Review by Nathan Seppa
While traditional peoples linger at the outskirts of modern society as curious exceptions, Jared Diamond makes a case that they also offer a glimpse of our ancient selves. Their way of life stands in contrast with modern lifestyles, which changed for most humans only “yesterday” in evolutionary terms.
It is through this lens that Diamond sees the world, be it the Pygmies of the Congo, the !Kung in Botswana or highland New Guinea bands. He doesn’t promote returning to a traditional lifestyle, but he argues that there is perspective to be gained in looking back. Such groups are a reminder, he says, of how humans survived for thousands of years.
As always, his details are remarkable. Diamond devotes a whole section just to crying babies. Rather than let a baby “cry it out,” Pygmy and !Kung groups comfort a sobbing baby within seconds. Or breast-feedin