Evidence of traditional knowledge loss among a contemporary indigenous society

Victoria Reyes-García, Maximilien Guèze, Ana C. Luz, Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Manuel J. Macía, Martí Orta-Martínez, Joan Pino, Xavier Rubio-Campillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

As biological and linguistic diversity, the world’s cultural diversity is on decline. However, to date there are no estimates of the rate at which the specific cultural traits of a group disappear, mainly because we lack empirical data to assess how the cultural traits of a given population change over time. Here we estimate changes in cultural traits associated to the traditional knowledge of wild plant uses among an Amazonian indigenous society. We collected data among 1151 Tsimane’ Amerindians at two periods of time. Results show that between 2000 and 2009, Tsimane’ adults experienced a net decrease in the report of plant uses ranging from 9% (for the female subsample) to 26% (for the subsample of people living close to towns), equivalent to 1% to 3% per year. Results from a Monte Carlo simulation show that the observed changes were not the result of randomness. Changes were more acute for men than for women and for informants living in villages close to market towns than for informants settled in remote villages. The Tsimane’ could be abandoning their traditional knowledge as they perceive that this form of knowledge does not equip them well to deal with the new socio-economic and cultural conditions they face nowadays.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-257
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


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