The idea here is that, in oral retellings over time, fieldwork suggests the stories more tend to lose information and grow less vivid. [Forthcoming]
Some very experienced field-workers can testify to the incredible memory capacities of oral communities. For example, here one scholar comments on the work of Bailey and King:
• Craig Keener: “Diane King, a professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky specializing in traditional Middle Eastern oral tradition, observed to me [on 14 March 2017] that Bailey was at his best when describing ethnographically what he saw around him; that is what ethnographers are supposed to do. … Professor King notes her own quarter-century of experience with oral memory in Kurdistan, receiving essentially the same information throughout that period. She notes that informants at the earliest stage of recounting sometimes omit reference to key details that are widely known.” [“Weighing Weeden’s Critique,” JGRChJ 13 (2017): 45.]
Individuals in the Mediterranean (or Greco-Roman) world tend to be very proficient at remembering.
• Greco-Romans were proficient rememberers.
• Jews were proficient rememberers.
• Early Christians were proficient remembers.
• Early professions yield folk with astounding memories.
• Oral societies are relatively information starved.
Over and above simply passing down their history carelessly, perhaps among individuals, members of oral cultures rather took a collective approach in remember that tended to involve several quality-controlling mechanisms.
• Oral rehearsals were interrupted if errors were made.
• Oral rehearsals put a lot of pressure on the performer.
• More forthcoming.
It is not irregular for oral societies in general, not just in the Middle-East, to be able to pass down their sacred history and related memories and sayings faithfully.1