Изображения страниц

We now are aware of five sections1 of the inland tribes which are more or less well known to the coast people, having each huts and gardens within a mile or two of the shore. It is further positively asserted that there are other communities of the same tribe living in the depths of the jungle who, like the ērem-tâ ga- of the Andaman forests, rarely if ever venture to come down to the sea. We are not yet able to ascertain the exact position of these villages, or their probable strength, inasmuch as the coast people have only on one or two occasions penetrated so far inland.

The encampment now visited for the first time is situated on the bank of a river2 hitherto unknown to us, but which proves to be as fine as the Galatea.

We had paddled up the stream for about an hour when we came upon a hut, which, from the neatness of its construction, might have been readily mistaken for one erected by the coast people; the chief differences to be noted were, first, that the posts were not so firmly planted, and secondly, that the floor was raised 10 feet above the ground in lieu of 6 or 7 feet, as is usual in the coast villages. On entering the hut we found two men and two women, seated tailor fashion, cross-legged on the floor, i.e.— 1. Gai, a man probably about thirty years of age, and husband to the two women.

2. Dau, a youth of about eighteen, and unmarried.

3. Kinai 4. Kō ap

[ocr errors]

Half-sisters and wives to No. 1.3

These four persons had hair reaching below their shoulders, unkempt and uncut; in their ears were large wooden earsticks; their skin was of the same colour as that of the coast people to whom also they bore more resemblance, both in feature and general appearance, than has been noticeable among the Shom Pen of other communities.

Both men had on loose Chinese drawers, and also the illadjusted loin-cloth, which they evidently wear in imitation of the neng of the coast men.1

1 These encampments are found at the 1. Near Láfúl and Ganges Harbour. intercommunication.)

2. At Galatea Bay.

3. Near Pulo Babi, on the west coast.

following points :

(Reckoned as one owing to constant

(Visited last year for the first time ;

it is called by the natives "dák-ta-yal.")

4. Near Kashindōn on the west coast.

(Called “dakan-kat.")

5. Between Kashindon and Pulo Pet. (This encampment is known as Pulo

Kungi, and has yet to be visited.)

2 The native name of the river is "dák-a-naing."

3 I took special pains to have this point so confirmed as to leave little room for doubt as to its accuracy.

+ The Shom Pen declare that the adoption of this garment is of recent date,

Gai (No. 1) had two necklaces of string, one of which was black from long use, but the other was newly and neatly made of a whitish fibre twisted evenly round a narrow strip of some red cotton fabric: with this he was willing to part, receiving in exchange a bead necklace I had brought with me.

Dau (No. 2) had no necklace.

Both women had small coloured bead necklaces similar to the one I had just bestowed upon Gai; they wore the usual short cotton shirt, and had a piece of the same material wound round the upper part of their persons; they had also bands of fibre round their heads, apparently to keep the hair from falling over the face when cooking or stooping, &c.

Kōap (No. 4) is the first Shom Pen I have seen with the disfigurement so common among the coast people, i.e., with the front teeth of the upper jaw encrusted together so as to protrude and prevent the lips from closing; it would be a matter of difficulty, if not an impossibility, for one tooth to be extracted without the others.

At the further end of the hut, opposite the entrance, as is also the custom of the coast people, was a sanded hearth, on which were standing three of the sack-like cooking vessels peculiar to the Shom Pen (called tē-ag); they were of different sizes, and I observed that the sides were kept apart by means of sticks placed across inside.

The impression we produced upon our new acquaintances was apparently favourable, for they intimated through our guides that if we returned in a few weeks' time they would be willing to accompany us on the return journey.

On our way back to the coast we sighted a small canoe containing a young couple (called Patōi and Tain), belonging to the community we had just been visiting, who had, it seems, been absent on some fishing expedition; immediately on perceiving us they turned and paddled away rapidly until assured by the shouts of our coast companions that they had no cause for fear, when they allowed us to come up with them and showed no further signs of alarm, but willingly walked with us and accepted presents of beads, tobacco, biscuits, &c.

In noting down the words for common objects as spoken by these (dakan-kat) people I found that in most instances they differed from the equivalent used by the Shom Pen of Láfúl and Ganges Harbour. Each community of the tribe appears to "within the memory of living men"; this probably indicates the period during which less hostile relations have existed between the coast and inland tribes.

This necklace measures 10 feet 9 inches in length, and the red cotton foundation is inch in width.

