Amazonian Tribe Lacks Abstract Concept of Time

Marina Watson Peláez, Yahoo! News, May 26, 2011

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Researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have found that the Amazonian tribe Amondawa, has no abstract concept of time. “In English we say things like, her birthday is coming up, or he worked through the night,” researcher Chris Sinha told NewsFeed. “But they (the Amondawa) don’t use such expressions of movement in space to metaphorically talk about time.”

The study was carried out via interviews, observations, questionnaires and experiments, and the results came as a surprise to the researchers, because it’s the first language in which it’s been established that space to time mappings don’t occur.

But although the Amondawa, who were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, don’t have anything like a clock, they do talk in time periods. “They’re just not as strict,” says Sinha. That means that if two members of a tribe were to meet up, they’d say something like “We’ll meet in the afternoon,” or “we’ll meet tomorrow morning.” This is also explained by the fact that they have a small number system which only goes up to four.

The Amondawa doesn’t have a calendar either; They don’t have a word for year, month or week. Rather, they refer to the “dry” or “rainy” season.

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  • Awakened

    I can’t believe they way she phrased this article. For example:

    “While you’re rushing to meet deadlines and trying to make it to places on time, there’s one tribe in the Amazon that doesn’t have that problem.”

    They don’t even have the intelligence to consider time and the author phrases it like it’s some sort of virtue. Here’s another beautiful example:

    “So what does this say of their lifestyle? “They’re more laid back in the sense that they’re not ruled by time,” says Sinha. “There’s excitement in their lives, but it’s of a different kind.””

    She’s telling us in effect that we should be more like them.

    And here’s another excerpt:

    “”This tells us that we have become so embedded in a world that is governed by the measurement of time, that we find it difficult to understand what it might be like to live in a world that is not governed that way,” says Sinha.

    The 24-hour lifestyle can indeed be stressful.”

    Yeah, I guess it’s better to be some person in a jungle with a winter day temperature IQ who is living the same way his ancestors were several thousand years ago, with absolutely no progress. They want us to just lie back and let them take over or at the very least we should be more like them, I mean, literally. The message is clear. The more I read articles like this, the more I realize the agenda of those who want to destroy us.

  • Question Diversity

    It’s not surprising that an indigenous and relatively untouched people near the equator don’t have the ability to fathom an entire year. Other than the dry and rainy spells, the climate is very consistent, and also the number of hours of daylight every day are roughly the same from day to day. In contrast, it behooved Europeans, who lived well north of the equator, who experienced very stark and drastic annual and seasonal phenomenon, to acquire the mindset of thinking in “the long term.”

  • Anonymous

    I feed my dog dinner at 6pm sharp every night. If I delay, she’ll start nagging me by 6:15pm. Also, my mother’s childhood dog would perch in the bay window of their house and watch for her to walk home from school – the dog never arrived in the window more than 30 minutes ahead of time, and this went on for years.

    How is it possible for dogs to have a keener sense of time than an entire tribe of people?! I cannot visualize such a thing. Even rainforests have changing daylight filtering through trees that would denote the passage of time. How can humans not notice and make use of such obvious information?

  • Urban Teacher

    Interesting. Either their ancestors lacked those concepts or, more likely, this tribe lost them over time.

    In nature and evolution, it’s use it or lose it.

  • Tim Mc Hugh

    Sounds like their ripe for some second shift factory work…

  • Anonymous

    Hey, I like it! Time is what you make of it. Good idea.

    I also like indoor plumbing, no snakes, reasonably effective antibiotics, air conditioning, four walls and a locked door, food that doesn’t run when I try to eat it and drinking water that has had the bugs and chemicals taken out of it.

    As another version of the: ‘It’s the simple things you miss when you lead an overly complicated life.’ argument I can only respond:

    No. No, not really.

  • Anonymous

    What is abstract time,how long is a piece of string,who realy cares,amazon tribes know day to night and know when the seasons are changing,just by seeing and feeling,thats all they need too know.

  • John Engelman

    By studying paleolithic peoples we can learn how our ancestors lived over ten thousand years ago. Aspects of human nature which had survival value then are often dysfunctional now, but we still have them, even though they have grown weaker with continued human evolution.

    Back then the winners of violent conflicts between hunting bands nearly always benefited. That explains the continued human propensity for war, even when the war is avoidable, and when the winner is worse off after winning than before the war began.

  • SKIP

    I suppose a lifestyle where there is no concept of time could be useful, look at the “people” of Detroit, their concept of time only includes the time the the EBT cards are loaded! And on another point, we should learn to live in such a timeless manner since that is where White civilization is headed, seeking the lowest common denominator. It should also be noted that those people with little concept of time have a lifespan of around 40 years, about the life span of a person in Detroit! or District of Coloreds or perhaps Blacklanta.

  • Anonymous

    I think they have migrated to California and their 45 IQ kids are contributing to our wonderful diversity. The EEOC is urging local government agencies to hire them.

  • Anonymous

    Ha, Ha! I remember way back in a biology class learning that Jays can count up to 5. Are Jays amarter than the Amondawa?

  • Anonymous

    The full article states that the Amondawa have no difficulty in learning and using Portuguese in which time is expressed in verbs. It would be interesting to know what the tribe’s level of intelligence is, as well a its technology. If I cared about the matter, I would want more information, before coming to any conclusion. Initial anthropological studies are often incorrect, even when conducted by real scientists.

    The important fact to me is the anti-western attitude reflected in the account.

