Saturday, December 17, 2005

Remote and Poked, Anthropology's Dream Tribe

This is a VERY interesting article, which will be published in tomorrow's NY Times.  It's fascinating to encounter people who time forgot -- who live today virtually identically to the way their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago.  I had such an experience last December when I was visiting my family in Kenya and my parents and I flew up to far northern Kenya to visit a school that serves Samburu children (it can't be far from where the Ariaal tribe is -- see article).  I posted pictures of our visit and a description of the school and the Thorn Tree Project, which aims to grow the school and educate more Samburu children, at
I persuaded a few generous friends (mostly Ciccio Azzollini, whom I wrote about in this article ( and Bill Ackman -- thank you, gentlemen!) to donate money for four new dormitories and a computer lab, which will have a dozen laptops (thank you, Pfizer!) and a satellite dish that will provide a high-speed internet connection.  I think it's going to be really interesting to see what happens when the most isolated people in the world are exposed to the world wide web...
Ciccio, a friend from Pfizer and I (along with some family) are going back next month to celebrate the opening of the first two dorms and the computer lab.  We're going to spend the night, there's going to be a huge celebration, they'll slaughter a cow, the Samburu warriors will dance, etc.  It should be quite a trip!  I'll post pictures...
Remote and Poked, Anthropology's Dream Tribe
Published: December 18, 2005

LEWOGOSO LUKUMAI, Kenya - The rugged souls living in this remote desert enclave have been poked, pinched and plucked, all in the name of science. It is not always easy, they say, to be the subject of a human experiment.

"I thought I was being bewitched," Koitaton Garawale, a weathered cattleman, said of the time a researcher plucked a few hairs from atop his head. "I was afraid. I'd never seen such a thing before."

Another member of the tiny and reclusive Ariaal tribe, Leketon Lenarendile, scanned a handful of pictures laid before him by a researcher whose unstated goal was to gauge whether his body image had been influenced by outside media. "The girls like the ones like this," he said, repeating the exercise later and pointing to a rather slender man much like himself. "I don't know why they were asking me that," he said.

Anthropologists and other researchers have long searched the globe for people isolated from the modern world. The Ariaal, a nomadic community of about 10,000 people in northern Kenya, have been seized on by researchers since the 1970's, after one - an anthropologist, Elliot Fratkin - stumbled upon them and began publishing his accounts of their lives in academic journals.

Other researchers have done studies on everything from their cultural practices to their testosterone levels. National Geographic focused on the Ariaal in 1999, in an article on vanishing cultures...

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