Yanomamo marriage patterns are structured on the basis of four main principles:
- lineage exogamy
- bilateral cross cousin marriage
- village endogamy.
1. Lineage Exogamy.
Members of the same localized lineage are forbidden from marrying.
Exogamy and incest prohibitions among agnates (patrilineal
relatives) mark the patrilineages as a significant units in the
of marriage partners and in the consequent formation
2. Bilateral Cross Cousin Marriage.
The Yanomamo follow a bilateral cross-cousin marriage system whereby
marriage partners are doubly related to one another as matrilateral and
patrilateral cross cousins as a consequence of similar marriages among
|Bilateral cross cousin marriage
In each generation a man marries a woman who is both his
MBD (matrilateral cross cousin) and FSD (patrilateral cross
This arrangement creates a situation in which pairs of exogamous lineages
are continually allied through the exchange of women. Among the Yanomamo
these intermarring groups co-reside in and form the core of village
settlements and thereby assume the form of
(See the unit on cross cousin
marriage for a fuller demonstration of bilateral patterns.)
3. Village endogamy.
The bilateral cross cousin marriage system and co-settlement of
intermarrying lineages establishes a pattern of
village endogamy .
This pattern is variable, however, since conditions of warfare create the
need to form marriage alliances outside of the immediate settlement.
Accordingly, the rate of endogamy varies with village size and power.
Larger groups have less need for outside alliances and can maintain high
levels of endogamy. Smaller, weaker units, must limit inmarriage and
provide brides to neighbouring settlements in return for military
support. Chagnon demonstrates this pattern in two villages:
(You may want to observe a similar situation for
Turkish peasant endogamy, but note that the measures of endogamy in the
two studies differ.)
- Patanowa-teri is a large village of 212 residents
and has an endogamy rate of 85% of all marriages.
- Lower Bisaasi-teri has a population of only 51 and an endogamy rate of 50%.
The Yanomamo follow a practice whereby men can and normally do marry more
than one wife as a benefit and marker of social status. Polygyny of this
sort is sometimes explained as a result of male and female demographic
imbalances, but the Yanomamo have significant more men than women in their
populations because of female infanticide. Polygyny is possible in such
a situation only if some men do not marry or, more usually, if they marry
at a much later age than women do.
© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Page created 1995
Last updated: September 2003