Consider the exhibition of partnership society or matrifocal features in Scandinavian societies and evidence of these qualities in the Canadian, New England, Minnesota and Wisconsin populations.  In earlier pieces, we’ve noted the possible relationships between the need for Vitamins A and D in Scandinavian populations and the exhibition of neotenous features in both sexes of the populations, such as blond hair, blue eyes, lanky builds and lactate tolerance.  Observing the egalitarian social and political aspects of Scandinavian nations, I’ve hypothesized that there might be a direct connection between the neotenous features of individuals within a population and the partnership or matrifocal features exhibited by the society as a whole.

I’m seeing similar patterns in other regions of the world.  Of course, individuals from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have immigrated to Canada, New England, Minnesota and Wisconsin, carrying their biological and social proclivities with them.  Would this explain why North Dakota and Montana are so conservative by comparison?  Do North Dakota and Montana have different ethnic makeups?

I’m seeking evidence that simply living in a northern latitude influences populations to exhibit neotenous features.  One place to look for information is by exploring differences between indigenous American Indian populations.

“Thus evidence will be presented to show that among the present traditional hunting-fishing population such as the Eskimo, Barry also found a lower degree of conformity on the Asch Conformity Test and more independent values.  Hence a higher number of left-handers was predicted for the Eskimo, while observed incidence is 11.3 percent.  (Dawson, John L. (1977) An anthropological perspective on the evolution and lateralization of the brain.  Annals of the New York Academy of Science 299: p. 426)

This is not much of an increase in left-handedness.  As a side note, female infanticide is common along with other powerful patrifocal tendencies in Eskimo populations.  This would not support the thesis that latitude alone might influence neotenous trajectories.  (Click here for my hypothesis that neoteny and left-handedness are closely associated in human evolution.)

Taurodontism, a tooth condition that evidences itself in 57% of Down’s syndrome subjects, often shows up in Eskimo populations and in Neanderthal remains.  Down’s features are often highly neotenous. (See Opitz, John M. & Gilbert-Barness, Enid F. (1990) Reflections on the pathogenesis of Down syndrome.  American Journal of Medical Genetics 7: p. 42)  Are there other neotenous features that Eskimos retain?

“Balikci (1967: 623) has discussed the various cultural strategies, including child betrothal, adaption, and importation of wives, that were employed to ensure satisfactory recruitment of females into the adult population.  Interestingly, such practices existed alongside female infanticide, the very practice that contributed above all others to the shortage of women!”  (Freeman, Milton M. R. (1971) A social and ecological analysis of systematic female infanticide among the Netsilik Eskimo.  American Anthropologist 73, 5: p. 1013)

Freeman’s study does not do much to support my conjectures.  My hypothesis states that female infanticide and neoteny are only related in a Conventional Patrifocal context (see Introduction to the Theory of Waves).

“Amongst the various Amerindian populations (Figs 91 and 92) there is a wide variation in height means.  North American Indians are taller and heavier than South American and Central American Indians.  The Blackfeet means are well up in the European range, as are the means for British Columbian Indians (Birkbeck, Lee, Meyers & Alfred, 1971; Lee et al., 1971; not plotted).  The Apache Indian and Alaskan Eskimo children are also considerably taller at all ages than the South and Central Americans.  Even though they do have many traits in common, North American and South American Indians differ considerably in physique and craniofacial structure.”  (Eveleth, P. B. & Tanner, J. M. (1976) Worldwide Variation in Human Growth: Cambridge Univ. Press, London p. 127)

An issue would be whether the Indians at the very south of South America start to increase in height again.  Otherwise, this passage would seem to suggest that northern populations are taller than southern populations, which would support the ideas we are playing with.

“The highest proportion of left-handedness that I could discover from a reliable source was for the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia, 17 to 22 per cent of whom were left-handed or ambidextrous for writing (Marrion 1886). [footnote says ‘Marrion reported that no fewer than 6 per cent of Kwakiutl Indians could write with either hand.  However, there is no tradition of written language in this culture, and many adults do not write after leaving school.  Marrion (personal communication) noted that many treated writing their name as an activity akin to drawing.'” (Bishop, D. V. M. (1990) Handedness and Developmental Disorder.  MacKeith, Manchester p. 12)

Bishop’s excerpt would support a position that northern populations exhibit matrifocal features such as higher percentages of left-handedness and ambidexterity.

I can’t say the patterns are very clear.  This first pass through easily accessible studies shows indigenous American populations with features supporting and not supporting the thesis that Northern populations evidence more neoteny than Southern populations.  Studies of the Hopi, for example, show that they have a number of matrifocal features as do other tribes scattered across North and South America, though North America seems to be where these features congregate.


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This entry was posted on Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 10:04 am and is filed under Female Infanticide, lefthanded, Neoteny, Sexual Selection, Social Structure, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Greg on July 15, 2009 6:03 pm

    How is it that you seem to believe that tallness or lankiness is neotenous?

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