from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Five generations of an Armenian family (five generations of an Armenian family; Harry Finnis Blosse Lynch, London 1901)
( Note: The picture shows a maternal line , it does not represent a matrilineal society )

Matrilineality ( latin "in the line of mother": mothers line ) or mother sequence refers to the transfer and inheritance of social properties and owned exclusively through the female line from mothers to daughters . The transfer of family relationships , social positions , offices, prestige , privileges and property from one generation to the next takes place in a single line according to descentthe woman. The father's line is irrelevant. Also sons inherit the family name of her mother as well as the membership of a parent group as a clan , but they are not included in the maternal inheritance and can not bequeath: After a marriage children are always family counted the wife, they carry their name and show her line continues, not that of the husband (or his mother).

A purely matrilineal line of descent contains all women descending from a "ancestral mother " in an uninterrupted sequence , regardless of the question of the marital status of offspring. This line is also referred to as uterine descent (Latin "descendants from the womb "), formerly also called "maternal law".

Matrilinearity is an ethnological term used to examine the ideas of descent ( rules of descent ) and their significance for the social organization of a society , especially among ethnic groups and indigenous peoples . Its direct opposite is patrilinearity , in which descent and inheritance are only regulated via the line of the fathers (compare lineage ). There are also mixed forms, such as the bilateral, cognatic-bilateral derivation of the parentage of father and mother, which is also common in modern societies .

More than 160 of the world's 1,300 ethnic societies (13%) are sorted by matrilineal descent above the line of women, their mother, their mother ( grandmother ) and so on. This maternal line sees itself as a biological bloodline , but mostly also knows the possibility of adopting a person “in place of a child” ( adoption ). In one third of matrilineal societies, the husband moves to the wedding usually the wife and her mother ( Matricaria locally ), 38% follow the avunku- local resident usually the brother of the mother or the brother of the husband ( Uncle maternal, see avunculate ) and 18 % live patrician locally at the husband and his family.

Descent system

The matrilineal descent of both male and female descendants is only formed by the female line of ancestors, the line of the mother. This can result in the offspring of non-same-sex siblings belonging to two different lineages, i.e. only the daughter's children but not the son's children - these are included in the family group of their mother - belong to the same lineage. This can play a role in marriage, especially in cross-cousin marriage . When a chief dies, the chief function is not transferred to his son, but to his brother (as the son of a common mother). The group resulting from the common unilinear descent is called lineage .


The largest matrilineal (and matrilocal ) culture worldwide are the Minangkabau on the Indonesian island of Sumatra with over 3 million members. In northeast India there are matrilineal societies among the Khasi (1.5 million) and Garo (1 million), in Africa among the Tuareg in North Africa (around 3 million) and among many Bantu peoples of the Congo region, in South America among the Wayuu (around 0.5 million), in North America with the Iroquois peoples (around 70,000), in China with the Mosuo (around 40,000) and over 100 other ethnic groups outside Europe (see list of matrilinear societies ). In Africa, the ethnologist Audrey I. Richards showed in 1950 the existence of a matrilineal belt ("matrilineal belt") among the Bantu peoples between southern Gabon and southern Tanganyika , using the example of Bakongo , Mayombe and Bemba .

Mary Douglas and others point to the decline in matrilinearity with the transition to cattle breeding and under the influence of colonization . In fact, however, the spread of cattle breeding in Africa preceded the decline in matrilinearity, as Holden and Ruth show for Malawi and Kenya . In 2018, however, the economist Sara Lowes found a clearly inverse relationship (a negative correlation ) between matrilineality and cattle breeding in the Bantu households she studied in the Congo region, which are often ethnically mixed due to migration . In this region, matrilinearity is often associated with matrilocality , but less often with the payment of a bride price . The German ethnologist Gerd Spittler (using the Bemba as an example) sees the disadvantage of the connection between matrilinearity and matrilocality that numerous female relatives or her older brother assert claims on the supplies stored there against the owner of the millet store; this lowers the owner's motivation to always keep it full.

