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Elderly Marauder

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  • Elderly Marauder

    Here's an account of an old man going on a marauding expedition that involved an 80-mile round trip through a desert.

    The source is Travel & Adventure in South-East Africa by Frederick Courtney Selous.

    The Matabele had been raiding the Batauwani. The Matabele, as some readers will know, were an offshoot of the Zulus and an extremely militarized society that pretty much destroyed and depopulated areas of south east Africa, walking through peaceful agricultural societies with consummate ease.

    What's interesting here is that one at least of a raiding party described by Selous was of a fairly advanced age - in his seventies. The Matabele mode of life evidently enabled this man to stay in pretty good condition till a fairly advanced age.

    The Matabele lived, like the Zulus, on the products of their herds and fields. They would also have hunted some wild game, and they would have seized cattle and other foods on raids, as well as demanding tribute from subject peoples (Mashonas/Mashunas).

    Now I know that obesity was known among the Zulus. It was something of a red rag to their most most famous king (and founder), Shaka, who equated it with over-eating and laziness. On one occasion Shaka made his whole court go on a run that lasted for some days, which must have damn-near killed some retainers (and did some). However, to drop out would have been certain death, since Shaka's slayers accompanied and had instructions to kill anyone who fell out.

    I suspect the basic diet was pretty good. I recall an account of Shaka's breakfasting on grilled meat, spinach, and porridge with honey, with milk and beer to drink. I think the porridge was probably made with mealies (maize), and I doubt maize ever did most people much harm - unless it made up too much of the diet. Many Plains Indians seemed to have lived on almost nothing but buffalo flesh and maize, and to quote the painter George Catlin:

    During my Ethnographic labours amongst those wild people I have visited 150 Tribes, containing more than two millions of souls; and therefore have had, in all probability, more extensive opportunities than any other man living, of examining their sanitary system ... Amongst two millions of these wild people whom I have visited, I never saw or heard of a Hunch-back (crooked spine), though my inquiries were made in every Tribe; nor did I ever see an Idiot or Lunatic amongst them, though I heard of some three or four, during my travels, and perhaps of as many Deaf and Dumb. ...
    Anyway, as I say, the basic diet of the Zulus and Matabele sounds sound to me. I suspect the problem could be that richer and more powerful individuals sometimes indulged too much in the beer.

    So here's the account:

    I have often noticed men of a very advanced age taking part in the most arduous raids made by the Matabili on the surrounding tribes, and I will adduce one very remarkable instance, which seems to show that savages sometimes retain their vigour for a very long period of time ...

  • #2
    Maize, pff. I wonder what would happen to the health of the world if we replaced every grain field with a potato field. I can make a pretty good guess.
    Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

    Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


    • #3
      Originally posted by Stabby View Post
      Maize, pff. I wonder what would happen to the health of the world if we replaced every grain field ....

      Trust you!

      I post a link to a fundamentally interesting account which gives evidence for suggesting that a fairly primitive lifeway can keep a man fit until an advanced age, and that's all you have to say?

      If a man have enough meat, fat and lean, no access to strong drink, and isn't subject to the stimuli present in advanced civilizations that tend to (although they need not) lead to malcoordination -- chairs and suchlike -- see Alexander (forward by Dewey) passim

      what might be possible for him? And all you want to do is comment that one of the foodstuffs in the fellow's diet is a cereal crop and hence has been ruled to be haram by the Ayatollah of the Dinner Table down in Colorado.

      It fascinated me, anyway. At this man's age most people around here don't think of anything much more energetic than the crossword and a "nice cup of tea".


      • #4
        My grandfather is 95 and eats at taco bell, does it then follow that taco bell is a good to eat? Nah. Who knows how old/fit humans can be given the right diet.
        Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

        Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


        • #5
          Originally posted by Stabby View Post
          My grandfather is 95 and eats at taco bell, does it then follow that taco bell is a good to eat? Nah. Who knows how old/fit humans can be given the right diet.
          But I'll bet he isn't in the military.

          Selous, however, says he has "often noticed men of a very advanced age taking part in the most arduous raids made by the Matabele ..."

