Significant amounts of wealth have been exchanged as part of marriage settlements throughout history. Although various models have been proposed for interpreting these practices, their development over time has not been investigated systematically. In this paper we use a Bayesian MCMC phylogenetic comparative approach to reconstruct the evolution of two forms of wealth transfers at marriage, dowry and bridewealth, for 51 Indo-European cultural groups. Results indicate that dowry is more likely to have been the ancestral practice, and that a minimum of four changes to bridewealth is necessary to explain the observed distribution of the two states across the cultural groups.
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The authors are based at the Department of Anthropology of UCL and members of the AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour (CEACB). LF is studying towards a PhD, CH is a CEACB Senior Research Fellow, and RM is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology.
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Fortunato, L., Holden, C. & Mace, R. From bridewealth to dowry?. Hum Nat 17, 355–376 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-006-1000-4
- Ancestral states
- Bayesian MCMC phylogenetic and comparative methods
- Marriage transfers