Matrilinearity is rare when a plow is required to work the soil . This was also confirmed in the investigation by Sara Lowes. Matrilinearity would therefore be particularly widespread in horticultural cultures, where farming or large animal husbandry are not possible, but horticulture (horticulture) with the planting wood and hunting for small animals dominate. In Africa this belt ends south of the equatorial forests.  As early as 1724, Joseph-François Lafitau pointed out the key role women played in the Wyandot economy - North American forest dwellers who horticulture, fishing and hunting - and the strong position women have over men .

In Europe, cattle breeding began with the linear ceramic band culture (band ceramics) from around 6000 BC. BC and was accompanied by a change in the rules of descent towards patrilineal structures. This development was reinforced by the transition to the Kurgan culture in Southeastern and Central Europe, through which the importance of grazing continued to grow and the inheritance of property and status was patrilineal.

There was also a gradual transition to patrilineality in the development of the advanced cultures of Latin America: In the Chaco Canyon culture of New Mexico , positions of power were evidently still inherited matrilineally. For the Anasazi of the Pueblo Bonito in Colorado , the existence of a matrilinear elite for the centuries between about 800 and 1130 was proven by means of mtDNA . The end of this period coincides with the disappearance of intensive agriculture in the Chaco Canyon . With the Maya and the Inca , on the other hand, pure matrilinearity was considered a "lower" principle of descent - the nobility also had a patrilineal lineage.

Matri-linearity as the sole rule of descent is followed by 13% of all indigenous peoples and ethnic groups recorded worldwide (1998: 160 of 1267). These 63 ethnic groups come (5%), where matrilineality only a part of the social groups ( lineages , clans applies), while others after the patrician linear align paternal lineage (see also the two-part Moiety ).

A practical example illustrates the differences to purely matrilineal societies:

  • The small people of the Ngaing in Papua New Guinea follow a double, bilinear rule of descent: In one village, the patrilineal descent groups (Patri- Lineages ) are 3 to 5 generations deep and form Patri- Clans , which make up the basic unit of the settlement. The rules of exogamy (marriage outside of one's own group), land rights (for horticulture and hunting) and ritual rights (for example for men's cult ceremonies) are passed on and inherited through them . The matrilineal descent groups (Matri- Lineages ), which are entitled parallel to the men, are organized in a similar way. They unite the totem right and thus exercise animistic protective spirit functions. The groups live scattered in the settlement area because they follow the marital succession rule of the patriotic locality : The residence of a married couple is set up with the husband who lives with his father. Meetings for joint activities do not take place.

In conservative and Orthodox Judaism , the mother is decisive for religious affiliation: a Jew is only a child of a Jewish mother. In the State of Israel , too , only those whose ancestors were Jewish up to four generations ago are officially considered Jews, i.e. in a purely maternal line back to their own great-great-grandmother.

Matrimonial residence regulations

In one third of all matrilineal groups and societies , after marriage, the marital residence is at the place of the wife, her mother, family , ancestry group ( lineage ) or at the place of her clan , the husband moves in. This marital residential sequence is referred to as the Matri locality (Latin “at the place of the mother”), or more generally as the Uxori locality (“at the place of the wife”). The term uxori- local is derived from the Latin uxor "wife" (woman: mulier ), while the masculine equivalent of viri- local is derived from the Latin vir "man" (husband: maritus ), a reflection of the female subordination in Roman marriage .

The woman-centered residence ( residence rule ) strengthens the close relationships between the wife, her sisters, her mother and their sisters ( aunts ), while the husband's family is not seen as related (also known as matri focality : focus on the woman / mother) . Usually, mothers, sisters and daughters form a core group, up to and including extensive Matri clans , within which all family relationships relate to only one line of mothers. All sons marry out (see exogamy ), daughters bring in husbands from other descent groups. Husbands remain allocated to their own family, whether this matrilineal structured or patrician linearly after the fathers line.

18 percent of matrilineal societies live patrician locally the husband or his family.

