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Mary Batten

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Anthropologist: Scientist of the People
by Mary Batten   

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Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin ISBN-10:  0618083685 Type: 


Copyright:  2001

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A profile of anthropologist Magdalena Hurtado who studies hunter-gatherers in Paraguay, South America.

Barnes &
Mary Batten

Magdalena Hurtado, an anthropologist who has been studying the Ache, hunter-gatherers living in Paraguay, says that our generation may be the last to witness our fellow humans living in a way that was typical for most of human evolutionary history. The Ache, like most other hunter-gatherers, are endangered by contact with outsiders.

An anthropologist is a scientist who studies people. Dr. Hurtado has spent many years in the field, living with the Ache, learning their language, observing their traditions, and recording their history. Many of the ways that human beings feel and act today evolved in very different environments than we live in today. Learning about the great diversity of cultures on our planet teaches us about ourselves. It also inspires us to preserve this knowledge of a fast-disappearing way of life.

This book is a volume in Houghton Mifflin's "Scientists in the Field" series.


In the forest with the Ache, Magdalena experiences human nature as close to the rest of nature as it is possible to be. She learns firsthand how people forage for food and live off the land -- a way of life that all humans pursued for hundreds of thousands of years before the wheel or metal tools were invented and before there were farms, villages, or cities. All of us alive today are descended from hunter-gatherers. Although our way of life is far removed from theirs, our biology, many of our behaviors, and some of our cravings have been shaped by an ancient past.
. . . For the Ache, the forest is their supermarket, pharmacy, and home. They know the forest as well as a city dweller knows the streets. Although the Ache live very different lives than we do, they are like us in many ways. They have feelings and concerns that all other human beings share: love, happiness, excitement, anger, fear, pain, and sadness. Birth and death mark the lives of all of us, no matter where or how we live.

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