Not Altogether Lost

James Hamilton-Paterson

  • Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday by Robin Hemley
    Farrar, Straus, 352 pp, US $25.00, May 2003, ISBN 0 374 17716 3

In June 1971 it was learned that a hitherto unknown tribe had been found living in the dense rainforest of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Reportedly, the group consisted of 27 members, spoke an unknown tongue and wore only leaves. Tentatively named Tasaday after a nearby mountain, they seemed to be exclusively hunter-gatherers who knew nothing of agriculture and used stone tools to dig for wild yams. In keeping with the Edenic simplicity of their long hair and near-nudity, they were credited with having no knowledge of war or aggressiveness. At the time – pretty much the hippy high noon of flower-power and anti-Vietnam protest – the Tasaday’s punctuality seemed as impeccable as their unspoilt innocence was chastening. Anthropologists and news teams began converging on Manila.

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