  • Eric

    This tribe isn’t the only one. I remember seeing a film called Mondo Cane, an Italian movie that had all sorts of “shocking” things in it. It was made in the early 60’s so it isn’t really all that shocking anymore. Anyway one of the segments was about this tribe of Pacific Islanders that had no concept of time, didn’t have a word for hello or goodbye etc. It’s probably a lot more prevalent in these primitive people than once imagined. I see no upside to it though no matter what the cultural equivalists think.

  • A. Windaus

    @Anonymous: They probably just don’t care. A lot of the tribes in the Pacific didn’t care about time as they could just walk up to a tree and pick some fruit and spend the rest of the day getting drunk on kava. Time is only important if you have a schedule to keep and around the equator seasons aren’t life or death like winter in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    How do you have five digits on each hand, and a number system that only goes up to four. Didn’t someboby at one time or another take a finger from one hand, and touch the finers on the other hand one…two…three…four… and then realize they needed another number? I guess in their tribe thumbs just didn’t “count.”

  • Anonymous

    “we’re going to need another number ….”

  • kgb

    FTA — says MARINA WATSON PELÁEZ,

    So what does this say of their lifestyle?

    They’re basically cavemen, that’s what it says about their “lifestyle.” Quit expecting us to admire them for having bones through their noses, O Time journalist. We’ve put people into space, for God’s sake.

  • Sunnyvale Sal

    Well if they lack an abstract concept of time and can count to only four, I’d say they are no threat to Whites at all — especially if they stay in the Amazon. Better to concentrate on the brighter ethnic groups that clearly mean us harm.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe in their milieu, knowing the correct time has no practical use. They are basically small bands of hunter gatherers and do not have sufficiently complex social activity which requires adherence to time schedules. Alas, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe in their milieu, knowing the correct time has no practical use. They are basically small bands of hunter gatherers and do not have sufficiently complex social activity which requires adherence to time schedules. Alas, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

  • Jeremiah

    The White Man has lived in communities governed by clocks and calenders for thousands of years. Of course we have a different understanding of time than these people. They should be left to their own lands in which they have evolved to live in happiness with their environment, their culture, and their peoples, and the dignity delivered by working and hunting for their own sustenance. It pains me to think that some delusional liberal White ‘liberator’ is trying to clothe them with apparel they can’t manufacture on their own, watches they can’t read, and feed them Western food that kills them even as they get hooked. You know, so they can live on the largess of the White Man’s welfare and spend all day dying of depression. Is there any wonder they come to hate us so quickly?

  • sshadow

    from Wikipedia,

    “The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar.[1][2][3] It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter gravissimas.[4] The reformed calendar was adopted later that year by a handful of countries, with other countries adopting it over the following centuries. The motivation for the Gregorian reform was that the Julian calendar assumes that the time between vernal equinoxes is 365.25 days, when in fact it is presently almost exactly 11 minutes shorter. The error between these values accumulated at the rate of about three days every four centuries, resulting in the equinox occurring on March 11 (an accumulated error of about 10 days) and moving steadily earlier in the Julian calendar at the time of the Gregorian reform. Since the Spring equinox was tied to the celebration of Easter, the Roman Catholic Church considered that this steady movement in the date of the equinox was undesirable.”

    It must take great wisdom, and probably a higher IQ to avoid the above complexity in life. Counting to 4 when you have 5 fingers implies a wonderful economy of cognition.

  • Yorkshireman.

    Just leave them alone. They are doing what comes naturally and they don’t have to worry about corrupt bankers and politicians. Of course they only count up to four.. the thumb is needed to tick off the fingers one by one and, in any case, we count up to ten then start again in the next column, unless it’s binary, just like the computer you are using right now!! Four fingers could represent fifteen so perhaps you do them an injustice. Stop carping on about them being a potential burden on us. I saw the original article in the UK Daily Telegraph with a photo of a family dressed in ‘modern’ clothing as obviously to print a photo which includes naked children is classed as paedophilia but that’s an insult to them. They are obviously proud of their innocent nakedness. Now I am going to be attacked by a bunch of Christian do-gooders who think this is original sin or something equally quaint.

  • White as a Ghost

    I studied linguistics in graduate school in Australia. One of my professors was an expert in aboriginal languages and cultures. He told us some interesting stories about aboriginal culture in the outback, which he had spent considerable time living in and researching. Not only do these people have no concept of time, but they also have no concept of individual responsibility. He said it was impossible to get anything done – a phone call to an aboriginal office would be answered by one person, only to walk away from it and leave the call open, and every few minutes someone else would come along and start talking, like there was some kind of community ownership of the conversation. Totally bizarre. Messages or returning phone calls was not a possibility.

  • Charles Hastings

    A friend of mine runs a shift of nurses at a hospital in inner city Cleveland. She was astonished at the lack of responsibility regarding time among her staff. One staff member told her she had better get used to BT (short for black time).

  • Anonymous

    Ok, the tribe has no concept of time. So what? The fact of the matter is, they are fine tuned to their ecosystem and have survived for thousands of years doing what they do. That is what ultimately counts.

    It is only the white Christian missionaries who started poking their noses into these indigenous people’s affairs and try to ‘civilize’ them, often with disastrous results for everyone.

    If it ain’t broken, don’t attempt to fix it.

  • Robert Lindsay

    These things you all think are so important are simply of no use to these people. If you spent some time with them, you might be surprised at how sharp they really are. Amazonians are not stupid.

    All these comments about low IQ are uncalled for. Amerindians have IQ’s of ~87. I imagine this tribe has an IQ of ~87 too. They’re as smart as Cherokees.

    And don’t knock the lifestyle. Some of these groups have virtually stress related illness at all. They also have little cancer and heart disease, I believe. They get felled by other stuff, just not the dis-eases of modern civilization.