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Aboriginal Tribes of the Malay Peninsula

Nature volume 139, page 241 (06 February 1937) | Download Citation



WHILE of the aboriginal tribes of the Malay Peninsula the Sakai, the Semang and the Jakun, though by no means well known, have been the subject of careful investigation by a number of observers, the Temiar, a hill people of Perak, are virtually untouched in an anthropological sense. Yet they number nearly one half of the aboriginal population of 25,000. They have, however, been made the subject of a considerable study by Mr. H. D. Noone of the Perak State Museum, who has given some years to the investigation of their culture, their ethnic affinities, and their language, which is said to belong to the Austro-Asiatic group, and to show Indo-Chinese affinities. A preliminary outline of Mr. Noone's results in The Observer of January 24 is cabled from Singapore, where a number of the tribe are staying at present for the purpose of a record of their speech. It is there stated that Mr. Noone finds that the Temiar show traces of negritic influence and also an Australoid type, akin to the Vedda, but that, essentially a hill tribe, they link up with the hill Stocks of Sumatra and other parts of south-east Asia. They are lighter skinned than the Sakai and belong to a higher order of intelligence and culture. They build communal long-houses-instead of the rude shelters of the Sakai, use the bow, and. hunt with the blow-pipe. Their religion is animistic. For driving out the spirits of disease, they make use of the religious dance, in which the medicine man is an important figure. These dances are performed in the event of an epidemic, the dancers becoming ‘possessed’ by a tiger spirit. Eventually they fall into a state of trance, which sometimes ends in complete rigidity.

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