Book Review Index
The Hadza Hunter Gatherers of Tanzania
Frank W. Marlow
University of California Press (2010)
This review on Amazon: http://amzn.to/Bond-Marlowe
Frank Marlowe has spent many years in the field researching this extraordinary hunter-gatherer tribe, the Hadzas - and this book is an eminently readable distillation of his work. For professionals it is a rich source of information and ground-breaking insights. For the lay reader, it is a fascinating and eye-opening account of what life must have been like for us humans for eons in our evolutionary past.
example, compared to the San, the Hadza seem to be less territorial and
less confrontational. If someone tries to boss them around, they just move
away or even move to another camp. There are only a few hundred Hadza in
total so they seem to regard themselves as one big extended family rather
than (as with other foragers) a collection of rival bands maintaining
bitter-sweet relations with each other.
is refreshing to find that Marlowe is not infected with the starry-eyed
ideals of the `noble savage' or the grotesque aberrations of the Standard
Social Science Model (SSSM) promoted by (notably) Franz Boas, Margaret
Mead, Richard Lewontin and Steven J. Gould. (For a fine debunking of the
SSSM see Steven Pinker's The
Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.) So it is that Marlowe
drily reports on the men always on the lookout to have extra-marital
affairs; on stepfathers, in spite of their protestations to the contrary,
giving preference to their biological offspring; on males being fiercely
sexually jealous (leading sometimes to murder); on gender roles being
specific - men hunt (and do it alone), women forage (and do it in parties
of average size 5).
The range of phenomena Marlowe reports on is truly startling: In a lifetime on average, Hadza women only menstruate 100 times, compared to 400 times with western women; boys get their first bow and arrows at the age of three (and spend hours a day practising); grandmothers provide more food than any other group; baobab paste is weaning food; squabbles are more prevalent in bigger camps than smaller; for protection, the foraging party of women bring along a young boy armed with his bow and arrows; scavenged meat (often rotten) gives them stomach aches - but they still eat it; fruits provide 40% by weight of the diet in camp; male body-fat percentage is 10 and female 18; the pull on an average Hadza bow is high at 69 lb; falling out of baobab trees is a notable cause of death in old age; women walk 5.5 km per day when foraging, men 8.3 km per day when hunting;...