religion. According to 2005 survey, the female genital mutilation prevalence rate stands at 28% of all women in Senegal aged between 15 and 49.
The prehistoric and ancient history of the Serer people of modern-day Senegambia has been extensively studied and documented over the years. Much of it comes from archaeological discoveries and Serer tradition rooted in the Serer religion.
The medieval history of the Serer people of Senegambia is partly characterised by resisting Islamization from perhaps the 11th century during the Almoravid movement, to the 19th century Marabout movement of Senegambia and continuation of the old Serer paternal dynasties.
Father Henry Gravrand was a French Catholic missionary to Africa and an anthropologist who has written extensively on Serer religion and culture. He was one of the leading pioneers of interfaith dialog and believed that African religion was the "'first covenant between God and man". His works about the Serer people are cited by other historians and scholars writing on Serer history, religion and culture, for instance Martin A. Klein, Charles Becker, Alioune Sarr, Marguerite Dupire, Issa Laye Thiaw, etc. Papa Massène Sene argues that his approach lacks scientific rigor and include fundamental linguistic and historical errors. Alioune Sarr noted that Gravrand reported an oral tradition describing what he called the "Battle of Troubang", a dynastic war between the two maternal royal houses of Ñaanco and the Guelowar,an off-shot and relatives of the Ñaanco maternal dynasty of Kaabu, in modern-day Guinea Bissau. According to Charles Becker, Gravrand is confusing a description of the 1867 Battle of Kansala.
Lingeer Fatim Beye Joos Fadiou was a 14th-century Serer princess and queen (Lingeer) from the Kingdom of Sine. She is the matriarch and early ancestor of the Joos Maternal Dynasty of Waalo. She is usually regarded by some sources as the founder of the Joos Maternal Dynasty. The pre-colonial Kingdoms of Sine and Waalo now lies within present-day Senegal. Her surname is Beye (English-Gambia) or Bèye (French-Senegal). Joos Fadiou is her maternal clan. In Serer, "Fa-tim" means "the maternal clan of..."
The Joos Maternal Dynasty was a Serer maternal dynasty which originated from the Serer pre-colonial Kingdom of Sine in the 14th century and spread to the Wolof Kingdom of Waalo. The matriarch or founder of this maternal dynasty was Lingeer Fatim Beye, a princess and queen originally from the Kingdom of Sine. In Waalo, it was founded by the princess Lingeer Ndoye Demba of Sine. Lingeer Ndoye Demba was the maternal granddaughter of Lingeer Fatim Beye. They both came from the Serer ethnic group. Although the pre-colonial Kingdoms of Sine and Waalo now form part of modern-day Senegal, in pre-colonial Senegambia, present-day Gambia had open-borders with Senegal and share the same historical and cultural heritage. The demarcation of the two countries is purely geographical due to their colonial past, with Britain colonizing the Gambia and France colonizing Senegal. For a background to these events see the History of Senegal, History of the Gambia, Senegambia and Timeline of Serer history.
Serer maternal clans or Serer matriclans are the maternal clans of the Serer people of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania. The Serer are both patrilineal and matrilineal. Inheritance depends on the nature of the asset being inherited – i.e. whether it is a maternal asset which requires maternal inheritance or paternal asset requiring paternal inheritance (kucarla). The Serer woman play a vital role in royal and religious affairs. In pre-colonial times until the abolition of their monarchies, a Serer king would be required to crown his mother, maternal aunt or sister as Lingeer (queen) after his own coronation. This re-affirms the maternal lineage to which they both belong (Tim). The Lingeer was very powerful and had her own army and palace. She was the queen of all women and presided over female cases. From a religious perspective, the Serer woman plays a vital role in Serer religion. As members of the Serer priestly class, they are among the guardians of Serer religion, sciences, ethics and culture. There are several Serer matriclans; not all of them are listed here. Alliance between matriclans in order to achieve a common goal was, and still is very common. The same clan can be called a different name depending on which part of Serer country one finds oneself in. Some of these matriclans form part of Serer mythology and dynastic history. The mythology afforded to some of these clans draws parallels with the Serer creation narrative, which posits that: the first human to be created was a female. Many Serers who adhere to the tenets of Serer religion believe these narratives to contain profound truths which are historic or pre-historic in nature.
Primitive communism is a way of describing the gift economies of hunter-gatherers throughout history, where resources and property hunted and gathered are shared with all members of a group, in accordance with individual needs. In political sociology and anthropology, it is also a concept often credited to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for originating, who wrote that hunter-gatherer societies were traditionally based on egalitarian social relations and common ownership. A primary inspiration for both Marx and Engels were Lewis Henry Morgan's descriptions of "communism in living" as practised by the Iroquois Nation of North America. In Marx's model of socioeconomic structures, societies with primitive communism had no hierarchical social class structures or capital accumulation.
Historical inheritance systems are different systems of inheritance among various people.
Multiple tribes in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India practise matrilineal descent. Often referred to as Khasi people and Garo people, among the Khasi people which is a term used as a blanket term for various subgroups in Meghalaya who have distinguishing languages, rites, ceremonies, and habits, but share an ethnic identity as Ki Hynniew Trep whereas the Garo people refers to the various groups of Achik people. The Khasi, Garo, and other subgroups have a proud heritage, including matrilineality, although it was reported in 2004 that they were losing some of their matrilineal traits. The tribes are said to belong to one of the "largest surviving matrilineal culture[s]" in the world.
Traces of matrilineal practices have been found in recent centuries in peripheral areas of the west and north of Europe, and in the Aegean islands. In a number of islands, including Lesbos, Lemnos, Naxos, and Kos, matrilineal succession to real property was the rule at the end of the 18th century A.D. The facts were reported by an English traveller, John Hawkins, who wrote: "In the large number of the islands, the eldest daughter takes as her inheritance a portion of the family house, together with its furniture, and one third of the share of the maternal property, which in reality in most of these cases constitutes the chief means of subsistence; the other daughters, when they marry off in succession, are likewise entitled to (a portion of) the family house and the same share of whatever property remains. These observations were applicable to the islands of Mytilin (Lesbos), Lemnos, Scopelo, Skyros, Syra, Zea Ipsera, Myconi, Paros, Naxia, Siphno, Santorini and Cos, where I have either collected my information in person or had obtained it through others."