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What can we learn from our ancient ancestors?


Can our ancient ancestors, who lived in tribal societies, give us an insight into how we should live our modern lives?

That is the question being posed by a new book - The World Until Yesterday - by the Pulitzer Prize winner Professor Jared Diamond, who has carried out fieldwork over five decades in New Guinea, as well as gathering evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians and other cultures.

He has explored how tribal peoples approach essential human problems, such as childrearing, old age, conflict resolution and health.

Speaking to the Today programme's Evan Davis, he said: "There are features of traditional societies that we do want to emulate or acquire for ourselves, such as brining up children in a way that they are curious, self-confident and socially skilled.

Mr Diamond also discussed the difference in attitudes towards elderly people.

"The way we treat our elderly is horrible by the standards of traditional people," he said.

"Elderly people in the UK and the US tend to have lonely lives, separated from their children and their lifelong friends. Whereas in many traditional societies, elderly people are of value, and they spend their lives next to their children and their friends."

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