38 percent follow the avunku local rule of residence with the brother of the husband's mother (with his mother's uncle ).

Family systems with a matrilinear structure often show the so-called avunculate . In these systems, the wife's brother ( uncle ) takes on the social father role for his sister's children, the biological relationship of a father to his children thus plays a subordinate role. In matrilineal societies, the authority of the woman’s brother often resides in the family.

See also


Web links

  • Hans-Rudolf Wicker: Matrilinearity, patrilinearity and social evolution. (PDF: 387 kB, 47 pages) In: Guidelines for the introductory lecture in social anthropology (1995–2012). University of Bern, 2012, pp. 27–32 ff .;
  • Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Matrilinear Deszendenz. (PDF: 705 kB, 206 pages) (No longer available online.) In: Introduction to Ethnosociology (Part 2/2). Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2006, pp. 205–212 , archived from the original on October 1, 2008 (documents from their 2006 lecture, more detailed than 2011).;
  • Dieter Steiner : The matrilineal extended family. In: Social in the narrower sense. Own homepage, Zurich, 1998 (professor emeritus for human ecology ; comprehensive treatise on social organization).;

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Duden editors : Mother Law: "(Ethnology) legal order in which descent and succession follow the maternal line". Ibid: matrilineal: "following the maternal line in the line of succession". Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  2. Lexicon entry: Mother Law. In: Bertelsmann: The new Universal Lexicon. Wissen Media Verlag , Gütersloh / Munich 2006, p. 647 ( side view in the Google book search);
    Quotation: "Mother law, social order that the individual according to descent in the mother. Line (matrilinear) classifies (e.g. inheritance of estate and family name). The woman has social stronger influence, also political, but without coming to matriarchy. "
  3. ^ A b J. Patrick Gray: Ethnographic Atlas Codebook. In: World Cultures. Volume 10, No. 1, 1998, pp. 86–136, here p. 104: Table 43 Descent: Major Type (English; one of the few evaluations of all ethnic groups recorded at that time in 1267; PDF: 2.4 MB, without page numbers on ss;
    Quote: "584 Patrilineal […] 160 Matrilineal […] 52 Duolateral […] 49 Ambilineal […] 11 Quasi-lineages […] 349 bilateral […] 45 Mixed […] 17 Missing data".
    Percent of the 1,267 ethnic groups (1998):
    584 = 46.1% patrician linear : origin from the father and his forefathers
    160 = 12.6% Matri- linear: origin of the mother and her foremothers
    052 = 04.1% bi- linear , duolateral : different from mother and father from
    049 = 03.9% ambi- linear : origin selected from mother or father
    011 = 00.9% parallel : some of the mother, father from the other (quasi-lines)
    349 = 27 , 6% bilateral, cognatic : origin of mother and father at the same time (as in Western culture )
    045 = 03.6% mixed + 17 = 1.6% missing data.
    The Ethnographic Atlas by George P. Murdock now contains data sets on 1300 ethnic groups (as of 2015 in the InterSciWiki ), of which often only samples were evaluated, for example in the HRAF research project , a large-scale database for holistic cultural comparisons of 400 recorded peoples.
  4. ^ A b c d Hans-Rudolf Wicker: Post-maritime housing rules. In: Guide to Introductory Lecture in Social Anthropology (1995–2012). (PDF: 387 kB, 47 pages) University of Bern, 2012, p. 13/14, here p. 14 , accessed on February 22, 2019 . The figures in the table:
    164 matrilineal ethnic groups - their marital residence after marriage ( residence rule ):
    062 = 37.8% live avunku- locally at the maternal uncle: mother's brother's wife or the husband
    053 = 32.3% live Matri- locally at the wife's mother (also: uxori- local: at the place of the wife)
    030 = 18.3% live patri- locally with the husband's father (also: viri- local: at the place of the husband)
