“The Negrito of Peninsular Thailand” พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย john EH. Brandt   






                                            john H. Brandt

                                     Public Health Division

                       U.S. Operations Mission to Thailand


Introduction :

Where the Tenassarim Cordillera passes the Isthmus of
Kra and extends through the Kau Ban Tat Mountain range towards
the Thai-Malay frontier, dwell small bands of primitive nomadic
pygmoid negroes representing without doubt the last surviving
groups of the indigenous population of this area. That they once
enjoyed a far greater and wider distribution seems well recorded
in early writings. However, such contributions must be considered
with some reservation since descriptive terminology of these peo-
ple, as we shall shortly see, has been rather confusing and some
such records have tended to mislead, rather than clarify the
situation for subsequent investigators.

The Chinese Pilgrim, I-Tsing, when returning to China
from India, recorded the people of Pulo Condore as negritos and
stated that many negrito slaves existed in South China at the
end of the Vllth Century A.D. Ancient Chinese chronicles also
record the people of Fa-Nam ( Cambodia ) as negritos.

A skull found in Minh-Cam Cave, Annam, has been iden-
tified as negrito and M- Abadie in 1924 wrote that the Ho-Nhi of
Tong King have negrito hair, skin color, etc.

Dr. Jean Brengues claims about 20% of the Chong of Pörr
people of Trat and Chantaburi Provinces, on the Cambodian border,
show curly negritoid type hair. The Chongs seem similar to the
groups called Kui and Samrae in Cambodia and there is specula-
tion that aboriginal negrito groups have been absorbed by other
primitives who now display many of their physical characteristics.





124                                    John H. Brandt


Through persecution, enforced assimilation and warfare,
the pygmies have been driven to the most inaccessable mount-
ainous jungle regions of the peninsula. Annandale in 1902
called the Hami Negrito of Pattalung Province a subject race of
the Malays and Siamese and it was indeed only very recently
that the aborigines attained any protective status at all. Negrito
bands ceased to exist in the Malayan border state of Perlis, ad-
joining Satun Province, before the turn of the century and the Paya
Semang (Low Country Negrito) formerly of South Kedah and
the upper Krian River had also become extinct. In 1878 the
Straits Branch Journal reported negrito slaves in the keep of
Rajah Muda of Singorra (Songkhla). Negritos were shot, enslaved,
exploited and delegated a sub-human status in most jungle areas.

Whether the negrito was always the shy retiring jungle
dweller he is today or whether circumstances have altered his
psychology is interesting from the standpoint of some old records.
A book entitled "The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya:
1600-1605 " described the escapades of an employee of the Dutch
East India Company who acted as an advisor to the Malayan
Queen of Pattani. He reportedly conducted campaigns against
the Malays of Perak and employed within his military corps,
Semang (Negrito) bowmen. That the Negrito of that day pos-
sessed powerful bows and metal tipped poisoned arrows is an
established fact but their use as professional fighters seem in
strange contrast to their present non-aggressive character. Other
historical literature refers to Negritos armed with bows that ap-
peared in Siamese legions marching against Malaya in the 1700's,
yet warfare is a strange concept to the Negrito of recent years.

One Negrito woman of the Pattalung-Trang Negrito band
related to the explorer I.H.N. Evans that the Negrito had ori-
ginated in Langkawa (The old name for Ceylon) when it was
burned and that their curly hair was due to singeing by fire
bringing to mind tales of the Ramayana. Other Tonga believe
they originated from the Apes called Bawaij and Teiok. In the
Ramayana, it may be recalled, when Sita, the wife of Rama, was





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kidnapped by Ravana the demon King of Ceylon, she was pursued
and rescued by Rama. Rama's success was due to assistance from
Hanuman, the Monkey-God, and his monkey followers. Recent
students of mythology have suggested that the "Monkey Followers"
were in actuality aboriginal tribes or perhaps Negritos who as-
sisted in the campaign to help Rama.

Some of the Malayan Negrito bands attribute their curly
hair to monkeys, while Siamese legend has it that Hanuman in-
vaded the jungle, burning villages, scorching skin and frizzing
hair, accounting for Negritos. In the holocaust, domestic pigs
supposedly became wild pigs, cattle became Tapir, etc. That
portions of the Ramayana are known to some peripheral bands and
have been adopted by them seems evident to some limited degree.
Negritos, although now confined to limited areas of Southeast Asia
and Oceania appear to be the remnants of a once widely distri-
buted race. In addition to the various reports mentioned earlier,
there is some evidence that much of Australia was formerly in-
habited by Negritos now long replaced by the present Australian
Aborigine. The now extinct Tasmanian may have been a type
of Negrito intermixed with the aboriginal stock judging from the
basis of early reports.

The Negrito of the Malay Peninsula bears a close physical
relationship to the aboriginal inhabitants of the Indian adminis-
tered Andaman Islands lying off Burma's West Coast. The Aeta
of the Philippine Islands is another pygmy type now restricted
to deep tropical rain forests as the preceding two. Pygmy people
of the Island of New Guinea are made up of several groups and
appear to have a more distant relationship to the Asiatic Negrito.
Pygmies of West Africa and the Ituri Forest in the former Bel-
gian Congo seem to bear a quite remote relationship to the Asian
and Oceanic Negrito. Although quite similar in physical charac-
teristics, blood group gene frequencies in the two widely separated
types seem to discredit the possibilities of any close relationship.
On the basis of blood groupings, it has been suggested that no
relationship exists at all between the African Negro and his
Asian-Oceanic counterparts.





126                                        John H. Brandt


It appears that in both areas large size Negroid people
have developed dwarfed versions of themselves which breed true
to type. The theory, alternate to that which would identify the
Negrito as an archaic remnant type, is that his nomadic life in an
unfavorable environment has been brought about by natural bio-
logical selection producing in the course of time a pygmoid type
of being.

Dr. Ashley Montagu extends the area of the "Semang"
into East Sumatra and "negrito types "have been reported among
primitives of Borneo, but what degree of relationship exists with
the known Negrito of the Malay Peninsula, the Aetas and Anda-
man Islanders is still largely unknown. The entire question of
the origin of pygmies and their relationship to the normal sized
humans is still open to speculation and further study.

Much of what is known of the Negrito must be credited
to the early explorers of the area primarily the two Austrians,
Father Paul Schebesta who spent the year 1924-1925 traversing
the Malayan-Thai jungles in quest of material for his numerous
publications on the Negrito and to Dr. Prof. Hugo Bernatzik who
visited the Pattalung-Trang bands in 1924. Mr. I.H.N. Evans
has prepared the most extensive and valuable compilations of
known data on the Negrito in his major publication of 1937, as
well as earlier works, and did much to correct erroneous reports
by early visitors. Mssrs. Skeat and Blagden did much early re-
search for Cambridge in 1899 published in their two volumes,
"The Pagan Races of the Malay Pennisula". To De Morgan and
De la Croix in 1880 and especially Nelson Annandale and Herbert
0. Robinson who conducted an expedition into the Malay States
(Siam) in 1901-1902 for the University of Edinburgh and
University College, London, we can thank what is known of the
early Negrito cultures of the Ulu Pattani of South Thailand. Dr.
Rudolph Martin of the University of Zurich contributed much to
known physical anthropology of the aboriginal people of the area.
Although much controversy over the authenticity of the works of
Vaughan-Stevens of the Rudolf Virchow Stiftung of Berlin exists,





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he must nevertheless also be credited with many valuable obser-
vations on the peninsula during his expeditions of the 1890's.

His late Siamese Majesty King Chulalongkorn took great
interest in his aboriginal subjects and visited the Negrito of Pat-
talung-Trang in 1907. He took a Negrito youth from Nawong,
named Kanang, with him to Bangkok. The King published an
illustrated book entitled " Bot Lakara Rueng Ngoh Paa" dealing
the Negrito and through his observations contributed much to the
with early knowledge of these people.

Since the war some limited interest has centered about
the Negrito, particularly the Malayan bands, largely as a result
of the Malayan Communist Emergency. Most anthropologists have
experienced difficulty not only in locating these nomadic bands but
once located found that these illusive little people would disappear
again before work could begin, necessitating another laborious
search. The Negrito is shy and retiring and bands are composed
of small numbers of individuals. His fear of persecution and
exploitation have caused him to wish as little contact with
outsiders as possible and have led him to withdraw to virtually
inaccessable areas. Evans noted that the Nawong (Pattalung)
Negrito were unfriendly but that the Chong (Trang) Negrito were
more receptive while Bernatzik wrote that the Negrito flee when
a photographer appears. Such experiences continue to plague
researchers till this day.

