The Origin of Monogamy

Where does the idea of marriage — monogamous marriage specifically — come from? Anthropologist Laura Fortunato has some answers.
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With summer here, the 2011 wedding season has finally arrived. But with all of the ill-shapen bridesmaid dresses, Bridezillas and talk of till death do we part, one question comes to mind: Where did this idea of marriage — monogamous marriage specifically — come from?

It may seem like a difficult question to answer, given that people have been getting married since prehistory. In this podcast, Dr. Laura Fortunato, an anthropologist at the Santa Fe Institute, discusses how she got to the bottom of the marriage mystery.

Fortunato, who spoke with Michael Haederle last year about the agricultural roots of monogamy, talks about a recent study of hers, published in the journal Human Biology, where she used current patterns of language and marriage to determine when monogamous marriage got rolling for Europe and much of Asia.

It turns out that this kind of marriage is much older than anyone had thought, beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago in what is now Turkey. And monogamy likely established itself for a very modern reason: to avoid headaches with inheritance.

Jai Ranganathan's travel to the Santa Fe Institute was arranged and paid for by the Institute.

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