    019 = 11.6% have others Rules: neo- local (new place of residence), nato- local (at the respective place of birth), ambi- local (selectable at one of the two places), or others
  5. Audrey I. Richards : Some types of family structure among the Central Bantu. In: Alfred R. Radcliffe-Brown , Daryll Forde (Eds.): African Systems of Kinship and Marriage. Oxford University Press, London 1950, pp. 207-251 ( PDF: 15.5 MB, 421 pages on ).
  6. David Murray Schneider , Kathleen Gough (Ed.): Matrilineal Kinship. University of California Press, Berkeley / London 1961, p. 479 ( side view in the Google book search).
  7. a b Gerd Spittler : Anthropology of work: An ethnographic comparison. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2016, ISBN 978-3-658-10433-7 , p. 181 ( review ).
  8. ^ Mary Douglas : Is matriliny doomed in Africa? In: Mary Douglas, Phyllis M. Kaberry (Eds.): Man In Africa. Tavistock, London 1969, pp. 121-135.
  9. ^ Clare-Janaki Holden, Mace Ruth: Spread of cattle led to the loss of matrilineal descent in Africa: A coevolutionary analysis. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Volume 270, 2003, pp. 2425-2433.
  10. ^ A b Sara Lowes: Matrilineal Kinship and Spousal Cooperation: Evidence from the Matrilineal Belt. Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi and CIFAR, December 14, 2018, p. 10 ( PDF: 8.5 MB, 115 pages on ).
  11. ^ Paola Giuliano, Nathan Nunn: On the Origin of Gender Roles: Women and the Plow. In: Quarterly Journal of Economics. Volume 128, No. 2, 2013, pp. 469-530.
  12. Emmanuel Todd : Sad Modernity: A History of Humanity from the Stone Age to Homo Americanus. Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72475-6 , map 2.4.
  13. ^ Joseph-François Lafitau : Mœurs des sauvages amériquains, comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps. 2 volumes. Paris 1724.
  14. Ursula Eisenhauer: Matrilocality in the ceramic band? An ethnological model and its implications. In: Archaeological Information. Volume 26, No. 2, 2003, pp. 321-331.
  15. Marija Gimbutas : The end of old Europe: The incursion of steppe nomads from southern Russia and the Indo-Germanization of Central Europe. Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1994.
  16. Douglas J. Kennett, Stephen Plog et al .: Archaeogenomic evidence reveals prehistoric matrilineal dynasty. In: Nature Communications. Volume 8, 2017, article number 14115 ( online at
  17. Michael Balter: Ancient DNA Yields Unprecedented Insights into Mysterious Chaco Civilization , in:, February 22, 2017.
  18. Gerhard Bott : The Invention of the Gods: Essays on Political Theology. Norderstedt 2009, p. 170.
  19. Ruth Zeifert: Identity Dilemma: If the father is Jewish and the mother is not. In: Jüdische Allgemeine . August 17, 2006, accessed on February 22, 2019 (copy in ; Zeifert was working on a doctoral project on German children of Jewish fathers in 2006): “A person who is a child of a Jewish mother is Jewish. The law of religion, the Halacha, is clear there. It all depends on the mother. The father's origin and beliefs are irrelevant. That is why people with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother - »father-Jews«, according to a term coined by Andreas Burnier in 1995 - are not considered to be the same. Even Reform Judaism adheres to this rule. "
  20. ^ Hans-Rudolf Wicker: Post-maritime housing rules. In: Guide to Introductory Lecture in Social Anthropology (1995–2012). (PDF: 387 kB, 47 pages) University of Bern, 2012, p. 13/14, here p. 13 , accessed on February 22, 2019 : “In societies in which […] the matri- or uxorilocal order of living dominates, form usually mothers, sisters and daughters form a core group. "
  21. ^ Marvin Harris : Cultural Anthropology. A textbook. Campus, Frankfurt am Main and others 1989, ISBN 3-593-33976-5 , p. 180.
  22. ^ Karl Lenz , Marina Adler: Introduction to gender research in the social sciences. Volume 1: Gender Relations. Juventa, Weinheim and others 2010, ISBN 978-3-7799-2301-5 , p. 68 ( side view in the Google book search).