ABSTRACT

In order to make a microdemographic study of a group of people, it is essential that time, in the form of age of individuals and of periods of time during which events occur, be available as the framework within which events are analyzed. Yet when one encounters a group of 20 or so !Kung, living in a bush camp quite isolated from events in the outside world, one necessarily doubts that the ages of these people can be determined accurately. The people themselves do not know their ages or dates of birth, nor do they use numbers over three in their own language. One can, of course, attempt to make a guess of their age from their appearance; this was done frequently in the field, as a part of the process of distinguishing individuals with the same name from one another. To complicate the process of age estimation, their way of life is so different from the people on whom we have constructed our standards of age appearance that we have to allow for the possibility that they age in an entirely different way from the familiar one.