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BROTHER-SISTER MARRIAGE IN ROMAN EGYPT

  • W. SCHEIDEL (a1)
    • Published online: 04 April 2001
Abstract

According to official census returns from Roman Egypt (first to third centuries CE) preserved on papyrus, 23·5% of all documented marriages in the Arsinoites district in the Fayum (n=102) were between brothers and sisters. In the second century CE, the rates were 37% in the city of Arsinoe and 18·9% in the surrounding villages. Documented pedigrees suggest a minimum mean level of inbreeding equivalent to a coefficient of inbreeding of 0·0975 in second century CE Arsinoe. Undocumented sources of inbreeding and an estimate based on the frequency of close-kin unions (corrected downwards to 30% for Arsinoe) indicate a mean coefficient of inbreeding of F=0·15-0·20 in Arsinoe and of F=0·10-0·15 in the villages at the end of the second century CE. These values are several times as high as any other documented levels of inbreeding. A schematic estimate of inbreeding depression in the offspring of full sibling couples indicates that fertility in these families had to be 20-50% above average to attain reproduction at replacement level. In the absence of information on the amount of genetic load in this population, this estimate may be too high

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Journal of Biosocial Science
  • ISSN: 0021-9320
  • EISSN: 1469-7599
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-biosocial-science
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