On the Origins of the Andamanese
by Lidio Cipriani
Published 1955 under the heading On the Origin of the Andamanese in the Census of India 1951, appendix E, vol. 17(1):66-71, the Government of India.
Though outdated in some parts, the article still contains much that remains valid and of great interest. No serious researcher can ignore it. Where later information contradicts Cipriani's results or where additional information is needed to understand precisely what Cipriani is saying, the Andaman Association's George Weber as editor has added his comments in [square brackets]. Otherwise Cipriani's text is reproduced here in its entirety without any editorial cuts or amendments. This despite the fact that it contains some unpleasant and insulting remarks on black Africans of a kind that were over the top even in 1955.
For L. Cipriani's biography see Appendix B.
The origin of the ancient inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, called Negritos, is still an open question in anthropology; but although nothing certain can yet be said about it, a number of facts point clearly to several conclusions, and to the rejection of several ideas put forward by some on this subject. One such idea, old and frequently repeated, is that the Andamanese are the in descendants of Portuguese Negro slaves shipwrecked on these Islands. As the Portuguese first arrived into the Indian Ocean only after the circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope, this would mean their coming sometime after the fifteenth century, allowing not more than five hundred years for the existence of the supposed shipwrecked in the Andaman Islands.
2. The comparison of the physical characteristics of the Andaman Negritos with those of African Negroes is sufficient to reject such theory about their origin. The true Negro characteristics (thick lips, broad nose, frequent dolichocephaly, proportions of the body peculiar to them, especially the development of thorax, shoulders, arms, legs, etc.) are not to be found in the Andamanese, nor can the comparatively short period of life in the Andamanese conditions account for the fundamental differences found. Merely to have a dark skin (and the Andamanese reach the maximum blackness known for the human races) and woolly hair is not enough to classify a man as Negro. Moreover, the ebony black with a bluish tinge to be seen in many Andamanese when the sun's rays strike in a favourable direction, cannot be found in any part of Africa. In all probability these characteristics of the Andamanese are those of an extremely ancient race apart, present in Asiatic human beings that the Portuguese travellers called Negritos - a name scientifically inappropriate. Beyond their dark skin, the Andamanese have short stature, mesati- or brachycephaly, woolly hair of the peppercorn type, thin noses and lips, not very dissimilar to those of Europeans, chestnut black eyes without the light circle round its iris frequent in the black eyes of Negroes, neither mustache nor beard, pubic and armpit hair scanty in men absent in women. Their body is robust, with muscular masses well developed. especially in the thigh. Steatopygea is marked in the Andmanese women; but it is not peculiar only to them. It produces extraordinary development of the buttocks and the attached part of the thighs, together with a strong lombosacralis curvature. The buttocks project so much that a child can easily stand upright on them, keeping only his hands on the shoulders of the mother. Steatopygea is common in Africa amongst Bushmen and Hottentots, but with a different appearance and structure - mostly fat and more developed in the Africans; chiefly muscular masses and less developed in the Andamanese - in a body of different proportions and of different general appearance. Not to be forgotten is the yellowish rough folded skin of the Bushmen and Hottentots, very different from the extremely soft, smooth ebony black skin of the Andamanese. Still considering physical characteristics, but of different physiological and anatomical explanation, is another fact. Everybody acquainted with Africans knows of the disagreeable smell of their body. Nothing of this nature is to be found in the Andamanese even though they are in the habit of never taking a real wash. No less important are the differences on the cultural and linguistic sides. The Andamanese differ fundamentally, spiritually as well as materially, from every people to be found in Africa.
3. The theory of origin from shipwrecked Negro slaves, which means a relatively recent arrival in the Andamans, can also be rejected after a glance at the Andamanese kitchen middens, of which there are plenty in the Islands. Many of these kitchen middens are of such dimensions arid stratifications as to show that they date back millenniums, that is to say long long before the arrival of the Portuguese anywhere in Asia. But more will be said on this subject of Andamanese kitchen middens later on.
