http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/12/hadza/finkel-text. The subtitle is misleading, since the bit about the Hadza "living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago" refers simply to the general estimate among Archaeologists that the earliest signs of agriculture date from roughly 10,000 years in the past. The assumptions being that 1. the Hadza have lived as hunter-gatherers during the entire period since the earliest advent of agriculture; 2. hunting and gathering in itself is the principal determiner of culture, and 3. all hunter-gatherers are now living as our ancestors lived -- these are huge assumptions.
Nevertheless, we have good reason to believe that certain aspects of Hadza life haven't changed much over a far longer period -- anywhere from 40,000 to very possibly well over 100,000 years ago. How can we make such a statement? Not on the basis of assumptions, but evidence pointing to strong socio-cultural affinities with HBC, the ancestral culture we've been taking as our (hypothetical) baseline.
We learn toward the beginning of the article that one of the Hadza males is "maybe five feet tall." The mean height of Hadza males has been estimated at 162.24 centimeters, i.e. roughly 64 inches or 5 foot 3 (see table in How universal are human mate choices? Size does not matter when Hadza foragers are choosing a mate, Sear and Marlowe, p. 608). Since Aka Pygmy males are reported as averaging 153 centimeters, or roughly 5 feet, the Hadza don't seem all that much taller. And as we've learned, certain Bushmen groups fall into roughly the same ballpark. Did the Hadza, Pygmies and Bushmen inherit their small height from a common ancestor or is it some sort of adaptation, or even perhaps a coincidence? Only biological research can tell us for sure, so this remains an open question.
The Hadza language is correctly described as an isolate. Despite the use of clicks it has not been possible to group it with Khoisan or any other family. According to Finkel, "Genetic testing indicates that they may represent one of the primary roots of the human family tree—perhaps more than 100,000 years old," but I don't know of any research supporting that. On the contrary, the Hadza appear to be a genetic isolate. Consider the following graph, based on an analysis of autosomal microsatellite markers by Tishkoff et al (from Supporting Online Material, figure S12):
(For an enlarged view, right-click and select "Open in new window".) The Hadza are easy to find as they are represented by a bright yellow band roughly one-third of the way in from the left. The fact that they are the ONLY group represented by this color tells us how distinctive their genetic profile is.
The Hadza are a musical isolate as well, as far as I've been able to determine, with a vocal style completely different from that of the Pygmies and Bushmen, and also very different from the call and response pattern so typical of Bantu vocalizing.
[Added 12-6: Recordings of Hadza music were released a few years ago on two CDs, The Hadza Bushmen of Tanzania. Clips from all tracks can be previewed at the Amazon.com web page by clicking on the above link. Volume 1 is limited to solo vocals and instrumentals, but Volume 2 contains several excellent recordings of traditional group vocalizing. In a comment to this post, Maju provides links to a couple of interesting youtube videos of Hadza people singing and dancing: one -- two. The youtube clips sound like typical East/South African call & response Bantu style singing, and the dancing strikes me as rather tentative and half-hearted. Looks to me like a show put on for tourists, based more on Bantu traditions than Hadza ones, which tourists might find puzzling. The recordings on the CD set, especially those on Volume Two, are very different, with much less emphasis on call and response, and with long intricate melodies and drawn out, sustained tones, very unusual for Bantu Africa.]
While there is indeed something very mysterious in this picture, it could be explained, I believe, by a severe population bottleneck that could only have occurred at some very early point in their history as a distinct group. Such a bottleneck, leaving only a very small population to serve as a "founder group," would explain the genetic anomaly as well as the musical one -- the highly group oriented, cooperative style of P/B could have been lost in the wake of a disaster that temporarily isolated a small number of survivors. If such a bottleneck event occurred relatively recently, the genetic picture for the Hadza would not look so different at so many values for K (see graph). This is my own interpretation of the genetic evidence, and I am by no means an expert, so it could be totally wrong, but as far as I can tell a very early bottleneck seems to be the only logical explanation for the Hadza "mystery."
When we leave aside the genetic, linguistic and musical mysteries, we see a great many striking similarities with Pygmy and Bushmen culture, strongly suggesting survivals from HBC. For one thing, we learn from the National Geographic article that a significant number of Hadza, one-quarter, "remain true hunter-gatherers," with strong evidence that all Hadza lived solely by hunting and gathering in the not too distant past.
Anthropologists are wary of viewing contemporary hunter-gatherers as "living fossils," says Frank Marlowe, a Florida State
University professor of anthropology who has spent the past 15 years studying the Hadza. Time has not stood still for them. But they have maintained their foraging lifestyle in spite of long exposure to surrounding agriculturalist groups, and, says Marlowe, it's possible that their lives have changed very little over the ages (p. 104).
"The Hadza do not engage in warfare," "have plenty of leisure time," "live almost entirely free of possessions," "collect honey," and hunt with poison arrows, cultural characteristics shared among all three of our baseline "feeder" groups, EP, WP and Bu. Additionally, they "recognize no official leaders," favor "individual autonomy," and rarely stand on ceremony for events such as weddings, funerals and other rituals. In this latter respect they do differ somewhat from HBC, where we would expect to find rituals such as the Elima girl's initiation, or the Molimo festival, as practiced by the Mbuti, or the Xhoma male initiation ritual of the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen. Moreover, "there are no Hadza priests or shamans or medicine men." Perhaps such traditions were lost in the same bottleneck that affected their genetic profile and their music.
Unlike most Pygmies and Bushmen, who tend toward monogamy, the
Hadza rarely marry for life: "Most of the Hadza I met, men and women alike, were serial monogamists, changing spouses every few years." Again, the relative looseness of marital relations could possibly be due to an extended period early in their history when social norms may have broken down.
"There was a bevy of children in the camp, with the resident
grandmother, a tiny, cheerful lady named Nsalu, running a sort of day care while the adults were in the bush. Except for breast-feeding infants, it was
hard to determine which kids belonged to which parents."
This approach to raising children, with involvement by individuals other than the parents is not uncommon for most Pygmy and Bushmen groups and may well have been a feature of HBC child-rearing.
"Gender roles are distinct, but for women there is none of the forced subservience knit into many other cultures. . . Among the Hadza, women are frequently the ones who initiate a breakup—woe to the man who proves himself an incompetent hunter or treats his wife poorly."
The status of women among the Hadza appears extremely close to their status among EP, WP and Bu -- and thus HBC -- i.e., a state of relative equality, with very clear overtones of subservience in certain areas, as reflected in sometimes very different gender roles and limitations.
We have already discussed Hadza "beehive" huts: "During the rainy season, they construct little domed shelters made of interwoven twigs and long grasses: basically, upside-down bird's nests."
Core HBC values such as avoidance of conflict and strong emphasis on sharing are also present among the Hadza: "Most conflicts are resolved by the feuding parties simply separating into different camps. If a hunter brings home a kill, it is shared by everyone in his camp."
I was especially intrigued by the scarification on the forehead and nose of this Hadza woman (see photo on p. 119):
Gargas Cave, French Pyrenees
Llonin Cave, Spain
El Pindal, Spain
Koonalda Cave, Australia
Experts have long puzzled over the meaning of these lines, and I'm wondering what meaning this particular scarification pattern might have for the Hadza. I'm not claiming to have uncovered a connection, but who knows -- if such patterns were commonly used by HBP, and had some sort of meaning for them, then it's possible they could have had more or less the same meaning for their rock-painting descendents. Just a thought -- but worth looking into, I should think.