Wait, so now the Tasaday are real?

In (a minor hijack in) this thread, we were discussing the recent extravagant claims about the Pirahã, a tribe of people living in the Amazon with stone-age technology and (reportedly) what could probably be described as the most culturally primitive group ever studied.

John Mace brought up the Tasaday as a very well-known example of an anthropological hoax - a stone-age era tribe living on the Philippine island of Mindanao. During the 1980s, it was recognized that they were a hoax - that is, other local tribespeople had been convinced to fake a stone-age lifestyle in order to fool the scientists of the world. And I took a glance at the Wikipedia page to learn a bit more about the case, and suddenly I learn that apparently, they weren’t a hoax at all!

Is this true? Are the Tasaday real? Or is Wikipedia just fucking with me? What’s known about them - and was there any fakery at all, or were those claims entirely spurious?

Maybe this link will be a small amount of help. http://books.guardian.co.uk/lrb/articles/0,6109,978741,00.html
At least an interesting article.


Short version: they aren’t an ancient primordial people untouched by time, and they aren’t a deliberate hoax either. They’re now thought to be the descendents of people who fled into the jungle about 300 years ago to escape slave raids.

Thank you both. So what I gather is that they were legitimately mistaken for a separate (and peculiarly primitive) culture, but they were actually a small group of recent descendents from agriculturists. Their appearance was politically useful, and so a lot was made of them by the Philippine government. (And the notion of these Edenic natives was immensely appealing to a lot of white people, as their apparently pacifistic nature seemed to confirm notions about the Noble Savage.) But it’s not the case that they were entirely invented - just exaggerated.

Yes, but the guy who was their main promoter deliberately slanted the data to make it look like they were more “stone-age” than they really were. He may not have know all the details of what they really were, but he knew he was pulling a fast one of some sort. (IIRC.)

This site may also be of interest.

So who was conducting slave raids in the Philipines 300 years ago?

The Spanish. The Philippines were a colony of Spain from the late 1500s on.