Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: New York Times, February 25, 2013
Source URL (Archive.org): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/science/primitive-mythology.html

Primitive Mythology

To the Editor:

Re “An Anthropologist’s War Stories” (Books, Feb. 19): If the Yanomamö were “as close as could be to people living in a state of nature,” where did they get the steel axes with which the anthropologist Napoleon A. Chagnon found them attacking each other? Anthropologists have shown over and over that the isolation of “tribal” peoples is usually a figment of the Western imagination.

We are told that the Yanomamö in the 1960s lived like “our ancestors.” Over a century ago Franz Boas, the father of modern anthropology, debunked the Victorian assumptions that all societies go through the same stages and that contemporary “primitive” peoples live like our ancestors.

Hugh Gusterson

Fairfax, Va.