          And while your grandfather may be as fit as a 19th-century Matabele man of a similar age, I'll guarantee you most people in his society aren't.


          • #6
            My grandad lived to be 98, then literally dropped dead. He was running a bath and he went, as the late, great Tommy Cooper would have said, "Just like that!" His housekeeper found the front door on the latch (which was odd in itself), so her partner had to, let himself in through Grandpa's bedroom window. he found him slumped by the tub, with the taps still running, water pouring through the ceiling into the hallway below.

            As his housekeeper said, it was just like his heart had run out of beats. He was a very youthful 98, too - still travelling up to London by train (he was up there for a meeting the week before he died).

            He liked his wine, and he liked his cheese. All I can ever remember him eating in the evenings: - cheese (preferably a decent Stilton) locally made nutty bread and a bottle or 2 of a decent red, and perhaps a few grapes (or strawberries and cream). He had a fixation about Heinz tomato soup in the winter though (EWW!! Lover of fine cheeses, and he ate that crud!)
            La tristesse durera toujours...


            • #7
              Originally posted by Shrinking_Violet View Post
              He liked his wine, and he liked his cheese.
              Good for him.

              When I made the throwaway line about "strong drink" I was thinking of spirits. Those have wreaked havoc among some primitive peoples - physically and socially.

              I was recently reading a small book of George Catlin's that I hadn't known about. A brief quotation:

              Clermont, Chief of the Osages, replied to my questions, ' Before my people began to use "fire-water," it was a very unusual thing for any of our women to lose their children; but I am sorry to say that we lose a great many of them now; we have no Fools (Idiots), no Deaf and Dumb, and no Hunch-backs our women never die in childbirth nor have dead children.'
              So sad. However, it's interesting that at that time the Osage, despite the lost children, still had no-one with spinal problems, or deaf-and-dumb, etc.

              It's quite revealing to read about the fur trade and see the connection with "fire-water" there. Here was this valuable commodity (furs) and what would the Indians trade for it? One clear answer to that question was booze. So that was what people like Pierre Chouteau did. This man was, you might say, a Pillar of the Community, had his daughters educated in convents, was well-respected, with good political connections. At one point, when rivals in the fur trade were doing good trade with the Indians, he used his political connections to get an associate (Andrew Drips) to be appointed to an official position to crack down on the trade in spirits with the Indians, which wasn't supposed to be going on. (I'm not sure why it wasn't supposed to be going on - perhaps the U.S. government thought it made the Indians more dangerous - but anyway it wasn't.) A complete act of hypocrisy on Chouteau's part, since that was exactly what he was doing himself. There's a letter where someone mentions Drips passing through a trading post of Chouteau's and finding nothing - since he "forgot" to look in the cellar.

              Anyway, Catlin ... interesting stuff this little book. I haven't read it all, since I'm very busy at the moment, and have other things to read, and it's unrewarding going in some ways because it's filled with his potty theory about why Indians were healthier. But that they were so much so is very interesting. I was intrigued to learn from Catlin that besides the term "palefaces" the Indians used to refer to the whites as "blackteeth". I'd never heard that one before - tells a story, doesn't it? Apparently, the Indians believed that the teeth of whites rotted because so many lies passed over them. Catlin - like a an earlier Weston Price - remarks on the great beauty and symmetry of the Indians teeth as well as their bodies. He says when this was realized Indian burial places were looted by people with forceps out to sell the teeth to the false-teeth market.

              Catlin thought the white's teeth rotted because their bedrooms were overheated, causing them to sleep with their mouths open and expose their teeth to cold air. However, what's more relevant to us, he did actually record what the Indians ate:

              Pawnee-Picts ... This Tribe I found living entirely in their primitive state; their food, Buffalo flesh and Maize, or Indian corn.

              Kiowas ... This Tribe I found living in their primitive condition, their food Buffalo flesh and Venison.

              Winnebagoes ... Food of this Tribe, fish, venison, and vegetables.
              So, as one would expect, no refined carbohydrates.

              It kind of annoys me when I reflect that really it seems likely that no child need have fillings, braces on the teeth, or get impacted wisdom teeth, and all it takes is a little sense about diet. And the necessary information has been out there for a very long time now.