Taxonomy of Native Peoples

Jim Woolley jbw6521 at ACS.TAMU.EDU
Tue Mar 28 16:03:01 CST 1995

I think the reference about New Guineau that everyone is referring to must be:

Diamond, J.M.  1965.  Zoological classification system of a primitive people.
Science ?: 1102-1104.

Sorry, don't have the volume number, but I do have a copy.  It's a great paper.
Diamond inventoried the local birds in the area of New Guineau inhabited by the
Fore people.  My lecture notes (which I am sure must be impeccably accurate)
indicate that the Fore had 110 distinct names, Diamond came up with 120.  In 93
cases there was a one to one correspondence, including some species considered
tricky by ornithologists.  Perhaps needless to say, the Fore were able to id
things on the wing, or in trees, that Diamond had trouble with even with dead

The paper goes on to describe the results when Fore hunters were taken to a
lowland area, out of their usual range, and were asked to id the birds there
(most species would be unfamiliar).  They did pretty well, indicating that they
had a pretty good feel for generic level taxa also, or perhaps sister species.

HIghly recommended reading, particularly for those that believe taxa to be
mental constructions only.

Jim Woolley
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas 77843
(409) 845-9349
(409) 845-6305  FAX

JimWoolley at

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