VOICES OF THE DEAD: JAMES NEEL'S
M. Susan Lindee
Spokesmen for the investigating commission and expert psychiatrists established that the members of the criminal gang were hypnotists of extraordinary power. … They were able to remove from the field of vision things or people who were in fact within that field of vision. … And so almost everything was explained, and the investigation came to an end, as everything in life comes to an end.
—Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and the Margarita
During his 1967 fieldwork, James V. Neel, professor of human genetics at the University of Michigan, spent a good deal of time collecting chicken dung. He scraped up dirt and chicken waste from the ground around the Yanomamö villages. He sought out dirt from the floors of the Yanomamö houses, where parrots were kept as free-roaming pets. He crawled under chicken coops, filling seventy-five labeled plastic bags with samples, using a fresh plastic spoon for each sample, and he worried about getting this soil and bird waste safely back to Atlanta, Georgia, for testing at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 1