Finally it must be pointed out that much contradictory
printed material exists on the Negrito. Equally well orientated
and trained field workers have presented conflicting information
in the past. Some of this can be attributed to the confusing termi-
nology used in identification of the various bands which, while
uniformly Negrito, may have quite different cultural characteris-
tics. Early explorers also seem to have had difficulty in differen-
tiating at times the Negrito from the Senoi (Sakai) or other
aboriginal Malays.

This manuscript will to some extent unfortunately per-
petuate some of the confusion since to do precise justice to the





128                                    John H. Brandt


culture of each group, several separate papers or separate chap-
ters would have to be devoted to the characteristics of each band.

In South Thailand there appears to be three distinct bands with
perhaps border migrations into Thailand of two more groups at
times. Each group presents distinct differences i.e. subcultures
with a culture, yet are reasonably uniform in an overall sense.
The following will then deal with all the groups as a composite
with individual distinctions pointed out where such variances

Reports of the various ethnographers who have visited
the Negrito are herewith incorporated along with my own ob-
servations made during 1960-1961, Informants for additional
data included Chief Mamoo of the Naratiwat Band, Chief Dam
of the Ampur Padangstar, Yala Band and Klom and Kai of the Pat-
talung Negrito who resided for three months with Dr. Don Leus-
cheal of Songkhla undergoing linguistic studies and Gamnan
Sawing of Tambon Makree, Kauchaison, Pattalung.

Identification, Distribution and Population:

In order to properly identify the subject it will be neces-
sary to examine the confusing terminology enveloping the names
of the various bands and indeed the entire group itself. Several
different names are in common useage for the entire Negrito
population as a whole as well as different band names, with nume-
rous divergent spellings, for one and the same group.

The Negrito is commonly called " Sakai " in South Thai-
land after the name originally given the Malayan aborigines now
generally identified as Senoi. That the Senoi are of different
ethnic stock is quite evident to even a casual observer but early
explorers seem to have bestowed the name "Sakai" on all abori-
ginal forest dwellers. Some peripheral Senoi groups who have
interbred extensively, in some cases, with Negritos such as the
Lanoh, do add an element of justified confusion.

The term "Sakai" was thought by Grünwedel to be derived
from Sanskrit and Skeat believes it to be a subservient term used







                      THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                 129


by Malays to mean "follower, retainer or dependent". The term
is somewhat derogatory and the Naratiwat Negrito objected to
being called "Sakai", Yet Chief Dam of the Yala band claimed
Sakai was the only name by which they knew themselves.

The Negrito in actuality calls himself Moni, Monik, Menik,
or some similar derivation of this word, which means "The People"
after the pattern of most primitives. The Thai, in addition, have
bestowed upon him the unglamorous title of Ngoh or Ngoh Paa.
The "Ngoh" is the Thai word for the fruit "Rambutan", which
has curly spines on it's surface reminiscent of the Negrito's wooly
hair. The Negrito who understands Thai is usually embarrassed
by this term and prefers to call himself " Khon Paa". the forest

The Negritos were formerly divided into two major sub-
divisions called " Pangan and Semang". The first term meaning
wild, omnivorous, uncircumcized, was used to designate the Eastern
bands of the Peninsula. The more widely used term "Semang",
for the Western Negrito, still currently in use as an all inclusive
term for the Negrito, is of more obscure origin. In Lanoh ( Sa-
bub'n ), the word "sema" means man, while the Semai-Senoi call
the Temiar ( Temer-Senoi ), "Sema", with a nasal "a". Either
term could have been corrupted by Malayas into the present
" Semang ".

With this confusion surrounding terminology for the entire
group I feel it safe to call the pygmoid Negro, "Negrito", in order
to strip him of the multitudinous derogatory and misleading
names with which he has been burdened, with further breakdown
into band names, if known, or into the geographic location in
which the band is found.

The Negrito can be divided into seven principal bands
although various break-downs exist with several names in many
cases for each group. Names were often bestowed upon bands in the

past conforming with the name of a nearby stream or mountain.
These bands may now reside in a completely different locality
creating considerable confusion.







130                                       John H. Brandt

            1. The Negrito of Pattalung-Trang, Thailand, called

 Tonga, Mos and Chong Negrito, which inhabit the Kau Ban Tat

 Range dividing Trang and Pattalung Provinces.

             2. The Jahai, also called Mengo, Tiong, Mawas and Belubn,

 which range the headwaters of the Perak River in Northern Pe-

 rak and Kelantan, Malaya, and along the Bala River, a tributary

 of the Pergau. They extend over the border in a few small

 groups into Naratiwat Province, Thailand and perhaps south Yala


              3. The Kensiu, also called Ken sen, Kensieu, of Northeast

 Kedah, Malaya, which overlap into Yala Province, Thailand.

              4. The Kintak, or Kenta (including Kenta-Bogn) of the

 Kedah-Perak border area in North Malaya. This band also over-

 laps into the Betong, Yala Province of South Thailand.

              5.  The Menri, also called Menriq or Menrik, of Kelantan,

 along the Lebir River and in Serao Region of N. Pahang. This

 group also inhabits border areas and could conceivably penetrate

 into Thailand although this is not confirmed.

              6. The Batok, also called Batek, Bateq, Kleb, Temo and

 Nogn, lives at the headwaters of the Chiku-Krau and in the border

 area of Kelantan and Pahang.

              7. Lanoh or Sabub'n. This mixed group of Negrito and

 Temiar-Senoi live on the Perak River and some of it's tributaries

 toward the Piah River in Northern Perak.

Earlier reports identified a quite distinct cultural group
called the Hami Negrito of the Ulu Pattani in what is presently
Yala Province but this group seems to now be extinct and has
not been recorded since before the turn of the century. The
Negrito called, "Paya", of the west coast of Malaya also seem
now to be extinct.

The Pattalung-Trang Negrito, whom I will arbitrarily
call Tonga, range through dense jungle of the Kau Ban Tat Range.
Within recent years the main body seem to have lived on the





                  THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                    131


Trang side though Pattalung is now the primary center of re-
sidence. Early visitors found them living at Nawong and in the
vicinity of the Ga-Chong falls near the Pattalung-Trang road.
They were at that time living at Kuan Mai Dam, Kau Rawn and
Kau Mam Tow, in what was then Yong Star District. Early
reports also placed them in Krabi and Surathani but this seems
in error and no confirmation of their having extended into these
areas within historic times exists.

Warrington Smyth reported 400 Negritos living near
Chaiya in Surathani and others placed them near Tung Song in
Nakorn Srithamarat but these also remained unconfirmed with no
known Negritos in either area at present. One Negrito at the
time claimed to have been to Nakorn Srithamarat to see the Wat
Phra Sri Mahatat. Skeats reported Negritos near the inland sea
of Songkhla on the basis of abandoned Negrito wind screens he
saw. Although no Negritos live near the sea now, within recent
years Negritos, usually men, came to Rattapoom District, Song-
khla, to barter. Extensive jungle extends north to Pattalung and
south into Satun through which the bands could have wandered.
Hempelabn, a Negrito informant, claimed that within his grand-
parents time, Tonga Negritos from Pattalung wandered into Kedah
State, Malaya, to rendezvous with Negrito there.

The principal band of Tonga Negrito now reside in Kau
Chaison District, Pattalung. One semi-sedentary group under
Chiefs Sang and Wai-Dam with 5 men, 5 women and 4 children,
is settled several kilometers from the village of Lujangla, Tam-
bon Tamot, Kau Chaison District, Pattalung. Another band of some
20 individuals moves about on the east slope of the Kau Ban Tat.
The band occassionally enters Thai villages on the edge of the
jungle to trade honey, rattan and animal skins. A Negrito infor-
mant from Trang, now completely acculturated, claimed he came
from the vicinity of a village called Lam Tu which was two days
walk from the Ga-Chong Falls. Negritos lived at Ga-Chong until
about 10 years ago and worked on the development of the track
into the falls but moved away because of increased accessability
of the vicinity and consequently more visitors.