4. Because of their short stature, the Andamanese have been compared with African Pigmies. But they differ very much from these also, both physically and culturally. African Pigmies are shorter, not so dark, often very hairy all over the body; and they differ much from the Andamanese in general culture, language and primitiveness. There is so little similarity that it will be a waste of time to refute a comparison supported only by suppositions, and not even by superficial resemblances.
5. Human groups physically and culturally comparable to the Andamanese exist only in Asia. They are the Semang of the Malaya Peninsula, and the Aeta of the Philippines. Important is this finding of resemblances between people so widely separated to-day, and without any contact between them now. This similarity is not a chance similarity; it arose certainly because there was contact between these peoples in ages long ago, a contact now destroyed. This similarity is the first serious indication we have for understanding the present Andamanese anthropological position. We must consider a pre-historic, I would even say a pre-lithic human stratification, formerly diffused over Asia, and perhaps also far beyond, to the East, deep into Oceania. Of this wide and probably once continuous stratification we have at present only small fragments and a few hybrid remnants - remnants of great importance for anthropological purposes. The Semangs and the Aetas resemble, as already pointed out the Andamanese in physical and cultural characteristics. Amongst cultural similarities are the hunting weapons. One of the weapons still in use by the three groups is the bow. In the Andamans the bow underwent a considerable evolution; but what was presumably its fundamental shape is still obtainable in Little as well as in Great Andamans. This shape is common to all the bows of the three widely separated human groups; and also this similarity cannot be by chance. In the Andamans it is in possession of the Onges and the Jarawas; and it seems to represent the starting shape of the Andaman bow. Such a shape has a simple curvature; shoulders at both ends on a plano-convex blade of wood; string of twisted fibre with two different terminal loops applied at the ends of the plano-convex wooden blade. There are local indications that this shape is the ancestor of the S shape bow, formerly distributed amongst several tribes that used to roam along the coasts of the South, Middle and North Andarnans - tribes now all extinct [Cipriani refers to the Great Andamanese]. Some comparisons are instructive in different ways, and especially because they show how, from what we must admit to have been the primitive Negrito bow still with the Semang and the Aeta, was developed the Little Andaman bow, the very similar Jarawa bow in the South [Great] Andaman, and finally the North [Great] Andaman bow. They show differences that can be put on a continuous evolutionary series. Following this we see how from the simple Negrito bow of Little Andarnan, with one curvature, has developed the S shaped bow of Great Andamans as a result of small but substantial modifications. These, we must suppose, took place after the separation of the Andamanese from the other Negritos. The mechanical principle remains fundamentally that of the Negrito bow; the only changes are devices to obtain the best and most complete utilisation of the elasticity of the Wood forming the weapon. The peculiarity of the simplest Andamanese bow, of having two different uses for the two ends of the blade, gradualiy developed the changes mentioned. The Andamanese keep their bows unstrung, stringing them only when about to use then weapon. At one end the string is always near the shoulder if not completely fixed to it; the other end is free and can receive the string when the bow is properly bent, putting it vertically on the ground and then pressing it in the middle by the application of a foot. We must, therefore, distinguish the upper end from the lower end. In the Onge and Jarawa bow both ends have a shoulder of 10-13 mm. Sometimes the upper end, although not always, is decorated with fibre and ornamented with the yellow skin of the Dendrobium.. The loops of the string are also different, the upper loop being much wider than the lower. These distinctions developed the idea of giving two curvatures instead of the original single one in the bow, at the same time enlarging it from the middle end, then tapering to a point each end, so getting the appearance of two narrow long opposite blades. A first evolution in this sense happened in the South Andaman and was subsequently improved in the North Andaman. Consequently, we had in the Andamans three types of bow: one was that, of the Onges, little changed in the hands of the Jarawas; another was with the coastal tribes of the South Andaman, and a third with the people of the North Andarnan. These last two kinds are no more to be found. The differences, or improvements, were aimed at producing the strongest propulsion for the arrow with the least exertion for the man. In the North Andaman bow the resu1ts obtained were the highest in comparison with the other two types. This sequence of arguments leads to the conclusion that in the Andamans the Onge type of bow is the progenitor of all the others. As we shall see later on, this supports the idea that a migratory movement took place in these islands, and until recent times, from the South to the North, an idea that will help to explain several Andamanese phenomena.
