American University of Science
Anthropology – SOS 225/255
To: Dr May
and Beginnings of Marriage.’
Marriage is a socially recognised
union between individuals and spouses that made and developed obligations and
rights between people. The purpose of this research paper is to define marriage
that can vary between the countries all over the world, the types of marriages
between different different cultures, the beginning of the marriage contract, the
dowry and the evolution of this tradition and how it began and its very first
steps beginning with the stone age, the hominin hierarchy, late cave era marriages
and the social roles of married couples.
How and when did marriage begin?
‘Pair bonding’ began in the Stone
Age as a way of controlling sexual conducts, activities and providing a stable
structure for child rearing and the tasks of the daily life. The Ancient
Hebrews, for example, engaged in polygamy; in which people married from both
genders without having any control on their sexual activity. Hebrews believed that
a man or a woman who slept and practiced sexual intercourse with them, he or she
becomes the husband and wife. In other words, if you are a male and slept with a
man, he becomes your husband and if you slept with a woman, she becomes your
wife and viceversa. According to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and had 300
Men have taken numerous wives in
cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa and among Mormons in the
19th century. Marriage during those ancient times didn’t have any evidence or a
marriage contract; because logically speaking, it was impossible to record
every single person one have ever slept with and people didn’t really have the high
knowledge in recording marriages between each other. They would simply practice
intercourse and sleep with whoever they feel like it.
The first humans, those who lived
between and 1.8 million years ago, had very little use for marriage. Using the
behavior of bonobos as the basis for how early humans would have behaved, it is
presumed that early males and females had sex with many partners. Food sharing
was in exchange for sexual favours between same gender pairs. Because females could
collect food while still carrying and protecting their babies, males were not
needed as protectors or providers. This meant that in this period neither
partner gained from being a committed pair. As the climate warmed and the forests
receded, humans began to move out into the savannah where the diet consisted of
gathered vegetation, scavenged meat left behind by predators and meat killed by
hunters using tools. A more meat based diet meant that babies were born earlier
requiring more care from their mothers.
In this period between 1.8 million
and 23,000 years ago, males and females whose offspring were the most likely to
survive were those that formed the very first marriages. About 23,000 years
ago, humans started to grow their own food, revolutionizing human relations.
The invention of the plough over 4,000 years ago meant that the most productive
household arrangements were ones in which men and women divided their own
tasks. Men were stronger and less physically tied to the children and so they
went out and worked on the land. Women stayed closer to the home and cared for
the children and engaged in a myriad of other chores.
This is the era in which marriage
became the union between two people that was recognized by their community.
Agriculture tied people to their land, meaning that the end of the four – year
period neither men nor women had any inclination to wander off to find a new
family. And so they stayed together and worked as a unit to feed and care for
the children they produced.
Our earliest ancestors most likely
lived in a primal horde. In the primal horde there was no long term pair
bonding: males and females copulated with many partners. All genetic
competition took place at the sperm level and males made no specific investment
in either their offspring or the females in the group. Food was shared for
exchanged sexual activities. As these early hominoids were quadpedal and
infants were more developed at birth than in the later periods, infant care did
not impede a mother’s ability to gather the fruits, nuts and insects that
largely constituted her diet. Living in among the trees made it is easy
protecting the young who were often raised in group nurseries. Males were
neither providers nor the ones who make the forming of the pair rebundant. Over
time, our ancestors transformed from scavengers to be hunters and began to
acquire tools, skills and language. The development of tools and the ability to
hunt big game increased the amount of meat in the hominid or the homo erectus
diet. Bipedalism meant that mothers could no longer carry their children on
their backs or hands clinging to their chests. The ability of mothers to
collect food was diminished, at least for the period that they were nursing
their babies in or about 4 years. In this period there is evidence of pair
bonding as well as the additional drive to temporarily love addictively, which
would have increased survivability as males becme both providers and
protectors. Relationships began with conception and ended when the child became
independent of its parents. Resources would have been spread relatively among
the males which suggest that the most relationships were monogamous, at least
over a short period of time.
As resources become scarcer, due to
the greater climate fluctuations, higher population pressures, or other similar
shifts, humans sought more energy intensive food sources. The gathering of
cereal grains and other plant foods eventually evolved into early agricultural
cultivation and eventually to the domestication of animals. The invention of
the plow over 4,000 years ago led to a greater division of labor by gender than
had been seen in previous periods. Now production required the impact of both
male and female labor. Agriculture also led to a means to accumulate wealth;
both resources and power became more widely dispersed. Despite this
redistribution, the evidence does not support a greater movement towards
polygamy; in fact the opposite is true, it supports a movement toward long term
stable pair bonding.
