Social networking in the past

Popular Archaeology has an intriguing article about social networking among the Hadza, a nomadic people living in East Africa whose primary form of subsistence is hunting and gathering. A team led by Coren Apicello found that the Hadza form social networks among themselves very similar to those formed using Facebook and other modern communications tools. The finding suggests that this form of human interaction may be very old.

I have one disagreement with the article, however, and that is that it too quickly assumes that the behavior of modern hunter-gatherer peoples is necessarily the same as that of peoples living thousands of years ago. This is not a valid assumption. It is widely recognized in archaeology that ancient cultures often differ in significant ways from those visited by anthropologists. This study of social networks therefore can only suggest how people might have interacted in the past, not definitely show that they behaved that way. Regardless of this, though, it is still a very interesting finding that should prompt further research.


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