6. Not only bows but also arrows show corresponding affinities in the Andamanese, especially the so-called harpoon arrow. This consists of a barbed detachable head connected to the shaft by a string. The harpoon arrow, like its near relative and probable forefather, the harpoon spears, offers an interesting question in ethnography. Although the Andamans are so widely separated from Malaya, and Malaya from the Philippines, the three groups of Negritos have harpoon arrows, while such weapons do not seem to be present in other regions of Asia. The nearest harpoon arrows outside Asia are in Africa, and are probably derived from an original pigrny invention, though no more to be found today with the Pigmies. They are now used by several Negro groups, mostly in the Congo basin. It is certain that both the harpoon arrow and the harpoon spear known to the Andamans could have been invented before the knowledge of iron. In Africa harpoon spears and harpoon arrows have detachable heads still made from hard wood. They are used to catch wild boars, antelopes, gazelles, rock rabbits and monkeys; and also buffaloes and elephants by some tribes. The harpooned animal is halted in its flight by the shaft of the arrow or the spear getting entangled in a bush; or the wound is enlarged and made deadly by a sudden and rough extraction of the harpoon through hard pulling against the shaft caught in the bushes. Buffaloes and elephants, always attacked in the abdomen from a short distance, can be disembowelled by this terribly intelligent device. Harpoon spears and arrows are also used against fish, as we see even today in Africa. In the Andamans, the harpoon arrow is now used only against Sus Andamanensis; the harpoon spear against turtle, dugong and very large fish. The invention is certainly of immense antiquity. As for the harpoon spear, it can go back to the Palaeolithic age, so explaining its diffusion through the continents, and its presence today in widely separated areas with primitive people as the Andamanese who have remained cut off from the rest of humanity since prehistoric times. The segregation of the Andamanese from the outside world must go back to a period when the harpoon spear and the harpoon arrow were uniformally diffused at least in continental and insular South-East Asia and East Africa including Negrito areas - that is to say, a segregation to be calculated by millenniums.
7. Besides their bodily appearance and their weapons, the Andamanese show great similarity with Malaya and Philippine Negritos in the way in which they erect their shelters, temporary simple shelters, and the big communal huts to be found in the Andamans from the South to the North. The construction of the communal hut is clearly evolved from the technique of building temporary camps; and in reality the Andamanese communal huts are nothing more than temporary camps transformed into something more complete, durable and protective. In all other details they repeat the structure and respond better to the exigencies of temporary camps. For this reason we can affirm that. as the apparently complicated S shaped bow is an Andamanese creation evolved from the original, simp1er Negrito bow, so the apparently complicated Andamanese communal hut had its starting point in the simpler Negrito temporary shelter. In every Negrito area this shelter is so rudimentary that it does not deserve the name of hut. It has no walls, only a small sloping roof with an inclination of about 45 degrees, high in front and ver low at the back, so low as nearly to reach the ground. This roof covers a narrow, short bed of sticks slightly raised on four strong but short poles, a bed that shelters the whole family. The Andamanese communal hut also is marked by the absence of walls and so affords no privacy at all to the several families sheltering in it. It consists of a single circular roof of the shape and serving the functions of an umbrella for the beds under it, and distributed along its border. Like an. umbrella, the roof has an inclination of about 45 degrees and it is impossible to stand upright near the perimeter of the hut. In the middle, and in accordance with its dimensions (which means the number of beds in it) the hut can reach a considerable height. Inside the communal hut each family follows the same practices as in the temporary shelter, having its own fire and cooking place in addition to the communal fire and cooking place at a selected spot of the ground. Under the umbrella the construction of the bed is the same as under the temporary shelter; only the roof is stronger, more accurately built, and more watertight. In all its details the Andamanese communal hut, which may reasonably be called an umbrella hut because of its structure and appearance, shows only extensions and improvements on the original Negrito shelter.
