Letters to the Editor

Oldest Culture, Emptiest Cliche

Old Cultures Sir: Am I alone in becoming increasingly irritated by that meaningless, glib phrase, “The oldest living culture”, or its close relative, “The longest continuous culture”? Patrick McCauley skirts around its edges in “The Indigenous Invasion of Aboriginal Australia” (March 2021), without touching upon the core issue. Even Keith Windschuttle, in his brilliant Break-up of Australia, falls for this (page 258: “The world’s oldest living culture”). “Culture” means different things to different people, but for me its best definition, from an anthropological viewpoint, has been provided by Melvin Konner in The Tangled Wing. It fits nicely under the acronym,…

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