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Kinship Matters: Structures of Alliance, Indigenous Foragers, and the Austronesian Diaspora


The study of kinship systems has direct relevance for the field of human genetics and the study of microevolution in human populations. Some types of postmarital residence rules—rules requiring a married couple to live with or near relatives of the husband or wife—will have consequences for the distribution of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome lineages. Rules that proscribe or encourage marriage with close kin will also have consequences for allele frequency. A preference for marrying at a distance, both socially and geographically, creates alliances that can have survival value for individuals and groups in an environment of periodic or unpredictable scarcity. This article considers the nature of early contact between the indigenous foraging populations of the Philippines and Austronesian speaking settlers who began arriving ~4,500–4,000 BP. It argues that when the first Austronesians arrived they brought with them a kinship system based on symmetrical exchange between descent-based groups. It considers why such a system was gradually changed into the bilateral kinship systems that characterize the various peoples of the Philippines today, “negrito” and non-negrito alike.

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