Kings Of The Stone Age

In the Andaman Islands there is a place that time has deliberately ignored, North Sentinel Island, inhabited by what are known as the Sentinelese tribe. Even though they were recorded in history by Marco Polo, who wrote in his travel journals about these people that: “They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch [1],” they remain a people outside of normal interaction with the outside world, by their choice, and by the sufferance of India, the nation which has jurisdiction over these islands in the Indian Ocean. Almost a decade ago, two drunk poachers managed to capsize on the island, where they were met with fierce tribesmen who killed them with axes and buried them in a shallow grave. Despite only being a stone age people armed with bows and arrows dipped in poison and rock axes, they have managed to preserve their hold on this island against heavily armed poachers from India and Burma. What has accounted for their survival as one of the few uncontacted peoples in the world?

For one, their isolation has been respected by most of the outside world. The nation of India, whose settlement of the rest of the Andaman Islands has nearly wiped out the native inhabitants, leaving most of them indigent alcoholics and a small minority on their own lands, has refrained from conquering North Sentinel Island because of concerns over bad press. Clearly, the Sentinelese have some survival skills, having survived for a long time since their apparent arrival out of Africa, as they seem to be an African tribe of some sort. The last two times there were tense attempts at communication from the outside world, tense because the Sentinelese are quick to resort to violence, some native would-be interpreters from the next island over were unable to communicate at all, leaving it unclear what language or what family this tribe speaks, although it is assumed by Ethnologue that they speak a language in the same family as the rest of their island neighbors, even if it is not known for sure. Despite having no immunity to the diseases of the modern world, the determination by India to leave their island as a reservation of sorts, off limits to the rest of the world, has allowed this tribe the space to live their stone age life in peace, or at least as much peace as a savage and warlike tribe can have left to its own devices.

In some cases, being left to their own devices has not worked out too badly for them, as they are apparently sensitive enough to what is going on with the animal life around them that they managed to escape the ravages of the killer tsunami that followed the 2004 Bunda Aceh earthquake that killed thousands of other people on the Andaman Islands and almost 30,000 people around the Indian Ocean basin. Ironically enough, their very savagery in opposing all who come to their island appears to have accounted for their survival, given the rapacity of other nations around them, and the imperial conquerors of recent decades, from the British to the Japanese, all of whom left their mark on the island. While the less warlike tribes of the rest of their island chain succumbed to these attacks, the Sentinelese remain fierce and committed to living the way that they have lived for many generations, and most of the outside world seems content to let them at this point, since they cannot communicate with anyone else and seem not to want to.

Despite the fact that scientists want to get DNA samples to seek to prove various theories about human migration, and linguists would love to uncover their endangered language and preserve it and seek to gain insights from it, this is a people determined to go it alone, isolated from everyone else and hostile to those few outsiders who dare to go to their remote island. If nothing else, the survival and ferocity of these people, for reasons that are easy to understand, namely a great deal of fear, demonstrates the difficulty of seeking to communicate with those who do not want any contact whatsoever. Compared to this sort of view, most of us have much easier communication problems to solve, since they want to be left alone, and do not seek to attack or provoke others. Given the fierce response to attempts at interaction, and the fact that they are content not to bother others, it is easiest to leave them alone, since it is clear that they want to be left alone, and unclear what good would come to them by being more friendly to a world that would be entirely alien to them, and quick to exploit whatever they had to provide. Sometimes sullen and silent hostility is the best option, as in this case, although often it is not, when there is at least the hope of communicating on an even and fair basis with others.

[1] See, for example:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/12/theobserver.worldnews12

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kings Of The Stone Age

  1. Pingback: Book Review: 100 Places You Will Never Visit | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Peopling Of British North America: An Introduction | Edge Induced Cohesion

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