As with many technical anthropological terms, "clan"
is loosely used in common speech to designate many different kinds of fundamental
social units. The anthropological definition narrows the meaning to a unilineal
descent group whose members do not trace genealogical links to a supposedly
historical founding ancestor. Rights in the group are simple derived
from a father or mother. Clans are usually large groups that are associated
with mythical ancestors, who are very often identified as animal species
that are considered sacred to the group. They may occur within a complex
structure in which they are either nested into larger groups or subdivided
into smaller ones in the same fashion as segmentary lineages. Where they
are subdivided, the component units are often formal lineages, as in the
case of the Akan which we will investigate in detail. Where clans are
together, the more inclusive unit is called a phratry, which
is in fact a type of clan. The groups designated as "sibs" among the Dani
are actually clans.