132                                      John H. Brandt


South of the main Tonga bands near the village of Ban
Doan, Tambon Tung Nui, live the last surviving Negritos in Satun
Province. The group had thirteen individuals within the last
ten years but is now reduced to one family group consisting of a
man and his wife and child. They quite regularly enter the
village for barter or to beg for food. The villagers claimed not
to know where the Negrito lived but they ranged in the Dong-
Chüok Chang forest between Satun and Songkhla. They often
camped in a cave near Tung Nui and are quite wary and shy of
strangers. The few items of material culture which I obtained
from them indicate a close relationship with the Tonga. Although
little is known of the now extinct Perlis Negrito, the possible past
relationship with this once adjacent group must also be considered.

In 1930 the total population estimate for the Tonga was
100 individuals. There has been some inter-marriage with Thais
but the group still is probably well under the quoted figure.

The Tonga wears clothing, ragged though it may be, usual-
ly begged from Thais and Evans who studied them, while head-
quartered in Lampan, reported over 30 years ago that even then
the Tonga were more addicted to clothing than the Negrito of
Perak. During his visit, Ai-Kleng was the Chief but was domi-
neered by a woman called Ai-Kom. He obtained from them blow-
pipes, quivers, monkey bone necklaces, poison tubes, jews harps,
pandanus baskets, and fire making equipment. Most of the same
material goods are still manufactured to-day although matches
have largely replaced the fire-making tools.

Most of the men speak southern dialect Thai and have
adopted the characteristic "Wai" greeting of the Thai. In ad-
dition to Trang, some adventurous individuals of this group have
lived and worked in Haadyai and even Bukhet where they con-
stituted quite a curosity.

To the southwest, following the Malayan border, the next
most significant groups in Thailand are the bands living within
the Districts of Padangstar and Betong in Yala Province. One





                   THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                    133


band visited in 1960, camped near the village of Tamtalu, Padang-
star, had 10 men, 6 women and 6 children. Chief Dam and a
Thai speaking Negrito informant, Ai-luk, said the total band had

63 people. The entire group had lived in the vicinity of the
Tan-to Falls but had, for expediency, broken into two bands.
The group is rapidly becoming sedentary as is the other band
located near Kilo 30, Betong District. There did not seem to be
extensive contact between the bands. The Yala group appear to
be Kensiu and make the classical Kensiu hair combs. It is also
likely that Kintak Negrito wander into Betong from adjoining

In 1901-1902 Annandale and Robinson reported a group
called Hami or Suku living near what he called Marbek, in Jalor
(Yala) and near Ban Kassot consisting of 4 men and a woman.
They said their band consisted of 20 people and differed from the
"Moni" i.e. other Negrito, of Rahman District. Mikluchlo-Mac-
lay had reported them in the late 1800's and the Rajah of Yala
reported them "common" near Biserat. They reportedly col-
lected jungle goods for the Malays and Hami graves were reported
in Tanjong Luar. More men than women were reported in the
group which significantly has been obvious among other Negrito
groups I have visited.

Further west some bands of what appear to be Jahai Ne-
grito have established themselves on the Thai side of the border
in Naratiwat Province. A settlement of 23 Negritos under Chief
Mamoo live on the upper Bongaw River at the base of Angae
Mountain in Rangae District, Naratiwat. The band formerly
ranged into Kelantan and covered Rangae and Wang Districts.
They formerly had contract, it was claimed, with the Negrito of
Betong but for about ten years now the band has become the ward
of a rubber planter upon whom they seem almost completely de-
pendent. The group speaks Malayan quite well, though little
Thai, and trade at Yahaw Village primarily for their simple needs.
They wear discarded clothing, sarongs and even turbans and have
constructed simple, crude, though permanent, houses.





134                                       John H. Brandt


Another group, also Jahai, have moved from Jeli on the
Kelantan side of the border into Naratiwat to Pa Chok District
near Kampong Lukae and Kampong Balar across the Go-Lok River.

The total Negrito population in Thailand probably is in
the neighborhood of 300 persons compared to a census count of
over 2,000 in Malaya. Estimates place the number of Negrito in
Malaya at over 3,000 with considerable confusion as to the status
of intermixed peripheral groups. The difficulty of a head count
in the deep jungle areas inhabited by the Negrito would make
an accurate survey extremely difficult.

Physical Characteristics :

The peninsular Negrito possess typically Negrotoid cha-
racteristics and is a classical pygmoid. He falls well within the
pygmy height range of 150 cms and averages about 1,496 mm for
males and 1,408 for females. Twenty males measured near Grik,
Malaya, averaged 1,528 mm. and two females were 1,427 mm. and
1,453 mm. The Tonga reportedly averages slightly smaller than
the Malay Negrito. Annandale and Robinson report measure-
ments of 1,529 mm., 1,511mm. and 1,482 mm. for three male Hami
Negrito measured in the Ulu Pattani and 1,476 mm. for one wo-
man of the same group. This compares with a recorded average
of 1,492 mm. for the male Andaman Island Nerito, 1,460 mm. for
the Philippine Aeta and 1,452 mm. for the African Bambuti Pyg-
my. Some individual Negritos may appear quite tall but ques-
tion of pure racial stock always exists and the groups as a whole
falls well within the above limits.

The hair of the Negrito is Ulotrichi, or wooly, compared
to the Cymotrichi, wavy haired Senoi. Some individuals have
hair curled in a mop while in others it forms irregular spirals.
The late P.D.R. Williams-Hunt however claimed of 100 hair sam-
ples taken in August-September 1951 only three formed what he
considered a true curl which completely spiraled upon itself. The
Negrito nevertheless does present a wooly headed appearance
characteristically negro. The hair is a rather lusterless black






                    THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                 135


and in some groups is shaved off entirely or with a very small
shock left at the front. Females often have fairly long hair
presenting a frizzly shaggy appearance. There is very little body
hair although some males have a slight mustache and some hair
on their legs.

The skin color is dark chocolate in adults but never glossy
black as among some negro groups. Children are lighter and get
progressively darker. Various types of dermatomycosis seem

quite common. The typical Negrito is brachycephalic and many have a

protruding forehead. Supercilliary ridges are not usually
heavy. There is a slight prognathism in some individuals.

The face is flat and round with deep set eyes and a broad
deeply saddled nose. There is no epicanthic fold. The restless
nature of the Negritos' eyes has been apparent to many observers
and has been likened to a "wild animal look". The ears are
small and the chin is often weak in structure. The leg are often
rather short in proportion to the torso and there is frequently
a wide separation between the hallux and second toe. The Negrito

walks with a peculiar motion, lifting the feet high off the ground

as if stepping over invisible obstacles. This is perhaps charac-

teristic of jungle walking where a shuffling gate would be a decided


Language :

The Negrito present an interesting subject for further
study from a linguistic standpoint insofar as they seem to speak
an adopted language. Both Negrito and Senoi speak a Mon-An-
namese or Mon-Khmer language which was widely spoken
throughout southeast Asia by both highly advanced cultures as
well as numerous primitive tribal groups before invasion of the
area by northern ethnic groups, such as the Thai and Burmese,
speaking a different language. Why the Negrito, which are eth-
nically unrelated to people which would be expected to speak a
a Mon-Khmer language, do so, is not fully understood. There
is still considerable question as to which racial group Mon-Khmer





136                                      John H. Brandt


languages belong since it is spoken by Mongoloids but also some
wild tribes of Non-Mongoloid origin. That it is not the original
native language of the Negrito seems quite certain. The Negrito
use monosyllabic root words and a method of composition of pre-

fixes as in Mon-Khmer. The Negrito language has many words

which will however never be traced to a Mon-Khmer or a Malayan

origin and appear to be the remnants of the original language.

Many such characteristic words have a peculiar Bn, Dn or Gn

ending. The language spoken by the Negrito has a very explosive

quality about it and normal conversation of a very pleasant nature

sounds as if the speakers would come to blows at any moment.

In this way it is very reminiscent of some of the tribal languages

of the Central New Guinea Highlands.

The language of the Negrito is in many respects quite
similar to the Senoi languages of Malaya and in phonology, syn-
tax, structure and much vocabulary duplicates one another.
Whether the Negrito copied the language of the Senoi or of an
earlier Mon-Khmer speaking invading group remains to be un-

The Negrito language has remained quite uniform through-

out the area largely because of the nomadic nature of it's speakers.

