Perhaps even more common than buying a bride was the ancient custom of gaining a wife by working for her father for a certain period of time.
Such an exchange of a prized daughter for an agreed-upon term of labor was practiced among many of the early societies and tribes of America, Africa, and Asia.
In Japan, it was the custom of a suitor to send certain previously stipulated gifts to the parents of the young woman whom he wished to marry.
If the initial gifts were accepted, negotiations would begin to discuss the marriage agreement.
As the human species became more mannered and various religious rites began to be observed, young men and women sought to make themselves attractive to non-family members of the opposite sex who resided near them in the same village or series of villages.
Rules of exogamy, which denied marriage between persons of the same bloodline, and the laws of endogamy, which prohibited marriage with any persons except those of the same bloodline, arose to define the pool of eligible mates from which young people could choose.
For another, among those tribes and nations who were constantly at war with each other, there would inevitably be a scarcity of men in proportion to the women.
And even though the women of the conquered foe were usually considered among the spoils of war, more were killed in the bloody battles than were dragged off as unwilling mates of the victors.
A popular superstition arising from this tradition is that whoever of the groom's friends caught her will be married within the year. Marriage through purchase was quite likely the next stage in the evolution of courtship.Many are familiar with the Old Testament story of how Jacob worked 20 years for his uncle Laban to gain Leah, a bride whom he did not want, and Rachel, whom he loved (Genesis: 29, 30).Among many early peoples, valuable presents were given to the parents by the bridegroom instead of a monetary payment.Although these marital circumstances may have existed for quite some time among early humans, there are a number of reasons why neither polygamy nor polyandry could have survived as universal or general practices.
For one thing, some societies practiced infanticide, killing primarily female infants, and creating a scarcity of women.
Many anthropologists and social historians have expressed their views that early humans practiced polygamy (one man with several women in the marriage union) or polyandry (several men with one woman).