2 When fire is not otherwise obtainable, the Shom Pen produce a flame by means of the ordinary fire sticks.

possess a dialect more or less distinct, but this is what might reasonably be expected when we consider the isolation of the several encampments, and the difficulties of intercommunication, apart even from the hostile relations in which they stand towards one another.

The surprising discovery was made on this trip that the Shom Pen, or at any rate certain sections (viz., those at Láfúl and Ganges Harbour and on the west coast), are in the habit of constructing rafts and boats, the latter not only for their own use, but also for purposes of sale, or more properly speaking, of barter, with the coast tribes. We saw both rafts and canoes; the former are made of bamboos neatly tied together, and the latter are not distinguishable from those seen at the coast villages, except perhaps from the fact that they are not quite so carefully finished. The size of the canoes made for their own use varies from 6 to 10 feet, but we are informed that much larger ones measuring sometimes as much as 20 to 24 feet are made for the coast tribes to whom it seems that the finishing of these crafts is invariably left.

The Shom Pen do not venture out to sea in their skiffs, but use them merely for crossing the rivers or creeks near which their encampments are situated, or for skirting along the coast where they plant fishing stakes which are similar in every respect to those seen in Malay villages.

After leaving dakan-kat and the west coast we went to the Ganges Harbour community, which had not been visited since the unfortunate disappearance of one of its members and two other youths in September, 1884 (vide ante p. 438). We took the precaution of sending our guides in advance to reconnoitre, and were informed on their return that only two men were within hail as far as they could ascertain, but that these were unwilling to accept their assurance that friends were about to pay them a visit. Nevertheless we proceeded on our way, taking presents and my camera. I found that one of the men was Poko, father to Dehonha, one of the missing lads; nothing worthy of note transpired during the visit, but I succeeded in taking a photograph of the clearing, with the three tiny huts and their occupants.

We noticed that the trunks of the cocoanut trees were encircled with pieces of the stems of the thorny calamus, evidently with a view of warning strangers that the fruit was not to be touched. Among the coast tribes a similar practice obtains, but they deem it sufficient to tie a leaf round the trunk, and the vast majority accept the token as a warrant of ownership.

It is said that the Shom Pen bury their dead, but do not

afterwards disinter the remains, as is done by the coast people throughout the group. The limbs of the deceased are tied together, and the corpse is placed in a sitting posture in a grave which has been prepared in the jungle surrounding the encampment. The huts are then deserted, and the locality only visited for the purpose of gathering the ripening fruit in the plantation which generally is found in every Shom Pen village. As permanent abandonment of an encampment on account of a death would lead to great inconvenience, I am prepared hereafter to learn that, as among the Andamanese, there is a limit placed on the tabu in such cases.

Explanation of Plates XVII to XIX.

Plate XVII.-Sketch map of the Nicobar Islands, showing the position of the Shom Pen tribe.

Plate XVIII-Group of Shom Pen, from Ganges Harbour, Great Nicobar. Enlarged from a photograph by Mr. Man.

Plate XIX.-Shom Pen hut, near Láfúl village, north-east of Great Nicobar. From a photograph by Mr. Man.


Dr. MOUAT said, in response to the call of the President, that he was afraid he could throw no light upon the matter regarding the Nicobarese contained in the excellent paper of Mr. Man. He had not landed on any of the islands, and had no personal knowledge of their inhabitants. The little information he previously possessed was derived from a well-considered monograph written by an old friend and schoolfellow of his, the late Captain Harold Lewis, who had accompanied Commander Stein Bille in the visit to the Nicobars mentioned by Mr. Man, which led to the cession of the islands to the British Government. Captain Lewis's monograph recorded many interesting facts regarding the islanders as they then were, but Dr. Mouat had unfortunately mislaid the brochure, and could not venture to state from memory, unaided, how far the people were then as they are now. He regretted this, as the history of the fast disappearing aboriginal races of the Tropics was of considerable scientific interest. As respects the kindly mention made of his own work in the Andamans, Dr. Mouat was well aware of the liability to error of all observations made in difficult circumstances, but in the expedition under his charge every care had been taken by himself and his colleagues, the late Dr. George Playfair and Captain Heathcote, of the Indian Navy, to verify the accuracy of all the statements embodied in his official report. The work was divided between them, and at the end of each day was reduced to writing, carefully discussed, and the results finally



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »