Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday

Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday

Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday

Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday


In 1971 Manual Elizalde, a Philippine government minister with a dubious background, discovered a band of twenty-six "Stone Age" rain-forest dwellers living in total isolation. The tribe was soon featured in American newscasts and graced the cover of National Geographic. But after a series of aborted anthropological ventures, the Tasaday Reserve established by Ferdinand Marcos was closed to visitors, and the tribe vanished from public view.

Twelve years later, a Swiss reporter hiked into the area and discovered that the Tasaday were actually farmers whom Elizalde had coerced into dressing in leaves and posing with stone tools. The "anthropological find of the century" had become the "ethnographic hoax of the century." Or maybe not. Robin Hemley tells a story that is more complex than either the hoax proponents or the authenticity advocates might care to admit. It is a gripping and ultimately tragic tale of innocence found, lost, and found again. The author provides an afterword for this Bison Books edition.


Mercy, mercy me. Ah, things ain’t what they used to be.

—Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”

Foward the end of the nbc Nightly News on July 16, 1971, David Brinkley announced in his oddly measured way, “The outside world … after maybe a thousand years has discovered a small tribe of people living in a remote jungle in the Philippines. Until now, the outside world didn’t know they existed … and they didn’t know the outside world existed. Their way of living is approximately that of the Stone Age. Their society is so primitive they don’t even know about fighting wars … or even about fighting among themselves.”

A map of the Philippines, the only graphic on the news report besides the stock market graph, showed a spot in southern Mindanao labeled “Lost Tribe,” as Jack Perkins narrated a report from correspondent Jack Reynolds. “Numbering only a few dozen people,” Perkins said, “it was easy for the Lost Tribe to stay lost until a month ago when officials from the Philippine government discovered them.” a shot taken from a helicopter showed seemingly endless expanses of mountainous jungle as Reynolds and Perkins related to the audience the discovery of this lost tribe called the Tasaday, which, Reynolds reiterated, had been isolated in the dense jungle for at least five hundred years and probably more than a thousand.

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