Through constant, though perhaps infrequent, contact by wande-

ring bands the language was never allowed to become rigid and

remains mutually intelligible to most of the speakers even though
widely separated.

Even the Tonga Negrito of Pattalung-Trang, though long
cut off from the main Negrito groups in Malaya, speak a language

not dissimilar to the others. Strangely however, among the 

Tonga many Malayan loan words have crept into the language.
This would well be expected among the Malayan Negrito but the
Tonga have been long separated from Malayan speakers. The
Malayan speaking population of Trang and Pattalung are mainly
fishing peoples of the coastal area and not the jungle now Inhabited

by the Negrito. Whether the Negrito were originally low land
dwellers as some early explorers indicated and had some contact





                     THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND               137


with Malay speaking people before the Thai invasion of the Pen-
insula remains for speculation. Though it is generally believed
that population pressure indicated a push from north to south it
seems interesting to consider the possibility that the Tonga may
have reversed the arrangement and immigrated in times past
from south to north accounting for the Malayan linguistic in-
fluence. A corallary can be found in the south to north immigra-
tion of the Lawa in north Thailand.

The Tonga use Malayan numerals to count to four, beyond
which point most Negrito either become confused or employ the
word "many". Strangely Malayan words for common nouns in
language are also used as in the Negrito words for fish, buffalo,
stone, duck, elephant, banana, shirt etc. Thai words with some
variation have been adopted by the Tonga for items not native to
their culture i.e. door andbedroom, bathing sarong (Packoma) which
they call by the Thai word for blanket and oddly also words of
apparent Thai origin for moustache, belly, toe, wrist and forefinger.
Whether the informants resorted to Thai words in a moment
of desperation to identify some object or item while having still
other terms for such body parts remains to be confirmed.

Malayan is the lingua franca of most border Negrito and
only few can speak a smattering of southern dialect Thai. Among
the Tonga, Thai is more widely spoken.

The language appears to be in a process of decay with
more and more frequent contact in recent years. The Negrito re-
cognize a unity in their languages and some, such as the Kenta-
Bogn and Kensiu, speak the same dialect and are cognizant of
a common ancestry though now separated.

The Negrito languages have been divided by Schebesta
and Blagden into a Menra and Meni classification depending on
the pronunciation and character of the dialects Meni is the North-
eastern grouping and Menra that which is spoken in the center
and Southeast of the Negrito distribution area.





138                                          John H. Brandt


Food, Hunting, Growing, Gathering :

Though nomadic, the Negrito is more uniform in his wander-
ings than is commonly assumed. His movements are not erratic
and he moves within a defined area. Some writers have indicated
that the Negrito moves his camps as often as every three days.
It is however more common that he will remain in an area till the
availability of food is depleted and then move, unless some factor

such as unwanted visitors, a tiger, a death or a natural phenomenon

interpreted as a magico-mystical matter, necessitates or justifies

an earlier move. He will, for example, camp in the vicinity of

a Dnrian tree till the fruit is gone.

The lean-too, wind-screen, is thrown up by the women
usually with a raised bamboo sleeping or sitting platform and a
cooking fire adjacent to it. These windscreen bush shelters may
be arranged in a crude ellipsoidal circle and at times are arranged
in a close parallel row forming a tunnel-like arrangement with
the upper edges almost joining such as a long hut without a roof
pole. Within this shelter are hung the meager possessions of the
owner such as blowpipes, dart containers, baskets and cooking
paraphenalia. Coconut shells are used as bowls, rattan scrapers
are made, a small wooden cudgel used for a mortar may be present

and the ever useful knife. Leaves serve as plates and vegetables

and rice are cooked in bamboos. These are stoppered and held
at an angle over the fire to simmer. Meats are skewered and
roasted over open flame. Leaves also serve to drink from pools
and water is drunk directly from storage bamboos. Small mam-
mals are gutted and buried in ashes to be baked with the skin
still on. Prepared in this fashion they retain all the natural
juices and are quite palatable although a bit revolting in appearance

when first exhumed from the ashes. Food not eaten is saved till

the next day and mothers often save small amounts of food in the
bamboos so the children may have a cold snack the following
morning. There does not appear, among any of the bands in a
natural state, to be a real organized effort to perserve food. Meals
are not segregated and the families usually eat as a group.






                    THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                  139


The female members of the band gather edible roots,
fruits etc. while men hunt birds and small mammals or fish.

In the not too distant past, when the Negrito used the long
bow and poisoned arrows to hunt big game, dogs were used ex-
tensively as hunting aides. Now that the blowgun is used for
hunting, the dog has become a rather useless camp scavenger.
Dogs and cats are however not generally eaten.

The Negrito is not particular what he eats and a wide
variety of things are consumed. Turtles and frogs as well as
mollusks, termites and various insect larvae are considered edible.
Snakes are however not generally eaten as among some adjacent
primitive groups. Most small mammals and birds are eaten and
big animals when available, although currently few big animals
appear to be hunted.

Certain very special tabus about food do exist. Depending
on the band, during pregnancy, some groups will avoid eating the
monitor lizard, gibbon, bamboo rats or Argus pheasant. Some
bands believe chicken meat to be tabu after birth of a child. The
Tonga reportedly will not eat elephant, bear, wild pig, deer or
rhino but eat all species of monkey. In some bands children
may not eat game killed with a bow or a gun. The Kintak do
not eat elephant or bear because they believe they are reincarnated
people. None of the Negrito will eat tiger meat.

Negritos are gradually learning rudimentary farming
from the Senoi or the jungle villages of the Thai and Malay.
Many bands now clear a jungle area and plant a crop. Plantings
in some cases include corn, tapioca or rice. This "ladang" is
then used as a center point for their wanderings to which the
group returns from time to time. Many Negrito also work occa-
sionally for Thai and Malayans during rice planting and harvest-
ing and there learn the fundamentals of crude farming.

With the introduction of guns, hunting is becoming more
successful with the result of more rapid depletion of wildife. The
numerous stories of Negrito killing elephant by driving poisoned






140                                      John H. Brandt


splinter into their foot soles or killing rhino embedded in mudholes
has been written off by qualified observers as Malayan fables.
That the Negrito formerly armed with the long bow and now
with a gun could bring down a Saladang or more likely a Sambar
is entirely possible.

Material Culture and Decorative Arts :

It may be said, generally speaking, that the Negrito never
developed to the stone age but remained solely within the "Bam-
boo Age " with iron having been introduced to them at a later
period. His decoration arts are limited to incised designs on
bamboo, basket weaving and decoration of the few talismen that
he makes. Among some groups even the bamboo decoration of
blowpipes, quivers, combs etc. is missing with the aesthetic arts
virtually non-existant. It is implied, with good cause, that the
Negrito himself invented none of these art styles but rather
adopted them from the Senoi and then furthered them to suit
his own tastes. The line ornamentation is supposedly derived
from the Semai-Senoi and the dot design from the Ple-Senoi.
That he is a poor craftsman is not to be indicated since his bam-
boo art often outshines those of adjoining tribes who perhaps first
developed the technique.

The dwellings of the Negrito are uniform throughout the
area with a crude windscreen of bamboo and thatch hastily
thrown up. A slightly raised split bamboo platform suffice for a
bed and the shelters are abandoned without any feeling of attach-
ment. Because he is nomadic, the Negrito is also limited in the
quantity and nature of his material goods which must be small,
light, durable and few in number in order to be carried along on
each trek. The Negrito at times makes use of caves as temporary
dwelling areas. King Chulalongkorn and Skeat both reported
cave dwelling among the Tonga. Although Skeat reported green
leaves heaped upon a sleeping platform, so located at Ban Tun,
Schebesta questions it as he never saw Negritos use leaves for
bedding. Caves are at best used only temporarily. Skeat reported






                     THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                      141


that the Negrito do not like to live in raised houses as the Malaya
but both the Yala and Naratiwat Negrito bands now have built
such semi-permanent structures.

