A Zapotec Natural History is an extraordinary book that describes the people of a small town in Mexico and their remarkable knowledge of the natural world in which they live.
San Juan Gbee is
a Zapotec Indian community located in the state of Oaxaca, a region of surprising biological diversity. Eugene S. Hunn is a well-known anthropologist and ethnobiologist who has spent many years
working in San Juan Gbee, studying its residents and their knowledge of the local environment. Here Hunn writes sensitively and respectfully about the rich understanding of local flora and fauna that
village inhabitants have acquired and transmitted over many centuries. In this village everyone, young children included, can identify and name hundreds of local plants, animals, and fungi, together
with the details of their life cycles, habitat preferences, and functions in the economic, aesthetic, and spiritual lives of the town.
Winner of a PROSE award from the AAP in the anthropology category.
A Zapotec Natural History
is a superb study in indigenous science, and a welcome contribution to our growing knowledge of the important relationship between humans and their local environment.
—Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources
Part 1 of this two-part work describes the community,
the subsistence farming practices of its residents, the nomenclature and classification of the local biological taxonomy, the use of plants for treating illnesses, and the ritual and decorative roles
of flowers. Part 2 is on a CD-ROM and includes detailed inventories of all plant, animal, and fungal categories recognized by San Juan's people, a series of indexes, and a library of more than 1,200
images illustrating the town's plants, people, landscapes, and daily activities. Also included on the CD-ROM are files containing sounds of village life.
The contents of Part 2 are available online.