Scientific methods has shown
romantic love to be associated with increasing dopamine level, and perhaps
decreased the level of serotonin and all of which are responsible to activate
the centres of the brain. Evidence suggested that this human brain chemistry
evolved during the Pleistocene Era to promote monogamous pain bonding, an
evolutionary change that became biological drive. Strong pair bonds were needed
to raise an infant in a hunter – gatherer society, where mortality risks were
high and specialization of tasks began to promote limited economic dependency. From
the Neolithic era forward the established behavior norms determining family
structure became institutionalized.
The union of a man and a woman,
recognised by authority or ceremony, is as old as civilisation itself and
marriage of some kind is found in virually every society. But throughout the
centuries marriage has taken many different forms. Early marriage was borne of
ancient societies’ need to secure a safe enviroment in which to breed, handle
the granting of property rights and protect bloodliness. Ancient Hebrew law
required a man to become a husband of a deceased brother’s widow. But even in
these early times, marriage was much about love and desire as it was social and
economic stability. In this roundness, the engagement ring, a custom dating
back to the Ancient Rome, is believed to represent eternity and everlasting
union. It was once believed a vein or nerve ran directly from the ring finger
to the left hand to the heart. Many other modern day marriage traditions have
their origins in these ancient times. Newly weds are said to have aided
fertility by drinking a brew made of honey during a certain lunar phases and it
is this tradition from which we derive the origins of the word ‘honeymoon.’
Understanding of marriage contrasted greatly from culture to culture. Some
cultures viewed the institution as endogamous where men required to marry
within their own social group, family, clan or tribe and exogamous where men
can marry outside the geographical region or social group and finally,
polygamous in which men can take more than one bride. Polygamy was formally
banned towards the end of the Roman Empire with laws against adultery,
fornication and other relationships outside a monogamous lifelong covenant. The
seeds of modern marriage were showed here and they extended into the modern
In European nations, marriage was
traditionally considered a cicil institution. Around 5AD great Christian
theologians such as Augustine wrote about marriage and the Christian Church
started taking an interest in the ceremony. It was at this point that
Christians began to have their marriages conducted by ministers in Christian
gatherings, but it was in the 12th century that the Roman Catholic Church
formally defined marriage as a sacrament, sanctioned by God. In Catholicism, it
is still believed that the Sacrament of Matrimony is between God, the man and
the woman, while the Reformation of the 16th century re-valued marriage as a
merely life long and monogamous convenant between a man and a woman.
In many parts of the 16th and 17th
century Europe and America; the concept of bundling was widely used. This allowed
courting couples to share a bed, fully clothed with a bundling board to seperate
them. This allowed a pair to talk and get to know eachother in the safe
confines of the girl’s house.
In some parts of the 18th century,
Europe had a biscuit or a small loaf of bread was broken over the head of the
bride as she came out from the church. Unmarried guests scrambled for the
pieces and they would place them under the pillows to aid their own fortunes in
marriage. It is believed that the tradition of having a wedding cake stems from
this strange custom.
Evidence from anthropology and
evolutionary biology suggest that there was a period of evolutionary history
prior to the Neolithic revolution where serial monogamy, a likely function of
these neurostransmitters evolved to improve genetic longevity. These
potentially symbolic actions and gestures, made at the individual and community
level, result in the contractual arrangements that define family and a kinship
structure for a society. Marriage is preferred by men to no institutional
arrangement as the chances that the children they are helping rear carry their
genes improves if the women are wives in society’s eyes.
The beginnings of marriage contract.
The first recorded evidence of marriage
contracts and ceremonies dates back 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. In the ancient
world, marriage served as means of preserving power with kings and other members
of the ruling family who would marry off their daughters to force alliance, acquire
land and serve the king or the ruler. Women never decided who’d they marry because
the purpose of marriage was for sexual desires, women breeding children for the
king, produce more men for war and more women for motherhood. When a marriage is
performed and carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage
laws of the jurisdiction, without religious content which was considered a civil
Historically, in most cultures, married
women had very few rights of their own, being considered, along with the family’s
children, the property of the husband could not be owned or inherited.