Contrary to old reports, no Negrito, except, children go
naked. Women as a rule are bare breasted but modesty dictates
that both sexes be covered in other manners. Men now usually
wear a short knee length sarong of woven cotton or a breech cloth
of similar material. Even at the turn of the century many Negrito
were clothed in ragged trousers and shirts begged from Thais or
Malays. The Naratiwat Negrito today dons turbans as well as
sarongs and the women on special ocoassions even wear the l'baju"
blouse. Even with commercial clothing, articles of native manu-
facture are also worn. Characteristic of this is the short fringed
apron worn by women. This is made of the black string like
rhizomorph of a rock fungus of the genus Agaricus and Polyporus.
These aprons are often worn under the sarong or if worn alone
are accompanied by a breech-cloth. In addition to the aprons,
belts, head bands and bracelets are also made of these rhizomorpbs,
The Rhizomorph apron uses no string foundations but rather is
plaited in long bands. The early Hami Negrito were reported to
have tied foot long strings over a cord with a clove hitch to form
a fringe.

Cloth is made from pounded Atocarpus bark and is quite
soft and flexible. A fine bark cloth is made from the leached
bark of the Ipoh tree from which the potent dart poison is also
obtained. Ordinarily atocarpus head bands are not worn as among
the Senoi except by some closely adjacent groups especially the
Menri in the east, The style is obviously copied. Negritos
generally seem to prefer Rhizomorph or Palm fibre head bands
sometimes decorated with small flowers of which they are quite

Men often wear rattan belts though this style has also
been adopted by Batok Negrito women who wear ratten girdles
with magical patterns. In the belt are tucked knives and the
dart quiver as well as tobacco pouches etc.





142                                            John H. Brandt


Among personal adornment must be considered painting,
tattooing, tooth filing, perforation of the nasal septum, cicatriza-
tion and the wearing of decorative devices as necklaces, earrings
etc Of the body decorations, Schebesta felt that most were
copied from the Senoi. Tooth filing among the Kensiu and Kenta
and nose boring for wearing a nose quill is reported from Perak
but seems much more distinctly Senoi rather than pure Negrito.
Cicatrization does not seem to be practiced. Tattooing among the
dark skinned Negrito is also rare and when done seems to follow
copied Senoi style. Face painting, often for magical reasons, is
more common, with dots and lines, as among the Senoi, frequently
employed. One Kensiu Negrito woman I observed in Yala Pro-
vince had her forehead painted solid orange. Bernatzik reported
the Tonga men painted black stripes and spots on their faces
when they prepared for a dance. Blackening of the feet with
charcoal was reported by Vaughan-Stevens as an effective charm
against disease. In Naratiwat the Jahai Negrito have begun
painting their faces white and applying lipstick in imitation of
the Malayan women.

Men do not generally bore the ear lobes as women do.
For women in most Negrito bands this is done as children. Among
the Tonga it is reported however that ear lobes are not pierced
till the woman is an adult. Among the Hami, unmarried girls
had distorted ears and wore earrings but married women did not.
Ear lobe decorations are at times sweet grass or rolled leaves.

Necklaces of small joints of bamboo, seeds and animal
teeth as well as monkey bones, which have magical significance,
are made and worn by the Negrito. Styles vary from band to
band. Coin necklaces are also worn. Necklaces made of 17th
Century Dutch coins have been reported among them and the
young son of the Kensiu Chief of the Padangstar, Yala band wore
a huge neck piece of Chinese coins during my visit.

One of the outstanding art forms of the Negrito which
appears also to be copied from the Senoi but developed to a higher
degree by the Negrito, are the beautiful incised bamboo women's





                 THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                      143


combs. Cat from a great split tube of bamboo, the combs have
from a dozen to over twenty teeth. The Kensiu make combs often
with two characteristic horns on the top and several bands of
geometric patterns across the broad body of the comb above the
teeth. The combs are not reported among the Tonga or the


Extensive study has been made of the supposed magical
properties of the women's combs. Vaughan-Stevens felt that the
magical significance had been lost to the Negrito of the West
Coast while among the Eastern bands the designs are supposed
to ward off illness. Negrito of Kodah and Perak supposedly do
not wear the combs for magical purposes and the Kensiu Chief,
Dam, told me the combs made by his band were for decorative
purposes only. Among the other bands the comb acts as a talisman
to keep away the "ghostly winds" which bring disease. Vaughan-
Stevens claimed design of the fifth panel in an eight panel comb
protected the wearer from disease but in a six panel comb the
fourth panel is the significant one causing some contradiction. In
some instances the uppermost panel carries the power called " was"
which deflects the wind bearing disease. Women with different
designs on their combs will protect one another if clustered close
together and have reciprocal protection. More than one comb is
often worn. Women, are supposed to wear the combs at birth and
for seven days thereafter. There are special tabus and restric-
tions concerning wearing of the comb following a death or during
thunder showers. The combs are buried with the woman when
she dies.

Birth bamboos with magical designs called "Tahong" are
also worn concealed by the women. Custom prescribes that a
strange man may not see the birth bamboos. The Birth Bamboos
are supposed to keep the "soul bird" of the expected child.

Some bands also make a talisman called a " Penitah "
which is a decorated burial staff and is stuck in the belt of the
deceased before burial





144                                          John H. Brandt


A painted stick with yellow and black or red stripes called
a " Tangkel " is often set on a new grave to ward off tigers, through
it's magical properties.

The plaited bags and carrying baskets of the Negrito are
quite well made and women seem skillful in their manufacture.
The Yala Negrito also made small tobacco bags of plaited palm
leaf. Skeat also reported that the "Pangan" carried tobacco in
decorated bamboo tubes.

The Negrito make a number of musical instruments vary-
ing with the bands. Which are of their own design and which
are copied is hard to say. They do not seem to have made a drum.
One skin drum I collected in Naratiwat from the Jahai is of ob-
vious Malayan design. Prof. Bernatzik claimed that during a
dance of the Tonga which he attended that Malayan skin drums
were used and beaten by the women.

The Negrito do make a 2 string bamboo guitar or Zither
much like the Senoi instrument as well as a bamboo jews harp and
bamboo joints of different lengths used as stampers.

Both nose and mouth flutes are reported but the mouth
flute seems more characteristically Negrito.

Henry Balfour in his report on a collection of musical in-
struments from the Siamese Malay States and Perak reports a
wooden clapper from Rahman District, (Yala) made by joining
two sticks with two moveable cross members allowing the main
sticks to be snapped together. This was reported as being of
Negrito origin, He also reported a split bamboo clapper from
Jarum, Raman District.



The classical weapon of the Negrito everywhere has al-
ways been the long bow. Why the Negrito of Thailand and
Malaya should uniformly have given up this apparently Superior
weapon is a major puzzle. The blowgun, now the standard hun-
ting instrument of all the bands, was not adopted from the Senoi







                     THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                  145


till the middle of the nineteenth century. De la Croix described
bows with a 6-7 foot length among the Negrito's in Pattani in 1880.
The bows were not ornamented and were usually constructed of
hard wood although an aberrant type of bamboo bow is also known
from the area. Both the Hami and Tonga claimed to have given
up the bow in the middle 1800's and at the time of early contacts
still knew how to make bows although the practice has long been

The Negrito still have their own words for bow and arrow
which are called respectively "Chanu"and "Bila" among the
Tonga. The arrows, also undecorated, were tipped with a beaten
iron head. These were usually poisoned and with it the Negrito
in the past could conceivably have been able to kill the larger
animals of the jungle. Strangely, though his arrows had flight
feathers to control the flight of the shaft he never seems to have
mastered the significance of them. Arrows were often fletched
with the feather vane pointing in the wrong direction and clipped
so close that for practical purposes the feathering was useless.
It may be that the Negrito considered the feathering to be of
magical value and employed feathers of particular species for
this purpose.

In any case, with the adoption of the blow gun, hunting
methods changed and pursuit no longer required hunting dogs
and was now limited largely to small mammals, birds and espe-
cially monkeys.

The Negrito blowgun is a beautifully made object varying
in length from 5' 7" in the Satun specimen to 8' 4" in the Jahai
blowgun from Naratiwat. Kensiu blowguns average 6 feet. It
is constructed of an inner bore composed of 2 sections of bamboo
fitted together and covered at the joint with a piece of tightly
taped leaf. The outer tube also is made of two joints except
among the bands fortunate enough to obtain bamboo of the species,
wrayi, which has long nodeless joints long enough to make a blow-
pipe. A mouth piece called " Ako " is fitted to the end piece.