8. As regards their general habits and methods of life, the Andamanese still preserve similarity, if not identity, with other far away Negritos - or at least the habits that were their's before they fell under alien influence. No tattooing or scarification of the body is practised by the Andamanese, but only painting. Hunting animals, catching fish, collecting roots, fruits and honey in the forests are for the Semang and the Aeta, as well as for the Andamanese, the only ways of getting food. And they follow the same methods and use the same weapons. They have no shields for defence purposes; no traps for animals or birds or fish; no poison for their arrows, or for any other purpose; no fishing hooks; no stone implements. No less significant, pottery was unknown to the original Negrito, who had only wooden pots and baskets. Iron is a recent acquisition for all Negritos; but they are unable to work it. The Andamanese simply rub it, cold, against stones to obtain the shape they wish. And, as can be imagined, it is a very long and painful process. Another cultural superposition appears to be the use of nets, made with the so called fisherman's knot, and spread all over the continents. It is also not clear how the Andamanese learned to use canoes. We do not know about the Aeta; but certainly the Semang have no canoes, now being an inland people. They make only bamboo rafts for use on rivers, having, it seems, forgotten how to hollow trees. There is, however, little doubt that the Negritos reached the Philippines and the Andamans by sea. In the Andamans we have more than one instance of people having forgotten how to make and use canoes. The Jarawas, now jungle dwellers, are said (and not without reason) to have reached Great Andaman from the South, through Little Andaman, by the sea. A line of camps quite obviously not of recent origin and with a good supply of drinking water and of food, is spread in a chain along the islands between Little and Great Andaman, with evidence that they have been used for ages by people migrating from the South to the North. These camps, still kept in a state of use, are situated in:-
(1) South Brother, called by the Onges, Geachenaque,
(2) North Brother, to Onges Tetale,
(3) Small Sister, to Onges, Tagiomada,
(4) Big Sister, to Onges, Taquate,
(5) Passage Island, to Onges, Chogedda,
(6) South Cinque Island, to Onges, Geataque,
(7) North Cinque Island, to Onges, Gaalu,
(8) Rutland Island, to Onges, Gaatinnenque,
and here are two camps:
(a) Tequara, and
All these organisations, with geographical names, camps. places for water and food, indicate an ancient navigating experience moving from the South to the North. About a century and a half ago the Jarawas are said to have still been in possession of canoes; and the same is said of the savage inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island less than 50 years ago [the Sentineli still have canoes today]. In a surprisingly short period the technique of making canoes seems to have been completely forgotten as a result of the difficulties of using them. If this be so, we can understand how the Semang and the Aeta could forget the art of hollowing canoes known to their forefathers, an art that enabled the diffusion of Negritos to far away Islands. On the Andamans the more primitive type of canoe is that of the Onges [not so! it is not easy to understand on what evidence Cipriani wrote this remark]; and this together with other cultural characteristics puts Little Andaman prominent in our effort to reconstruct the original Negrito ways of life.
