Sunday, July 21, 2019

Anthropology: The Answer's Poison

Chapter 17 (1st part) of 25 -- Head Hunters of the Amazon
The Antipas

A short digression on the head-hunters and their mode of life will not be out of place, Up de Graff avers, and naturally in relation to the table I'm belly-up, "Tell me more, O great explorer..." That's no joke, he's a great explorer as far as I'm concerned. I'm here in the Big City with manageable challenges and plenty of police to help if there's something I need. Although I phoned in an abandoned car with a flat tire the other day and it took three notifications and something more than a week for them to get around to it. It was there only three weeks.

But today we're focused on the head-hunters, a living example of Stone Age Man, Up de Graff calls them. They lived apart at the time not because they were introverts or shy but because the terrain was more or less inaccessible. There was plenty of land, a good climate, lots of animals and vegetables, woods and rivers. It just happened to be missing the usual beaten paths. There were missionaries, sure, but at that time there had very little to show for their interference. 

The Antipas are semi-nomadic. The year is divided into three parts, not based on the seasons, but to the capacity of the crops they planted to stay alive. So they went back and forth in relation to sowing and harvest. Yuca takes six months to grow and ripen, Indian corn three months, and yams yearly. Sweet potatoes, peanuts, and tobacco are also cultivated in large quantities. Makes my weekly trip to Walmart sound pathetic, although it's also pathetic apart from comparisons.

Up de Graff sketches how their houses were made, how they were situated, etc., which is way too much to summarize. I'll just assume that's where the folks lived when they were at home, and that little Johnny and Susie had their own room, the walls with posters of the latest South American teen idols, and the Mrs. with a little semi-attached garden foyer like Morticia Addams complete with plants that ate meat, tapir, hedgehog, and anything not too bony. They might take your hand, which would be awful. You'd need a witch-doctor for a quick hand job to get you back to normal. 

Our author went with the Antipas one day to see how they fished. They went to a small stream a couple miles from their settlement. The women cut down barbasco wood along the way, a vine whose sap is deadly poison. Arrived at the water, they looked for a good pool. The barbasco was beaten between heavy stones and thrown into the pool. Within a minute or two the fish came floating to the surface and swam aimlessly. You can guess how easy it was to catch them. Up de Graff says that's the only method of catching fish they know except netting! Hmm, it's interesting, even I know more about fishing than an entire tribe of people!

It looks like the Antipas also kill monkeys with poison, so I don't know, they sound completely lazy. But how about this, Jivaro women also used the same barbasco poison when they committed suicide (p. 216)!

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