146                                       John H. Brandt


The mouth piece may be annular or rounded depending on the
band and characteristically Negrito is the custom of building up
the mouth piece of hardened pitch. The muzzle is similarly often
coated with pitch to prevent splitting. At the joints a ring of
rattan is placed to insure a tight grip. The Naratiwat Jahai now
use live rubber for this purpose. The outer covering is usually
profusely decorated with incised designs especially at the breech
and muzzle ends often interspersed with rings of stripes encir-
cling the tube. Hung up in the roof of the windscreen with the
ends plugged securely with plant down to keep out insects and
dirt, and constantly exposed to smoke and oily hands, the blow-
guns take on a deep beautiful brown sheen. The weapon is the
sole domain of the man and woman and children under 12 do not
usually handle it.

The blowguns of the Negrito from Satun and Tonga of
Trang-Pattalung are not decorated. The mouthpiece is quite
small and the tube of cruder construction than the Kensiu blow-
guns I collected. The rattan lashings at the joints were covered
with pitch. The Hami Negrito were reported to have a decorated
blowpipe seven feet long with an annular mouth piece but make
a quiver of a fashion quite identical to the Tonga and Satun
group. The quiver among the latter is a wide mouth section of
bamboo roughly one foot long without a cover, undecorated, and
bound with rattan lashings with which the quiver is tied around
the waist when in use. The inside contains a series of indivi-
dual bamboo or cane sections slightly shorter than the container
and tied together with string. In each of these is placed a poisoned
dart. The quiver of the Hami was similar in design but had a
bone charm added to it in the fashion of the Senoi. The Ulna
of a white Gibbon is particularly desirable for this purpose.

The quiver of the Kensiu and Jahai in Yala and Naratiwat
are quite different in design. The quiver is also of bamboo but
long and narrow often only 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and
some 16 inches long. The bamboo node forms the bottom of the
tube. The outside, as the blowgun, is profusely decorated with






                      THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                   147


geometric designs and in some cases recognizable objects as leaves,
flowers, insects, centipedes etc. The quiver does not have a belt loop
and is normally carried tucked into the waist band, breech cloth
or sarong.

The tube may have a fitted cover, as in one atypical Jahai
quiver I obtained, or have a small woven bag containing plant
down to act as an air seal when the dart is placed in the breech,
jammed into the top of the container. Leaves are also often em-
ployed to close up the end of the quiver. There are no individual
tubes inside for the darts.

The decoration of the quiver is quite significant and act as
magical attractants to game and to prevent animals from becom-
ing frightened of the hunter. Without proper designs on the
quiver, and in most cases on the blowpipe as well, the hunters
efforts would prove fruitless. These decorations offer direct
contrast to the designs of the women's combs which act as repel-
lants whereas these designs are quite definite attractants.

The dart is about the length of a foot sole or a forearm
which are often used as measuring guides by the maker. The
shaft is made of a splint of the rib of Bertam Palm (Evgeissona)
leaves sharpened to a needle like point. A short distance from
the tip the shaft is deeply notched so the poisoned head will break
off in the wound. The butt end is fitted with a small conical cap
the approximate diameter of the blowgun bore. When ready to,
shoot, the hunter inserts the dart and places behind it a small
wad of plant down of fluffy flocculence of such plants as caryota
or particular species of rattan as calamus to insure as little loss
of air as possible. With an explosive puff into the mouth-piece,
which is held tightly cupped to the lips, the dart is propelled on
its way. Blowgun range is probably within the limits of 50
meters but shots of up to 80 meters have been reported. Much
would of course depend on the lung power of the individual.

Without the poisoning of the darts the weapons would be
of course comparatively inoffensive and ineffectual. The poisoning





148                                         John H. Brandt


of the darts is then the factor which has made the weapons of
the Negrito and Senoi of so much interest.

Although some two dozen ingredients have been reported
in use as dart poison, including scorpion, snake and centipede
venom as well as commercial arsenic, the main substance is the
sap from the Ipoh tree (Antiaris toxicaria) and in the other case
from a liana or creeper (Strychnos sp.) or a combination of the
two. The poison is known as "Dawk" by the Negrito and in
some dialects "Dawk Santiang" is the Creeper poison and "Dawk
Kokeung " is the toxin of the Ipoh tree.

The poison of the Ipoh tree is collected by slashing the
trunk and catching the sap drippings in a small bamboo receptacle.
The fresh sap uncooked, is painted on a small wooden paddle or
spatula and held over a fire to dry. It turns, upon exposure to
heat, from a milky gray to a deep chocolate brown. At this stage
it is quite hard and brittle but can be softened again by warming
over a flame. The dart points are spiraled through the poison
on the paddle and when coated are placed next to the fire to dry.
The poison from the creeper, Strychnos, must be cooked before
it is effective. Ordinarily the poisons are not mixed and are
used separately although the Tonga combine them adding to the
brew chicken gall and bird fat to increase it's potency. The
Batok also reportedly combine the two along with other plant
materials considered by them to be a toxic.

The poison is best when fresh but retains it's strength
for a considerable period. Darts are repoisoned at regular intervals.
The strength of mixtures apparently varies and darts with highly
potent poison are marked with a painted stripe or other charac-
teristic marking on the butt end. In this way the hunter can
employ the proper dart to be used to bring down the quarry he
has sighted.

Ipoh poison under microscopic examination shows antiarin
crystals. Antiarin is a heart poison stopping the hearts of
wounded mammals in diastole. Cold blooded vertebrates' hearts





                      THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                 149


stop in systole. If the poison is fresh, animals the size of monkeys
usually die within 2—5 minutes. A wounded monkey can be
observed for this period by the hunter on the ground before it
looses it's control and crashes to earth. Birds die more slowly
and often elude the hunters by flying away and dying out of
sight. Experimentation showed that Antiaris killed monkeys
and pigeons but not chickens. The chicken is of course well
known for it's apparent resistance to normally lethal doses of
many toxins. The Negrito believe the chicken is immune because
it " eats earth " and this is indeed considered by some to be of
use as an antidote. However, my Kensui informant, Chief Dam,
vehemently denied that this was effective. Other reported antidotes
for Ipoh poison are chewing Ophioxylon serpentinum, Andira
horsfieldi, roots of Hernindra sonora, crab fat, salt and Malayan
black maize. The effectiveness of these in view of the fulminant
qualities of the toxin is questionable.

The poison is apparently not lethal if taken internally
and some tribes reportedly use Ipoh as a medicant, The Negrito
normally cut out the meat adjoining the area penetrated by the
dart. After accidentally puncturing my finger with a poisoned
dart I made an incision causing it to bleed and felt for some time
a slight tingling in the area. That the poisoned darts could kill
a man is generally conceded and there are reports of Communist
Terrorists having been so killed by aborigines during the Mala-
yan Emergency. The late Antropologist Pat Noone was reported
to have been murdered by Temiar-Senoi with poisoned dart in
Northern Malaya during World War II.

Other than knives and spears with bamboo blades reported
by explorers in the nineteenth century the Hami Negrito were
observed armed with wooden clubs made from a tree limb. All
of these seem to now no longer be representative of the material
culture of the Negrito.

Social Customs:

The Negrito bands have a rather loose democratic casteless,
leadership with no powerful Chieftains except in unusual cases







150                                        John H. Brandt


where a person has been appointed to such a state of eminence
by a government officer. Ordinarily the oldest men exercise con-
trol of the group and it's action. Elders usually act as group
spokemen. Among the Kensiu most young men would politely
refuse to answer my question till the Chief appeared although
the queries were of a very elementary nature. Purchases of
material items from the Negrito are frequently handled by the
Chief who does the negotiating after brief consultation with the
owner. Each group will also often have young men as natural
leaders and occassionally a vociferous women will have a bearing
on the dicussions of a group. Among the Tonga an alert Negrito
woman named Ai-San was recognized by the Thai as the group
leader where in actuality she was only an extrovert personality
with domineering characteristics. Ordinarily wives of Chieftains
have no more voice in band affairs than women of less status.

The Negrito is ordinarily monogamous and although nei-
ther polyandry or polygamy appear to be prohibited they do not
seem to be the rule. The Hami, it is known were not exogamns,
since the Father-In-Law of the Chief lived in the same camp.

Young men choose their own brides and, depending on
the band, must ordinarily pay a token bride price. This may
take the form of a payment of cloth, tobacco, a knife etc. Among
the Batok an iron pan is reported as a customary bride price,
Among the Tonga the young man gives his bride-to-be trophies
of the hunt and pays the bride's family a silver Thai coin or in
some cases a piece of red cloth.

