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This idea was taken up by Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.The Morgan-Engels thesis that humanity's earliest domestic institution was not the family but the matrilineal clan soon became incorporated into communist orthodoxy.A modern example from South Africa is the order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen in a culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.Most of the example cultures in this article are based on (matrilineal) clans.This may be true for the traditional Akan culture below, for example.According to Steven Pinker, attributing to Kristen Hawkes, among foraging groups matrilocal societies are less likely to commit female infanticide than are patrilocal societies.A lineage is defined as all those related by matrilineal descent from a particular ancestress.
It may also correlate with a societal system in which each person is identified with their matriline – their mother's lineage – and which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles.This matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the more common pattern of patrilineal descent from which a family name is usually derived.The matriline of historical nobility was also called their enatic or uterine ancestry, corresponding to the patrilineal or "agnatic" ancestry.In some traditional societies and cultures, membership in their groups was – and, in the following list, still is if shown in italics – inherited matrilineally.
Examples include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Gitksan, Haida, Hopi, Iroquois, Lenape, Navajo and Tlingit of North America; the Kuna people of Panama; the Kogi and Carib of South America; the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia and Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia; the Trobrianders, Dobu and Nagovisi of Melanesia; the Nairs of Kerala and the Bunts and Billava of Karnataka in south India; the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo of Meghalaya in northeast India; the Ngalops and Sharchops of Bhutan; Muslims and the Tamils in eastern Sri Lanka; the Mosuo of China; the Kayah of Southeast Asia, the Basques of Spain and France; the Akan including the Ashanti of west Africa; virtually all groups across the so-called "matrilineal belt" of south-central Africa; the Tuareg of west and north Africa; the Serer of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania; and most Jewish communities.
Leadership by men was inherited through the maternal line, and the women elders held the power to remove leaders of whom they disapproved.