9. To do this we need to investigate those ancient documents, the kitchen middens, that the Negritos have fortunately left in numbers all over the Andamans. As the word denotes, kitchen middens are accumulations of refuse, mostkly from kitchens. Unfortunately, systematic research on the Andamanese kitchen middens has only recently begun. But because of the importance of the results in relation to the arguments here discussed, and because these results are new, they deserve ample quotation. The remarks already made about the culture and physical characteristics of the Andaman Negritos are not so important nor so conclusive as are these results of excavations of kitchen middens. In the Andamans these accumulations show much the same appearance as do those formed by primitive populations in other continents including Europe and Africa. The results of excavations carried out so far in the Andamans although as yet incomplete and not solving finally the problem of the origin of the Andamanese, bring to our knowledge several facts that need to be considered with attention. Like the kitchen middens found outside Asia, those in the Andamans generally consist of empty shells, nearly all bivalve, thrown away after the contents have been eaten. These shells constitute nearly ninety per cent of the materials of the kitchen middens, and are uniformally distributed through them. These kitchen middens are of fairly regular geometrical shape; moreover, in every cubic foot they have nearly constant average number of shells. It is, therefore, not difficult to calculate the approximate total number of shells present in one kitchen midden. Considering how many shells can be eaten every day by one person and estimating the number of persons that, through the ages, contributed to the formation of the deposit, it is possible to calculate the age of the kitchen midden. After the studies carried on the Onges we may say that every kitchen midden is formed as a result of the activities of a small group of some thirty to forty persons who frequent the same spot for forty to fifty days in a year. Their food is rarely formed of molluscs: they resort to these only when there is absolutely nothing else to eat. They prefer wild fruits, roots, honey, fish, turtle, dugong, and more than anything else, pig. The last cooked in big pieces, is always taken by the Onges with them when they go hunting in the forests, and so the bones of these pigs are mostly dispersed in the jungle. Molluscs, on the other hand, are uncomfortable to carry because of their weight, and provide little nourishment. They are, therefore, nearly always eaten during the night halts in fixed localities. For a brief period of no more than forty or fifty days every year, and then not every day, these shells are thrown on the kitchen midden, thus very slowly contributing to its growth. In this way many of the Andamanese accumulations, often huge, required a long period for their formations, a period to be calculated in thousands of years, perhaps five or six thousand years [radiocarbon dating of the Chauldari kitchen midden near Port Blair by Dr. Zarine Cooper in 1985 has given an age of around 2300 years].
Even if we reduce this number to half, the resulting antiquity is not in accordance with the opinion that the Andamanese are .descendants of shipwrecked Portuguese Negro slaves. There is now hope that the antiquity of the Andamanese kitchen middens will be more exactly determined - by n collecting charcoal from different levels and then measuring the residual radio-activity of such charcoal.
10. The lowest strata of a kitchen midden obviously marks the time when the Andamanese arrived on that spot. But this time does not necessarily correspond to the first appearance of man in these Islands. Only extensive comparisons between many such deposits can in the future entitle one to give an authoritative opinion on this matter. A sequence of excavations should be undertaken in order to find out which are the most ancient of these documents left by man in the Andaman Islands. At present there have been only a few researches beyond the Great Andaman. But during 1952 and 1953 some work was done in Little Andaman in this line, by studying also the interior of the island completely unexplored until 1952. The first point to strike one is that Little Andaman is conspicuous for the absence of well developed kitchen middens. There is a good reason for this: Little Andaman, besides having plenty of pure drinking water, has plenty of food, including that most relished by the Andamanese - the pig. The Onges very rarely resort to the eating of molluscs, and this always without enthusiasm, because they know that they can always obtain better food. As shells are the principal constituent of the heaps of refuse, few kitchen middens are to be found in the Little Andaman, and these are small. These are, however, full of significance because they are still "alive," and so show details impossible to understand from the "dead" accumulations of the Great Andamans. In other words, the kitchen middens in the Little Andaman are still in the process of formation; while in the Great Andamans they are only memories of a bygone past. From the study of the Little Andaman kitchen middens we come immediately to one very important conclusion: this is, that kitchen middens were not formed, as is generally believed, through temporary encampments. They are formed strictly in connection with community huts. Only this can explain the shape of the kitchen midden, its peculiar stratification, and the presence in them of human graves. Moreover, the 1953 researches in Little Andaman prove that communal huts have been distributed during the long ages past all over Great Andaman. As the location of a communal hut is frequently moved, we come to understand that a group of persons and their descendants have through countless generations contributed to the formation of many kitchen middens. This explains the starting and stopping of several accumulations at different ages. For this reason every kitchen midden cannot be expected to show the same sequence of phenomena. On the contrary, every kitchen midden must be referred to its own age, often completely different from that of nearby similar kitchen middens. The shape, always geometrical and often hemispheric of them, can only have originated through the regular shape of the communal huts, and not from the haphazard from of temporary camps. In these temporary camps, refuse is unavoidably and irregularly dispersed. From communal huts, on the other hand, because they are more or less only an umbrella-shaped roof open all along the circumference, refuse is radially thrown out through the opening nearest to each bed, and so forms a heap corresponding to the shape of the circular or elliptic. Of considerable interest is the fact that in Little Andaman the Onges still bury their dead in the communal huts. In ancient times this must have been the custom also in the Great Andaman, because to-day we find graves in what appear to be only kitchen middens, while in reality they are the former emplacements of communal huts. The growing of a kitchen midden was facilitated by the rebuilding of the communal hut on the same spot many times, the ground being flattened every time before the hut was rebuilt. Excavations in Little and Great Andaman already indicate this through the formation of the successive strata.