Love magic, to attract members of the opposite sex, is
recognized and practiced by some bands. Flowers of a variety
identified as Salomonia aphylla, called " cenwei " by the Negrito,
are collected, dried and mixed with oil. It is important that the
female of this species, which grows on the ground, and the male
blossom which grows in a tree, be found together to insure potency
of the magic. The mixture is then placed on the forehead and
breast of the chosen person. The would be lover ordinarily em-
ploys a younger member of his or her own sex to apply the magic







                  THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                151


oil to the sleeping victim. No other action is taken after these
steps have been put in operation but love supposedly ensues in
due course.

There seems to be no recognized wedding ceremony but
the young couple among some groups retire to a separate shelter
in the forest near the main band. Fidelity is generally recognized
but divorce is a rather simple matter. Most couples of middle
age have had more than one marriage partner before settling down
with a final mate.

Anti-conception and anti-abortion medicinals are known
and practiced. Although cognizant of the physical aspects of
conception, the Negrito believe the soul or spirit of a child is
brought by a bird called Til-Tal-Tapah. Among the Malays a
similar spirit bird called Teti-Tinga-Anak is reported. Some
bands believe the Argus pheasant brings the soul of a male and
bird called " Chimoi " brings the souls of women. The "Chimoi"
is reported to be green by some groups and the Batok indeed
believe their souls to be green as the bird. If a woman eats a
bird with eggs she will bear twins.


The idea of soul birds appears to be copied from the
Senoi and was reportedly first adopted by the Negrito in Kelantan.
The Western Negrito bands believe more in a "Hala" or " Cenoi "
which act as protective spirits for some individuals and have
strong tabus. Some ethnologists consider this to be perhaps the
more original Negrito concept.

Delivery is usually in a squatted position and the placenta
among the Jahai is buried beneath the fire. The umbilicals cord
is not knotted. Children are frequently named after the tree,
flower, fruit, river or mountain near which they were born. Many
Negrito now have adopted Malayan names as well and keep a
Negrito name for use within the group. Two Chieftains among
the Tonga and Kensni in Thailand bear the name "Dam" which
means black in Thai.




152                                      John H. Brandt


Among the Menri, the navel cord in dried and placed in
a small pouch which the child wears about it's neck or wrist.
After a period it is then buried near a fire.

Dancing and singing among the Negrito seems, as so much
of their culture, to also be copied from the Senoi. Ordinarily
only the women dance, making rythmic movements with body,
arm and hand movements, although De Morgan reported both
sexes dancing together in Kedah. There is a minimum of place
movement in most Negrito dances.

Another unusual exception is the dancing described by
Prof. Bernatzik among the Tonga. He described and photographed
Negrito men dancing in a fashion most unlike other known dances
of the peninsular groups. By the light of the full moon his
dancers jumped about " like devils from the jangle" in a fashion
reminiscent to him of African dancers. The men wore banana
leaves about their heads and had their faces painted with black
dots and stripes. Women reportedly beat skin drums and clapped
hands to the rhythm of the dance, while the men screamed, beat
their heels, moved stiff legged and jumped actively about. Oddly
however, Bernatzik's photographs of the dance shows men beating
the drums with no women evident.

Music in most conventional dances is supplied by bamboo
stampers in the fashion of the Senoi. The Negrito in Naratiwat
have adopted the Malay skin drum and metal gong and could give
me renditions of both Negrito and Malayan songs utilizing these
alien instruments. Rhythmic hand clapping is characteristic

Schebesta feels that outside of Bernatzik's report on the
Tonga dancers that most, if not all, Negrito dances are copied
from the Senoi. This seems also true of the songs which now
include a repetoir of Malayan verses as well.





                  THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND              153


Burial practices vary considerably with bodies rarely
thrown in rivers, more rarely left to lay on the ground while
the band flees, or placed in trees. They are normally buried

King Chulalongkorn reported that among the Tonga the
body is only buried very superficially and that the people then
fled the area in fear of ghosts and tigers which fed on the bodies.
Among the Kensiu the bodies are wrapped in cloth and layed in
a shallow grave on their left side with legs pulled tightly up in
a crouch. Among the Kenta the body reportedly lies on the right
side. The head points towards the west or less commonly the

The Kensiu mourn in the area for seven days after which
it is believed the ghost has left the area. Among the eastern
bands there does not seem to be fear of visiting grave sites.

The Jahai and Lanoh bury corpses straight with arms
next to the body. Williams-Hunt describes a Lanoh burial where
the body was placed with the legs drawn up and laid on it's right
side. The head is oriented toward the west. Although there is
no agitated crying at the grave, death wailing lasts for five days.
A windscreen is built over the grave. During the mourning
period, singing, dancing and wearing of decorative combs is tabu.
As among some western bands, food and water are left at the
grave and a death meal and death dance are held. After this
ceremony no one visits the grave again.

Powerful shamans are frequently given special burials.
Many of the eastern bands place the body of a shaman in a tree.
Some shamans, possessing Were-tiger abilities, are placed in trees
by the Jahai or are buried in a seated position with the head
above ground. The Kensiu bury such a personage in a conven-
tional manner but watch the grave for 3 days and 3 nights and
place food offerings on it.






154                                          John H. Brandt


Religion, Shamanism Magic:

A life after death is believed in by the Negrito but not
usually in reincarnation. However, King Chulalongkorn reported
that the Tonga believe in a soul called "ya" which awaits
reincarnation after death. If not reincarnated in six months it
becomes a ghost. This belief has not been recognized, except for
the Kensiu belief about reincarnation in bear and elephant, among
other groups, although a soul called variously "Rob" and "Badi"
is supposedly a soul born of animals but which can possess man.

"Souls" have various appearances and among the Lanoh
looks human. Among the Tonga however a "Soul's" face shines
like a glowworm. The Kensiu also believe it can only be seen
against a light like a shadow. Other groups report the "soul"
as blood red and the size of a seed.

The Negrito concept of "Heaven" lies to the west and the
departing soul reaches there through various means. The Tonga
heaven lies in the western sky. The "Soul" climbs a Nipa Palm
and then springs over a water (stream) into a heaven called "Kot-
But". The "Soul" is tiny at this stage and is described as small
like a thread which grows on entering "Kot-But". Most Negrito
believe that heaven has no tiger or elephant and that it is cool
with no thunder, lighting or sickness. There are no children
born in heaven but children will be reunited with deceased
parents. It is a land of shadows.

The Negrito of North Kedah reportedly believe in three
heavens. The highest heaven has fruit trees which bear all
year. The second heaven has fruit trees as well but these are
guarded by an ape who throws prickly fruit at would-be inter-
lopers. The third heaven, of questionable beneficence, supposedly
contains only low hanging clouds which carry illness.

The Lanoh believe souls of male and female live apart in
separate heavens with the men's spirits living in the east and
the women's spirits living in the west. The spirits do nothing






                  THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                155


but play and decorate their hair with flowers. The Tonga believe
ghosts do not eat but that they do wear clothing.


The principal diety of the Negrito is the thunder god
called " Kagai" by the Tonga, Kaei by the Kensiu and Karai by
some of the Malayan bands. Kagai is a diety that does not grow
old but rejuvenates himself like the moon. The Tonga believe
him to look like a Negrito although he is credited with creating
man, plants, animals etc. Among the Lanoh, Kagai, has the
appearance of a Siamang (Symphalangns syndactylus) and at
times has long white hair with an oily sheen.


Kagai punishes transgressions by throwing lightning and
creating thunder. Negrito are extremely frightened by thunder
storms and hide with eyes and ears covered. Kagai's wrath may
be incurred by numerous tabu violations as wearing a hair comb
during a thunderstorm, drawing water in a fire blackened vessel
or laughing at butterflies. Certain butterflies are especially
dangerous, particularly black ones and are never to be molested.
Among some groups, certain flowers may not be worn during a
storm. If Kagai's wrath is to be expiated a blood offering or
sacrifice must be made. This peculiarly Negrito custom was first
reported among the Eastern bands but is apparently practiced by
all the groups. A typical blood offering takes place during a
thunderstorm when frequently a woman will cut her shin bone
and scrape some blood into a bamboo receptacle containing a small
amount of water. Although all in a camp are technically re-
quired to make a blood offering to Kagai it usually suffices if
one person goes through the process. Women often take this ac-
tion before men. Children do not participate. A little of this
blood and water mixture is poured on the ground with the words
"go to earth" and the remainder tossed to the sky with the ex-
pression "go to the sun". The offering to the ground is to pacify
Manoij, the wife of Kagai. That thrown to the sky is for Kagai
himself who lives in the heavens. The procedure varies from
band to band but is essentially similar in purpose.






