The Navajo memorise over 700 insects to three levels of classification, along with all their characteristics. And that’s just insects!
In fact, as detailed in my books, all non-literate cultures memorise a huge amount of information beyond the spiritual and historic – usually the only topics referred to when talking about oral tradition. My interest is in the vast store of practical information: animal and plant classifications, uses, properties – thousands of them. Navigation across vast areas without charts, complex genealogies, astronomy, timekeeping, geology, land management, resource locations and rights, animal husbandry, farming practices, laws, ethics … it goes on and on.
How on earth do they remember so much stuff?
Their very survival depends on it.
They use the memory methods described on the pages dedicated to massive memory devices and miniature memory devices. They use song, dance, stories, mythology and combine all the methods into an intricate knowledge system.
This is a huge topic and one which absolutely fascinates me. I’ll be adding a lot more to this page as I blog about it.
See also: Uluru as a set of memory locations
Why rituals and beliefs? Why not knowledge?