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Primal Naturalists

November 12, 2012

“The intellectual achievements of Amazonian Indians suggest that the ultimate challenge of ethnobotany will lie not merely in the identification and extraction of natural products, but rather in the discovery and elaboration of a profoundly different way of living with the forest. Consider the Waorani of eastern Ecuador. Like many Amazonian groups, the Waorani identify both psychologically and cosmologically with the rain forest. Since they depend on that environment for a large part of their diet, it is not surprising that they are exceptionally skilled naturalists. It is the sophistication of their interpretation of biological relationships that is astounding. Not only do they recognize such conceptually complex phenomena as pollination and fruit dispersal, they understand and accurately predict animal behavior. They anticipate flowering and fruiting cycles of all edible forest plants, know the preferred food of most forest animals, and may even explain where any particular animal prefers to pass the night. Waorani hunters can detect the scent of animal urine at forty paces in the forest and can accurately identify the species of animal from which it came.”

-(Davis, Wade 1995 “Shamans as Botanical Researchers” Shamans Through Time Tarcher/Penguin 2001)

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