156                                         John H. Brandt


The Tonga also worship an ancestor figure called "Moltek"
who also lives in the sky— usually in the sun. Moltek is black
in color. King Chulalongkorn also mentions a female goddess,
which is honored by the Tonga, who governs good and evil.

The Shaman among the Negrito is called a "Hala" who
acts as an intermediary between man and the gods. The illness
caused by angry spirits can be cured by the Hala through exor-
cism of the ghosts. He does not ordinarly make use of medicines
but relys on a magic quartz crystal called a "Cebu". A "small
Hala" within the group often acts as an herb doctor and cures
minor illnesses with concoctions of roots, leaves, herbs etc.

A man may become a Hala several ways. Most commonly
through encountering a tiger which transmites it's magical powers
to the man, through dreams, through inheritance from the father
and through possession of the "Cebu" stone. A trained Hala
always undertakes the further instruction of the novice. Only
men normally become Halas.

There is lack of shamanistic ritual among the Negritoi
Much of that which is practiced seems borrowed from the Seno.
but developed along special patterns to suit the psyche of the

Many Negritos fear what is called "Hot Rain". This
sprinkling of rain from an apparently cloudless sky, while the sun
is shining, reportedly brings fevers and illnesses. The Negrito
of the Lenggong area fear the shadow of the hawk. Special tabus
are attached to certain flowers while the plant Licula kunstleri is
held by the Negrito to have special properties. The Tonga consi-
der certain monkey bones to be a cure for illness. Most Negritos,
as well as Senoi, place magical powers in monkey bones and attach
them to various charms, dart quivers etc. Numerous food tabus
exist which have already been described in a previous section.

The religious and magical beliefs for a group as primitive
as the Negrito is extremely complicated and varies from band to
band. What is adopted belief and what is a part of the original
Negrito heritage is often difficult to ascertain.





                    THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND            157


Summary and conclusion :

The Negrito are the last remaining remnants of a once
widespread primitive type. They bear a relationship to other
pygmoid people and this article points out pertinent information
on their history, background and physical characteristics. Much
of the material culture, religious beliefs and magico-mystical
concepts of the Negrito have been adopted from the Senoi abori-
gines as have many of their social customs. The language of the
Negrito presents a puzzle as well since this also appears to be
adopted although bearing many words perhaps from the original
language. Their traditional weapons and decorative arts have
been discarded within historic times to adopt those of the Senoi.

Their distribution is spotty with some seven separate
groups inhabiting areas of the peninsula where Thailand and
Malaya join. Though the Negrito population is small within
Thailand, one group, the Tonga, are indigenous only within Thai-
land while three more groups overlap the border from Malaya.

Research work among the Negrito is difficult because of
the shy retiring nature of the people and because of his habits.
Since the Communist Emergency, many of the aborigines have
settled nearer to roads and police posts for protection, becoming

within recent years semi-sedentary. With increased contact,
consequent changes in culture are inevitable. Much remains to
be learned of the Negrito. Two known groups have already be-
come extinct since the turn of the century. Aborigines in jungle
areas have proven indispensable to the survival of terrorists in
the deep forests of Malaya and have served the same purpose in
such campaigns as Vietnam and Laos. Knowing the jungle, as
we would a city street, the aborigines can be a valuable asset to
the government in the impenetrable border areas and warrant
and deserve further attention.






158                                           John H. Brandt


Selected Bibliography and Reference List :

  1. Annandale, N. & Robinson, H. ; 1903; Fasciculi Mala-
    yensis, Part I, II, Liverpool.

  2. Balfour, Henry; 1904; Fasciculi Malayensis, Part II,

  3. Bernatzik, H.A.; 1928; Die Geister der Gelben Blatter,

  4. Cole, F.C. ; 1945; The People of Malaysia, New York.

  5. Cooper, J.M. ; Andamese-Semang-Eta Cultural Relations;
    Primitive Man; Vol. XIII, No. 2, 1940.

  6. Evans, I.H.N. ; 1927; Papers on the Ethnology and
    Archaeology of the Malay Peninsula, Cambridge.

  7. Evans, I.H.N. ; 1925; An Ethnological Expedition into
    South Siam; Jour. F.M.S. Museum, Vol. XII.

  8. Evans, I.H.N. ; Some Beliefs of the Lenggong Negrito;
    Jour- F. Malay States Museum, Vol. XII.

  9. Evans, I.H.N. ; Further Notes on the Lenggong Negritos;
    Jour. F. Malay States Museum, Vol. XII.


  1. Evans, I.H.N. ; Schebesta on the Sacerdo Therapy of the
    Semang; J.R.A. Instit. Vol. IX.

  2. Evans, I.H.N.; 1937; The Negritos of Malaya; Cambridge.

  3. Geiger, Paul; 1910; Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Ipoh-
    Pfeilgifte; Basel.

  4. Grünwedel, A; 1893; Die Zaubermuster der Orang-
    Semang; Z.F. Ethnologie, Vol. XXV.

  5. Lehmann, J.; 1912; Flechttechnik aus der Malayischen
    Archipel; Veroffent. Städt, Völker Museum, Frankfurt






                         THE NEGRITO OF PENINSULAR THAILAND                159


  1. Martin, R.; 1905; Die Inlandstamme der Malayischen
    Halbinsel; Jena.

  2. Maxwell, W.E. ; 1879; The Aboriginal Tribes of Perak;
    Straits Branch Jour. Vol. 3.

  3. Nippold, W. ; 1936; Rassen und Kulturgeschichte der
    Negritovölker Sudostasiens; Göttiugen.

  4. Preuss, T. ; 1899; Die Zauberbildschrifter der Negrito;
    Globus LXXV No. 22,23.

  5. Preuss, T. ; 1899; Die Zaubermuster der Orang-Semang;
    Z.f. Ethnologie XXXI.

  6. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1926; Das Hala Oder Medizin-
    mannwesen bei den Semang auf Malakka; Jahrbuch v.
    St. Gabriel, Vienna.

  7. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1926; The Bow and Arrows of the
    Semang; Man No. 54.

  8. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1927; Bei dem Uhrwaldzwergen
    von Malaya; Leipzig.

  9. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1954; Die Negrito Asiens; Studia
    InstitutiAnthropos;St. Gabriel-Verlag.Mödling-Vienna,
    ( 2 volumes ).

  10. Schehesta, Father P. ; 1928; Gesselschaft und Familie
    bei dem Semang auf Malakka; Anthropos XXIII.

  11. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1928; Jenseitsglaube der Semang
    auf Malakka; Festschrift P.W. Schmidt, Mödling-Vienna.

  12. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1928; Das Weib bei den Semang
    Negrito auf Malakka; Der Neue Pflug, H 8/9.

  13. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1928; Auffassung Über Eigentum
    und Eigentumsrecht bei dem Semang auf Malakka;
    Neue Ordnung, Vienna.






160                                             John H. Brandt


  1. Schebesta, Father P. ; 1929; The Decorative Art of the
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  2. Schebesta, Father P. ; Religiöse Auschauungen der
    Semang Uber die Orang-Hidap (die Unsterblichen);
    Arch. f. Religionwissenschaft XXIV H3/4.

  3. Skeat, W.W. & Blagden, CO. ; 1906; Pagan Races of the
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  4. Stiglmayr, E. ; 1955; Schamanismus der Negrito Südost-
    Asiens II; Wiener Volkerkundliche Mittlg. 3, Jg. No. 1.

  5. Vaughan-Stevens, H. ; 1894; Materialien zur Kenntnis
    der Wilden Stamme auf der Halbinsel Malakka; Heraus-
    gegeben von A. Grünwedel, Veröfftlg. aus d. Museum
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                                     15.  Williams-Hunt, P.D.R. ; A Lanoh Negrito Funeral near
                                             Lenggong, Perak; Fed. Museum Jour., Vol. I, II, new
                                            series 1954-55, Museum Dept., Malaya.

                                     16.  Williams-Hunt, P.D.R. ; 1952; An Introduction to the

                                             Malayan Aborigines; Gov.Press, Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.




























































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