11. Besides shells, which as I have already said form about ninety per cent. of the refuse found in kitchen middens, abundant material of other kinds are found, including the bones of sea and land mammals, fish, turtles, birds, points of arrows made of bone or of shell (Tridacna gigas) , sandstone sharpeners on which to smooth the points of arrows, great numbers of tiny chips of obsidiana and of different hard stones. A serious obstacle encountered in the excavation of the Andamanese kitchen middens is the difficulty to follow each single strata and, still more, to put it in its proper age. It is evident from the colour and quality of the earth that the accumulations along the coasts were sometimes influenced, in successive periods, by changes of the sea level and of the frequently nearby mangrove swamps, probably as a result of local rising or sinking of the land. This is of great help to us, because when clear sea water went near a kitchen midden, favourable conditions of life were offered to corals. In many places we now find such corals embedded in the black stinking mud of mangrove swamps where life for corals is today impossible. Changes like these undoubtedly required no short period for their accomplishment. Exploring along the coast we see that the one of such changes of sea level reached up to ten feet in height, and that it affected wide areas, because it has left traces in the Great Andaman as well as in the far away Little Andaman. In connection with this problem of the origin of the people of the Andamans, it is essential to establish the right age of this important and certainly not recent movement.
12. In many kitchen kitchen middens of the Great Andaman we find objects belonging to our own age, objects like imported smoking pipes, chips of broken bottles, bullets from rifles pieces of iron, etc; and from these we can deduce that so little as half a foot of depth from the surface takes us back at least a hundred years, to a period before the arrival of the domesticated dog on the scene. This animal must have reached the Andamans in- 1858: but no bones of it have yet been found in kitchen middens. Its arrival has, however, brought a sudden increase in the bones of Sus Andamanensis amongst the refuse and these are extremely common on the surface. If we go a little deeper than half a foot, iron disappears, and with it also bottle glass and other objects mentioned above. But smoking pipes continue to appear; only now the imported variety replaced the original Andamanese pipe made with the chelae of big crabs transversally cut and pierced at the distal ends. Such pipes are still used by Onges and Jarawas for smoking aromatic leaves found in the jungle. This habit of smoking is very ancient in the Andamans for we find this type of pipe still in the lowest strata. The presence of shells at all levels, generally well preserved and mixed with a little earth, often allows easy digging for many feet of depth. Below these, in many kitchen middens we notice another sudden change, the strata from being very loose becoming very hard through the addition of ashes to the earth. Moreover, the shells are calcined, as though burned directly in fire, and have a false appearance of fossilisation, which is not to be found in the shells in the upper strata. This change connotes something of ethnological importance: we must assume that when they arrived in the place, the Andamanese did not know the use of pottery. Cooking was done directly on the fire or on hot ashes, without any pots. Later cooking was done in pots, mostly by boiling. That is why in the beginning we find shells calcined on the fire, and so made very breakable, thrown in heaps mixed with ashes. At a later stage, thrown away after boiling, they are neither calcined nor dirty with ashes. No pottery is found in these ancient and cemented strata. Today the Andamanese cook almost exclusively by boiling, and this as a result of their superstitions. The first Andamanese pottery is of good make, with clay well worked, and well burned in the fire. It underwent degeneration, as we see when we approach the upper strata. The latest pottery, which is of relatively recent age, is extremely rough, with clay mixed carelessly with small stones, and not even baked on the fire, but simply dried by exposure in the sun. The result is fragile pottery, making itnecessary to prepare pots with very thick walls. In ancient times they could be made much thinner. This Andamanese pottery always follows the technique known as au colombin, or by coiling.
