Abstract: The high levels of endogamy characteristic of the circum-Mediterranean area have long been a puzzle for anthropological theory. Several theorists – notably Tillion, Pitt-Rivers, and Goody – have sought the explanation in the deep historical processes that gave rise to plough agriculture and the eventual rise of bronze age states. Despite their differences, these authors agree that endogamy was a consequence of this historic transformation. We argue instead that local kinship endogamy was a cause. The argument is supported by a critical assessment of Goody’s analysis in Production and Reproduction, followed by a review of ethnographic case studies which suggest an alternative approach. We present an account of spatio-historical processes that can be used to support this kind of back-projection of limited present-day evidence. Finally, we note a contrast between the systems of age- and gender-relations in different parts of the Mediterranean area – and argue that our overall analysis can help to explain this contrast and the ways in which both Mediterranean systems differ from those in sub-Saharan Africa.