By about 250 years ago, the notion of
love matches gained traction, meaning marriage was based on love and possibly sexual
desire. But mutual attraction in marriage wasn’t important until a century ago.
Marriage wasn’t about equality until 50 years ago. Women and men had unique rights
and responsibilities within the marriage. The creation of marriage as a legal
contract between men and women came into being over time as communities settled
on what was a normal way for them to organize a family and the codified that normalcy
The origin of marriage was not to
create a legal contract that made it possible for men to acquire female slaves.
It can’t be criticised that men and women were never treated that way in
marriage contracts, but the real origin of marriage came from the biological
desire of both men and women to see their children survive, it was the
evolutionary dominate strategy.
For example, if it was the norm
within the group that men and women are responsible for feeding and caring for
their own children. Then laws were created that gave men some assurance that
the children they were raising were their own and women can assurance that
their husband would not leave them all destitute.
During the Victorian era, romantic
love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and the rituals of
courting became even more formal. An interested gentleman could not simply walk
up to a young lady and begin a conversation. He had to be formally introduced
and only after some time was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a
lady or for a couple to be seen together. Almost all courting took place in the
girl’s home, always under the eye of watchful parents. If the courting
progressed on, the couple might advance to the front porch. It was also rare
for couples to see each other without the presence of a chaperone and marriage
proposals were frequently written.
On the other hand, divorce has existed
for about as long as marriage so although we’ve had a lot of practice at monogamy,
we’re still not very good at it. The Ancient Greeks liberally allowed divorce,
but even then the person requesting divorce had to submit the request to a
magistrate, who would determine whether or not the reasons given were
sufficient. In contrast divorce was rare in early Roman culture. However, as
the empire grew in power and authority, civil law embraced the idea that either
husband or wife could renounce the marriage at will. Throughout the last
thousands of years, divorce was generally frowned upon and from the earliest
years of the Christian age, the only proper way to dissolve marriage was by annulment
– a status that was granted only by the church.
Marriage in the ancient times.
Although marriages in ancient Egypt
were arranged for communal stability and personal advancement, there is some
evidence that romantic love was as important to the people as it is to the
present day. Women in Ancient Egypt were accorded almost equal status with men
in keeping with an ancient tale that, after the dawn of creation of Osiris and
Isis resigned over the world, Isis made the sexes equal in power. Still, males
were considered the dominant sex and male scribes wrote literature that influenced
how women were viewed. Sexuality in Ancient Egypt was considered just another
aspect of life on earth. There was no taboos concerning sex and no stigma
attached to any aspect of it except for infidelity, and, among the lower
classes, incest. In both of these cases, stigma was far more serious for a
woman than a man because the bloodline was passed through the woman.
Abortions were also available and
there was no stigma attached to them than to premarital sex. There is no word
for ‘virgin’ in ancient Egypt; suggesting that one’s degree of sexual experience
was not thought a matter of consequence.
Marriage in Ancient Rome was a
strictly monogamous institution in which a Roman citizen by law could have only
one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and
Romans from other ancient civilizations. Marriage had mythical precedents, starting
with the abduction of the women, that may reflect the custom of bride abduction.
In order for the union of a man and woman to be legitimate, there needed to be consent
morally and legally. Both parties had to be willing and intend to marry, and both
needed their fathers’ consent. If all other legal conditions were met, a marriage
Unlike society in ancient Egypt,
Rome did not regard women as equal to men before the law. Unless she had
married in her husband’s control, which conferred the brode and all her
property onto the groom and his family; a woman could, inherit and dispose of
property. In reality, the degree of freedom a woman enjoyed depended largely on
her wealth and social status. A few women ran their own business, one woman was
lampmaker or had careers as midwives, hairdressers pr doctors but these were rare.
On the other hand, female slaves were common and filled a huge variety of roles,
from ladies’ maids to farm workers and even gladiators. Wealthy widows, subject
to no man’s authority, were independent. Other wealthy women chose to become
priestesses, of which the most important were the Vestal Virgins.
Weird ancient marriage/ wedding facts.
The largest wedding attendance was a Jewish wedding in Jerusalem in 1993 where
30,000 people attended.
Life in the 1500’s: most people got married in June because they took their yearly
bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were
starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body
In Denmark, brides and grooms traditionally cross dressed to confuse evil spirits.