13. Later than pottery we begin to find bones of Sus Andamanensis; and always more conmon as we proceed towards the surface. The unavoidable conclusion seems to be that the hunting of the pig and the making of pots were unknown to the ancient Andamanese. Pottery arrived later, probably with the same people who were responsible for the introduction of a domesticated pig in the Andamans. In this connection it is to be remembered that in these Islands there is complete absence of the great land mammals. Sus is the biggest, next being only a Paradoxurus and several little rodents.
14. No less important than the aforesaid is the presence the Great Andaman kitchen middens of graves containing human bones. Such graves, very small, are dug in the accumulations of shells and then filled with clear earth. In many kitchen-middens, remnant found in graves are on]y the skull with the mandible and the long bones. Other bones are missing. In these instance, all details support the supposition that burial followed only after the bones had been kept for a long time, perhaps worn on the body in memory of the dead person. Amongst the present Andamanese a similar way of preserving the skull is practised by a group of people now almost extinct, a group reduced to only 23 individuals [the Great Andamanese]. Other groups like the Onges and the Jarawas preserve only the mandibles as did several tribes of Great Andaman, now extinct. In every case the bones are painted and ornamented, and then kept hanging from the neck as a homage to the dead person. In the nearby Nicobar Islands also is to be found this habit of preserving the skull and long bones of ancestors in the huts of their descendants, the bones being thrown away at a fixed place after a long time. For the ancient inhabitants of the Great Andamans this fixed place was evidently the floor of the communal hut. This, reminds us of the habit still followed by the Onges of burying their corpses in the communal hut. Graves of this kind, showing respect for the dead, should not be considered as the remnants of cannibalistic food, as has sometimes been presumed to be the case.
15. Nicobarese connections are also indicated by the Andamanese technique for making pottery exclusively by coiling without potter's stone. Still more, the Nicobarese seem to help us to understand the presence of pig in the Andamans. The male Nicobarese pig, at least in the past, was generally castrated to make it fat more quickly. Moreover, males and females were, as they are now, left free to roam all day in the jungle, being called back to the house in the evening by special sounds. These semi-domesticated females were fecundated by wild males. Young domesticated pigs were the descendants of wild animals, possibly derived from young individuals that before castration ceased to obey the evening calls of their former owners. The present pig of the Andamans, showing a late appearance in kitchen middens, can derive from the semi-domesticated animal as it seems to have been the case with its Nicobarese relative. The situation indicated by the kitchen middens of the Great Andamans is that of a probably ancient colonisation either in the Andamans or in the Nicobars by a people that, leaving cultural residual, were overcome by the Negritos in the former, while the opposite happened in the latter. In this connection I heard in the Nicobars of an ancient tradition of the existence in the past there of a people of short stature and dark skin. In Car Nicobar I was informed that they had their headquarters in a cave, which cave is still in existence in the interior of the island. Excavations in this cave may prove useful. Anyhow, it is to be expected that researches on ancient human life in the Andamans will receive light and guidance from parallel investigations in the Nicobars.
16. As a result of the excavations carried out in the Andanmans during 1952 and 1953 the following points may be summarised:
(a) The Andamanese did not possess pottery on their arrival in these islands.
(b) The ancient pottery was of better quality than the more recent.
(c) The technique of making pottery by coiling followed in the Andamans is the same as that still £ollowed in the Nicobars.
(d) Human burial took place in what now is for us a kitchen midden. In many cases, only the skull and long bones were put in the graves, after having been preserved in the huts of their descendants, as happens still now m in the Nicobars.
(e) These bones show the same physical characteristics of the present Andamanese aboriginals.
(f) No traces are found in the kitchen middens of the cannibalism presumed by several people in respect of the Andamanese.
