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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Hazda

The Hadza do not engage in warfare. They've never lived densely enough to be seriously threatened by an infectious outbreak. They have no known history of famine; rather, there is evidence of people from a farming group coming to live with them during a time of crop failure. The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world's citizens. They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they "work"—actively pursue food—four to six hours a day. And over all these thousands of years, they've left hardly more than a footprint on the land.






Onwas, with the baboon's head, is comfortably above the fray. He sits cross-legged at his fire and eats the cheeks, the eyeballs, the neck meat, and the forehead skin, using the soles of his sandals as a cutting board. He gnaws the skull clean to the bone, then plunges it into the fire and calls me and the hunters over for a smoke.




It is impossible to overstate just how much Onwas—and most Hadza—love to smoke. The four possessions every Hadza man owns are a bow, some arrows, a knife, and a pipe, made from a hollowed-out, soft stone. The smoking material, tobacco or cannabis, is acquired from a neighboring group, usually the Datoga, in exchange for honey. Onwas has a small amount of tobacco, which is tied into a ball inside his shirttail. He retrieves it, stuffs it all into his pipe, and then, holding the pipe vertically, plucks an ember from the fire and places it atop his pipe. Pulsing his cheeks in and out like a bellows, he inhales the greatest quantity of smoke he possibly can. He passes the pipe to Giga.



Then the fun begins. Onwas starts to cough, slowly at first, then rapidly, then uncontrollably with tears bursting from his eyes, then with palms pushing against his head, and then, finally, rolling onto his back, spitting and gasping for air. In the meantime, Giga has begun a similar hacking session and has passed the pipe to Maduru, who then passes the pipe to me. Soon, all of us, the whole circle of men, are hacking and crying and rolling on our backs. The smoke session ends when the last man sits up, grinning, and brushes the dirt from his hair.

***

While Hadza have a word for body odor, the men tell me that they prefer their women not to bathe—the longer they go between baths, they say, the more attractive they are. Nduku, my Hadza language teacher, said she sometimes waits months between baths, though she can't understand why her husband wants her that way. I also discover, by listening to Mille and Onwas, that bickering with one's spouse is probably a universal human trait. "Isn't it your turn to fetch water?" "Why are you napping instead of hunting?" "Can you explain why the last animal brought to camp was skinned so poorly?" It occurs to me that these same arguments, in this same valley, have been taking place for thousands of years.


http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/12/hadza/finkel-text


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