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By Napoleon Chagnon

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Rather, it is something that must be explained. Not all organisms live permanently in socially organized groups. Why some do is a fascinating question, one that cannot be explained by the social sciences. It is a biological and evolutionary matter, so it falls outside the scope of this book, outside the scope of cultural anthropology. This does not mean, however, that anthropologists can ignore this question. Several major theoretical breakthroughs in evolutionary theory occurred just prior to or during the time I began studying anthropology at the University of Michigan.

The standard, almost solemn, epistemological position in cultural anthropology when I was in graduate school was that humans have only a cultural nature. Thus, our physical or biological characteristics as an evolved primate are irrelevant to whatever we do as members of society. The biological properties of humans, as my professors taught me, have to be factored out of any anthropological explanation of what we do. Among my professors were Leslie A. White, Elman R. Service, Marshall D. Sahlins, Eric R.

I picked unknown tribesmen, which limited the parts of the world I could study: there are no unknown tribesmen, for example, in the United States, so I would have to consider more remote places. One of the possible places was South America, and there most of the unknown tribesmen were in the Amazon Basin. So, here I was, my blank notebook in hand, preparing to dig in for seventeen more months of fieldwork. I was the proverbial blank slate incarnate. My Life in the Jungle It isn’t easy to plop down in the Amazon Basin for seventeen months and get immediately into the anthropological swing of things.

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