The Wedding Feast, Pieter Breughel the Younger

The majority of societies in the world today allow polygyny rather than monogamy. That state seems to be culturally and evolutionarily advantageous, as evidenced by a comparison with other species.

In this lecture, anthropologist Lara Fortunato tries to make sense of the development of human social behavior across societies, along the way considering questions of family systems, inheritance, and social complexity.

Key message:  Human history is best viewed as a series of branches with distinct evolutionary trajectories, rather than all converging into a common state.

Watch the video of Fortunato's Community Lecture at The Lensic Performing Arts Center from April 16, 2019:

Watch some of the highlights:

09:48      Human family systems are made up of kinship and marriage systems

11:25      Relatedness and reproduction are fundamental to the evolutionary process

12:11      Misconceptions around polygamy may illustrate cultural bias rather than data-driven conclusions in the policy area

15:45      A working definition of marriage across societies

18:25      Classifying marriage systems

19:55      The Standard Cross-cultural Sample describes human cultural variation

23:40      Distinguishing among marriage systems, marital arrangements, mating interactions, and reproduction

25:15      The evolution of marriage systems

28:30      The pattern of mating systems in mammals parallels marriage systems in humans

29:30      Men always benefit from polygynous marriage

32:37      Origins of monogamy in the historical record

34:00      Monogamy and the transfer of property

34:45      Depletion and concentration of inherited resources – patrilineal vs. matrilineal inheritance

40:41      Monogamy is a stable evolutionary strategy if …

52:30      Is monogamy related to sociocultural complexity?

Listen to Laura Fortunato's interview with Mary-Charlotte Domondi on the Santa Fe New Mexican's "Radio Cafe." April 22, 2019.