(g) Sus Andamanensis, now wild, arrived in these islands probably domesticated, and appears in the kitchen middens later than does pottery.
(h) Pottery transformed the method of cooking from roasting to boiling, now nearly exclusively followed in the Andamans.
(i) Arrow points of excellent workmanship and made mostly of mammal or fish bones, sometimes also of shell, are common in kitchen middens. But none of stone have so far been found.
(j) Obsidians and several hard stones were chipped into tiny artifacts for shaving and for ornamental cutting of the skin.
(k) Iron is found only on the surface of kitchen middens, together with a large number of chips of imported glass.
(l) Several facts, such as the size of the kitchen middens, changes of sea level during their formation, contemporary changes in the species of shells, and in the frequency of their occurrence, all point to a long period certainly to be counted by milenniums.
(m) The ancient Andamanese show cultural connections with the Nicobars, indicating that a common foreign influence, of unknown origin, spread in a remote past to both groups of islands.
17. Mostly through the indications obtained from kitchen middens, and from researches carried out during 1952 and 1953 amongst the aboriginals of Little Andaman, we can now interpret some of the habits of the first Negritos to arrive in the Andamans. In this connection I may be allowed to affirm that Little Andaman will explain Great Andamans. Without going into more details, I quote here only a few instances of Onge manners connected with the problem here under discussion. Except for minor rnodifications, Onge habits remain substantially today what they were in remote prehistory, and in fact in a prelithic period. Great Andamans culture evolved more, but it had its starting point in a culture similar to that of the Onges. Migratory movements from the South to the North, not vice versa, seem to prove this. Like the Semang and the Aeta, the Onges do not practice tattooing or scarification; but they paint their body with ochre. They also paint the bones of deceased persons with ochre, reminding us of well known palaeolithic habits. They have no chiefs; only headmen guiding small groups of exogamous families roaming together. Nobody is above these headmen. The Onge never knew how to prepare implements from stone. Nor have they ever learned how to make fire: having got it, they have to keep it permanently going. Cooking is done mostly by boiling, but only after they received pottery from outside long after their own arrival in the Andamans. Before that, everything was cooked in hot ashes, or directly over the fire, or on hot stones. Big animals cut in pieces were cooked only on hot stones in thick packing of leaves covered afterwards by earth. Salt is completely unknown to them.
Burial takes place inside inhabited huts, as palaeolithic man buried inside inhabited caves. Nudity is general, except for a tassel of fibre worn in front by women. Harpoon spears and harpoon arrows were certainly used long before they had any knowledge of iron. Neither poison nor traps for ground or water animals are known to the Andamanese.
18. All this and much more shows an archaic cultural level still "enjoyed" by the Andamanese, ("Civilisation is the curse of humanity!") but no more by African Negroes who left it centuries if not millenniums ago. It gives us an organically complete, complex and typical sequence of manners of immense, if not mysterious, antiquity showing extremely clear Asiatic connections with peoples that are already a race by themselves, it is simply absurd to consider this culture to be the casual result of decadence, or of a fortuitous rebuilding accomplished in a relatively short period from a disturbed cultural situation or a heterogeneous collection of slaves thrown by storms on the shores of the Andamans! On the contrary, it represents the unspoiled inheritance of a prelithic age. The continuance of research amongst the Onges, and if possible also amongst the Sentinelese and the Jarawas, will prove this in the most convincing way. Collateral investigations on the zoology and geology of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are needed for the better understanding of several facts - the presence of Sus in the Andamans, for inmstance. Sus, as we know, is the biggest of the very few mammals in those islands. The separation of the Andamans from, the mainland before the appearance in it of marnmals is supposed to explain this peculiarity. But this leaves open to question at least of the presence of pig. Persistent movements in the level of the islands, still perceptible, could have brought about a temporary general subsidence, leaving not enough room for big animals, especially the big carnivores. This question, at the same time geological and zoological, can be solved only through excavations. And since man is involved in it, excavations should be mostly in caves.
Last changed 30 March 2006